It’s currently a popular word, but intention has influenced everything we’ve done at Lightswitch since our founding.
Principals Norm Schwab and John Featherstone founded Lightswitch, with the intention of creating a truly different and distinctive Lighting and Visual Design company. Norm and John came together after successful solo careers both sides of the Atlantic, with acclaimed projects ranging from arena tours for major concert artists to blockbuster theme park attractions and special events.
In 1993 John and Norm spent a weekend at Point Reyes Beach in California, and conceived a lighting and visual design company with a very specific set of intentions in mind. What if we could create a design company unlike any other? What if we focused on the excellence of our work above all else? What if we could make design easy for our clients, and the complex simple? What if we founded a company that wasn’t named after us, and was more about collaboration, than ego? Did we dare? We decided to give it a six-month trial, and almost twenty-five years later, we’re still working to excel at that vision.
WHY THE NAME LIGHTSWITCH?
It was important to Norm and John that the company had its own ‘personality’, was more than the sum of its parts, and had a name that reflected the goals we had when we founded the company - besides, ‘Featherstone and Schwab’ sounds like an accountant, not a lighting design studio! We wanted a name that spoke to the intent of innovation and creativity, but also to making our clients lives easy. What is more intuitive and simple yet powerful than a light switch? So our company was born, and named!
TEAM, GEOGRAPHIC AND MARKET EXPANSION
CHICAGO AND SAN FRANCISCO
Working from studios in San Francisco and Chicago, Lightswitch rapidly built a base of loyal, satisfied clients, many of whom are still with us many years later. Apple and Nintendo are but two companies for who we are proud to have designed remarkable projects for almost a quarter of a century. As the company grew, so did our team. Talented designers and support staff moved in and out of the company – some ‘got’ what we were doing and stayed, some moved on to other ventures.
After several years it was apparent that geographic expansion was essential, especially for our burgeoning theme park work and our intent to offer exemplary service to our clients. In 1999 Orlando based designer Brad Malkus joined Lightswitch first as an Associate, and later in 2008 as a full Principal running our studio in the theme park capital of the World. Brad brought years of concert touring, control system design and themed environment experience to Lightswitch, combined with a remarkable attention to detail and a reputation for designing projects with a distinctive aesthetic. Brad has been an irreplaceable part of the Lightswitch management team for over a decade.
As we continued to grow, the New York market was clearly an opportunity to build on our intent to offer a nationwide aspect to our company, so we began to search for a fourth member of our leadership team. New York designer Howard Werner had established an admirable reputation with his own design practice, balancing acclaimed on and off Broadway projects with distinctive special event and corporate design. In 2004 we were thrilled when Howard joined Lightswitch as a full Principal. Howard’s unrelenting drive for excellence has elevated the gravitas of the company both internally and externally in immeasurable ways.
ENVIRONMENT AND ARCHITECTURAL SPACE
With our third office in place we turned our attention to expanding into markets beyond our theatrical, event and entertainment heritage. With continued interest from clients in the themed environment and architectural space, we decided to focus on this market. We found our deep attention to both experience and bespoke story telling resonated with architectural clients tired of ‘white box’ and unimaginative lighting design, and ready for something different.
No Lighting and Visual Design company can truly claim to be ‘nationwide’ without a studio in Los Angeles. After several talented designers moving in and out of the practice, we sought out a designer with not only the right talents but also the right sensibility to guide Lightswitch from Southern California. Designer Chris Medvitz was Director of Lighting Design for an experiential marketing agency, and has lit breathtaking concerts, innovative television specials, memorable exhibits and distinctive product launches and Vegas shows. Chris’s breadth of ability is impressive, but more than that he immediately ‘got’ what Lightswitch was intended to be, and was an instant fit for our culture. Like Brad, Chris joined Lightswitch as Associate in 2004 but soon became a full Principal heading our Los Angeles practice.
As the Asian market became an increasingly important in our ventures, a presence in the Pacific Rim became an essential area for growth. Under the guidance of Norm Schwab, in 2011 we opened our studio in Hong Kong, headed by Lightswitch Senior Designer Warren Kong. Warren has subsequently taken a role as a Director, managing architectural operations both in Asia and the Southern California market.
With continued success and acclaim in the themed environment and architectural markets, this segment was growing to a more significant part of the Lightswitch portfolio. In order to focus on the specific needs of these projects we decided to create Lightswitch Archtectural, a dedicated division to address permanently installed projects - a ‘company within a company’.
LOOKING BACK – AND FORWARD
As we look back on almost twenty-five years of growth, we are very proud. Proud of a company that is more than the sum of its parts. Proud of our team of world-class designers, project managers and support staff. Proud of all the amazing projects we have been honored to design. But more than anything, proud that we have stayed true to the original intent of the company. As we eye the future, we remain committed to keeping Lightswitch that which was conceived on a beach in Northern California nearly twenty-five years ago – a truly different and distinctive Lighting and Visual Design company.