December 2016

Suzan Tillotson
Founder and President
Tillotson Design Associates



Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
As a second-year architecture student at Louisiana State University School of Architecture, I attended a lecture by Howard Brandston. He spoke about this profession with such passion, and I was so excited to learn that there was this option for me! After graduating from LSU with a Bachelor’s of Interior Design, I worked at Levy-Kramer, a Baton Rouge engineering firm, and was head of their lighting department. Upon relocating to NYC in 1986, I gained additional experience at Flack + Kurtz Engineers and H. M. Brandston and Partners, before joining Jerry Kugler and later forming Kugler Tillotson Associates, and finally Tillotson Design Associates in 2004. TDA has designed the lighting for many important projects in New York City, including the Lincoln Center North and South Plazas with Diller Scofidio + Renfro and FXFOWLE, Barclays Center with SHoP Architects, the New Museum of Contemporary Art with SANAA and Gensler, and the Rainbow Room with Gabellini Sheppard Associates. We’re currently working on The Shed with Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Rockwell Group, One Vanderbilt with KPF, and a new NYPD Precinct House with BIG. I’ve guest lectured on lighting design at LSU, the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Cornell University, McGill University, and the University of Arkansas, and have also taught lighting to graduate-level architecture students at Princeton University.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
My history with the IES goes way back to 1981 when I joined the South Central Louisiana Section. I had just been hired by Levy-Kramer and I learned about the IES through my manufacturer’s representatives. The mentorship and sense of community I received was so comforting. It was a wonderful support network for a young graduate and it led me to volunteer to be chapter president the following year. After I moved to New York City, I made sure to become an IESNYC member so I could attend the monthly events. In the past, I’ve taught the IES introductory course for the Section and I’ve had the privilege of serving on a Lumen Awards jury. TDA has been fortunate to have won numerous lighting design awards, including 15 Lumen Awards. This year we were honored to receive a Lumen Award of Excellence for the Lincoln Square Synagogue and an Award of Merit for The Broad. I find it incredible to be working in a city where there are so many lighting designers — so many that the IESNYC has their own Lumen Awards program, which is like the Oscars of the lighting industry.   

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
Right now, I feel it is my responsibility to support the IESNYC in their 2017 Calendar Sponsorship Campaign. When the Section approached me, and asked if I would be their spokesperson for the campaign, I gladly agreed. In addition, I would like to become more active in mentoring younger designers.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
The IESNYC offers such great networking opportunities as well as relevant and important monthly educational seminars. Our profession has become increasingly complex and unpredictable, which makes learning from each other and involvement in this organization more imperative than ever. We live in a city with wonderful resources for our profession — not just physical resources like museums and incredible architecture, but we have amazing people resources. The IESNYC is proof of this.