Q&A with LS Group Partner and Principal Sarah Erickson, IALD Professional

Founded in 2008 in the Roaring Fork Valley, LS Group is an established lighting design firm with expertise that spans project types, scales, and geographies. The firm is proud to be a certified women-owned business.

Sarah Erickson, principal/partner, IALD professional, has a demonstrated history of working in the architecture and planning industry, specializing in lighting and lighting control design.  Conceptual design is one of her strengths. She is able to piece together imagery and presentations that convey LS Group’s concepts elegantly and intentionally. Sarah is also on the board of Women in Lighting + Design (WILD).

1.What sparked your interest in lighting design?

My interest in lighting design began as a love for the interaction of light, color, design, and materials, which was nurtured at my grandparents’ stained-glass shop. From repairing stained glass windows to making my own Tiffany lamp, I experienced firsthand how different lighting conditions affected the resulting experience. I have always been fascinated by the way light transforms materials and colors – a red will look totally different when backlit in a stained-glass window versus being spotlighted in a display case.

These early insights and passions led me to a degree in architectural engineering with a focus on lighting, exploring the incredible impact that well-designed lighting can have on spaces.

2. What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career and how did you overcome them or reframe them as opportunities?

I have had the opportunity to grow through a variety of roles and organizations throughout my career. The most challenging part throughout it all has been finding the balance between managing the logistical side of a team and being able to participate in the creation of beautiful spaces for clients.

Now, as a principal and managing partner at LS Group, I have been able to define a role that allows me to run the business while still providing me the opportunity to dive into the details of lighting design, from conceptualizing and implementing lighting controls to understanding the materiality of light fixtures. I get to leverage my passion for lighting alongside my love of delivering an amazing customer experience.

3. Which project or projects are you most proud of and why? 

In recent years, there have been so many projects that I feel have really defined my work as a lighting designer. One project that I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of was Casa Marea – this stunning custom home in Mexico’s exclusive Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas. Led by my talented colleague, Elise Streeb, the project’s lighting design was highly technical and required an extraordinary level of attention to even the smallest details. With simple architectural style, lighting throughout the home is largely felt, but not seen, using hidden reveals, wall washing and trimless lights. This project was one of our first international projects and required a high level of coordination with the on-site teams and translation of measurements and languages, and I’m so proud of how it turned out. We actually were awarded an international LIT Award for that project.

I’m also very proud of our lighting design at the Clayton Members Club & Hotel –led by LS Group’s Kristen Kordecki – in the Denver Cherry Creek North neighborhood. To support the project’s mission as a private social club centered around cultivating an environment of diversity and inclusion, we conceptualized and implemented an intricate lighting plan that highlighted the materiality and architectural elements of the space with the goal of creating inviting spaces for community building.

Both of these projects embody LS Group’s commitment to excellence in lighting design and pushing boundaries to deliver extraordinary experiences for our clients. These projects are also great examples of the power of lighting to transform spaces and enhance the experience.

4. What are some emerging concepts in lighting design and/or controls that you find most interesting/impactful?

One positive innovation in lighting design we are witnessing is the emergence of light fixture manufacturers who are actively designing products using sustainable materials. Traditionally, light fixtures have been constructed from non-recyclable plastic and extruded aluminum, posing significant environmental hazards when disposed of.

However, the industry is now embracing some exciting new approaches to enhance sustainability and support environmental and occupant health and well-being. One such approach involves extending the lifespan of light bulbs through flexible voltage systems. Manufacturers are also exploring the use of wood and plant-based materials in crafting fixtures to achieve both exceptional acoustics and eco-consciousness. We find many clients are increasingly prioritizing investment in these products and we look forward to seeing how the market responds.

5. As technology continues to advance, how do you see the role of lighting design in commercial real estate evolving?

There are many defined and technical roles along the continuum of lighting design, from electricians to audio and visual partners and interior designers. Because of the technological advances and increasingly complex client demands of lighting systems, roles across the industry have continued to become more and more cross-functional and intertwined. For instance, within a space, a single switch may control not only a lamp but also the sound system and the lighting in the lamp may dynamically adjust color or wattage to synchronize with circadian rhythm. Because of these types of consumer demands and technological advances, the industry will continue to integrate new capabilities in product design from manufacturing all the way down to final installation.

6. How does lighting design play a role in branding and creating a distinct identity for properties?

A primary consideration in our designs is creating spaces that elevate the unique identity of a project and reinforce its brand while also remaining timeless, building for the possibility of change and customization over time.

The atmosphere and mood in space are inexorably linked to the lighting. Lighting helps set the tone for the experience and communicates the brand story. Will it be moody or vibrant, calming or energetic? Integrated at the beginning of a project, lighting can dramatically enhance the architecture and interiors in a way that reinforces the story of that environment.

7. What advice would you give to someone considering lighting design as a profession?

As with anything, to pursue a career in lighting design, you have to love what you do. Lighting design is a unique discipline that requires creativity, technical acumen, and practical experience to understand and translate client requirements into tangible lighting solutions. The field demands a deep understanding of design theories and concepts, coupled with meticulous attention to detail.

8. As the industry evolves, what do you think is the best way the lighting design world can work to promote the inclusion and participation of women in the field?

It is crucial for our industry to continue supporting, furthering and investing in women-led organizations such as Women in Lighting + Design (WILD), Women in Design, and CREW. These organizations offer essential mentorship and networking opportunities for women working in traditionally male-dominated industries and empower women to forge ahead in their careers.

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