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

Summer Intensive – SVA MA Design Research

About

June 1–12, 2020

School of Visual Arts

**UPDATE APRIL 23: We will now be holding the Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive online. We have extended our application deadline to May 15, 2020. Apply here!**

The Design Research, Writing and Criticism Department is pleased to offer an online writing summer intensive aimed at those who would like to refine their skills as thinkers, researchers and storytellers. For practicing designers, this is a chance to examine the profession and its impact through writing and publishing. Clear thinking, deep research and engaging expression are vital skills in a contemporary designer’s toolkit. For creative professionals, this program offers methods and insights for understanding and writing compellingly about images, objects and spaces.

A range of writing genres and imaginative approaches will be introduced. Working individually and in small groups, participants will experiment with essential techniques such as interviewing, archive research, close observation, analysis and critique, and then to develop and finesse several projects. In addition to personal work, the team will collaboratively produce and distribute a publication.

Through a robust daily schedule of seminars, lectures and virtual field trips, the intensive offers students and working professionals a unique opportunity to study with a faculty composed of leading writers and editors, and engage in conversation with prominent designers, architects and urban planners.

By the end of the program, participants will have completed several pieces of writing, formulated ideas for stories, and garnered a robust set of tools and approaches for writing authoritatively and imaginatively about design.

Faculty and lecturers include Steven HellerKarrie Jacobs, Jennifer Kabat, Adam Harrison Levy, Robin Pogrebin, Craig Taylor, Rob Walker, and Molly Heintz. Guest speakers and interviewees have included Eddie Opara of Pentagram, Nathan Adkisson of Local Projects, David van der Leer of DVDL Design Decisions, Damon Rich of HECTOR Designs, curator Ellen Lupton, Interboro Partners, Quilian Riano, BIG Architects, and Rockwell Group Lab, among others.

**Applications deadline extended to May 15, 2020.**

Tuition: $1,500.

Apply now!

Prerequisite: Participants must have completed a four-year undergraduate degree.

Note: Samples of published or unpublished writing (such as essays, blog posts or articles) about design, architecture or related subjects are required for review and acceptance to this program.

Instructors: Adam Harrison Levy, Molly Heintz, Steven Heller, Karrie Jacobs, Jennifer Kabat, Robin Pogrebin, Craig Taylor, Rob Walker, Eric Schwartau. 

Guest speakers and interviewees have included: Andy Bernheimer Architecture, BIG, NewLab, Flavor Paper, Local Projects, Met Media Lab, MOS, Pentagram, Rockwell Group Lab, Michael Sorkin Studio, SO-IL, SY Partners, Viñoly Architects.

Past site visits and curator-led exhibition tours: Brooklyn Historical Society, Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, MoMA, Museum of Art & Design, Museum of the City of New York, Governor’s Island, and more!

Photos: Photos from last year’s Intensive are available here.

Curriculum

Project 1: Narrative Strategies for Objects, instructed by Rob Walker

Rob Walker will lecture on how to develop narratives around objects. Students will engage in close observation, archive research, and other means of data gathering, and then experiment with strategies to illuminate an object’s significance through storytelling. Typical assignments: Typical assignments: Bring in an object that has some kind of personal significance to you that no one could guess by looking at it. Write a 300–500-word story about the object. Next find an object that you have noticed or paid more attention to since the pandemic crisis began and write a 500-word story about it, based on research, which brings it to life.

Project 2: Studio Profiles, instructed by Adam Harrison Levy 

This project launches with lectures on Interviewing Skills and Profile Writing. Participants will then perform exercises to develop their interviewing techniques, prepare questions, and do background research, before interviewing several well-known designers. Using the interview as primary research, each student will write a studio profile for critique in a review session. Typical interviewees: Andy Bernheimer Architecture, BIG, Flavor Paper, Met Media Lab, Abbott Miller at Pentagram, MOS, Rockwell Group Lab, Michael Sorkin Studio, Gael Towey, Viñoly Architects. Typical assignment: Read up on the designer you’ll be interviewing and prepare a list of questions based on an assigned aspect of your profile (i.e. biography, studio philosophy, or working practice). These questions will be workshopped with course instructors. After the interview is completed, write a 500-word profile of your subject.

