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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Link

09/19

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Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Keeping Up Appearances: How the Design of Storefronts Define Place and Value

What do small businesses in New York City communicate via their designed storefronts? What narrative are they telling and howdo storefronts affect a neighborhood’s identity? What types of storefronts clarify or confuse the city’s social, cultural, and economic complexion? Who has agency within their social and production networks, and in what ways does design allow […]

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

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

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

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 […]

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, 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, 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.

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

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Sightlines, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Car Design is Dead

“Cars have never been more competent than they are today … and never less useful,” wrote the critic Stephen Bayley in his 2012 book Cars. More competent, less useful. The method I used to measure what would seem like a paradoxical statement is the concept of “proper function” and “system function” by theorist Beth Preston. […]

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 […]

“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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