Design 21™ LED Lighting Systems has more than 21 years of experience in importing and wholesaling LED light products and lighting design for commercial and residential projects, but for Victor Keith, owner, his foray into professional lighting goes back a lot further.
“I started my first lighting company in 1989,” says Mr. Keith. “It was based on the new (at the time!) technology of fiber optics. I did the Living Room of the Future for Edmonton Telephones before they became Telus. I did mock-ups for the legislature building, some work with the Allard Studio, Much Music, and for the Great Canadian Awards.”
Mr. Keith was a pioneer in the field.
“Back then, in the Yellow Pages, there was no heading for fiber optics, so I created the heading and was the only name on the list!” he chuckles.
Determined to be the best in the business and ahead of decorative lighting trends, he started visiting China’s factories and manufacturing facilities.
This led to branching out into importing Christmas lights. “Ten sea containers are a lot of lights! I was travelling Canada and US for trade shows and to meet buyers. It was an exciting life. I have a photo of myself handing Mayor Jan Reimer packages of Christmas lights for a local donation program. We were fundraising across Alberta with AGT (now Telus) raising money for a kids’ foundation.”
He continues, “In 1992, gaming was just being legalized in Canada. After being an importer of Christmas lights, next thing you know, I’m in the gaming business! I’ve supplied Las Vegas style lighting to 44 casinos in four countries including casinos in Las Vegas, Ecuador, Curacao, US and across Canada.”
In 1992 Mr. Keith entered a lighting project into the Illuminating Engineering Awards, and won, showing the proof of his passion.
“Everyone has a mentor or two. Mine was the late Heinz Oldach from ABS Casinos,” Mr. Keith says. “He believed in my work from the start and I respected an 18 year business relationship with him and his casino empire.”
Sensing that the next big wave in lighting would be LED, Keith rebranded his company as Design 21 in 1999.
“I got in early,” he admits. I was one of the first to embrace LED. While it is easy to find lights from small businesses to big box retail now, The Design 21 difference is our experience, quality and pricing. We often get emails from customers thanking us for our knowledge. They shop around but come to us because we have so much knowledge based on years of immersive learning and hands-on work.”
Mr. Keith appreciates the medically supported evidence that LED lights are better for eyesight and that it is a top choice for lighting in healthcare offices. He likes that it is also a low energy consumption method that helps individuals and businesses lower their carbon footprint.
He notes, “LED has so many benefits; I decided to focus on the aspect of the decorative function of LED lighting plus low power consumption since it lends itself to much lower consumable costs of operation and maintenance.”
Edmontonians can see Design 21’s recent work at Westrich’s, Encore Tower in Edmonton, several local casinos, CK Design’s recent projects, Delux Burger Bar, Guru and Japanese Village to name a few. Design 21 has also recently illuminated the face The Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver.
Mr. Keith is grateful to his vendors, suppliers and clients, along with the support of engineers, architects, and designers for helping to enable the success of the company. He thanks K-Jay Electric who has been a longstanding customer and what he calls, “a company upholding some of Edmonton’s best installations.”
“The challenge with LED,” he explains, “is the constant change. It’s still a developing technology. If you have an LED system from five years ago, it’s already getting antiquated. That is how fast the industry is changing. The Edison light bulb hardly changed in 100 years, but LED has changed many times in just 10 years, and will continue to change well into the future.”
Undaunted, Design 21 keeps pace with the rapid evolution. He pulls open a drawer and displays hundreds of files filled with information and supplier contacts.
“I’m communicating with suppliers in China every night,” he confirms. “I’m here during the day but talking to engineers in factories at night to ensure we are on top of the technology and trends.”
Although his career in lighting has taken him across the world and allowed him to light up some of the most wonderful buildings and entertainment facilities on and off the continent, his joy and excitement in his work is knowing that a customer is happy and the job was well done.
“There is one side of us that does decorative, spectacular colour changing projects in a hotel or a casino, or a home for permanent Christmas lights, then there is another side of us that does more of the common function and task lighting, but all of our work in lighting are great jobs. Every day when I wake up it’s exciting because you don’t know what customer you may be working with,” he concludes. “Who is going to call? What is the new project? The next day is always something to look forward to.”
His sense of true accomplishment is that in Edmonton, Vancouver, Ontario and in many other places, his lighting feature work is there for people to enjoy.
Learn more at design21.ca.