Beacons of Light: Melissa Mak
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 sought out individuals who are making a positive impact on our community and shining 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.
Melissa spearheaded the #LetThereBeLightChallenge, which started as a simple idea for the lighting community to share images of light. This rapidly grew into a worldwide phenomenon that took over LinkedIn and inspired people from across the global lighting community to share inspiring images of light.
Melissa believes that light is an indispensable design ingredient. She is passionate about nature and fascinated by the design of creation. She often draws inspiration from nature to fuel her design creativity.
Here she tells us about her history, her interests, and her plans for the future.
When did you first become interested in lighting, and have you always wanted to work in the lighting industry?
I became really interested in lighting as a tool used during my previous career in interior design. Light has such a powerful way of transforming space and people’s emotions. Light surrounds us, every day, and you can learn from it.
I wanted to deepen our knowledge so I applied for a scholarship in MSC Light and Lighting at UCL Bartlett, London.
I really enjoy creating and the process of generating ideas. I am passionate about design creativity and I play an active role in fostering a creative culture within the lighting team in Arup.
Melissa is a lighting designer at leading London firm Arup. She has a Master's degree in Light and Lighting from University College London
What has been your lightbulb moment in your career?
Most of the projects I have worked on have a light bulb moment because the design concept stage excites me so much! It is embedded in what I do.
Having said that, the #LetThereBeLightChallenge was also a lightbulb moment for me. I love this project, and it has been amazing to make use of my passion for such a positive movement.
Talking of which, how did your inspiring #LetThereBeLightChallenge come about?
At the time we were in lockdown and online challenges and community activities were becoming really popular. I noticed there was not a lighting specific online challenge so I thought I would start one. Lockdown meant we were all documenting images, and I wanted to share some of mine with the lighting community.
Initially, I shared these internally with my colleagues at Arup during our regular design sessions. I then decided to share these further afield. One week later, around 100 posts had been put onto social media as part of the challenge, then one month later there were over 2,000 posts sharing images and engaging with the challenge.
Melissa Mak's first image of her #LetThereBeLightChallenge
Were you surprised this initiative became a worldwide phenomenon throughout the lighting community? And why do you think this was?
I was certainly surprised. I think the timing was the key. When we first went into lockdown, I was not active on social media. Yet I craved connection with the outside world – as others did too – and this was a way to stay connected.
I think it also helped that the challenge was fun, easy to engage with, an easy way to express your feelings and thoughts.
I loved each post for different reasons – they all offer stories and memories of light which is beautiful to share in. Each post and every photo demonstrates the power that light gives to other people and allows memory to be passed onto others via digital tools.
What is one of your biggest achievements to date, and what would you like to achieve in your future career?
Having devoted 15 years in lighting design alone, I think that shows great resilience and dedication to what I do, and where my passions lie.
And of course, the positive impact of #LetThereBeLightChallenge have had on others have given me a sense of fulfilment.
In the future, I would like to work on an art installation that would give me complete lighting freedom and creativity. I don’t have any preference for a specific place or building, just artistic design expression.
How have the changes in the world that we have seen over the past 12 months affected you?
Professionally, using technology for design collaboration has been fine, and not being restricted by timings and place has allowed me more headspace to think and create. I have seen a positive impact based on the new way of working we have had to adapt to.
In my personal life, I have become more active on social media and I have actually loved working from home.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your lighting career?
I’ve always found it hard to market myself and my work. This is outside of my comfort zone. Now I am embracing new technologies, and exploring new tools that I am comfortable with, to market what I do in a unique way that stays true to myself and my passion.
How would you articulate your overall philosophy about light?
Lighting is about using emotions to create experiences. We should explore more, try new things, and not stay content or be complacent. New things fuel design and create opportunities.
The ability to design with meaning, rather than just illuminating. Beautifying somewhere with light touches people’s hearts, leaving lasting memories and positive experiences. It is important to put yourself in the shoes of the user.
Melissa's second #LetThereBeLightChallenge image
We recognise you as a Beacon of Light in the industry. Who is your Beacon of Light?
It’s not just one person, it is everyone I collaborate with. Everyone has different strengths and offers different perspectives and insights. They are all light sources. It is like creating a larger beacon made up of lights.