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

Research – SVA MA Design Research


Thesis Research

We Call It Freedom Village: Brooklyn, Illinois’s Radical Tactics of Black Place-Making

This is an excerpt from Alicia Olushola Ajayi’s larger thesis portfolio titled “We Call It Freedom Village: Brooklyn, Illinois’ Radical Tactics of Black Place-making.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” Introduction Brooklyn, Illinois, sits directly across from St. Louis, Missouri, on the east bank of the Mississippi […]

Thesis Research

Tha: From Preserving Sites to Self

This is an excerpt from Ridhima Sharma’s larger thesis portfolio titled “Tha: From Preserving Sites to Self.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” What is this India, apart from her physical and geographical aspects? [. . . ]How did she lose that old strength, and has she […]

Thesis Research

The Space of In-Between: A formal design analysis of the car as a social space

This is an excerpt from Galina Yordanov’s larger thesis portfolio titled “Driving Through Division: The Car as Actor in Lebanese Society.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” The Intimate Space The average passenger vehicle fits four or five people, and is furnished to accomodate the needs […]

Thesis Research

The Rise of the Design Procedural: Why Rogers and Cantwell Didn’t Want to Write Another Show About Police or Doctors

This is an excerpt from Deena Denaro’s larger thesis portfolio titled “The Rise of the Design Procedural: Exploring Design’s Narrative Agency in Serial Television.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” Is that a fish tank?  A distressed Texas twang is punctuated by the well-timed bell of an […]

Thesis Research

While the Doors Are Closed: The Art Self(ie) at Home

This is an excerpt from Polly Adams’s larger thesis portfolio titled “Enter Through the Gift Shop: Designed Objects, Images, and Identity in New York City’s Art Museums.” It is a part of the Class of 2020’s graduate thesis presentation “Statements from Isolation.” A Brave New World While most of the world has screeched to a halt […]


Why I Teach What I Teach

To answer the question, why I teach, I must return to why I design, why I art direct, why I write, and why I helped found this program. It’s a simple evolution. I stumbled into graphic design while pursuing a job as a cartoonist and illustrator for an underground newspaper. I loved to draw, although […]



These pieces were written for Rob Walker’s Narrative Strategies for Objects project as part of the 2019 Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive. They are published in Overlooked/Underappreciated, an examination of the minutiae of quotidian life.


The Personal Booth

The personal booth at Don Filippo Pizzeria, perhaps the only one of its kind in New York City, is nearly invisible. It’s tucked between two standard booths, beneath a small TV at ceiling height, just past the register. Large enough to fit one comfortably, with enough room for bags and coat.


Service Door

Though it’s not unique to New York, the service door entrance is used in a way that is characteristically New York. New Yorkers use this space as an outlet, as a piece of municipal furniture. As a door setback from the sidewalk, it offers a place of refuge.


The Postman Doesn’t Have to Ring

Like most New Yorkers, I don’t live in a doorman building. Whether I’m expecting a package or not, I answer my door buzzer, and if I hear “Amazon” or “FedEx” or “UPS” I buzz them in. By the end of every day there are at least four or five packages sitting in the downstairs hallway or at the bottom of the stairs.


Affable Attendant

It’s unmistakable that a thoughtful designer created this beauty. The elegantly scruffed, antique-looking design stands out in the power-washed painted concrete doorway. Its brown color is rich and warm like an RCA tabletop radio.


Screens Extinguished

Because of extenuating circumstances (a particularly large and heavy suitcase for a two-week trip to New York), I have made a calculated decision. Navigating the subway with this bag would be a physical feat I haven’t adequately trained for, and a Lyft driver would be unlikely to help me wrest my luggage into the trunk.


On Commitment I

On better days, excuses to visit the corner cafe can be limited. It usually falls after teeth brushing and before the first ping on Slack. But mostly as walks that converge post lunch break, just past noon, at congregations that disrupt the urban grid. On worse days, that race towards a refill is at closing time as well. 


How many people can you fit on a fire escape?

Oil-based, high gloss exterior paint over rust resistant primer, caked on decade after decade until it bubbles and cracks. A little bit of rust around the bolts. Simple brackets attached to brick facades in a way that, upon first glance, wouldn’t seem to hold up a shelf in my apartment. Fire escapes are an undeniable icon of New York City.


Seen / Unseen

We’re safe because we cross together. Orderly white lines bisect our path from one curb to the next: equidistant, equal width, all the way across. If we walk as a mass across this slatted surface, then the people in the cars will see us better. If we stay together, and within the width, then we’ll be safe.


Witch’s Eye

The India Street exit of the northbound Greenpoint G station has two convex mirrors mounted at the exit. Or entry, depending on your point of view. They are both around seven to ten inches in diameter, lined with a strip of black rubber around the edge. They have recently been replaced, but the dark lines of grime linger, outlines of their larger predecessors.


Speaker for the Streets

One of the best things about NYC is the noise. Over 8 million people just simply existing comes in more increased audible waves than you would ever imagine. But perhaps the noise which transcends all else is the manufactured sounds that come from the unmistakable JBL Flip speaker.


Aegolius verizon

As early as 2002, ornithologists reported sightings of a bird hitherto unknown in New York City: Aegolius verizon. The reports swelled with each passing year, until, at last, Aegolius verizon joined the pigeon on the top shelf of the city aviary, and sightings were no longer worth seeing. Today, Aegolius verizon perches on every other rooftop, hooks its talons into the eaves, and keeps watch.


Curbs of Allure

“Please curb your dog.” A plea no bigger than a postcard faces the street with a logo, “Curb Allure,” stamped in the corner. The small post sits behind a glass encased in aluminum or steel and looks welded to the fence. The fence is only a foot high and guards a tree. If you’re not familiar with Curb Allure, it’s the latest brand name in tree guards.


The Mighty Traffic Cone

New York is known as the city that never sleeps, but it is also the city that never stops. With more than 731,000 vehicles entering Manhattan every day, plus, buses, taxis, and bicycles, mobility could become a challenge.