SVA MA Design Research

SVA MA Design Research, Writing & Criticism1 is a one-year graduate program2
devoted to the study of design, its contexts & consequences.
Our graduates have gone on to pursue research-related careers in publishing, education, museums, institutes, design practice, entrepreneurship, & more.3

  1. Formerly known as D-Crit
  2. About the program
  3. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. All successful candidates awarded a significant scholarship!
SVA MA Design Research

136 W 21st St, 2nd Floor

New York, NY 10011


[email protected]




(212) 592-2228

SVA MA Design Research

Upcoming Events

Audio, Thesis Research

Scalies: Traversing the Render Universe

Ever wonder about the people in the architectural renderings that hang in the windows of real estate offices or on the scaffolding around construction sites? You know, those happy people doing yoga, riding bikes, and pushing strollers? In the architecture world, these people are called “scalies” due to their function as markers of scale and […]


Blue Walls

Metropolis magazine associate editor Avinash Rajagopal on the most comforting shade of pastel blue known to mankind.


A Life in Lacquer

Katya Mezhibovskaya on the color that puts the world at our fingertips.

Audio, Thesis Research

Designing Sex, Death, and Survival

In April 2016, BusinessWeek invited Ida Benedetto to present her insights on the power of experience design at its annual design conference. She used the opportunity to reflect on recent the research into the fringes of transformative experiences that included adventures with sex party purveyors, funeral directors, and wilderness guides. Ida opened her talk discussing […]

Audio, Thesis Research

New Amsterdam, Part 1

“New Amsterdam” is the first installment of an experimental new podcast that presents near-future design fiction in the form of a radio-drama style narrative. The story takes place in New York in the year 2027, ten years after a series of hurricanes flooded major parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, and follows the Commissioner of Emergency […]


(212) 431-6189

Meg Farmer finds human traces of Donald Judd all but erased in the renovation (and museumification) of his house at 101 Spring Street, New York.

Excerpt, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Design, Thinking? Or How Design (Really) Wants To Make It In The Business World

“Design thinking” emerged in the workplace as a management practice, intended to codify and package designers’ way of thinking and doing into a step-by-step approach. The term tapped into executive, mid-management, and entrepreneurial anxieties about perpetually being innovative. But as companies adopt the fun and fast approach to innovation, a new myth about design is […]

Excerpt, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Non-Travel: Designing the Contemporary Travel Experience

The experience we have of a place is a combination of what we see, read, and hear about it. From social media to virtual reality, today we have even more ways of traveling the world, both physically and imaginatively. As digital technologies become more advanced, the depiction of space becomes more immersive and new forms […]

Excerpt, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Designing Sex, Death, and Survival in the Twenty-First Century

Successful experience designers, self-identified or not, tend to employ similar strategies, especially when it comes to opening people up to risk in a caring way. This research will inform a lexicon for designing experiences, with a specific focus on experiences that aim for human enrichment. Drawing from game studies, positive psychology, and the anthropology of […]


Poppy Red, Poppy Patois

Bryn Smith reflects on the paradox of a now-fashionable hue that we also use to commemorate the first Great War.


Arranging a Room Full of Possibilities

Sleeping on a tatami mattress, which could be endlessly repositioned, allowed Justin Zhuang to turn his childhood bedroom into a space of possibilities.

Audio, Thesis Research

Museums & Instagram

Social media have become tools for museums to advertise their programs and collections, pass on general information about the institution and, most importantly, engage in a more direct dialogue with their audiences. This podcast explores the ways in which visitors and curators use Instagram in this context. It also questions the limitations of such platforms […]

Excerpt, Thesis Research

Untangling the Naps: The Afro Talks Back

Michele Washington illustrates the ways in which the Afro has been used as a significant graphic element in the black vernacular narrative.


An Uphill Struggle

R/GA Executive Creative Director David Womack weighs up survival versus comfort as he assembles a home-away-from-home in his backpack.

