What is color temperature, and how can I use various color-temperature variations to create a mood or effect via the lighting in my exhibit?
When talking about color temperature, many people like to throw around terms such as Kelvin, correlated color temperature, white balance, etc., and that's fine if you want a technical explanation. However, exhibit managers generally need less technical jargon and more down-and-dirty info. So here's a brief overview to help you understand the effects of color temperature.
Color temperature is the color of white light that is emitted by your exhibit's LED fixtures (or any white light source). In general, those colors are categorized as warm, natural (or neutral), day white, and cool white.
As an exhibit manager, you must not only find the fixture that throws the right amount and type of light for your application, but also ensure that the color temperature sets the proper mood or tone to meet your objectives. So here are a few generalizations about the effects generated from the four color-temperature categories.
➤ Warm White – This type of light is generally recommended for residential settings, restaurants, hotel lobbies, and retail stores. Warm white has a pinkish-yellow hue and adds a sense of coziness and softness to a space.
➤ Natural or Neutral White – Natural white has a true white appearance with no secondary tones, so it's great for lighting graphics since it does not alter the color of the images or text being illuminated. It also has a tendency to add energy to a space, revving up the vibe compared to the more calming warm white.
➤ Day White – Day white has a bit of a green hue and is generally recommended for showrooms, closets, retail settings, and office spaces. It offers more of an industrial lighting effect than all the other options.
➤ Cool White – Often recommended for jewelry stores, car dealerships, art studios, contemporary homes, and hospitals, cool white gives off a bright light with a bluish cast. This color temperature is usually associated with clean, minimal designs and modern, contemporary aesthetics.
Other factors must be considered when selecting lighting products and choosing a color temperature (e.g., wattage, lumen output, beam angle, driver selection, and Underwriters Laboratories safety). But if you don't select the color temperature that's most appropriate for your specific needs, you've failed to harness a valuable tool that can help set the mood in your space and emphasize your product and brand attributes. Armed with the preceding knowledge, then, you should be able to hold effective, albeit basic, conversations with your lighting-design team and ultimately to select the best color temperatures for your company's exhibits.
— Rob Cohen, vice president of sales and product development, Display Supply & Lighting Inc., Itasca, IL