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The International Landscape Lighting Institute
Enriching the Profession and Its People

Sarah Franco, Sterling Lighting
Photos by George Gruel


Attendees of the International Landscape Lighting Institute's Intensive Course work with their team and their mentors - 3 per team - to produce scenes like this one. In this particular mockup, the goal was to create scenic reflections in the pond, sculpt the plantings along the pond's back edge, and through variations in brightness level and technique, bring out the individual characteristics of the different plant materials.

In 2010, renowned landscape lighting designer, Janet Lennox Moyer, founded the International Landscape Lighting Institute (illi) to help educate and equip landscape lighting designers. Since then, illi has gone through a number of changes, growing from a backyard course in outdoor lighting to an internationally-focused organization.

In the past two years, they have teamed up with the University of Oklahoma to offer a broader array of continuing education opportunities for those interested in landscape lighting. As the industry continues to evolve, education may become even more essential for landscape lighting professionals.

"I think education and design will be very important for the next generation of lighting designers and for pros already in the industry who want to hone their craft," said Patrick Harders, who owns a lighting installation company, Enlightened Lighting, LLC., and an outdoor lighting manufacturing company, Sterling Lighting, LLC. He was one of three industry experts who were invited last September to come to Oklahoma and attend illi's Directors' Meeting.

Harders got his start in landscape lighting in 1998, working part-time with a lighting installation company to pay his way through college. Since then, has seen the industry go through a number of major changes as the technology has continued to improve and as landscape lighting has become more popular.

"Continuing education is necessary, as is adaption," Harders said.

The History of illi
Landscape lighting is a relatively new industry, finding its roots in the late 1960s and becoming more mainstream in the 1990s. Many landscape lighting designers will attest that when they started, there was little guidance or education available.

It wasn't even until 1992 that Moyer published the first book on landscape lighting, The Landscape Lighting Book, which is on its third edition and is still required reading in most landscape lighting courses offered today.

The idea for illi came out of Moyer's experiences teaching landscape lighting at the University of California, Berkeley and Rutgers University, where she quickly realized that an course on landscape lighting could not be complete without in-the-field experience.

What started as an advanced learning project in Moyer's backyard eventually grew into illi's five-day Intensive Course which, in October of 2017, went international. The course was hosted in Tokamachi, Japan, and attendees applied what they learned in morning and afternoon lectures by creating a permanent lighting display in a local park.

illi's Partnership with the University of Oklahoma
In 2016, Moyer announced her decision to step away from illi to focus on her own lighting design business. Before leaving, she offered Scott Williams the position of Executive Director. Williams had taken the Intensive Course in 2012 to prepare him to teach a class in outdoor lighting design at the University of Oklahoma. He was so impressed with the course, he asked if he could return to be an instructor the next year.

Since then, Williams had been involved in illi every step of the way. As an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, he has been instrumental in partnering illi with the university under its Outreach Program which focuses on continuing and adult education.

"We've been working since early 2016 to bring illi to the University of Oklahoma," Williams said. "We're full-time and fully-partnered right now... With this partnership, we have a fabulous foundation to expand and enhance illi's training program."

This partnership with an accredited university not only gives more credibility and visibility to illi, but also offers the organization a host of resources they can draw from. The university's Outreach Program employs over 600 people who specialize in everything from marketing and communications to law.

For illi, this means a specialist connected with the university is only a phone call away.

The Future of illi
Last September, illi hosted a Directors' Meeting at the University of Oklahoma to discuss the future of the organization. Six members of the board attended, along with three honored guests who work in the industry: a manufacturer from Canada, a lighting designer from Los Angeles, and Harders, whose companies operate out of Sterling, Virginia.

There, they began to lay out their short term and long term agenda for the organization. This year, they're looking to launch their new website, create an internationally-recognized certificate of achievement for their Intensive Courses, and gear up for their next Intensive Course this Fall.

As illi continues to grow, they're planning on offering more Intensive Courses throughout the United States and internationally. They're also planning on creating online, introductory courses to landscape lighting.

"We'll be able to reach more people with these introductory, easy-to-take online courses," said Jesse Loucks, illi's Board Chair and the owner of JL Lighting Design, LLC.

illi's 2018 Intensive Course
Currently, illi's bread and butter is their Intensive Courses. The next of which will take place at the University of Oklahoma from October 11-16, 2018.

This five-day/five-night intensive course is instructed by sixteen mentors. Although Moyer has stepped back from running illi, she is still teaching and giving critiques. The course includes a series of 24 lectures, 8 manufacturer's demonstrations, and 24 hours of hands-on work in the field using illi's huge collection of lighting equipment-the largest collection in the world.

The attendees work in groups of six to design and install a temporary lighting system that will then be presented on the last day to their mentors and a public audience.

Through this course, Illuminating Engineering Society members can receive 45 hours of CEUs and America Institute of Architects members can receive 45 hours of LUs.

The course is open to all those who are interested in landscape lighting, including contractors and architects.

For Harders who is both a designer and a manufacturer, he sees the benefits of attending as twofold. "Working hand in hand with other designers is important. We like having a diversity of ideas in lighting," he said. "And as a manufacturer, we like to keep our ears open to see what other designers want so we can make fixtures customized to their needs."

Many people who have taken illi's Intensive Course continue to stay connected to illi long after the course ends. Loucks took the Intensive Course in 2008 and then became a mentor in 2011. He's taught every year since.

"At the end of the course, your brain is just awash with information that would take you years to learn otherwise," Loucks said. While the education is the main draw of the course, there are other benefits of attending. "I've formed some really great relationships through illi and through the Intensive Course," Loucks added.

With all the changes going on in the organization, illi's future is looking bright. But at the heart of it all, is the people who make up the organization:

"What we've got going for us is a core group of people who care about lighting, who care about the mission, and who care about the organization," Loucks said. "These are talented lighting designers who are willing to spend their time to help foster the next generation and to further the education of landscape lighting."

For more information about the International Landscape Lighting Institute, visit

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December 9, 2019, 10:53 am PDT

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