Koerner Design founder Brad Koerner has spent more than two decades in the architectural lighting and construction industries, spanning roles in global matrix organizations, design consultancies, and startups. Since obtaining his master’s degree in architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design, Koerner has designed architectural lighting projects in addition to developing new LED lighting products and market categories that have earned in excess of $350 million. Based in Amsterdam, Koerner has spent plenty of time traveling around the world seeking inspiration and sharing his experiences and ideas at industry events, in addition to writing on future trends in lighting design and immersive digital experiences.
Firm mission, in layperson terms: I help lighting and A/V companies dramatically improve their innovation processes. I enjoy focusing on the intersection of architectural lighting and digital media systems, and helping clients develop innovative product lines to create new experiences in the built environment.
What the firm is known for: I invest heavily in understanding the state-of-the-art in a broad range of topics in order to distil future trends. I think many people in the industry know me for my thought leadership over the years, either through my blog and other contributed writings, or from the many conferences at which I’ve spoken, on topics ranging from embedded lighting to sustainable lighting to immersive digital experiences.
What people don’t know about me: When I was young, I dreamed of being a Disney Imagineer and building immersive attractions and experiences. That led me to study architecture along with theatrical lighting, which led to my two-decades-long career in architectural lighting and creating innovative lighting systems. Innovation always fuses the best of multiple worlds.
First commission: After leaving the Corporate Ventures group at Philips Lighting, for my first commission I helped DigiValet, a fast-growing tech startup with an innovative app-based hospitality experience control system, explore how to integrate branded lighting moments into its product offering.
Favorite product/project by your company and why: Helping Sean Darras and his team develop and launch Lightly, a new lighting brand focused on sustainable bio-based specification grade LED fixtures. I have advocated for bringing genuine sustainability to architectural lighting for over a decade, including developing a couple of beautiful sustainable products at previous companies that never made it to market. So to see the Lightly team having a wildly successful market launch with the reps in North America is incredibly rewarding and validating. They are making genuine steps toward cleaning up the toxicity and carbon emissions from the LED lighting category.
Summarize your firm culture: I help clients dream big but execute practically. I understand how scarce resources are for all of our clients. Together, we explore exciting new concepts, but I aid them in realistically defining their ambition and setting precise goals through practical project scoping exercises. With a firm scope of work, I practice strict task focus, project management, and realistic resource planning.
What are you currently working on? I’m always looking for the next project or role helping leaders drive innovation at their firms!
A lighting trend to leave behind: Needlessly complex lighting controls based on antiquated technology standards.
A tool or product you want to invent: Where to begin? I’m deeply creative and constantly produce endless ideas for new product lines. I have so many product concepts waiting to find good homes.
As one example, I want to reinvent ceiling systems in commercial construction, fusing circadian lighting with acoustics and biomaterials to create gorgeous new aesthetics. The product concept is supported by several interesting technology trends, such as parametric design, digital manufacturing, novel biomaterials, and DC power.
Don’t get me started on all the ideas I have for decorative lighting, embedded lighting, workstation lighting, immersive digital experiences…
Advice to anyone interested in entering the lighting industry: Take a very broad view of what you define as “lighting” to ensure you are future-proofing your skills base and building your professional network in the market category you really enjoy.
Make sure to spend the time and money on attending a broad range of tradeshows and conferences to expose yourself to the various market segments of lighting. If you are in North America, these include LightFair for architectural lighting, LDI for theatrical lighting, InfoComm for digital signage and AV systems, or shows like Dallas Market Center for decorative lighting. If you are in Europe, the equivalents are Light + Building for architectural lighting, PLASA or Prolight + Sound for theatrical, Integrated Systems Europe for digital signage/AV, and Salone Del Mobile for decorative.
If you are still in school, use the available academic discounts to attend conference tracks whenever you can. Or better yet, submit presentation proposals! Those conference sessions are the most relaxed place to network with industry leaders.
Technology, (third-party) product, and/or designer you admire: The digital signage industry is experiencing a wild period of innovation and growth with technologies such as direct-view LED screens and live rendering. I believe that every light is a pixel and every pixel is a light: The fusion of what we consider “architectural lighting” and what we consider “digital signage” is already well underway and architects and lighting designers need to rapidly retool their thinking and skillsets.
Favorite lighting/engineering rule of thumb, standard, or equation: If you’re starting a new entrepreneurial venture, whatever you think it will cost, double it. Then double it again, and you might be in the right ballpark.
Summarize your firm’s environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) initiatives: For over a decade now, I’ve been a vocal industry advocate for adopting a radical, simplified concept of sustainability in LED fixture design. The U.S. Department of Energy Solid-State Lighting team has been highly receptive: I’ve been invited to present at several DOE R&D Workshops to advocate for funding for sustainable product research. In 2019, I independently won the grand prize in the DOE R&D competition for a sustainable office luminaire design with my “bamboo pendant” concept — which was very popular amongst industry colleagues and helped lead to the launch of Lightly.
CARRIE MEADOWS is editor-in-chief of LEDs Magazine, with 20-plus years’ experience in business-to-business publishing across technology markets including solid-state technology manufacturing, fiberoptic communications, machine vision, lasers and photonics, and LEDs and lighting.