A strategic research study around lighting solutions


How to rethink light from a critical perspective of the existing market and experiences users want to embrace?

July 2019

15mn read

© Units Research

#1 Why we are doing this : a short introduction to the research process at Units

#2 From market analysis to new fields exploration

#3 How our experience highlighted new needs concerning lighting solutions

#4 Two proposals that we would be happy to developed with you


What is at stake regarding the new usages of lighting in a broad range? Before digging into the subject, we conducted a market study to identify relevant opportunities.


At Units, we have looked at the lighting evolutions for individuals. We started from currents issues to grasp the stakes of the market you are addressing and the competitors you are facing. It allowed us to design an experience regarding the lighting understanding, that we called Lighty. Through an app empowering users to draw their very own lights and how they should behave, we got meaningful and applied results. At Units, we assume that everyone should focus on what people really do : we designed with all this data in mind possibles products for you!

We are very pleased to present it to you today.


We spend more than 90% of our time inside buildings and houses surrounded by artificial lighting.

National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS), 2001

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Lighting has become a major environmental issue, bringing out lighting systems that are less and less energy-hungry. It represents today 10% of national electricity consumption. Thanks to low-energy sensors, light bulbs can now adapt in real-time to a room luminosity to avoid energy waste or change their color temperature throughout the day and depending on each user preference.

Studio Haberdashery went one step further by providing the physical movement and color of a light imitating the sun. The lamp becomes a time marker and provides to its users a lighting linked to the part of the day.

Dawn to Dusk, a circadian light adjustable on its height & color   Studio    Haberdashery    - 2018

Dawn to Dusk, a circadian light adjustable on its height & color

Studio Haberdashery - 2018

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Over-connected and over-intelligent lighting systems aims to fill our homes : to reduce the bill but also for easing the phase of falling asleep. While observing trends around lighting systems, market has obviously been split up into two main parts : energy reduction and improvement of the daily comfort.


At Units, we identified 3 meaningful tendencies to investigate. But because trends are (almost) already here, we challenged them and created lighty (introduced in #3), a tool to gather data around real light uses.

Everybody could be a lighting designer

How to create a lifelike lighting simulator and its implementation in everyone’s houses ?

What if everyone could have access to a lighting designer ? This trend is coming from high-end lighting system providers as Artemide or Flos. They want to give to everyone (well… those who can afford it) the ability to design the light they want.

Through several criteria as intensity, color, orientation or type of diffusion, users have access to a large range of products that they can set up and combine. A simulator allows them to visualise their settings. By creating exclusive combination, those configurators lead to complex lighting installation that prevent them to reach mass market.

Light system configurator A.24 by   Artemide   .  Users design the path of their lighting system and its type of light (spot, diffuse or emissive).

Light system configurator A.24 by Artemide. Users design the path of their lighting system and its type of light (spot, diffuse or emissive).

Arrangements Configurator by   Flos   .  Users adapt existing products to their space.

Arrangements Configurator by Flos. Users adapt existing products to their space.

On the opposite of those complex solutions, stand alone lights appeared years ago. From DIY communities (Do It Yourself), makers designed their own system with LED strips, printed circuit board and a good deal of skills and creativity. This has shown a desire to adjust the lighting up to makeshift solutions. Restricted to expert and curious, this approach saw new stakeholders emerged for early adopters of tech products. The Living Colors collection designed by Philips stepped out for its success on the market.

Rather than having systems to install, connected lights could be paired to form patterns and shades. Light would come from the blend of different sources and their color, diffusion or intensity. Scenarios relying on existing parameters would bring new ways of thinking lights in diverse spaces.

Domestic light configurators are polarized between highly complex systems and makeshift solutions.

For us, light configurators could target the mass market with a more democratic simulation. Products should be designed with a further research on simplicity and easing their set-up in diverse spaces with new inputs.

The light and the lamp : a duality between form and function

Creating a high quality lighting, starting with the light bulb.

