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Beacons of Light: Katia Kolovea

Beacons of Light: Katia Kolovea

October 2023

DW Windsor is powered by people with a shared passion for light, committed to delivering outstanding lighting solutions. To celebrate those who share our passion, we've collected more individuals who positively impact our community and shine a light on our industry. Through this series of interviews, we are highlighting a number of unique and inspiring people who are leading the way as Beacons of Light.

An Interview with Katia Kolovea

Katia is a lighting designer, communication strategist, and advocate of the lighting design profession. Her passion for light, people, and the creation of engaging and immersive experiences led her to start her business, Archifos, in 2020, focusing on the intersection of lighting design, experiential marketing, and engaging communications.

Katia has been involved in various community-based and educational projects, including the Silhouette Awards and the VLD.Community.

Her work as a designer has been awarded a "Darc Award" and was honoured with the prestigious 40under40 Lighting Design Award.

We met with Katia to discuss her passions and philosophy towards lighting, including her goals in raising awareness of lighting through education.

When did you first become interested in lighting?

My first connection with lighting was during my studies in interior architecture in Greece. I had the opportunity to do an ERASMUS in Madrid, where I took a class about lighting with a professor who was an architect and lighting designer, Aris. He introduced me to the lighting world and made me realise that this was a profession. Following this, I attended the Urban Lightscapes conference in Athens, which included various speakers and professionals talking about their diverse roles in light. I went there without any expectations and very limited knowledge about the industry, but it was fascinating, and this was the moment that I realised I wanted to become a lighting designer.

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Katia Kolovea

Katia is a lighting designer, communication strategist, and advocate of the lighting design profession. She is the founder of the Lighting Police, an educational platform with the mission to raise awareness about the importance of the right light to the general public. Katia is also a Women in Lighting Community team member, a Judge of the LIT design awards, and an elected council member of the Society of Light and Lighting.


Have you always wanted to work in the industry, or did you have other careers in mind too? If you have worked in another career before, how have the skills you learnt during that role transferred to lighting?

I am grateful that I discovered my passion for light very early on. Before this, my vision was to become an interior architect. I love materials, textures, and space, and I was really focused on this before I came across light – this is when everything changed; it was like love at first sight. I realised that light is a material and without this medium, you can’t have any of the others.

I got the incredible opportunity to do an internship in architectural lighting in Barcelona, to experience what it is like to work with light. In this way, one thing was a stepping stone for another that led me on a path to light.


What has been your lightbulb moment during your career?

My lightbulb moment was when I received the 40under40 award in 2019, and at the age of 25 years old, I was one of the youngest people to join this list.

This recognition brought a new sense of responsibility to me, a feeling of representing the younger generation of lighting designers, advocating for the profession, for our needs, and for the best possible collaboration within the industry.

This opportunity enhanced my sense of community and inspired lots of actions, including the development of Archifos to support fellow younger members of the lighting industry, and the creation of the Silhouette Awards program following a fantastic brainstorming session I had with my business partner Eve.

Everything is connected. If you are willing to trust the journey, work hard and enjoy the process, everything falls into place.

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Katia celebrating Archifos' third year anniversary

What is one of your biggest achievements to date?

Starting a business that combines my expertise and passion in the most authentic way possible. I am proud of managing a business that is transformative and gives me the opportunity to collaborate with multiple people in and out of the lighting industry, pushing the boundaries of creativity, inspiration, and communication.

Apart from the business, my biggest achievement is to have a strong network of people around me who care and are here to support, exchange ideas, and grow together.


What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your lighting career? How did you overcome this?

I always knew that one day I would start my own business, but I wasn’t planning to pursue it so early. At the beginning of 2020, I got an opportunity to explore the self-employed path, combining my design and communication roles in the way I was looking for. It was a leap of faith, where I was preparing myself to take on the risk with the worst-case scenario to step back and find full-time employment again.

I started my business a month before Covid hit, with plans to collaborate with various companies and build the business up. When this couldn’t happen, it was a really challenging time. To overcome this challenge, I had to adapt and grow by considering what it is that I really want to be doing and what I can offer as a business.

From this journey, I learned to be flexible and adaptable and remain focused on the big picture. I worked a lot and was close to burnout, but luckily, I managed to overcome this, creating a better balance and prioritisation of my business and personal life. Being a solopreneur is not an easy task, but today, after 3+ years running my own business, I wouldn’t change any part of this.

As Steve Jobs said, ‘You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards’. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

"Everything is connected. If you are willing to trust the journey, work hard and enjoy the process, everything falls into place."

What are you most passionate about when it comes to architectural lighting/lighting exterior spaces?

For me, light is something magical. It is a powerful international medium that connects people and cultures, communicating various messages in the urban space. It has the power to activate emotions, inspire action, and create a sense of community. When light is designed well, it is invisible to the untrained eye, merging with the architecture and the overall vibe of the space.

I am passionate about how today’s technology allows us to create those narratives in the urban space and about applying these technologies in a way that respects the environment, dark skies, and the overall footprint that our profession brings into the built environment. I am confident that our industry is improving from a sustainability perspective, especially as manufacturers take responsibility and understand their role in creating the right fixtures for designers to use in those parameters.

