Looking back and seeing what it has taken to get to
where I am now, the single most useful thing I could
have been told was always to challenge the standard
way of doing things. Always challenge the status quo in
every aspect of lighting design.
When I started out I felt I had to comply with
the norm within the profession. It took time and
experience to realise that the best results actually
come from thinking about things from a totally
I am a lighting designer, but my most inspirational
moment came when I worked for architects Future
Systems and the late Jan Kaplicky. I was there for
four years and what I witnessed with him was just
extraordinary. Every time a project came in he would
disregard the standard response and try to rewrite
the brief. He was a real visionary in architecture and
design, and that was the most influential professional
mentoring I’ve ever experienced.
You could say my time at Future Systems acted as a
catalyst for my approach at Cinimod. We’re all about
doing things differently. We go into projects and
sometimes use people with an unconventional skillset
to work on them.
We take on commissions everyone else has declined
because they think it’s impossible, a nightmare – but
the more I hear about risk and challenge, the more I
want to do it. I have come to see that in order to keep
myself busy and satisfied I need to be doing things that
are different – not just the projects themselves, but in
my design approach.
I have also learned that, for this to succeed, a greater
degree of client education is needed. I would warn my
younger self that it’s essential to get clients on board
from the start, make sure they embrace the idea that
they are not going to get a standard solution.
I think that is why so many of our clients come to us
for one particular type of work then end up asking us
to take on all sorts of other aspects. For example, we
might be brought in to look at the lighting system,
then the video system, then the content running across
both, then the interactive and social elements… Once
a client has been brought into this world of challenging
preconceptions, the relationship tends to grow.
l Dominic Harris is founder and creative director at
Cinimod Studio in London
‘Always challenge the status quo
in every aspect of lighting design’