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

Research – SVA MA Design Research


Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Design and Values: US National Park Maps in the Twenty-First Century

Historically, maps produced by the US National Park Service have reflected a commitment to resource protection, public education, and stewardship. By looking at the design evolution of maps from the mid-twentieth century through today, it is possible to see how the values espoused by these maps have changed—and in fact promote an engagement with nature […]

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

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 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 […]



Typography and lettering can convey far more than the words or phrases they spell out. In the case of ‘Chop Suey’ letters, however, what’s conveyed is a lazy and often offensively applied attempt to filter down an entire culture to its calligraphic core in order to infuse western language with an otherness. Writing systems and […]


Definition of style, I might know it

It is an interesting experience to walk through Broadway from SoHo to downtown Manhattan. You can observe ranges of people from fashionistas to college students, passing within NYU district. We often distinguish one group of individuals to another by observing what messages they are giving through their appearances. But their representation only depends on outsider’s […]



In the previous week’s readings, we visited Derrida’s notion of the center, which with regard to knowledge, is constantly shifting. In creating new understandings of how systems function, there is a preoccupation with the center, it’s function, and how it comes to define the whole. For centuries across cultures of medicine, for example, the heart […]



The tactics and strategies that Michel de Certeau describe in The Practice of Everyday Life are on full display in nearly every corner of New York City, a tactical utopia for those who wander. An invisible subworld of passageways and movements opens up to those who are attuned to them. The layers of the city […]



“Language is not an insurmountable barrier; it is a frontier. Learning the other’s tongue, or the other’s dialect means establishing an elementary symbolic relation with him, respecting him and joining him; crossing his frontier. A frontier is not a wall but a threshold.” Laws are written in words, yet they barriers they represent are formed […]


Stop calling it Origami

“Since the eighteenth century there has been no more architecture. […] The new beauty of concrete and iron is profaned by the superimposition of carnival decorative incrustations justified neither by structural necessity nor by our taste, and having their origins in Egyptian, Indian or Byzantine antiquity […].” –Filippo Tommaso Marinetti writing in the Manifesto of […]


Kung Fu Fighting

Upon reading the title of Hybrid Cultures, I recall the bizarre situation that created Carl Douglas’ classic song, Kung Fu Fighting. When we talk about appropriation of culture in a modern sense, we don’t think about it in relation to hybrid culture. Maybe it’s my liberal mentality, but this Kung Fu Fighting seems to exist […]


traditional healing

Canclini’s cultural study focuses on folk arts’ production within transnational markets. The swirling relations between local and global, tradition and tourism, focuses mostly on craft and song. I was thinking if the analysis could stretch to cover traditional medicine. Immediately the term is problematic. What if the tradition is not your own, but you are open and […]



    I am new to “cultural theory.” (I’ve used quotes here, because I have an inkling that cultural theory is both a very real thing and a completely made up thing. “Thing,” of course, in not the correct word. Are “construct,” “discipline,” or “discourse” the correct word?)   One of the moments that I […]


Disjuncture and Imagination

Late on Tuesday night, as a heavy fog of disbelief was rolling in, a presidential historian was interviewed on MSNBC and asked whether there were any former presidents to whom this electee could be compared. She said no, there weren’t, but she did think that this election fed on fear and anxiety comparable to the […]


Speech Deceives, But Walking Does Not

  Michel de Certeau compare the act of pedestrian walking to that of talking and speech. While thoroughly analyze and study the common characteristics that both talking and walking shares (appropriation, discretion, and phatic sense), two seem to not sharing the fact that one is not failing us, the other is deceiving us. Guess what’s […]


The play that isn’t designed

[Disclaimer: Oh man, this is a topic I have opinions on]. The reading for this week focuses on several forms of play. Witticott, a psychoanalyst is interested in play as a creative activity and the affects it has upon the self. Schneider is interested in play and performance studies. Derrida, as far as I can […]



“In reality, the activity of reading has on the contrary all the characteristics of a silent production: the drift across the page, the meta-morphosis of the text effected by the wandering eyes of the reader, the improvisation and expectation of meanings inferred from a few words, leaps over written spaces in an ephemeral dance. But […]


Car as sculpture, car as performance

A Lamborghini Miura is the automobile equivalent of Shakespeare – and that is not because both are considered to be the acme of their respective art. Rather, it is because they both are texts, and from these texts emerges a performance (and vice versa). The work as a whole is constituted from these two opposed […]


Play With Your Food

Every few months, I look up this NYT Food piece by Sam Sifton so I can read it again. It traces the internet-aided popularisation of a dish called “Mississippi Roast” – beef cooked in a slow cooker with one packet of dry ranch dressing powder, one packet of gravy powder, a stick of butter, and […]


performing illness

“Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10? I try to answer, but the correct answer is always “a-numerical.” Sensation is the enemy of quantification.” —Anne Boyer Sick bodies are morphed into parts and numbers. The transformation turns an unknowable suffering into something measurable and legible. A doctor can look at your chart and […]