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





(212) 592-2228

“Exploding Footnotes: Design Research in Action” Live Crit and Exhibition Opening – SVA MA Design Research

“Exploding Footnotes: Design Research in Action” Live Crit and Exhibition Opening


Exhibition: Wednesday, May 13–Monday, May 18, 2:00–8:00 p.m.
Opening Reception and Live Crit: Wednesday, May 13, 5:00–10:30 p.m.

Read the exhibition publication, Thinking and Things: SVA Design Research 2015
“Exploding Footnotes” is an exhibition which presents design research as a vital and visceral tool of critical inquiry. It opens with an event where the graduating students of the SVA Department of Design Research, Writing & Criticism deliver tightly honed presentations of their thesis work, followed by a live critique led by invited guest critics, and moderated by Nicola Twilley.

The exhibition turns the spotlight on the thesis research process. It seeks to retrieve the gold dust often buried in footnotes at the bottom of the page, to expose and examine the research trails, the behind-the-scenes travails, legwork, drama, breakthroughs, doubts, and dead-ends that are a part-and-parcel of in-depth research, but normally smoothed over by the linear narrative of scholarly writing. By zeroing in on these tiny superscript numerals and the riches they contain, we celebrate the research process as well as its products.

This year’s graduating students will showcase the diverse manifestations of the deep research that underpins their thesis projects. Follow the year-long journeys of these design researchers as they navigate such intertwined themes as: digital prosthetics, design piracy, publishing as performance, the branding of Space 2.0, the design of death, cognitive biases, and design education. Bodies of research are linked and filtered by an overarching set of questions and analysis.

The exhibition is organized by the SVA MFA Design Criticism Class of 2015, collaborating with Superscript co-founder Molly Heintz, graphic designer Neil Donnelly, and HAO / Holm Architecture Office.


Opening Reception and Live Crit: Evening of Wednesday, May 13

4:00 p.m. Press Preview

4:30 p.m. Doors Open/Seating

5:00 p.m. Introduction: Alice Twemlow, Chair of SVA Department of Design Research, Writing & Criticism

MA Students’ Presentations:

Brittany Dickinson on fashion design education’s attempts to stitch sustainability and ethics into its pedagogy.

Lisa Silbermayr on the impact of language in the political decisions and regulatory frameworks that shape New York’s public housing.

Alper Besen on how critical thinking is taught, learned, and reflected upon in architecture education.

Christina Milan on the shifting relationship between viewer and design object in the digitization of design museums.

Susan Merritt on what the design of burial containers says about changing attitudes towards death and burial practices in the US.

Molly Butcher on the material culture of the contemporary space industry in light of recent efforts to put humans on Mars.

6:00 p.m. Refreshment break

6:30 p.m. MFA Students’ Presentations:

Meg Farmer on the role of the image in influencing the preservation of mid-century domestic architecture in Southern California.
With guest critic Alexandra Lange, architecture and design writer and critic.

Lauren Palmer on the problematics of archiving the live performance as arts magazine.
With guest critic David Senior, bibliographer at the Museum of the Modern Art Library.

Mariam Aldhahi on the creation of Design Districts and their varying definitions of design.
With guest critic Sharon Zukin, urban sociologist, author and professor, CUNY Graduate Center.

Justin Zhuang on piracy as a force for innovation in the world of industrial design.
With guest critic Christopher Sprigman, co-author of The Knockoff Economy.

8:15 p.m.   Feedback and discussion with all students, critics, audience
With guest moderator Nicola Twilley

8:45 p.m. Afterparty with refreshments


Nicola Twilley (Moderator) is a researcher, designer, and writer. She is author of the blog Edible Geography, co-host of the Gastropod podcast, and a contributing writer for The New Yorker. She is co-founder of the Foodprint Project and Future Plural, and has been an adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she became co-director of Studio-X NYC in 2011. In 2011-13, she was a Research Fellow at the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art.

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, contributing to New York Magazine, The New Yorker blog, The New York Times, Design Observer, and Dezeen, among others. She has taught architecture criticism in the SVA MFA Design Criticism program and at NYU. During academic year 2013–2014 she was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is the author of Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), as well as the e-book The Dot-Com City: Silicon Valley Urbanism (Strelka Press, 2012).

David Senior is the bibliographer at the Museum of Modern Art Library, where he manages collection development. Senior lectures often on the history of artists’ publications and contemporary art and design publishing. He also curates exhibitions of MoMA Library materials including, most recently: “Ray Johnson Designs,” “Please Come to the Show,” “Millennium Magazines,” and “Access to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968–74.”

Christopher Sprigman teaches intellectual property law, antitrust law, competition policy and comparative constitutional law at NYU Law School. His scholarship focuses on how legal rules affect innovation and the deployment of new technologies. He is the co- author of The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation (Oxford 2012), co-authored with Kal Raustiala of the UCLA School of Law. Sprigman has served as appellate counsel in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and been a partner at King & Spalding.

Sharon Zukin is professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and at the CUNY Graduate Center. Zukin is the author of books on cities, culture and consumer culture, and a researcher on urban, cultural and economic change. She was Broeklundian Professor from 1996 to 2008. She received the Lynd Award for Career Achievement in urban sociology, from the American Sociological Association, and the C. Wright Mills Book Award for Landscapes of Power. She was visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam, 2010-11, and a distinguished fellow in the Advanced Research Collaborative at the CUNY Graduate Center in fall 2014. She is author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places (Oxford University Press, 2010) and co-author of Global Cities, Local Streets (Routledge, to be published July 2015).