Lighting for Exhibition Design

Exhibition Design Reading Topics:

  • How It’s Used
  • The Site
  • Vocabulary
  • Color
  • Movement

How It’s Used

Light is an added layer to emphasize hierarchy. Many exhibition visitors enter from bright daylight or a darker hallway so consider easing transitions from dark to light spaces to give the eye a chance to adjust. Many lighting designers will storyboard the light, especially when they are creating a light show.

The Site

Daylight is much more powerful than artificial light, so when possible, survey the site to determine if there’s sunlight and where it comes from. Add extra lights as needed to illuminate pathways that are not exposed to light that may bounce off of exhibit pieces.  Users expect well-lit areas for interacting with or participation in the exhibit. Low lighting can work to your advantage to hide imperfections in the artifact.


Light focused on a specific area is called “accent light” and background light is called “ambient light.” “Feature lighting” is lighting that is specific to an object.


I have always been good at mixing colors- with paint. What has always confused me is what color you get when you shine a colored light on a colored surface. I believe it’s subtractive light— right? I hope I never have to know the answer without trying it in real life! The real take away from the reading is that light temperature is so important and also so hard to get exact because everything effects everything!

Conservation & Accessibility Considerations

It’s important that all text is well lit, and that reflections are minimized to help those with disabilities (and everyone too!) Artifacts often come with limits of how much light can hit them – measured in ‘lux.’ Fibre optics can be used to move the heat source of the lamp away from objects with temperature requirements.


For moving lights, the lighting designer actually records the movements in the space with a lighting desk, then saves them to memory for playback.


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