Domestic lighting is not only about the light bulb and its performances. House lighting is a mix of both the light bulb, the lamp and the space in which it is set up. Nowadays, designers consider the bulb as an industrial product : a standard that is rarely subject to discussion.

This standpoint has delivered plenty of lights aiming at tuning the light through space like the Tizio Lamp or the Parentesi Structure. Those two design icons still influence current lamps as the Demetra. Instead of using the light bulb as the main part of light control, they create complex — but remarkable – structures to allow users to set it up. Lamp design is a matter of style and sometimes, light becomes less important than the object.

Light should focus on the structure of lamp as much as the quality of the light through space.

Parentesi   Achille Castiglioni for Flos - 1971.


Achille Castiglioni for Flos - 1971.

Tizio   Richard Sapper fo Artemide - 1972.


Richard Sapper fo Artemide - 1972.

Demetra Lamp   Naoto Fukasawa for Artemide - 2013

Demetra Lamp

Naoto Fukasawa for Artemide - 2013


Recent attempts showcase the will to put the light bulb at the centre of the design concerns. Plumen worked on this specific aspect. The bulb consists of an LED tube that allows the design to be enlighten. It does not need to be covered or hidden but becomes the only part that is shown. The efficiency of lighting is as good as a rounded bulb.

Samuel Wilkinson went one step further and envisions light bulbs as sculptural objects. By giving them bold shapes, the light structure disappear to benefit the effect.

Both of those designs enhance a different perspective, opening bulbs to be thought differently. But those attempts still reiterate the focus on style, rather than function.

Plumen 001 LED   Samuel Wilkinson for Plumen - 2011.

Plumen 001 LED

Samuel Wilkinson for Plumen - 2011.

Smile & Curli   Samuel Wilkinson for BEEM - 2018

Smile & Curli

Samuel Wilkinson for BEEM - 2018


Through those market observations, we note a connection between four major aspects in order to design a quality lighting system :

  • Structure of light system

  • Adaptability through space

  • Light bulb design

  • Style consideration

Being put together those criteria offer a pattern to analyse and furthermore, to design a singular lighting system.

graphspiste2_Plan de travail 1.jpg

Because lights are often purchased one at a time, it is difficult to keep a consistency on the overall lighting experience. The bulb could become a way to overcome this and provide to any users a way to enhance its domestic space.

By being aware of their environment, lights bulbs form a system that has to be managed… but to what extent ?

Are we living in : The Truman Show ?

How data could change the way we experience light, without falling into boring and redundant scenarios.

Smart lighting has been at the center of light design during the last decade. Those systems allow light bulbs to automatically adapt according to data to the ambient luminosity, the biological cycles of users, or any other information input.

By combining those data, users can create scenarios : narratives that trigger actions if the right inputs are met.

- The Movie Night

“If I hit Netflix and it’s 9 p.m. turn off the lights in the living room, set the ceiling lights to a deep purple and tune the dimmer of the corridor to 3.”

As good as this scenario seems, it will be pretty soon annoying to see it being run again and again without giving us the chance to be surprised. Is it really where we want to be headed ?

Trådfri lighting range, Connected light bulbs   Ikea - 2017

Trådfri lighting range, Connected light bulbs

Ikea - 2017

Hue Lifestyle   Philips - 2019

Hue Lifestyle

Philips - 2019


Instead of creating inflexible scenarios, we should focus on how users interact in their environment to track their behavior more quietly.

Casper, a mattress manufacturer, designed a lamp to add to the sleeping experience. It becomes a device that the user can wiggle, rotate or simply use as a bedside light to help wake him up. The way the light interact evolves each day, thanks to the user habits – and not through precise settings.

The Hue Go light already introduced a new way of exploiting light inside houses : not as a motionless structure but as a tool allowing user to seize it. Connected lighting systems would benefit from those behaviors by avoiding the phase of the setup.

Casper, Sleep Assistant   Casper Labs - 2019

Casper, Sleep Assistant

Casper Labs - 2019

Hue Go   Philips - 2015

Hue Go

Philips - 2015

By seeking calibration and setup, connected objects erase the space for astonishment. It is time to think light as a living material that should be delighted rather than framed.

