Parsons

Faculty Profiles

  • Faculty

    Derek Porter

    Derek Porter

    “Design is just one aspect of lighting a space,” says Derek Porter, associate professor in Parsons’ MFA Lighting Design program. “By nature, lighting design is cross-disciplinary, involving perception, poetry, science, and more.” Porter’s practice and teaching reflect his curiosity and inclination for integrative work. He is fascinated by engineering science and draws on his fine art background for aesthetic guidance. Porter recently turned to psychology and biology to gain a deeper understanding of the ways people experience light and how designers can employ lighting to enhance daily life.

    In designing lighting for a space, Porter considers the needs and interests of its inhabitants, including physical and mental well-being, productivity, and sustainability. He reminds himself that our minds seek order when we enter indoor or outdoor spaces; our gaze is naturally drawn to illuminated areas. Porter makes his students aware of this tendency and encourages them to design nuanced schemes — carefully manipulating light and shadow — that orient inhabitants and shape their perceptions.

    Porter’s sensitivity and deep understanding of how light can guide human behavior are evident in his professional projects. In his award-winning, critically acclaimed work on the Liberty Bridge in Greenville, South Carolina, Porter illuminates a suspended walkway to seamlessly connect an urban setting with a pedestrian park. Blending the light from cool white custom LED luminaires with the night sky’s natural brilliance, the lighting plan deftly evokes the connection between humans and their environment. In his design, Porter also removes extraneous hardware from the bridge to subtly underscore the experience of moving between human-made and organic spaces.

    As Porter’s practice expands, he strives to maintain this careful, integrative approach when designing the lighting for a space. He credits his facility with interdisciplinary collaboration in part to the learning environment at Parsons, Porter says that “exploring theories alongside researchers in different disciplines and having access to labs outside of the lighting design field enriches work and cultivates a collective understanding.” Above all, this innovative approach reminds him that it is “so important to design thoughtfully.”

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