Designer Profile: Jonathan Lebovic

Name: Jonathan Lebovic

Title: Senior Lighting Designer

Years Worked at VT: It depends on when you start the timer, my official hire date was October of 2016, but I started doing work for the company in May of 2016. So 4 years, plus or minus a couple months. 

Favorite Project: There are bits and pieces of many projects that I enjoy working on. I love the entire process from design concept all the way to project completion. Whether it’s meetings, creative problem-solving, or creating the design layouts, every step is a new opportunity to create an amazing project. 

Tell us your funniest or most memorable memory at Visual Terrain: Without a doubt that would be the lengths that we go to attempting to surprise each other for our birthdays. I think the last time, Lisa called me down because “there was an issue with a project,” and when I arrived in the conference room everyone was already there gathered around a cake. How is it that I didn’t realize that I was upstairs in the design loft all alone?  Who knows… it was masterful.

Favorite Aspect of Lighting Design: My mind has always been split between the sciences and the arts, and in lighting design I found an outlet for both. I think that’s my favorite part – our artistic medium is a wonderful combination of physics, psychology, biology and aesthetics. By understanding that convoluted concoction, we can gently (or forcibly) alter the perspective and perception of the viewer.  We, as lighting designers, can alter the mood of a space through careful manipulation of the psychological just as we can focus your attention towards or away from an object in a room.  Think about it, that high value bottle of liquor behind the bar… what made you focus on it when you sat down?  

What or Who Inspires You: There are so very many, but in terms of lighting; James Turrell, Erwin Redl, Mary Corse, Olafur Eliasson, Dan Flavin, Thomas Wilfred, and Anne Militello – without Anne I wouldn’t have ended up in architectural lighting design. Adolf Appia, how is a stage lighting designer not influenced by him in some way? He is one of the first people to think about shadow. As lighting designers, we don’t just design the lights, we also design the darkness.  

Lately, I’ve been extremely inspired by what we can do as lighting designers to help promote greater health in our built environments. I see a world in the near future, where our designs can help reduce illness (physical and emotional) through the leveraging of new technologies… or in some cases the re-emergence of older technologies. Imagine a world where the very lights in your office can help reduce your sick days, stress, and potentially cardiovascular disease. 

Fun Fact About Yourself that No One Knows: When I was a kid I wanted to be a garbage man because they had really cool trucks. Before that I wanted to work at the car wash because they had really cool boots.

What is your favorite part about being a lighting designer? When beginning any design process I always try to put myself in the shoes of a guest and understand the visual story that I want to tell; the story I want them to experience.  Every space has a story to tell; an office cubical has a story, a hotel corridor has a story, a garage has a story; just as the most highly themed ride in a theme park has a story. 

 Without question, my favorite part of being a lighting designer is the moment you get to see a guest enjoying the environment and the story the whole project team has created. Throughout the design and construction phases of any project there are moments of difficulty, moments where you wonder if it’s “all worth it,” and when you see others enjoying what you’ve helped to create, that question disappears.  This is as true for theater as it is for hotels, restaurants, bars, theme parks, museums… the list goes on.  

An old mentor of mine, Alex Kolmanovsky, once imparted this to me, “the quintessential aspect of theater is done-ness.”  At the time I thought he meant that at some point you must put your pencil down and be done, but perhaps he meant that in the completion of a project you can find satisfaction in the smiles of those that get to enjoy your art. As a side note, he also told me that if I could imagine myself being happy doing ANYTHNG other than lighting… do it!  I’m glad I didn’t find the same enjoyment in anything else.