10 Tips for Emerging Professionals From Lighting Designer Don Holder

Posted by Julie McClure on 5/16/14 11:59 AM  |  2 min read time

We’re starting to see a flood of graduation pictures on social media and thought we’d take the time to share some career advice from Vectorworks users across multiple fields. Here, we’re featuring insight from Lighting Designer Donald Holder, a two-time Tony Award winner and 10-time nominee. Holder is passionate about his career. “There’s an opportunity for self-expression when designing with light that I think is the most satisfying part of the job,” he says. Maybe you’ll enjoy a similar opportunity!

We’ll let Don take over from here. Here are his tips:

  1. Find a way to really “see” light. Look at the light in the world we live in (sunsets, sunrise, dawn, moonlight, twilight, sunny or misty days) and try to think about the color of the light, the color of highlights and shadows.
  2. Study how man-made or artificial light plays on the surface of objects: the differences in color, shadows, and angles between reading lamps at home, the streetlights outside, the light in your classroom or office, etc.
  3. Study the work of great painters: impressionists like Hopper, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, Rodin, Manet, Corot, Singer Sargent; romantic painters; modern artists; and photographers. Then, really look at the light in those paintings and photographs. This new awareness of light in the world will have a profound and lasting influence on the work that you do as a lighting designer.
  4. Read as much as you can: plays, books, the local newspapers, The New York Times, etc.
  5. Go to the cinema, local theatre, touring shows, etc.
  6. Watch the classic and iconic films of the last 50 to 60 years.
  7. Talk about the work you’ve seen with your friends, parents, and colleagues.
  8. Become as articulate and knowledgeable as you can about as many subjects as possible. Study art, art history, politics, history, literature, music theory, and composition. Learn to play an instrument. Any or all of the above will feed your mind, and develop your imagination and creativity
  9. Hone your communications skills. Excellent communication ability (oral, verbal in particular) is crucial in order to become a successful lighting designer since we have no other really effective way to express and articulate our ideas.
  10. Keep improving your design skills. Don is a passionate Vectorworks Spotlight user, but he is now trying to acquire skills in 3D rendering—not necessarily “new” technology, but new for him, and an increasingly important tool, he says.

Stay tuned for more words of advice for emerging professionals in other design fields. Also, be on the lookout for our upcoming case study about Don’s work on Broadway’s The Bridges of Madison County.

Topics: Education, Entertainment, Spotlight, tony awards, Donald Holder

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