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What are “Saccades” and why is it important to lighting design?

by | Apr 22, 2021

Your eyes absorb information by rapidly moving from point to point scanning the environment for information these rapid movements can be large or small and upto 4 or 5 per second and are known as Saccades. (actually an old French word for the “flick of a sail”)

Knowing what people will see first, second etc and where their eyes will rest the longest for information etc, we design the environment either knowing these elements are by design or a distraction from what we want people to see. As a lighting designer and understanding the “hierarchy of perception” means we know which elements the brain is attracted to in order…1) people 2) movement 3) brightness …thus “Light” to be directed to elements we want to accent.

The above image you can now appreciate is not graffiti of the famous George Seurat painting but the actual results of a study tracking the human eye as it absorbs information of the painting. What is not available from this image is the time taken to each saccade as the eye often also rests on elements more interesting than others for a while known as “Fixations”.

The greater the need for information and the most rapid frequency of “saccades” is directly correlated, thus in the built environment new places and need for orientation like a Airport needs to create signage from this knowledge…thus size, shape, font and contrast, whilst creating a feeling of re-assurance from the environment thus familiarity. Now you know why every airport can look the same and why every MacDonald’s does the same what we term Cognitive Mapping by design.

My courses help understand the role of Neurosciences, why and how we can predict people’s responses to an environment, then we can design accordingly, the role of light being so high in the “Hierarchy of Perception” shows why I believe so highly the role of light in a design.

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