Coffee With an…Artist

In this series of articles, we will be studying the way light (natural and artificial), effects individuals in their careers & daily lives – both in positive and negative ways. Living in a world where lighting is essential and necessary for tasks ranging from daily mundane repeated habits to intricate and detailed, it is important for us to learn and understand how light plays a part both directly and indirectly. Please follow up along on this journey as we interview and research how lighting effects teachers, artists, and nurses to name a few. We hope you enjoy! If you’d like to tell us about your career, please reach out at

Coffee with an … Artist

Adam Vicarel, who in his own words, is an “art director and designer with a specialty in hand-lettering and illustration used in branding and advertising campaigns,” has no shortage of amazing portfolio pieces and works of art to write home about!  I was intrigued enough by not only him as a person, but also him as an artist to want to learn more about his process, where and how he works behind the scenes, and what commonalities graphic design may or may not have with lighting design.

Below you will see get a glimpse into what I learned after sitting down with Adam for an hour at a local coffee shop

Did you have a baseline understanding of light?

Being in the creative field, I assumed Adam had a basic knowledge of things like CRI, Color temperature, and LEDs, and I was right. What I didn’t realize, was that every time he works, no matter the hours of the day, he is meticulously positioning himself in an area with optimum day light (that is when he isn’t working through the night).

Why is this important, you ask? Mainly because as a branding and hand-lettering guy, I am hire to ensure quality of color and how it is presented. I have to make sure that the work I do and the palette I use is accurate in all instances.

Some technical data to add about lighting and designing art

Color temperature is measured on a scale in which ‘bluer colors’ are higher temperature, typically 4000k-6000k and “orange-ier” colors are cooler, typically 1500k-2700k: much light a flame where the hottest (or highest temperature) part of the flame is blue and vice-versa. CRI (Color Rendering Index) which is a scale up to 100, measures how well colors are rendered under the given light source.  The two measurements are characteristics of every artificial light source that’s out there, though they’re adding a third source of measurement but we’ll get into that at a later day…for now, all you need to know for the sake of this article and your time and my run on sentences, is that throughout the day, as well as the varying seasons, ‘daylight’ not only changes in color temperature (warmer at dusk), but is also will affect how the colors that when working beneath daylight.

How important is light in the role of your design?

If I am is working under the sun and optimum conditions on a brand that requires a deep saturated red and if I present the concept to the decisions makers that are sitting in a conference room filled with 3000k, 80 CRI fluorescent lamps that completely wash out everyone’s clothes and skin tone, that beautiful deep saturated apple red is now going to appear dingy, and possibly even orange. And poof, meeting blown

…not really for Adam because his Midwest wit will have a sure-fire way to recover…BUT there are instances where this could have a major impact on presentations and ultimately, decisions. We, as lighting designers, see this all the time.  “My countertop was brown when I picked it out, why does it look gray when is it installed?” is not an uncommon question in my industry. The trick for us is to know what we are lighting before we specify fixtures. For Adam, it’s understanding what conditions or color mode you’re working/printing from.

Does this have a real life tangible affect on your work?

Adam was kind enough to share a couple of stories with me that have to do with color modes CMYK & RGB, and printing problems.  First one is pretty straight forward and can be summed up by the two images below:

He designed a logo in RGB and the material was printed in CMYK. Nuff said. See red apple story above…

Was this just a fluke Adam?

The second story involved a beautiful bright orange logo being printed on a very absorbent black shirt causing the orange to dry in more of a dull tan color. See red apple story above…

Take aways…

These stories that can be learning lesson takeaways, are extremely similar to what we go through on a day-to-day basis as lighting designers. As Adam does several iterations and color studies of logos, we too do mock-ups of materials before finalizing a color temperature and CRI. See red apple story above… just kidding. No but really… this little bit of insight into Adam’s world makes me interested in what other creative minds are out there and how our processes, trials and tribulations, learning curves, challenges, and success stories are similar to theirs. Adam has nearly perfected his process, and it ‘lights’ a small fire inside of this lighting nerd’s body when he talks about glossy material appearing more vibrant, matte material being absorbent and dulling a color, and about how the physical light spectrum has a broader range than printed tones….the way he intentionally angles light above his 3D pieces to create shadows and drama when photographing. He has MORE than a basic understanding of artificial light that he inadvertently utilizes day-to-day, and it was a truly a pleasure having Coffee With an Artist.

To check out Adam’s work or to get in contact with him, you can visit his Instagram, Facebook, or website.

Thank you!