May 2018

JoAnne Lindsley, FIALD, FIES
Lighting Designer
Lindsley Consultants Inc.

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
Well, purely by luck — or was it fate? After graduating from Michigan State in 1961 and newly married to my college boyfriend, we moved from Detroit to Cleveland for his steel industry training program. For me it was the start of a truly Mad Men corporate wife existence. I worked a few months as a color consultant for Glidden Paint, but when we moved on, it was impossible to get hired. Interviews went … “You have a really nice portfolio, but you are 22 and you’re probably going to have kids soon …” And so, I did. For the next 15 years, I raised my four daughters while moving from town to town, following my husband’s career, with little thought of my own ambitions to become an interior designer. When we finally moved to New Jersey, I decided to go back to school to refresh, since I hadn’t worked, and enrolled at Parsons. I took a lighting class because in my college curriculum, lighting was just an afterthought, a layer on the drawing like electrical and HVAC with no creative design involved. It was at Parsons that I met Jim Nuckolls, who became my mentor. He introduced me to Alex Bonvini, who offered my first part-time job in his new firm, Bonvini Kondos. I accepted thinking it would be a good way to learn more about a new discipline before looking for work in interior design. Alex was then the president of the IESNYC, and as such, he spearheaded the first Lighting World trade show, which later led to Light Fair. As his employee, I was his worker bee for that early effort. A few months later, one of my Parsons classmates, Craig Roeder, called to say he was moving. I went to interview with Jeffrey Milham at Syska & Hennessy and replaced Craig. In the early 1980s, Mike Gilford and I left Syska & Hennessy and formed a new business, Synergy Consultants Inc., concentrating on energy research and lighting. In 1996 I began my own lighting design firm, Lindsley Consultants Inc. My professional career was augmented and enriched by volunteer involvement, in the Section primarily and also with companion organizations. In 1984, I became president of the IESNYC. In 2000, I was elected president of the IALD, and in that same year, I joined the administration of Parsons School of Design as director of the Graduate Program in Lighting Design, marking a return to the place where I started my career in lighting. In 1999 I was honored as Fellow of the IALD, and in 2002 Fellow of the IES; both were much-appreciated recognition.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
I have been involved with the IESNYC for almost 40 years. During the late 1970s and early 80s, Syska & Hennessy often hosted programs for the Section, and that’s when I became a member. As I recall, meetings involved setting up folding chairs and having a product show-and-tell. Syska always bought a table at the Lumen Awards, which back then was a small luncheon, and associates were able to attend. Throughout my early career, continuing education and problem solving were always fostered and encouraged by the more experienced evangelists of lighting. One day one such enthusiast, Sonny Sonnenfeld, then Section president, invited me to lunch. I assumed it was for a pitch for one of his products, but instead he said, “You should become the first woman president of the IESNYC.” I became a member of the Board of Managers and then vice president of the Section, working with Manny Feris, who was then president. And then, in 1984, I became the Section’s 75th president, the first woman in this long line of succession. During my tenure, so much was happening industry-wise. I am happy to remember we had a stellar group of managers and committee members who worked together to create programs that were worthwhile, welcoming, educational and fun! One of the most memorable was “Urban Lights.” Throughout the city, lighting fans celebrated light with a dinner at the Top of the Sixes, watching a laser show in the sky. We transformed the Limelight nightclub into a Light Artist exhibition, and included a comprehensive guided tour of lighting projects in Manhattan with a tour guidebook. This was later published as Manhattan Lights, edited by Patricia Pinckney. An interactive lighting display, created by the San Francisco Exploratorium for the Section at Lighting World, was expanded for the IBM Gallery and then donated to The New York Hall of Fame for a permanent lighting exhibit.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
Well, of course the members and the personal connections that they afford. For me, the people I met through the Section were key to learning and growing both my practice, my work as an educator, coordinating with involvement in associated organizations, and wider involvement nationally and internationally. Throughout the years, friends and associates have always been there to support industry efforts both professionally and politically. For me, as many others, Section involvement led to more activity within the larger IES and other organizations. I became chair of the Lighting Subcommittee of the 90.1 Energy Code. Through that commitment and friends in the industry, we engineered a database that incorporated calculated lighting design perimeters for the first time in developing UPD values, leading to the IES President’s Award and calculated viability of the Code. Many of the Section members were very involved. For me, all of these activities circled back to the people I knew through the IESNYC. While the lighting design projects I have completed over the years have been rewarding and award winning, my best, most rewarding experiences absolutely have been with volunteer efforts. I love the IESNYC for all the wonderful experiences I have gained because of it. I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to get involved, not only for the lessons to be learned professionally but also for the lifelong friendships that are inevitable and life affirming.