Some attempts highlight the need for a more contemplative source of light. It is not about reaching the perfect natural light anymore, but using physical properties to create a unique light, the one that digital artefacts try to reproduce. In fact, people have always been amazed by the randomness of physical properties applied to everyday objects.

The lava lamp was – during its time – a source of wonder, a mesmerizing phenomena that one can contemplate over and over. Today, new possibilities have emerged. Using dichroic films, water diffraction or other physical properties, artists as Ann Veronica Janssens reproduces complex natural light that enhance the surroundings depending on the time of the day.

U.S. Patent n°3387396, for the first lava lamp.    Smith David George   , 1964

U.S. Patent n°3387396, for the first lava lamp.

Smith David George, 1964

Hot Pink Turquoise, the dichroic filters allow to create complex lighting ambiances.    Ann Veronica Janssens   , 2006

Hot Pink Turquoise, the dichroic filters allow to create complex lighting ambiances.

Ann Veronica Janssens, 2006

Contemporary artists like Olafur Eliasson, Ann Veronica Janssens, James Turell or Dan Flavin revealed the fascination of light through simple and modest installations. This aspect of simplicity is a significant aspect, even more if contrasted by the increasing presence of technology in our houses.

Horizon, Interactive installation    Flynn Talbot    - 2009

Horizon, Interactive installation

Flynn Talbot - 2009

When Art meet the Industry    Nicolas Schöffer for Philips    - 1960

When Art meet the Industry

Nicolas Schöffer for Philips - 1960

Data could be used for providing unexpected scenarios, or disrupting the one that are too regulated.

There is a more attractive yet useful way to use data in order to create an intelligent and contemplative light environment.


In order to collect and analyse users data, we create Lighty. It is an app in between a collective survey and a game. Its goal was to define several “Light Profiles” combining light desires depending on domestic activities.

Click here, if you want to play with it!

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Through 5 everyday scenes (resting, partying, making love, chilling, working), users have the ability to set up their lights on a digital simulation. We deliberately reduced the simulation elements to a minimum to foster the focus on lights instead of each user domestic space peculiarities.

The users had the possibility to set several parameters :

- the color of the light ;

- the intensity, that is how white is the light ;

- how much blur is applied to the lighting (or how focused it is) ;

- how large is the emitting lighting source.


lights were switched on and set up during the test

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users have been involved in the Lighty Experience

What supports our market learnings


Focused light = focused mind

For people seeking concentration, lights are mostly focused and their size is inferior than in any other scene. While working, users emphasize to a precise lighting scene rather than when they just want to chill.

Most of the lights are vivid and tend to imitate “natural” lights

Most of the lights are vivid and tend to imitate “natural” lights



Different strokes for different folks

Colors are a matter of choice and it is difficult to cluster shades depending on situations. However in some of them, colors tend to be more homogeneous than in other one. “Making love like never” shows that people still want warm colors – mostly reddish – when it comes to intimate moments.

Lighty, the lighting simulator we designed. Users set up the lights thanks to a simple simulation.

Lighty, the lighting simulator we designed. Users set up the lights thanks to a simple simulation.

Sample results for the scene “Making love like never”

Sample results for the scene “Making love like never”

What insights we got


Lighting is a blend of multiple lights

While using Lighty, users massively switched on multiple lamps on each scenario. It shows the proper design of the simulator but mostly the fact that lighting has to integrate several emitters that can work together to provide rich atmospheres. Users often created a background lighting upon which they added more focused emitters : those Light Profiles gives an idea of this learning.


Living Colors

If Lighty wasn’t supposed to generate colors that can change over time, it is interesting to observe situations where users express this need.

Some of them took the test several times and its interesting to observe how lights change depending on time. Here is 2 Light Profiles from the same user during the day. Colors, but also focus and intensity change with the time of day.



But setting light is also a way to express its mood. A user told us how he was using Lighty in an unexpected way.

Really nice to do it everyday to figure out the coloraturas of the day’s mood!

