Designing with Light: 5 Ways to Utilize Lighting in Retail

By Erin Eliason
March 23, 2020

1. Capture the Eye

Light penetrates the clutter of a crowded marketplace, enlivens colors and makes space come alive. The eyes are naturally drawn to illuminated objects and spaces. Whether it’s soft, broad backlighting, or the sharp contrast of accent lighting, light inevitably draws the eyes and holds them for longer. 

2. Reinforce Brand 

Just as color and shape can define a brand—think John Deere’s iconic green and yellow or Nike’s infamous swoosh—so too does light. Many brands cleverly utilize light as an exclusive differentiator. The clean, white light of an Apple store is as signature to its brand as its apple logo. The luminous green of Xbox and the glowing, golden arches of McDonald’s are vital to their respective brands. 

3. Define Space

Differentiating retail spaces is as critical to brands as distinguishing one logo from another. Whether it’s a subtle glow or giant, flashing arrows pointing consumers directly to a product, lighting separates environments and products from one another. And this creates a choice for consumers: the choice between focusing their attention on one brand versus another.  

4. Establish Mood 

Light creates ambiance, helping to set the mood of an environment. Imagine an October night without the flickering, orange glow of grinning jack-o-lanterns. The Fourth of July without the luminous crackle of fireworks against the dark sky. Or a rock concert illuminated only with overhead fluorescent tubes, faintly buzzing in the silence between sets. 

5. Create Experiences

Brick and mortar retailers are leveraging experiential marketing to do what online stores cannot: create memorable customer experiences. Designers have a powerful tool at their disposal to evoke one of the most fundamental of human stimuli.