Project 3: Reviews, instructed by Robin Pogrebin

Participants will be introduced to the principles of reviewing across genres and across media. After some initial exercises to hone writing skills, the development of a point of view and argument, and some reading exercises to examine exemplars of the form, participants will write their own reviews and present them for critique. Typical assignment: Write a 500-word review of a design- or architecture-related exhibition. Typical guests: Roberta Smith, art critic, The New York Times.

Project 4: Essaying the Essay—the City Space in Shutdown, instructed by Jennifer Kabat

An essai is a test and essaying means to attempt, to try something out, give it a shot and explore. We are in an unprecedented moment when the world has been turned upside down. Students are asked to look for something that intrigues them, that they’ve seen and are curious about in the urban sphere of “social distance.” It might be a stray bit of language developed for this moment, the kinds of weeds that grow on a patch of land you see from your window, a plaque on your building, the park you walk in every afternoon. It’s something that has caught your eye in lockdown whether you’re in Stockholm, Sioux City, San Francisco, Staten Island, or Seoul. This quote from Walter Benjamin from “A Berlin Chronicle” might serve as a guide: “Not to find one’s way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal. It requires ignorance—nothing more. But to lose oneself in a city—as one loses oneself in a forest—that calls for quite a different schooling. Then, signboards and street names, passersby, roofs, kiosks, or bars must speak to the wanderer like a cracking twig under his feet in the forest, like the startling call of a bittern in the distance, like the sudden stillness of a clearing with a lily standing erect at its center.” Reflections, pp. 8-9.

Project 5: Speaking of the Streets, instructed by Craig Taylor

The Speaking of the Streets Project is a two‐week‐long assignment that culminates in the production of a play built from the scenes and scraps of dialogue collected by students. The project will focus on both monologues and duologues. The study of dialogue will be both a training exercise to sharpen skills of observation and will become a work of collaborative art. The project will allow us to express, in a kaleidoscopic view, an array of diverse voices. It will combine fiction and non‐fiction. For this revised course, we will look at the current global pandemic, and how it leaves its mark on our conversations, interactions, and language. 

Project 6: Engineered Nature, instructed by Karrie Jacobs 

In ways good and bad, the designed environment and the natural one have overlapped and merged. Our cities contain increasingly sophisticated works of architecture that mimic or replace long lost wetlands or create wildflower meadows on rooftops or alpine slopes atop waste treatment plants or inside shopping malls. We will explore this phenomenon in a variety of ways including lectures, group discussions, conversations with special guests, individual field trips in which the students look for examples in their own immediate surroundings and critique them for the group.  The class will culminate in a writing project based on  group research. Readings will include essays by Adriaan Geuze, Menno Schilthuizen, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Neri Oxman.

Project 7: Editing and Publishing, instructed by Molly Heintz

Students collectively edit, co-design, produce, and disseminate a publication featuring work produced during the Intensive. The format is discussed and determined by the group, changing year to year. Previous formats have included: an exhibition/installation, tweet storms, manifesto handbills, and declamation in public space documented by video. In this workshop students also learn best practices for pitching their work to editors and receive guidance on publishing their work following the Intensive.

Sample Guest Project: Writing About Digital Artifacts, instructed by Virginia Heffernan

How do you analyze and write about digital artifacts, including Instagram filters, tweets, Google Maps, Pinterest boards, Spotify playlists, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and just about anything else made of bytes and pixels? Students will learn a theoretical groundwork for writing about the Internet; how to summon extra-linguistic artifacts in language; techniques for close but detached readings of individual artifacts; the role of a critic’s existing online avatar in developing her authentic and authoritative critical voice; and the challenge, in turbulent times, of handling digital objects, some of which are culturally radioactive. Typical assignment: Students identify an artifact of their choosing and write a 300 word essay essay that puts that artifact into context of (1) the network it rides (2) the cultural and digital ecosystem it lives in and (3) the Internet itself. For those less digitally inclined, these artifacts can even illuminate the non-digital world. What is it like to be non-digital, undigitizable? The augmented-reality figures in Pokemon Go illuminate the natural and built world on which they are juxtaposed. The corrosion of a wet phone ties the virtual dance on its screen to materials that can rust and decay.

