Light Therapy

| Carol Liao

The sun plays a vital role in sustaining human life. " It provides us with warmth, light, and energy. Our fundamental need for these elements has engendered technological substitutions for when we lack sun exposure. We brought warmth to cold buildings with central heating systems, light to shadowy roads with street lamps, and energy to factories with solar panels.

But the more unfrequented technological developments concern the psychological effects of sunlight deficiency. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that some people experience during autumn and winter, when sunlight subsides. Most know this experience as the “winter blues”, but the effects of sunlight deficiency can be very hindering.

Designers and artists have been experimenting with light for centuries, but it is only recently that we started adding a medical purpose. However medically conjectural these works are, they are at least a beautiful beginning to addressing this gap.

Amsterdam Light Festival

When I first moved to Amsterdam people warned that there will be days where you don’t see sunlight–it’s dark when you get in the office and dark by the time you get out. These works of art don’t profess light therapy in the medical sense, but the concept is intrinsically that. Dozens of artists and designers erect beautiful light sculptures and installations around Amsterdam for 40 winter days, therapeutically illuminating and enhancing the city’s beauty. See how it transformed the city.


Sunnlight is a beautifully minimal connected product that automatically syncs with the sun’s brightness and color. Unlike other lamps or light fixtures, this one is meant to hang vertically like a clock to mimic how you would view the sun through a window. The app is designed to work with their own sunnlight, but also connects with other color-turnable lights. Learn more about the smart light.


The Luminaries is a motorised contraption by Stefano Pertegato. His lighting system is set for a 12 hour cycle, moving with the natural rhythm and coordinating with the color of the sun. While this light doesn’t emit the white light directly associated with treating SAD, it’s meant to counteract the biological effects of modern living environments, where we trick our bodies into thinking it’s always daytime, thus throwing off how we secrete melatonin. Watch its full cycle.


A relatively low-tech way to harness the sunlight is with a heliostat— a solar powered mirroring device that directs sunlight throughout the day at a specified target. For those with SAD, this is a great way to get those few hours of natural sunlight even if you have to be stuck indoors. By directing the sun into your office, you get the benefits of being outside without enduring the bitter cold. See how it works.

GoLite Blu

The team at Philips designed the GoLite Blu with the sole purpose of combatting SAD symptoms. Rather than use white light, their approach uses blue light to mimic the blue of a sunny clear sky. The portable device is designed with intensity controls and a timer feature so you can regulate your exposure. Read the reviews.

Genieten de zon! (Enjoy the sun!)