LLD: What I would like to ask you is: how relevant is it to become a member of IALD for a European Lighting Designer namely, a lighting designer coming from Portugal?
IALD: The question about the relevance of becoming an IALD member for a lighting designer in Portugal is very timely now that LLD has been born. It relates to the value that Portuguese lighting designers are adding to their own hometown as well as to the continental and international communities. Lighting design is a global profession, practitioners are able to work in projects anywhere in the world and for very diverse clients. So, local communities and national associations of lighting designers help to raise the profile of the profession in their own cities, countries and regions and at the same time, are in close relationship with others doing the same in different geographical locations. In this scenario, IALD as an international entity has defined a “global” strategy to support lighting designers, meaning “global” perspective and “local” actions. By connecting lighting designers, groups of collaboration, lighting designers’ associations and lighting related professionals in a global network, IALD has found an effective way to increase the recognition of the profession and the practitioners. When members of national lighting designers associations decide to join IALD, they become active players in the international network and become conduits of communication between many groups, being relevant to the profession and the community.
LLD: IALD has been not only considered an Anglo-American association but, in fact, 95% of its members came from this side of the world. Only for the past years, 4 or 5, has it started to take steps to gather European LDs by setting events in Europe. Why this shift now?
IALD: The origin and evolution of IALD have been perceived in different ways and this is a great question to shed some light on the topic. IALD was founded in a German restaurant by 6 independent lighting designers more than 40 years ago. The restaurant was in New York… and this is just a joke to say that the place of birth of a professional association is not as relevant as its constituency. From the beginning, it was decided that the “I”ALD would be an international association since our profession is not constrained to political borders. At the time of its foundation, American and Canadian lighting designers had been speaking to each other and had a spirit of openness to peers regardless of their geographical allocation.
Now, becoming internationally relevant takes time and resources and it was until 10 years ago approximately that IALD had the structure to support a larger international membership. It was then when a globalisation plan was started with three clear objectives:
– Contributing to raise the profile of the profession on a global level
– Providing support to lighting designers right where they are, understanding that the profession is universal as well as the practice of the profession
– Fulfilling our mission to foster the visible success of our members internationally
When this plan was developed, the Board of Directors of IALD clearly defined that the association would not take actions to increase the number of members since the success of the association is not defined by having a larger membership. If the objectives were achieved, then one of the outcomes should be that more professionals would join the association, and this is what has been happening in several regions like Europe.
Some professionals in Europe joined the IALD more than 20 years ago because they recognized at that time the need to be part of an international network; now many others are becoming members and adding strength to the community. For IALD it is an honour to accept new members from any place in the world who are recognized professionals and eventually become empowered volunteers who contribute to the objectives that we have spoken about.
In relation to numbers, the membership of IALD is formed today by more than 1,300 members in 56 countries; 730 of them are based in the U.S., which means approximately a 56%, just to answer the question.
The following graphic shows the breakdown of members (as of September 2016)
The board of IALD recognized the specific weight of several lighting designers’ communities around the world, like the ones in Europe, Japan and Australia, and took actions to increase its presence over there. Particularly in Europe, IALD now has an office in Brussels, which is a city with many representations of professional associations and also the place to be in close touch with the European representative instances. In this office, there is a manager for programs and activities in continental Europe and also a specialist in regulatory affairs who supports the work of the European Union Regulatory Affairs Working Group.
LLD: And what is the IALD most ambitious target?
IALD: Personally, I would say that we face two important challenges that define that high level of ambition: to be able to serve our growing membership all over the world and to remain relevant in a changing environment.
LLD: How can IALD understand the needs and expectations of European Lighting designers considering the diversity of each country’s culture and identity?
IALD: I am happy that you ask this question since it allows me to explain how IALD embraces the needs and concerns of professionals, members and non-members, around the world.
IALD fosters the development of local communities of lighting designers and also develops meaningful relationships with national associations. In the first case, when lighting designers in any place, let’s say for example Stockholm, have an initiative to develop an activity, it is the role of our agents to give them support in several ways. One, by making connections with other lighting designers and related professionals in their locality; two, by disseminating the message about the activity and its relevance; third, by providing resources for its execution; sometimes it is from IALD’s funds for regions and chapters, sometimes it comes for LIRC members (the Lighting Industry Resource Council) who are willing to support the activities of the association. In the second case, we have agreements with other associations or groups who develop their own programs; one example is the EILD event, Encuentro Ibero Americano de Lighting Design; its organizing committee develops their own program and IALD is invited to provide speakers and panellists, attend the event to make connections between attendees, disseminate the program abroad and foster the success of the event.
What it ultimately means, is that IALD embraces the efforts of lighting designers and supports them, so it is the members and the community who defines the actions to be developed. This is the role of the association, to support the professional community in order to raise the profile of the profession.