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





(212) 592-2228

SVA MA Design Research

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These pieces were written for Rob Walker’s Narrative Strategies for Objects project as part of the 2019 Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive. They are published in Overlooked/Underappreciated, an examination of the minutiae of quotidian life.

Excerpt, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Painting SoHo: A Study on the Appropriation of Urban Space

  Abstract In early June 2020, hundreds of artists descended on SoHo in New York City to paint plywood boards nailed to the neighborhood’s storefronts with images reflective of the tumultuous times the city was attempting to navigate. Some stores had been boarded up after the state-mandated closing of non-essential businesses at the beginning of […]

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.

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 […]

Thesis Research

Tha: From Preserving Sites to Self

This is an excerpt from Ridhima Sharma’s larger thesis portfolio titled “Tha: From Preserving Sites to Self.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” What is this India, apart from her physical and geographical aspects? [. . . ]How did she lose that old strength, and has she […]

Thesis Research

Designing Civic Participation

Experts agree that civic engagement is receding across the globe. To improve civic discourse and sustain democratic societies, active interventions are required. But these interventions cannot be expected to come from governments, who rather prefer less scrutiny from a highly engaged citizenry. Instead, interventions need to be pursued by civilians vying to protect democracy.


Seen / Unseen

We’re safe because we cross together. Orderly white lines bisect our path from one curb to the next: equidistant, equal width, all the way across. If we walk as a mass across this slatted surface, then the people in the cars will see us better. If we stay together, and within the width, then we’ll be safe.

Essay, unMute

Engineered Nature

This essay is a part of unMUTE, a collection of pieces written by participants in the 2020 Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive Online. The Nelson chair has no parts. No confusing assembly instructions with cartoon drawings of androgynous stick figures wielding hammers and screwdrivers. In fact, there are no nails, screws, adhesives, or joinery […]

Thesis Research

The Space of In-Between: A formal design analysis of the car as a social space

This is an excerpt from Galina Yordanov’s larger thesis portfolio titled “Driving Through Division: The Car as Actor in Lebanese Society.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” The Intimate Space The average passenger vehicle fits four or five people, and is furnished to accomodate the needs […]

Thesis Research

While the Doors Are Closed: The Art Self(ie) at Home

This is an excerpt from Polly Adams’s larger thesis portfolio titled “Enter Through the Gift Shop: Designed Objects, Images, and Identity in New York City’s Art Museums.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” A Brave New World While most of the world has screeched to a halt […]

Essay, unMute

Walking America’s Factory Floors with Chris Payne

This essay is a part of unMUTE, a collection of pieces written by participants in the 2020 Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive Online. Not too many people’s day jobs put them at the top of a rocket-launch platform on a Tuesday and on the factory floor of America’s oldest hat manufacturer on a Friday. […]

Thesis Research

We Call It Freedom Village: Brooklyn, Illinois’s Radical Tactics of Black Place-Making

This is an excerpt from Alicia Olushola Ajayi’s larger thesis portfolio titled “We Call It Freedom Village: Brooklyn, Illinois’ Radical Tactics of Black Place-making.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” Introduction Brooklyn, Illinois, sits directly across from St. Louis, Missouri, on the east bank of the Mississippi […]

Essay, unMute

An Ethical Dilemma of Faux-mage

This essay is a part of unMUTE, a collection of pieces written by participants in the 2020 Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive Online. When I made the decision to go vegan in 2008, figuring out replacements for foods I’d miss was a challenge. While I was never a huge lover of cheese, I found […]

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.

Essay, unMute


This essay is a part of unMUTE, a collection of pieces written by participants in the 2020 Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive Online. Faded from use, and pigmented in such an of-the-moment lavender that the color’s prominence in the zeitgeist seems particularly notable merely for its omission from one of Pantone’s yearly lists. On […]

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 […]

Thesis Research

Experimental Aesthetics in Tabletop Games

This is an excerpt from Joseph Nally’s larger thesis portfolio titled “Post-Elegance: Experimental Aesthetics in Tabletop Game Design.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” Nineteen eighty-six was an important year in the development of games. Two obscure things happened: the mass publication of Heimlich & Co. by […]

Thesis Research

Everything That Rises: Thinking About Design in Precarious Times

This is the introduction to the Class of 2019 publication, Everything That Rises: Thinking about Design in Precarious Times. The publication contains essays and excerpts from the students’ thesis research and was an accompaniment to Precarious: The 2019 Graduate Symposium held on May 13, 2019 at the SVA Theatre.


The American Prison Uniform: A Snapshot

In the late eighteenth century, when American colonists established detainment centers for criminals, they borrowed what they knew from Europe. Jails were disorderly, unsanitary, and lenient regarding regimen. People with means could purchase their way out of the discomforts of incarceration, buying or bartering for – among other comforts – clothing.


Journeying Through Precarity

The theme of precarity brings to mind the seminal 1941 Jorge Luis Borges short story, “La Biblioteca de Babel.” Written in response to another not-so-distant foray into mutually-assured self-annihilation, his narrative fantasy offered readers a metaphor for the biblical scale of our global, cultural crisis.

Thesis Research

The Rise of the Design Procedural: Why Rogers and Cantwell Didn’t Want to Write Another Show About Police or Doctors

This is an excerpt from Deena Denaro’s larger thesis portfolio titled “The Rise of the Design Procedural: Exploring Design’s Narrative Agency in Serial Television.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” Is that a fish tank?  A distressed Texas twang is punctuated by the well-timed bell of an […]

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 […]


unMute: The 2020 Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive Publication

Take a moment to think about how strange a video chat is. You can see and hear someone, but all the nuance of body language is lost—flattened into two dimensions and reduced in resolution. Conversation starts and stops, unaided by technology cuts and lags. How do you even know when someone is about to speak? […]

Thesis Research

The State of Kuwait

What does it mean to be Kuwaiti? A seemingly straightforward question—yet, one of present urgency. In only 14 years, the population of Kuwait exploded, doubling in size from 2.1 million people to its current population of over 4 million people, of whom 70% are not Kuwaiti.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as a professional, cemented for me after leaving D-Crit, it’s that extensive research informs the best work, and can lead you down pathways you never thought of. Having research as a tool in my arsenal has made me a better designer and, probably, a more engaged person.”

–Erin M. Routson, Class of 2012

“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





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