August 2019

Erin Dreyfous, Assoc. IALD, MIES
Partner, Tillotson Design Associates


Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
Well, this will probably surprise most readers … I was first exposed to architecture and lighting while working as an apprentice electrician during my summer breaks from school, which was not the most conventional job for a young female at that time! I absolutely loved being outdoors and working with my hands, and I gained an invaluable education in how things are built and how electricity works. I wanted to channel that energy and combine it with my love for art and design when I began searching for a career. I hoped it would be dynamic enough to hold my interest. I was accepted into the interior design program at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rubbing shoulders with a student body that was passionate about art in all forms, as well as the crossover course work that allowed me to sample graphic design, furniture design, and industrial design, further confirmed my dreams of doing this type of work professionally. I had one key professor, Erli Gronberg, who dabbled in lighting design, and she helped me to realize this was something people actually did for a living. I decided to explore that option and found myself in New York City a year later attending the architectural lighting program at Parsons the New School for Design. I was in the second class of graduates to complete the two-year program, in 2007. I have been excited to see how much the program has evolved since my time there, and I have returned several times as a guest critic for their studio classes. It was during my last semester at Parsons that I started researching lighting firms in New York City, and it was then that I met Suzan Tillotson and began working directly under her. I knew from the start it was a great fit for me. That mentorship grew into the partnership we now have today.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
I believe I first learned of the IESNYC while in grad school, and participated in some of the early seminars and events offered to students and young professionals. I’ve since very much enjoyed the annual reunion with former classmates and colleagues at the Lumen Awards, and appreciate the time and energy that goes into putting on such a large event. One of the most rewarding moments in my professional career was having the opportunity to accept the Lumen Award of Excellence for the first project I was assigned when I joined TDA — the East River Waterfront revitalization project in downtown Manhattan with Sop Architects. It was exciting to see the last portion of the project Pier 35, located at the north end of the site, competed this past spring, as it has been twelve-plus years in the making!

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
I have to admit that the busy-ness of running a studio has gotten the better of me. And being a mother of a 10-month-old daughter has also taken up much of my time and attention. I have yet to find an active role within the Section, but this is an excellent reminder for me to reach out and get involved now! My hope would be to volunteer for a position that would allow for mentorship of young professionals or a position that might provide a representative voice for my generation in the future of this industry.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
The ability for the IESNYC to bring together so many community leaders that continue to inspire and challenge the norms of lighting design as a whole. And being in New York City, the real hub for this profession, puts the IESNYC in a very special place to continue to inform and shape our industry. I look forward to being a part of it very much.