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

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(212) 592-2228

SVA MA Design Research

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Upcoming Events

Link

09/19

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Essay

Blue Walls

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

Audio, Thesis Research

The Nagel Style

This podcast investigates the distinctive aesthetics of window decals used in many nail salons and dry cleaners in New York City. Through interviews with passersby, customers, and store owners as well as archival research, this story tracks the discovery of the decal’s ultimate of inspiration: the artist Patrick Nagel. Nagel, who worked in the 1970s […]

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 […]

Essay

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.

Excerpt, Thesis Research

Alvorada: How Social Change is Shaping Brazilian Design and Creating Brazil’s Own Design Model

On a research trip to Brazil, Frederico Duarte discovers that Marcel Rosenblum, with his massively popular “Lar Doce Lar” (Home Sweet Home) TV show, a local “Extreme Makeover” in which he and host Luciano Huck go around the country redecorating—and often rebuilding—poor families’ homes, exerts a more real and powerful influence on Brazilian culture than such celebrated design exports as the Campana brothers.

Essay

Edith Wharton’s Houses

Architecture critic Alexandra Lange extolls on Edith Wharton’s fluency as a decorator and architect of the domestic milieu

Excerpt, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Rendering Real(i)ty: Architectural Visualization, Real Estate and the Image of the Twenty-First Century City

Today, New York City is in the midst of a construction boom. “Supertall” skyscrapers and large-scale “megaprojects” are currently taking shape at rapid speed. While many of these projects may not yet exist, architectural hyper-renderings, ostensibly, provide us with ways of envisioning how they will unfold within the urban fabric. These hyper-renderings have helped popularize […]

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 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.

Essay

Rockwood Revisited

Zachary Sachs conjures a (fateful) day in the life of his childhood home on Rockwood Street, Dallas.

Essay

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.

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 […]

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 […]

Audio, Thesis Research

Big Fish Eat Small Fish

In recent years, big strategy-consulting giants have acquired design companies in an effort to build internal design expertise that can better address both strategic goals and customer experience. Corporations such as Deloitte, McKinsey, EY, and Accenture have co-opted design firms Doblin, Lunar, Intuitive, and Fjord respectively. This podcast tries to unravel the consequences of these […]

Audio, Thesis Research

Ready? Stamp. Go!

There are a vast array of images, objects, and tools designed to allow us to travel the world, both physically and imaginatively. Our passport, for example, facilitates entry to foreign countries, while at the same time contains stamps that are a record of places visited and a gateway to our memories of those trips. This […]

Lecture, Video

Private Lives in the Big City

The New York Times columnist Constance Rosenblum explores the distinctive habitats of New Yorkers.

“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

 

Link

10/23

Kimberlie Birks (Class of 2011) interview on Fatherly: “The 7 Most Beautifully Designed Children’s Toys, According to Someone Who Actually Knows” by Joshua David Stein

As a father with kids who like stuff and me also liking stuff, I have a lot of stuff. In my childrens’ rooms is an embarrassing amount of stuffed animals, a tumult of toys, a menagerie of tiny chairs and knee-high desks. Much of this stuff is, let’s face, it aesthetically worthless.  Most of it is plastic, which means this aesthetic worthlessness will be around for millennia. Design for children, too often, has been conflated with bright colors, bold shapes, and shoddy construction. But in a new book Design for Children, author Kimberlie Birks showcases more than 450 designs for children from some of the century’s greatest visual minds from Phillippe Starck to Piero Lissoni. We recently chatted with Birks about what her deep dive into children’s design taught her and asked her to pick her favorite designs from the book.

Do you find children’s design has more in common with its contemporary adult designs or with children’s design through time? That is, is a toy made in 1950 more similar to a desk made in 1950 or a toy made in 1980?

Children’s objects are often a signal of the times, reflecting both the evolution of the design industry and shifts in public perception. Fascinatingly, much of the design history of the twentieth century can be traced through developments in children’s furniture, as their smaller scale was ideal for designers seeking to test new materials and processes. From the wood and tubular steel constructions of the Bauhaus in the 1920s, to the plastic pioneers of the 1960s, the remarkable technical, material and aesthetic innovations made in design for children reflected—and often led—the wider design field. As such, children’s design can be often seen to have more in common with its contemporary adult designs than with children’s designs from other eras. Read more… (more…)

Link

02/28

Where Corporate Meets Craft: An Interview with Paul Olmer

Our Director of Operations, Eric Schwartau, checked in with Paul Olmer (MA Design Research Class of 2017) at his design-build studio, Hewn Bros., in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. Olmer founded Hewn Bros. with business partner Chris Tilden in 2011 and since then, they’ve racked up an impressive list of clients—Casper, AirBnB, and Quip to name a few. Before coming to SVA, Olmer worked in set design and construction for theater and received a B.A. in Fine Arts and Poetry from Bennington College in Vermont.  Olmer was awarded the 2017 Susan Merritt Scholarship for his Applied Thesis at MA Design Research. (more…)

Link

02/15

Olivia Coetzee (Class of 2017) for Design Observer

Use Only as Directed: 
Safety is not Always Safe
“Liewer bang Jan as dooie Jan.”

This Afrikaans idiom roughly (directly) translates to “Rather scared Jan than dead Jan.” It’s an expression similar to rather safe than sorry but much more urgent.

Objects designed to provide safety can still put you in life or death situations, just like their earlier, unsafer, predecessors. Many “safe” objects now bear the word “safety” as part of their (misleading) titles. Many other safety objects boldly proclaim PROTECTION, HEALTH, and SAFETY on their covers with much smaller, thankfully bold, WARNINGS and DIRECTIONS about all potential dangers on the back. But are these objects as safe as their names suggest? [read more…]

Link

02/05

Frederico Duarte (Class of 2010) featured in Eye Magazine

The short title of this exhibition – ‘Brasil Hoje’ [Brazil Today] – gives an idea of its ambitions, which is to cover nearly 100 objects, projects, concepts and books made by contemporary Brazilian designers from all over this vast, often misrepresented country. The long title, which translates as ‘How to pronounce design in Portuguese?’, continues a question first asked by MUDE’s 2014 exhibition of Portuguese design. (more…)

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