Audio, Thesis Research

Building a Better Talking Doll

When Mattel’s A.I.-infused Hello Barbie hit shelves in the fall of 2015, she held tremendous promise: perhaps, at last, America’s favorite doll could also be a child’s favorite conversation partner. In practice, Hello Barbie fails to live up to her hype. This podcast explores Hello Barbie’s flop in the historical context of other tech-savvy toys […]

Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Speculations From Tomorrow: Characters and Empathy in Design Fiction

Design fiction, inherently a practice grounded in narrative, aims to create believable speculative fictions about future objects through storytelling.There is a need to develop a discourse between the fields of design fiction, narratology—the study of narrative’s structure and effects on perception—and the psychology of fictional characters. Narratology shows that empathizing with fictional characters can lead […]

Excerpt, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Making Room for Baby: Navigating Children’s Domestic Environments in Contemporary America

The rooms we live in are sites where status, ideology, and anxiety surface materially: they are, in a sense, portraits of us. From this point of view, rooms inhabited by children are doubly fraught, reflecting not only clues to the identity of the child but the viewpoints of parents as well. Through their purchase or […]

Excerpt, Thesis Research

Tinkering with Design: The Convergence of Design and Hacking

Avinash Rajagopal explores the convergence of the two dominant modes of creation 21st century and its role in realizing an open ecotopia, straight out of Buckminster Fuller’s theories and Bruce Sterling’s fiction.

Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Keeping Up Appearances: How the Design of Storefronts Define Place and Value

What do small businesses in New York City communicate via their designed storefronts? What narrative are they telling and howdo storefronts affect a neighborhood’s identity? What types of storefronts clarify or confuse the city’s social, cultural, and economic complexion? Who has agency within their social and production networks, and in what ways does design allow […]

Excerpt, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

North Korean Posters: Design Politicized

To understand North Korean propaganda posters, it is important to understand North Korean ideology; if the text on the poster is the written ideology, the image on the poster becomes the drawn ideology. This research provides a window into this logic, by identifying the themes and symbols recurring in North Korean posters, and considering their […]

“As technology continues to impact the way we travel, we can expect any number of the following to become commonplace, and we will have an even more personalized experience of a foreign place with the swipe of a finger: geolocation, better connectivity possibilities, wireless energy, personalization, frame-of-mind recommendations, and Augmented Reality.”

—Jenni Young

“Megaprojects have provided especially lucrative investment opportunities. Characterized by the revamping of large swaths of land and the creation of new neighborhoods comprising some blend of residential, commercial, and perhaps cultural spaces, these projects represent a new chapter in the evolution of city building, and an interesting cross-pollination of the two fiercely opposing viewpoints of twentieth century city planning—those of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses.”

—Alex Klimoski

“The real value of the experience is actually what is not being pointed out by the sign. According to philosopher Vincent Descombes, ‘The character is at home when he is at ease in the rhetoric of the people with whom he shares life.’ The feeling of ‘home’ is accomplished by the colors, words, materials, objects, and distinctive design gestures that comprise the storefront. Its unique design captures the character of the neighborhood, which would feel alien if placed in a different part of the city.”

—Derek Edward Love




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Watch videos of recent lectures by: author, architect, and curator Michael Kubo, play designer Cas Holman, Studio Folder co-founder Marco Ferrari, New Museum’s NEW INC director Julia Kaganskiy, Cooper Hewitt deputy director Brooke Hodge, IBM Watson researcher Caroline Sinders, StoryCorps executive producer Michael Garofolo, author and humor writer Sloane Crosley, IDEO design lead Alex Gallafent, Van Alen Institute director of research Anne Guiney, design historian (and former D-Crit faculty member) Russell Flinchum, executive director of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter Benjamin Prosky, and architectural designer, researcher, and curator Ignacio Galan.



Just Published: Vital Signs

Vital Signs is the online publication of the MA Design Research Class of 2016. Drawing from the students’ multimedia thesis portfolios, these written and audio narratives reflect yearlong quests into a broad array of design topics. The name Vital Signs nods to the immediacy and the relevance of these investigations as well as the “messy vitality,” in the words of architect and writer Robert Venturi, of the research and writing process. Find Vital Signs articles and podcasts on our homepage or collected here.



Check out our curriculum.

We’d love to show you around the department and talk to you about your plans for graduate study. Get in touch to arrange an appointment to sit in on a class or attend a lecture. Email us at [email protected]




Get There with Design Research

Faculty, students, and alums of the department recount their love affairs with Design Research (as well as performing holograms, flying green tree snakes and 51-hour journeys to South Sudan) while they share with us how they teach it, study it, and practice it in their daily work.