Your Interview Sophie Hoyal


Sophie Hoyal

Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).

Name:  Sophie Rebecca Hoyal
Company:  SRH Lighting Design
Position:  Creative Director
Country, UK / London

I first worked in fashion, in the last year of my design degree (print for fashion).  It was interesting but it seemed to me, too much of a hyper, destabilising environment for me on the whole.  I only observed a small window of the London fashion industry though.

In spite of fashion:

I think I got my first job in lighting because I was privileged to receive funding to go onto further education (MA Chelsea art school / Design For The Environment).  This course enabled me to explore light in the context of an architectural environment and be mentored by other artists and designers.  My work on this course was enough to attract and convince my first employer to employ me as a novice lighting designer.

Without the privilege of funding for my MA I would probably be working in art and design but possibly not in the architectural lighting industry.

Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?

I have been fortunate to attract clients, interior designers, architects whose work has a sense of cultural and environmental understanding.  If the team I am working with care about the environment surrounding a build then I am usually happy to work on the project, regardless of genre.

Main design aims:

  1. To bring design wonder and high quality schemes to projects limited by tight budget.  
  2. For larger projects with a higher budget, I like to bring in a familiar sense of the every day and a sense of soul and easy simplicity.

To do this in a way that doesn’t disrespect the environment is a positive adventure.  We all need to work harder with protecting the environment.  Most of us are trying!

What project are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of a pop-up makeup store I designed for the citizens of Baghdad.  I really enjoyed working with the Iraqi design team.  We were bursting with invention and love of the power of design.  The brief was to bring people inventive, beautiful design on a minimal budget. The brand’s vision - to sell very affordable and higher end make up to attract a diverse range of Iraqis.

Political Tension rose higher in Iraq, just as the store was being finished.  For now, the finished ‘fabric’ of the store is safely in storage.  This was a very meaningful and positively challenging collaboration to me even though political instability got in the way.  That little store design will continue to inspire us!  Hopefully it will pop up someday soon!  It’s beautiful.

What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?

Sticking with it!!

How does light inspire you?

How light in ecclesiastical design creates atmosphere and a sense of peace.  Something about walking into a church brings me a feeling of extreme peace.  However, some people I have spoken to feel the opposite of peace when they enter a religious building, as religion can be a loaded subject.  I am not necessarily trying to turn every interior into a church but to recreate the feeling I get when exploring churches / cathedrals.  

I love colour too so am a big fan of stained glass one of the earliest forms of lighting.  Light and colour adds joy.

I think we’d all like to see more of the night sky in cities / London so I am inspired by initiatives that are working towards less light pollution.

What is your message for other Women In Lighting?

Black Lives Matter!  There is not enough diversity within architectural lighting design, even in a city like London.  Many other London based professions are much more diverse in many ways, why is that?

Lives in:
London / England
Born in:
Edinburgh / Scotland
B/A Printed Textiles for Fashion and M/A in Design For The Environment
Started working with light in:
I can say at 8 years old - I helped my Mum set up a coloured glass exhibition, she curated at a gallery called The Cleveland Crafts Council in the North of England! I count coloured spotlit glass art as lighting!
Offices worked at:
Isometrix, Firefly (POV), Lighting Design International, Design Plus Light - and others as a freelancer.
Now works at:
SRH Lighting Design
As well as being:
A swim coach / teacher specialising in Parasport swimming
Has been awarded:
Most recently - awarded national sponsorship to train and get back into swim coaching following the restrictions of the pandemic.

Lighting wise:
Best Spa for Style by the Sunday Times –
Seaham Hall Serenity Spa, Newcastle

2003 National Lighting Design Awards –
Highly Commended (Leisure Category) - Whatley Manor Spa, Wiltshire (ESPA Spa)

2003 Oxo Peugeot Design Awards (Finalist) - Woven Light-box
collaboration with award winning textile designer Margo Selby

“Black Lives Matter! There is not enough diversity within architectural lighting design, even in a city like London. Many other London based professions are much more diverse in many ways, why is that?”

Selected portfolio:

Project 01 Stair, Photography by Rupert Warren, Copyright of Raw Space Architecture Project 01 Corridor, Photography by Rupert Warren, Copyright of Raw Space Architecture The Lightbox Collaboration with Textile Designer Margo SelbyTurquaz Baghdad, Iraq  Collaboration with Rasha Alhadier of Sager Studio

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