ECU professor develops methods to better teach lighting in interior design

An East Carolina University interior design professor has published an article that examines the unique and complex properties of light, its behavior and its interactions with other elements in interior design.


Charles Gustina said that most college-level interior design textbooks quickly jump into dialogue about lighting mechanics, omitting discussion of light as an element of design that interacts with objects and spaces in an interior. He addressed those issues in “Light Fantastic: Teaching Introductory Lighting to Interior Design Students,”published in the October issue of Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal.

Gustina responded to the information gap by offering four introductory-level exercises derived from research and experimentation in teaching lighting as an element of design – equal to line, plane, volume, mass, space, texture, color and time. Observations in the exercise focus on light’s behavior and interaction with other elements.

He has incorporated the exercises into a first-year interior design studio, providing discussion and observation related to lighting, including exploration of lighting schemes used by top design firms. Gustina said the approach helps students learn about how light behaves, which helps them understand how lighting is produced and directed in interior design. The exercises also build student skills in rendering light in their drawings of interior spaces, he said.

While the exercises are simple, Gustina said that faculty have noted a definite uptick in discussion of lighting and its effects since the exercises were included in the curriculum. “The next step is to confirm the faculty’s observations through data collection,” he said.

Research and development that led to the exercises were supported by a grant from the Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education. The funds enabled video-conferences that allowed ECU students to consult with lighting experts in the U.S. and abroad.

In the video above, ECU students enjoy teleconferences with New York designers.

Gustina is an assistant professor of 
Interior Design in ECU’s Department of Interior Design and Merchandising, College of Human Ecology. For additional information about the article, contact Gustina at For more information on the interior design program at ECU, visit or call 252-328-6929.


Gustina’s article may be accessed online at