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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Audio, Thesis Research

Designing Sex, Death, and Survival

In April 2016, BusinessWeek invited Ida Benedetto to present her insights on the power of experience design at its annual design conference. She used the opportunity to reflect on recent the research into the fringes of transformative experiences that included adventures with sex party purveyors, funeral directors, and wilderness guides. Ida opened her talk discussing […]

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 […]

Audio, Thesis Research

New Amsterdam, Part 1

“New Amsterdam” is the first installment of an experimental new podcast that presents near-future design fiction in the form of a radio-drama style narrative. The story takes place in New York in the year 2027, ten years after a series of hurricanes flooded major parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, and follows the Commissioner of Emergency […]

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, 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 […]

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.

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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

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 […]

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, 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

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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 […]

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 […]

“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…]

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