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.

designresearch@sva.edu

t.

@dcrit

p.

(212) 592-2228

SVA MA Design Research

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09/19

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News

02/20

Announcing our 2019 Design Writing and Research Summer Residency!

  Join us this summer for a two-week intensive devoted to research and writing about design. Participants will be introduced to a range of techniques for constructing compelling narratives about images, objects, and spaces. You will experiment with different research methods, writing formats, and complete several projects across media, including a collaboratively produced publication. In addition […]

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.

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

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

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.

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 […]

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

Curation in a Digital Age: A Closer Look at Digitization and its Impacts on the Exhibition-Making Field.

While we have completely embraced digitization in our daily lives, we are still in the process of grasping and understanding its impacts in other professional fields. The digitization of museums has transformed curation from an academic, intellectual, and cultural practice into a social process based on the visitors’ personal experience of the museum. Today, the […]

Excerpt, Resource

Tinkers

Hallucinating, in death throes from cancer and kidney failure, an old man sees the walls around him begin to collapse, as he returns in his mind to his impoverished childhood in the backwoods of Maine.

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 […]

Audio, Thesis Research

Public Housing Playlist

After researching the roles of policy and design in the failures of public housing, Erin Routson compiled a hip-hop playlist/audio tour guide which reframes New York’s most notorious housing projects as sites of creative production.

Essay

(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

Designing with Non-designers: Participatory Design Practices in the Arenas of Social Development and Commerce

Co-design is the practice of designers involving clients and/or end-users to inform design solutions. In recent years, design consultancies have packaged co-design as a methodology, codified for example in the form of free-access toolkits to help marginalized communities. At the same time, as designers become an integral part of large corporations, co-design is being oversimplified […]

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 […]

Essay

A Life in Lacquer

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

Essay

Edith Wharton’s Houses

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

Audio, Thesis Research

Beyond Fantasy – North Korean Posters

This podcast considers the contemporary contexts–both physical and digital–of North Korean propaganda posters. Featuring interviews with design writer Steven Heller, a North Korea Strategy Center officer, and a North Korean defector it presents through multiple points of view the complex eco-system of North Korean propaganda production and distribution.

“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…)

 

Join us this summer for a two-week intensive devoted to research and writing about design. Participants will be introduced to a range of techniques for constructing compelling narratives about images, objects, and spaces. You will experiment with different research methods, writing formats, and complete several projects across media, including a collaboratively produced publication.

In addition to the unique opportunity to study closely with leading writers, editors, curators, and researchers, each participant will have a workstation in the light-filled, open-plan SVA MA Design Research studio in New York’s Chelsea district, and 24-hour access to department resources. A robust daily schedule of seminars, lectures, workshops, and one-on-one consultations, will be supplemented with visits to the city’s design collections, archives, libraries, design and architecture studios, and behind-the-scenes access to new exhibitions, buildings, and urban planning developments.

Applications being accepted as space available; priority enrollment deadline April 15, 2019.

Tuition: $1,950. SVA housing available.

Apply now!

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