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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04/12

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09/19

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01/17

Apply Now!

We are now accepting applications on a rolling basis for Fall 2018. Significant scholarship funding is still available. Start an application or contact us for more information.  

Excerpt, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

North Korean Posters: Design Politicized

To understand North Korean propaganda posters, it is important to understand North Korean ideology; if the text on the poster is the written ideology, the image on the poster becomes the drawn ideology. This research provides a window into this logic, by identifying the themes and symbols recurring in North Korean posters, and considering their […]

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 […]

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 […]

Essay, Excerpt, Thesis Research

Making Room for Baby

Lila Allen, Class of 2016, wrote her thesis on the design of children’s spaces. Her research was adapted for publication in the 4th issue of Kinder: A Journal Dedicated To Child Design, Past, Present, and Future. Consider the choice between two cribs: One is a Vetro, a fully recyclable, limited-edition acrylic pen by Nursery Works […]

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 […]

Essay

A Life in Lacquer

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

Essay

An Uphill Struggle

R/GA Executive Creative Director David Womack weighs up survival versus comfort as he assembles a home-away-from-home in his backpack.

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.

Audio, Thesis Research

How To Be Creative: The Chiquita Banana Edition

“How To Be Creative” is a speculative (and often satirical) podcast series on exploring self-help culture and its overlap with literature about creativity. In this week’s edition of “How to Be Creative” the host, Lorena Canales Morales, ventures on yet another culinary adventure, this time exploring the sweet delicacy of banana bread. In the quest […]

Excerpt, Resource

In Praise of Shadows

Author Jun’ichirō Tanizaki expounds on the importance of darkness in Japanese interiors in adding texture, depth, and subtle beauty to the life within.

Audio, Sightlines, Thesis Research

Unfolding: The Manifold Mysteries of Miniature Folded Medical Inserts

What objects are designed to negotiate the boundaries of chronically ill collective care groups? How are patients assembling digital infrastructures and what can interface designers repair? What does “real world” data make real? In this podcast Karisa Senavitis explores why and how pharmaceutical companies provide obtuse documents in medical packaging.

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.

Audio, Thesis Research

Scalies: Traversing the Render Universe

Ever wonder about the people in the architectural renderings that hang in the windows of real estate offices or on the scaffolding around construction sites? You know, those happy people doing yoga, riding bikes, and pushing strollers? In the architecture world, these people are called “scalies” due to their function as markers of scale and […]

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

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.

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.

Sightlines, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Eating Change: Designing a Food System for the Digital Age

The Blue Apron homepage features a birds’-eye view of an open Blue Apron box on a kitchen counter. Two hands in the shot invite you to insert yourself into the scene—as if you’re the one standing at the counter, looking down into this box that is tightly packed with colorful fresh produce. It’s a carefully […]

Lecture, Video

Private Lives in the Big City

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

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.

“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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