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

Thesis Research – Research Types – SVA MA Design Research

Thesis Research

Thesis Research

Networking & Play: Designing Interaction in Coworking Spaces

How does physical space impact the people in a coworking space? What is the experience that coworking spaces try to create? Coworking space proprietors use the space as a strategic marketing tool, as a community-based experience. Great, this is exactly what the isolated individual who works all day from home, feels they are missing. The […]

Thesis Research

Declutter or Die: How the Home Organization Industry Designs the Metaconsumer

Revenue at The Container Store (TCS) was $820 million in 2016, a healthy 5.1% slice of the $16 billion US retail home organization industry, making it the category leader.  While total revenue did shrink slightly from the previous year, a development the company attributes to challenges faced by all US brick-and-mortar retailers, TCS predicts that […]

Thesis Research

The Urine Economy: The Future Smart City?  

Can you imagine a future New York in which urine is widely and maybe even exclusively used as a source of electrical power and agricultural fertilizer? Maybe not. We have flush toilets and sewage treatment plants for that, don’t we? Yet, in places like Uganda and Madagascar, where the sanitation infrastructure that New York enjoys […]

Thesis Research

Exhibiting Absence: Communicating Grief through Dress, Decor, and the Digital.

The ritual of selection of the right frame, or the right candle holder, the right ceramic angel to hang on the wall with a message of remembrance inscribed in it, becomes an extended part of the mourning process. Different from the ultimately pragmatic value of storing the ashes of a loved one in an urn, […]

Thesis Research

Designing the Instapersona: Instagram and the Business of Identity

On October 6, 2010, twenty-five-thousand people signed up for Instagram within the first 24 hours of the app’s launch. During its first year, the platform gained 12 million users—a number that took Facebook two years to accomplish.¹²³ Created as a fun, accessible photo sharing app for the iPhone, Instagram has evolved into an industry of over […]

Thesis Research

The Way Out: Rewriting Wayfinding Design in the Digital Age

This is a snippet from the essay “Sticky Agency,” one of four essays in Anja’s applied thesis portfolio. “Sticky Notes” I am walking down the street, and my right foot suddenly comes to a halt. Someone else’s discarded pink, goooooey, bubble gum is stuck to the sole of my shoe. Disgusted, I look down at […]

Thesis Research

Hyperparasite: You Have More Followers Than You Think

The privacy scholar Alan Westin foretold of serious consequences from a new form of surveillance based on monitoring people via their personal data stored in government databases. Today, the behaviors, movements, social relationships, interests, weaknesses and most private moments of billions are constantly recorded, evaluated and analyzed in real-time and turned into vast profits by […]

Thesis Research

How to Pronounce Design in Portuguese: Brazil Today

Alum Frederico Duarte’s first major exhibition as curator, “Como se pronuncia design em português: Brasil Hoje,” opens September 23rd, 2017 at the Museu do Design e do Moda in Lisbon.   Frederico began researching Brazilian contemporary design as a student at SVA Design Research in 2009 and this show is the largest manifestation of his research […]

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

The Design of Lighting for Safety in South African Townships and Informal Settlements

A lack of safe lighting is a daily reality for almost one million children living in South African informal settlements. Township residents described safety as “protection,” or as “not having to constantly look over my shoulder.” My research investigates various forms of lighting currently in use in Kliptown and in informal settlements in Ikageng. High-mast […]

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 […]

Audio, Sightlines, Thesis Research

Lighting and Public Safety in NYC

Olivia Coetzee examines the politics of public lighting in New York City and how darkness and light can articulate boroughs, neighborhoods, and social classes.

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.

Sightlines, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

Influencers in the System: The Instant Media of Fashion

It was a Saturday morning at The Grove shopping mall, one of the biggest outdoor retail and entertainment complexes in Los Angeles. The West Coast’s winter breeze was still warm enough for Rebecca Minkoff’s off-shoulder tops and sundresses. A rail car arrived with a sign reading, “REBECCA MINKOFF, #RMGoesGrove.” With live performances from MILCK and […]

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

Rules, Play, Magic: Evaluating Games as Design

Games haven’t been considered as design for very long. In fact, what was considered a game is still regularly debated. The term “game design” was reportedly first used by Redmond A. Simonsen, a graphic designer working for the wargame company SPI in the late 1960s.(1) Simonsen was primarily working with James Dunnigan on games simulating […]

Sightlines, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

DATA FEELS: Digital Objects of Collective Care

The validity or trust in objects relates to the legibility of their design. All the objects I’ve studied were made with what is at hand, and therefore bare inconsistencies. This distinguishes them from interfaces designed for patient use and requiring some measure of compliance. It is their mark of patient labor. Inconsistency is awkward to […]

Sightlines, Thesis Abstract, Thesis Research

The Work at Hand

In the rear corner of a store at 391a Orchard Road in Singapore, a woman with spiky grey hair and glasses sits on a high stool, above a small custom worktable with a specialized sewing machine.  She sits just askew of the table, focusing on the piece in her lap. Exclusive luxury products on beautifully […]

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 […]