Branding has typically included variables such as business cards, logos, pantone references and witty advertising using social media profiles and websites. While all these variables are crucial in the creation of a strong brand, workspace design including furniture and lighting have a dramatic impact on how the brand is perceived by both its clients and staff. Sharmila Kumbhat, Director of K-Lite Industries is of the opinion that branding a space must be done thoughtfully as it stems from the core beliefs and guiding principles of a company. In the year 1977, K-Lite Industries began a long journey of innovation into lighting products by chasing the dream of establishing a luminaire manufacturing company in India. After Sharmila undertook the reigns as director of K-lite in 2011, the company has progressed tremendously with a turnover increase of over 400 percent. K-Lite also broke into international markets under her directorship when it was awarded the prestigious “Asia One – World’s Greatest Brands” in 2017-2018. All this led to an overhaul in the K-Lite corporate workspace design as a branding strategy to reinforce its work culture with existing and potential employees, attract fresh talent, and demonstrate the embodiment of its corporate philosophy to its clients.
One section of the K-Lite assembling unit on the first floor was converted into a new 3600-squarefeet corporate workspace creating a direct link with the supply chain and providing scope for future expansion. Having majored in design during her postgraduate studies, Sharmila took it upon herself to redesign the space. She was quick to realize that a forward thinking culture of collaboration and creativity will be best reflected through an open-plan office design. She was also conscious about the underwriting role of a lighting designer for embodying the K-Lite brand in the workspace. Hence, Lighting Research & Design was brought on board in the early stages of design. When determining how to brand the physical workspace, the first discussion centred on understanding the guiding principles of K-Lite. These principles were used to guide how the clients, employees and visitors will experience the space, thereby creating a springboard for all other design aspects.
Embracing the concept of an optimal workspace for all associates implied equal access to all amenities including daylight and other environmental benefits for all employees, illustrating the commitment of K-Lite to its staff. However, the design team faced several challenges during the conversion of an old factory into a workspace that will be conducive to urban consumption. One of the main challenges was the very low ceiling height of the existing factory building. Low ceilings can make a space seem cramped and oppressive. Although it was not possible to raise the ceiling due to architectural limitations, the design solution was to create a roomier ambience and give the illusion of a more voluminous space by the paying attention to colour, lighting and style.
Looking from the design aspect: Industrial Office Design
A design style that draws inspiration from factories, warehouses and workshops popularly known as ‘Industrial Office Design’ was adopted. This style celebrates engineering and mechanical ingenuity by providing a raw unfinished look. The philosophy behind this style is to combine superfluous with utilitarian, and present an interesting opportunity to juxtapose the raw with the refined, the sleek and modern with the vintage and classic. Wood is combined with metal to create a contrasting interplay of form and function, thereby elevating humble materials into art pieces. A clever and commonly used hack in the industrial decor is to expose the beams, draw attention upwards and give more headroom. Dollops of greenery are used to enhance the workspace by lifting users’ morale, thus improving the overall efficiency of the workspace. Creativity meets practicality, with the added benefit of effectively eliminating the cost of covering all exposed features.
Working on the Ceiling
Achieving a well-lit space with low ceilings can be daunting. Therefore the first move was to repaint the ceiling with a crisp satin-sheen shade of white to create a reflective surface that allows light to bounce around the space for a brighter atmosphere. Splashes of the funky K-Lite brand colours, which include graphite grey, white and yellow are incorporated into physical workspace design for providing consistency, identity and a cheerful vibe. Architectural tweaks such as floor-to-ceiling window are used to bring the outdoors inside, provide a roomier vibe and make the workspace feel spacious. A layered lighting approach with multiple light sources at different heights is used to create a more inviting atmosphere. Given the height constraints, ceiling luminaires are provided only when absolutely necessary. Task illumination primarily consists of linear downlights (K-LITE Revo 80W LED 4000K) bespoke to suit the three different office worktop typologies namely: managers’ worktop, single-way (three- or four-persons) worktop, and double-way (eight-persons) worktop. The same task luminaire is either built-into the furniture for the managers’ and double-way worktops, or is mounted under the exposed ceiling beams for the single-way worktops. The presence of ceiling fans, which would obstruct the light, did not allow for the integration of an uplight component within the task luminaires. Casambi enabled DALI dimmable drivers and modules provide individualised control over the lighting for each of these worktops. Employees can set their preferred illumination levels for their respective worktops using a mobile app.
Indirect pendants (K-LITE Juno 20W LED 3000K) shining upwards are used in the general meeting areas to make the low ceilings appear higher, thereby making the space appear larger and more generously proportioned. While those sections of the ceiling without ceiling fans allowed for the use of indirect ambient illumination, the walls are highlighted to provide vertical illumination considering the constraints of not being able to fully utilise the ceiling. Linear grazers (K-LITE Neo D 30W LED 3000K) neatly integrated within wooden pelmets positioned slightly above standing eye-level wash the walls vertically to lead the eye upward and create more visual headroom. The niches and shelves are also highlighted with the same linear grazers to add aesthetic appeal and take attention away from the low ceiling. The reception and guest lounge area is given prominence with drum-shaped ceiling mounted luminaires (K-LITE Nila 36W LED 3000K) in the same spunky K-Lite brand colours. Colour temperatures of 3000K and 4000K are used for the ambient and task illumination respectively to provide a warm and welcoming working environment. The total power consumption of the space for lighting is less than 0.6 watts per square foot.
The Windows Action Center is a feature within an operating system that lets users know when their computer system needs their attention by monitoring various security and maintenance-related items. The K-Lite Action Centre on the other hand is a feature that lets its clients and employees know that this brand embodies the future and is here to stay. And lighting only adds to that embodiment!
Dr. Amardeep M. Dugar, IALD, IDA, MIES, FISLE, FSLL
Project: K-Lite Action Centre, Chennai/India
Client: K-Lite Industries
Lighting Designer: Lighting Research & Design
Controls – CASAMBI
Drum luminaire – K-LITE Nila 36W LED 3000K
Indirect pendant – K-LITE Juno 20W LED 3000K
Linear downlight – K-LITE Revo 80W LED 4000K
Linear grazer – K-LITE Neo D 30W LED 3000K
Surface spotlight – K-LITE Proxima 12W LED 3000K