How would you articulate your overall philosophy about light – in particular, architectural lighting?

My philosophy on light revolves around embracing darkness as a starting point.

I believe in the power of minimal light, with focal points of interest complemented by carefully layered illumination. Whether designing architectural lighting or temporary installations, I envision dynamic spaces where each layer of light can be effortlessly controlled to create a cohesive narrative.

As a designer, I am greatly inspired by Richard Kelly's principles of ambient luminescence, focal glow, and the play of brilliance, and I strongly advocate for storytelling and deep attention to detail to evoke excitement and emotions. The context and the harmonious integration of light within the architecture and physical elements of the space are fundamental.

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Lighting experience workshop at Dexamenes Seaside Hotel, Greece

What would be a dream project for you? If you could light any architectural or exterior space in the world, where would it be?

I have many dream projects, but I would like to pick the one that I am currently developing and transform it into a plan. Don’t just dream it – plan it!

This dream combines my research into light and communication for a global activation in 10 countries at the same time, on the same day, about the same topic, including various members of the industry, students, and people from the local region. The purpose of this global activation is for us, as lighting designers to come together and make a big impact to show the industry, creating something as a whole community, creating a sense of togetherness that celebrates light.

With great power comes great responsibility, and as lighting designers, we have the responsibility to use these tools to inspire communities around the world to see light in a different way. This project is the perfect opportunity for me to combine my network, passion, expertise, and communication skills and bring members of our industry together.


What do you think is the number one skill set required to be successful in the lighting industry?

When it comes to succeeding in the lighting industry, there's one crucial skill set for me: the ability to feel the light and "see" the light even with closed eyes. It involves envisioning light in your mind, sketching it out, and effortlessly manipulating the layers that create the narrative. This skill grows through eye training, gaining experience, and experimenting with different lighting techniques and is a CONSTANT process that you shall never expect to stop improving and growing.

Dare to ask the question, dare to ask for help, dare to go for it! Don’t feel intimidated or afraid; you are losing nothing, and you can gain everything. 


What advice would you give to those emerging into the lighting industry?

Dare to ask the question, dare to ask for help, dare to go for it! Don’t feel intimidated or afraid; you are losing nothing, and you can gain everything. Invest in true and genuine business relationships and find your tribe of positive and passionate people to be surrounded with.

Remember that together, we are stronger.


We recognise you as a Beacon of Light in the industry, but who is your Beacon of Light?

I'm deeply honoured to be recognised as a Beacon of Light. I dedicate this gratitude and empowerment to the incredible people in my life who have greatly contributed to my personal and professional journey and have played an essential role in igniting and nurturing my inner light. Those are my Beacons of Light!

There are many: my family, my partner, my close friends, mentors, collaborators, colleagues, and clients, who have all played a different role and constantly support me every single day. I am immensely grateful for all their support, guidance, and belief in my potential.

They inspire and push me to become the best version of myself. I don’t think of doing it for me but for everyone else. They believe in me, even in moments of personal doubt, and they are pushing me beyond my comfort zone, challenging me to reach new heights and stay focused on the path, enjoying the journey every single day.

I am committed to paying this forward with the same level of compassion, empowerment, and guidance to those I encounter along my path. To continue to inspire, uplift and empower one another as we make a meaningful impact in the world.

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Katia at Voices of Light in Mexico, 2023

Your work with The Lighting Police raises awareness of the importance of light through education. What do you think is one of the most important things about light that people should be aware of?

How immensely light influences every moment people are awake and asleep. Light plays a huge role in the way that we live our lives, how productive we are, if we have a good sleep, and how we grow. The physiology and science of light and how it impacts on us is important to understand. People should be aware of this so they can start looking at light more consciously and not take it for granted. The real mission is to activate and generate conversations which inspire this awareness and spark an interest in people’s minds that better quality light can positively benefit them, noticing lighting around them more and looking at it in a critical way.


What is some of the work you have been most proud to achieve through The Lighting Police?

I am proud to see the growth of the community, with people from all sectors of the lighting industry and different countries embracing the invitation when approached to be an advisory board member. We have built a large network of professionals who are contributing to raising awareness with respect and providing a place for people in the industry to start these conversations. It is incredible to be in a position to generate lots of different workshops and opportunities around the world, with the advisory board of the Lighting Police leading.

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Meraki Workshop, Dubai

You are also part of the Women in Lighting team and co-creator of The Silhouette Awards. Why is supporting others in the lighting industry so important to you?

Because we rise by lifting each other!

I was fortunate from my very first steps in the lighting world as a student at KTH to meet an inspiring person who then became my mentor and taught me the importance of leadership and the power of community.

I was a leader from a very young age when the teachers had to convince me to do anything, but then if I was in, everyone was in. Another important element in my life has been my involvement in playing water polo at a championship level during my teens. This further enhanced my sense of community and leadership, learning how to perform as a group and focus on a common goal and how to achieve it for everyone involved.

We are here to support each other, to progress, achieve our goals and keep pushing high - but we do this together because it’s how the journey gets bright and interesting. I will always give back and support the younger generation and every fellow passionate professional to push our profession further!


Thank you to Katia for taking the time to share these thoughts with us. Find out more about Katia’s work here -

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