May 2016

Jim Conti
Jim Conti Lighting Design 

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
I remember that as a youngster, I used to light the showroom and windows of my older brother’s interior design studio after school. Looking back, it was the old LSI bulldog track and, while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was actually applying wallwashers, accent lights, framing projectors, filters, and accessories correctly. It was this direct hands-on working experience with light that has informed the way I design today. Later on, as an art student, I was always the person called upon to light the various exhibitions. Toward the end of my undergraduate education, I started actually using light in my sculpture, which led me to pursue a graduate degree in Expanded Arts & Technology at Ohio State University, working with light and projections as my primary medium. When I moved to New York City in 1986 with $1,000 and a sublet, I looked in the Yellow Pages under lighting and found work immediately. In 1998, I formed my own practice and my firm’s first major project was the Glowing Topiary Garden in Lower Manhattan with landscape architect Ken Smith, which received a Lumen Award.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
I was working at a retail planning firm learning to light supermarkets. My employer, Ed Feldman, asked me to attend a meeting of the IES retail lighting committee since he couldn’t make it. I was impressed with the way people were working together to share and distribute knowledge by publishing a recommended practices manual. Ed encouraged me to become a member, and that was the beginning of becoming part of a great network of lighting professionals. It’s hard to believe that was more than 25 years ago! Shortly after becoming a member, when I was working as the in-house lighting designer at HLW, an architecture, interiors, and planning firm, I had the opportunity to work with Phil Cialdella, Matthew Tanteri, Renee Cooley, Joanne Lindsley and others to mount the Richard Kelly Exhibition, which was first exhibited at HLW’s New York office.

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
Currently I have been working with Randy Sabedra and others on Lighting 311 ( We meet monthly to discuss the impact of codes, ordinances and guidelines and how they affect lighting design in NYC. Lighting 311 serves as a single point where one can research the complexity of code-related issues as well as a host of other information, from classes and programs to breaking news about lighting. During the fall of 2014, Lighting 311 presented a three-part series held at the Building Energy Exchange that outlined the changes we are now working with in the current energy code.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
I’ve always felt that the strongest asset of the IES is in its role as an educator, communicator, and publisher — from classes and programs to the handbook, LD&A magazine, journals, recommended practice manuals, and education programs, all of which are an outgrowth of the work of members of all of the regional sections. As an educator — I’m also an adjunct associate professor at Pratt Institute — I appreciate the strong commitment the Section has toward education at all levels. Then there’s Moonlighting, an event which was co-produced by the IESNYC with IALD and DLFNY. It was fun to be able to exhibit my origami sculpture along with the art of other lighting designers.