User n° 030917-24

Three inputs to design valuable propositions



Lighting has to be linked to real-life condition to be an extension of natural daylight. Not only circadian circles are relevant but other data could expand the overall experience : outdoor brightness and color of the sky could animate light through time.

There is a need for less redundant and painful to set-up lighting scenarios. They could benefit from meaningful data adding evolvement, surprise and delight to everyday life.

Setting up the lights shouldn’t get more and more complicated : an engaging user experience linked with new lighting systems has to emerged. From plugin a connected bulb into random lamps to purchasing expensive lights systems, there is an opportunity to create a relevant experience.


Shaping the ideas

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The market study we carried out led us to several learnings toward the lighting business. We focused on two strategic growth axis to design relevant products and experiences. For each one of them, we defined a value proposition and the market they are addressing.


How to design entry-level products that promote existing bulbs for newcomers and low-budget users ?

Opportunity n° 1️⃣


Shady / Plug it, use it, move it

Shady is an offbeat collection of lampshades. By simply plugin a Hue bulb, this product range allows to create quality lighting anywhere you want.

Each Shady product offers multiple possibilities : hang it on your door, plant it in a pot, float it in your bath…

For us, Shady products are sold in a pack combined with a Hue bulb. Thanks to a specific design it showcases the bulb and let the lamp disappear.

Shady, in a nutshell:

Easy Shady

Easy Shady is an entry level lamp that highlights the quality of Hue bulbs for newcomers.

Near a wall or diffusing light across the room, Easy Shady offers a range of lighting atmospheres while staying compact.


Hooky Shady

Hooky Shady allows users to create lighting moods thanks to a module powered by rechargeable batteries.

It is a polyvalent product to hang to a door, a table, or even plant right into your plant pot.

Discreet and playful, Hooky Shady emits new vibes according to the habits and needs of each user.


Shady Party

As for Hooky, Shady Party is powered by rechargeable batteries and share the same charging base.

Shady Party comes with you up to the bottom of your pool or during a walk in your garden…


Opportunity n° 2️⃣

How to expand the experience of connected lights from the setup to the day-to-day experience ?


LUM as in Light Up your Mood

LUM is a high-quality lighting system that provides new ways of composing lights inside domestic spaces.

It is composed of 2 products and an app allowing to control them through a new experience.

LUM, in a nutshell:

The Wire

The Wire is a light system using Hue LEDs strips. It is dedicated to create vibrant vibes in domestic environments.

Each lamp is powered and synchronized thanks to a cable, creating both sculptural and sensible light effects.

Corners, walls, tables could host those new lighting scenarios. The Wire creates a new link between product and experience.


The Lighthouse

Thanks to Lighty, we understood that users express a strong need concerning focused and unfocused lights effects and that’s why we designed the Lighthouse.

It is a lamp that sets up its focus thanks to a pair of lenses, creating innovative light animations.

High-end products associated with innovative technology offer a new way to bring light to life.


The App

To control those new products, we wanted to create a new experience. It is not about choosing a color anymore, but rather setting an animated landscape that evolves through time.

Users start from their mood, which has been paired to their favorite colors. By picking up a texture, it allows the light to evolve with unexpected patterns. At the end the user has the possibility to fine tune its lights to match its current mood.


By adding differents boxes – as in an electrical circuit 😉 – users see on the interface how the light is affected by their inputs. They create complex lighting scenes that reflects their mood.

For the scene “Warming up before the morning routine” a user choses to pair dynamic waves to its favorite color while he wants to boost himself : a soft but vivid blue.

For the scene “Warming up before the morning routine” a user choses to pair dynamic waves to its favorite color while he wants to boost himself : a soft but vivid blue.


This study is the result of an exploration phase in our methodology.

We call it:

« Provoke for Purpose »


The goal of this exploration is to initiate a dialog with you.

We will be glad to talk about this work with you and identify possible collaborations.

Send us a mail at :


or call the

+33 (0) 6 66 51 41 87

to get in touch!