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

e.

[email protected]

t.

@dcrit

p.

(212) 592-2228

Manifesto – SVA MA Design Research

Paul Olmer

Manifesto

There are many moments in both design and between people that are important. This is my manifesto:

 

A minute is built of seconds, an hour built of minutes, and a life is built of moments. These moments may feel discrete and separate, but they are not.

 

An object or environment is also built of moments. These moments reflect small choices that have accumulated and become the object or environment in our presence.

 

For example:

 

  • the way two materials meet is an important moment in design. This is also true of people in their day-to-day life, when we meet one another, that is an important moment.

 

At the base of walls, we see the wall meet the floor. How does it meet? Is there a baseboard or some type of moulding to mask the imperfection of this meeting?

 

When a person meets another person, how do they meet? ? Is there a baseboard or some type of moulding to mask the imperfection of this meeting? What is our social baseboard?

 

  • when a pattern is expressed, and then interrupted, this is an important moment in both design and between people

 

Patterns lull us, and it is natural to pay attention to the interruption of patterns. Be attentive to both patterns and the breaking of patterns, whether the break is abrupt or gentle.

 

This is true of when the awkward French boy stops coming to the café where you waitress. This is true of the row of windows that are alike, and then not.

 

  • honesty with language is an important moment in both design and between people

 

We understand that when someone who is cruel insists they are nice that this is a lie. The same is true in design. A fib is a fib. Old is not new, wood is not stone, cheap is not expensive.

 

We notice when a young man says a word with swagger that he does not understand. We also know when design does this.

 

  • listening is an important moment in both design and between people

 

When someone talks, you listen. This is a way – not the way – to learn. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of these lessons and stay quiet and listen, to both design and people.

 

This is true of the moment when your grandmother makes a piecrust and you watch her. This is also true of when you see the curve of the leg of a stool by Aalto and how it meets the seat, the small gap where they meet allowing each element to express itself.

 

 

  • smiling is an important moment in both design and between people

 

When a smile escapes us, we should allow it, take note, and pay attention to why.

 

This is true sometimes we meet a friend’s gaze across a room during an awkward cocktail party. This is also true of when an object or space surprises us, gently, with its ease and humor – like an old friend.

 

  • being polite is important in both design and between people

 

Being polite is a lubricant. Life can be difficult. Why not make full use of a readily available lubricant to ease the friction?

 

Good design says thank you, says please. Good people says thank you, they say please. This is not a matter of manners or tradition; this is a matter, again, of attention to the meeting of two disparate elements.

 

This is true of when you meet your lover’s friends. This is true of how your hand meets a handle, or the quick transaction at the Metrocard terminal.

 

  • going where you are invited is important in both design and between people

 

When you are invited to go somewhere, either implicitly or directly, it is important to go and be a good guest.

 

This is true of both the old man who invites you to watch Monday Night Football and the alley that has a wide mouth and is oddly well lit. Go both places.

 

  • understanding when you are ill at ease is important in both design and between people

 

Your body tells you when something is awry. Pay attention to this feeling.

 

This is true of both the acquaintance who smiles too widely when things are amiss and also true of the out of scale (much too large) bathroom in American suburban homes. Something is amiss, wrong.

 

  • understanding when you are being led is important in both design and between people

 

You are not going where you go naturally, wandering, aimless. You are walking on a path,

 

This is true both of the manipulative boyfriend nudging you to always attend the latest action movies. This is also true of the overtly curvy path that enforces an unnatural wandering when your eye can see the goal and you know the direct route is available to you. You are not going where you’d like to go. Take note of that.

 

  • when the same meets same and create a seam, this is an important moment in both design and between people.

 

We know, of course, that even the same things are not the same and we should not pretend otherwise. Hiding seams is foolish. Acknowledge difference, for there is always difference, even in the same.

 

These moments may feel like something that happens to us, but they are not. We are not passive – or if we are, let us be so purposefully.