Sample Timetable

Week 1

  • M

    Session 1

    Molly Heintz: Introduction of Intensive projects

  •  

    Session 2

    Rob Walker: Narrative Strategies for Objects pt. 1

  •  

    Session 3

    Rob Walker: Narrative Strategies for Objects pt. 2

  •  

    Session 4

    Welcome Drinks

  • Tu

    Session 1

    Adam Harrison Levy: The Art of the Interview pt. 1

  •  

    Session 2

    Lunchtime roundtable with Steve Heller

  •  

    Session 3

    Karrie Jacobs: Complexity and Contradiction in the City pt. 1 (Times Square visit)

  • W

    Session 1

    Robin Pogrebin: How to Write and Exhibition Review

  •  

    Session 2

    Karrie Jacobs: Complexity and Contradiction in the City pt. 2 (Park Avenue Armory visit)

  • Th

    Session 1

    Jennifer Kabat: The Personal Essay pt. 1

  • F

    Session 1

    Adam Harrison Levy: The Art of the Interview pt. 2

  •  

    Session 2

    Studio Visits

  •  

    Session 3

    Studio Visits

  • F

    Session 1

    Adam Harrison Levy: The Art of the Interview pt. 2

  •  

    Session 2

    Studio Visits

  • S

    Session 1

    Craig Taylor: Speaking of the Streets pt. 1

Week 2

  • M

    Session 1

    Karrie Jacobs: Complexity and Contradiction in the City pt. 3

  • Tu

    Session 1

    Robin Pogrebin: How to Write and Exhibition Review pt. 2

  •  

    Session 2

    Molly Heintz, David Knowles: Media Workshop

  • W

    Session 1

    Craig Taylor: Speaking of the Streets pt. 2

  •  

    Session 2

    Rob Walker: Narrative Strategies for Objects pt. 2

  • Th

    Session 1

    Adam Harrison Levy: The Art of the Interview pt. 2

  •  

    Session 2

    Jennifer Kabat: The Personal Essay pt. 2

  • F

    Session 1

    Virginia Heffernan: Writing About Digital Artifacts pt. 2

  •  

    Session 2

    Molly Heintz, David Knowles: Media Workshop pt. 2 (Publication distribution)

  •  

    Session 3

    Staging of Speaking of the Streets Play (Guest actors)

Instructors

Testimonials

  • “There were concrete lessons, strong criticism, and tools to take away, but the best thing about the intensive was the relationships forged with fellow students and instructors.”
  • “The Intensive has been a fantastic way of experiencing the city. It’s pretty mind-boggling looking back at all the fantastic people I have met and all the incredible places I have seen.”
  • “I learned something from everyone. Both instructors and classmates are vital to the education process and the bar was set by all participants.”
  • “I don’t think I’ve been involved in such a well-planned workshop before. The planning was clear and the pace was challenging without being overwhelming.”
  • “For me the openness was key: Not feeling afraid to share unfinished work.”
  • “Meeting professionals like Steven Heller and Debbie Millman, and visiting studios like Sagmeister & Walsh, were spectacular experiences. All of the program’s guests were relevant to what I want to do with my practice.”

Apply

Applications being accepted as space available; priority enrollment deadline April 1. Tuition is $2,000.

How to Apply

There are two ways to apply. Choose one of the two options.

Option 1:

Complete your application using our online form

Option 2:

Email the following materials to residency@sva.edu:

  • Completed application form
  • Work sample (see guidelines below)
  • Statement of purpose (250–500 words)
  • CV

Work Sample Guidelines

Writing sample: Up to 2,000 words of published or unpublished writing (such as essays, blog posts, or articles) about design, architecture, or related subjects (.doc or .pdf file)

International Applicants

International applicants are welcome, however, the College cannot provide any I-20 or other forms to nonmatriculated students, so it is your responsibility to speak with your consulate to determine the proper means of traveling to the United States. SVA cannot provide you with a visa, nor assist you in obtaining one. Applicants are expected to have fluency in English sufficient for engaging in meaningful dialogue with other participants.

Refund Policy

There is a $500 cancellation fee for withdrawal in writing at least 2 weeks prior to the start of the program. There will be no refunds for withdrawals requested less than 2 weeks prior to the start of the program. To withdraw from the program you must notify the Division of Continuing Education, in writing, of your intention to withdraw. You may do so: by e-mailing your withdrawal to residency@sva.edu; or by sending written notification via mail or fax. The Division of Continuing education is located at 209 East 23rd Street. All refunds for payment made by American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa, will be credited to the appropriate credit card account. Payment made by check or money order will be refunded by check, payable to the registrant. Processing of refunds takes approximately four weeks.

Find further details about applications, enrollment, refunds, and housing here.