Valoa Design makes sure the lights aren’t out
City lights aren’t there just for convenience and functionality; like architecture, they provide beauty and wellbeing, too. Finnish Valoa Design minds the gap between sunset and sunrise.
The office of Valoa Design used to be on street level in central Tampere. There was just one thing that kept disrupting the designers’ creative processes: passers-by.
“People would pop in wanting to buy lamps,” CEO Roope Siiroinen says and laughs, sitting on a couch in the company’s third-floor office in the very same building. “We thought it’s best to move up a little.”
Lighting design companies like Valoa Design don’t target their services to regular consumers. Their customers are cities, buildings, construction companies and the like, wanting to add light to their architecture or infrastructure.
Siiroinen, who founded Valoa Design alone in 1997, has worked in the field for over two decades. When he was a student, light design mainly took place in theatres and rock concerts. At the time, if Valoa Design offered its expertise to a company office, their response would be that ‘we don’t need help with installing a fluorescent tubes, thank you very much’.
Now, the story is very different, and not only due to changing attitudes.
“The technology has taken huge leaps forward in the past years,” Siiroinen notes. “In the ‘80s and ‘90s, light effects were used in Eurovision, and now light architecture can take advantage of similar tools. It just took about 20 years.”
Technology disrupting the dark
Evolving technology means a growing number of opportunities – as well as challenges. It’s also brought about a whole new element to Valoa Design’s work.
A job used to involve three stages. First, there is an idea, which comprises the hopes and needs of the customer. Second, Valoa Design creates a concept, including technology and cost estimates. Once a plan has been confirmed, the third step is technical design.
Today the work doesn’t end there, as designers have plenty more to take into account.
“There was a time when a lamp was just plugged in and switched on,” Siiroinen says. “Now it’s programming: wondering what kind of lighting is needed at 6 pm on a Friday and at 5 am on a Monday, differences between weeks, months and seasons, foggy mornings and festival weekends…”
Valoa Design’s home town Tampere and Jyväskylä have both used the company’s expertise in their cityscapes, both having won international awards for their efforts. Siiroinen believes that Nordic design is hot stuff in light design, too.
“Simple is beautiful. We don’t do Las Vegas style with blinking and lasers.”
As one of the first players in the field, Valoa Design has collected various awards and references that have led to further projects. Despite this, there’s no room for lukewarm performances.
“You’re only as good as you’re most recent piece of work,” Siiroinen points out.
Hence the company is currently focussing on Finland. Previously it has completed projects in China, Estonia, Eastern Europe and Russia and even had an office in Austria.
At some point, the world will call again. Valoa Design has harnessed an abundance of experience in creating masterplans for large entities, which could enable it to take up a consultative role in the international markets.
“Being able to adjust lighting to changing circumstances adds to the importance of cities’ strategies: what is needed, where, when and why?” Siiroinen explains. “As we’re not just a lighting operator, we’re expected to deliver something more remarkable than plain functionality.”
Valoa Design doesn’t have a marketing or sales department. Thus far its reputation has been enough to keep up the growth.
“Someone’s referred to our marketing as ‘aggressive waiting’,” Siiroinen says and smiles. “In order to boost our marketing, we’d need more resources to be able to accept more and more projects. To have a sales team, we’ll need more designers.”
Coincidentally, advertising and marketing are also fields in which Siiroines sees enormous potential for light design companies in the future.
“We no longer talk about lamps, but signals, communications and the ways in which we experience our environments. It’s a whole psychological entirety.”
Text: Anne Salomäki