Celebrating International Women’s Day: Spotlight on Lighting Design with Nicola Rance

Today, as part of our International Women’s Day celebration, we shine spotlight on Nicola Rance, Senior Product Designer at Nulty Bespoke, discussing her passion for lighting design, experiences in the industry, and vision for diversity and innovation.

Nicola is a designer whose journey from product design engineering to bespoke lighting at Nulty Bespoke reflects her love for creative exploration and craftsmanship. In this interview, she shares perspectives on lighting design’s transformative power, the influence of women, and the need for greater inclusion.

Nicola Rance, Senior Product Designer at Nulty Bespoke

Could you start by introducing yourself, detailing your role at Nulty Bespoke, and sharing what drew you to specialize in lighting design, especially within the bespoke luxury segment?

I studied product design engineering at university and then moved into the lighting industry, where I worked as a designer for both technical and decorative brands. I joined Nulty Bespoke because I was keen to explore bespoke work and it opened me up to a completely different side of being a designer. Our portfolio is incredibly diverse, and we produce pieces for a range of clients, from high-end residential projects and commercial workplaces, through to luxury hotels and yachts. I love the variety that you get with a bespoke commission. Every piece is unique and allows you to explore innovative ways of working with materials and light. It’s truly rewarding to see the finished piece come together in a different way each time.

What aspects of lighting design are you most passionate about, and how do you incorporate your interest in interiors, materials, and manufacturing into your work?

I’m driven by the transformative power of lighting design and how it can redefine an interior space. It encourages me to delve deeper into the manufacturing process to gain a better understanding of the interplay between light and materials. We work with all types of materials like glass, acrylic, wood, and ceramic and adapt our techniques each time. The process is fascinating because you get to see just how versatile these materials are when you play around with shapes, textures, and the integration of a light source to change the character of a piece.

Clear Crystal Chandelier by Nulty Bespoke. Photography: Cyril Bighetti de Flogny

Reflecting on your journey in design and engineering, how do you perceive the influence and contribution of women in shaping the current and future landscape of lighting design?

On a personal level, I’ve been inspired by the work of women like Gae Aulenti and Greta Magnusson-Grossman because they were instrumental in terms of pushing boundaries and challenging conventional design. Their creativity and resilience paved the way for the current generation of female designers because they showed what women can contribute to the world of design. I work with talented female interior designers, who run their own practices and command respect in the industry. It’s all thanks to these role models who laid the groundwork and helped to move things along for the rest of us.

Can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman in design and engineering and how you’ve overcome them? Are there any triumphs or milestones you’re particularly proud of?

Education is an important part of the journey. When I was at school, product design engineering was a traditionally male-dominated field, so one the biggest challenges I faced was visualising myself in this career. My view on this was reframed when I participated in NASA’s Space School Educational programme and managed to reach the finals of the competition. It meant I was able to take part in a series of workshops and lectures with NASA astronauts, including female astronauts. It was a formative moment because I was able to interact with women who were succeeding in a profession driven by science and engineering – what originally seemed like an unconventional path, suddenly seemed possible.

Feature Disc Pendant by Nulty Bespoke and Goddard Littlefair

Are there any women within, or outside, the lighting design sector who have inspired you in your career? How have their stories or achievements influenced your professional path?

The female astronauts that I met through the NASA Space School Educational programme inspired my path because they showed me that I could aspire to a career in design and engineering. I wanted to study maths and physics with art at school, but I was told that I couldn’t because these subjects weren’t usually grouped together, and that meant the timetable didn’t allow it. I managed to convince my school to change my schedule and I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do that if I hadn’t had the NASA experience. I can’t overstate the importance of having female role models to inspire you, along with a strong network for advice and support.

How do you interpret the concept of #inspireinclusion and what steps do you believe need to be taken to achieve greater inclusion and diversity within this field?

#InspireInclusion is a call for action to embrace diversity and encourage all talents to flourish. Women and men need to actively work together to ensure that all voices are heard, and that everyone feels respected and valued. It’s a reminder to us all that we need to keep working at it and that change will only come when everyone is pulling together in the same direction.

Glass Globe Pendant by Nulty Bespoke. Photography: James French

With the announcement of Nulty Bespoke’s new luminaire designs’ Collections’, can you give us a sneak peek into what these collections include and how they reflect the bespoke craftsmanship and innovation Nulty Bespoke is known for?

Collections by Nulty Bespoke is our new range of chandeliers, pendants, and wall scones, all handcrafted in the UK by Nulty Bespoke’s artisanal partners. We curated the range for interior designers and architects looking to source a beautifully crafted piece and tailor the design to their own specification as we have a palette of different finish options. The range is a stunning snapshot of our work. We’ve taken three of the team’s most loved commissions – Perla, Planetary, and On the Wing – and shaped them into mini collections that all take their cue from the natural world. 

Looking towards the future, how do you see the role of women evolving in the lighting design industry, and what are your aspirations for the growth of diversity and innovation within Nulty Bespoke and the wider sector?

I’m proud to be a part of the Nulty family, which has a high number of female designers and employs people from all over the world. Breadth of talent can only improve our ability to deliver great lighting design, so it’s my hope for the future that we cultivate an industry where diversity is not just encouraged but viewed as essential for innovation and growth. There is obviously still work to be done, but I feel encouraged that there are so many more practicing female designers and architects than when I started out. I hope that this will inspire future generations to pursue their passion for lighting design.


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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