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



On Commitment II

Everyone has the same card, but no two are punched alike. In New York, as in many cities, coffee has become a serious phenomenon, and over the past ten years, barista culture has proliferated. A barista’s commitment to coffee can be nothing short of extraordinary.


The Exit Sign

Despite their ubiquitous presence in everyday life, exit signs are designed for disaster, and in New York City specifically, this design has rules. While most municipalities follow the guidelines for exit signs issued by the National Electric Code (NEC), the New York City Building Authority produces their own additional requirements, rendering the majority of manufactured exit signs unusable.


The American Prison Uniform: A Snapshot

In the late eighteenth century, when American colonists established detainment centers for criminals, they borrowed what they knew from Europe. Jails were disorderly, unsanitary, and lenient regarding regimen. People with means could purchase their way out of the discomforts of incarceration, buying or bartering for – among other comforts – clothing.

Thesis Research

Everything That Rises: Thinking About Design in Precarious Times

This is the introduction to the Class of 2019 publication, Everything That Rises: Thinking about Design in Precarious Times. The publication contains essays and excerpts from the students’ thesis research and was an accompaniment to Precarious: The 2019 Graduate Symposium held on May 13, 2019 at the SVA Theatre.


Journeying Through Precarity

The theme of precarity brings to mind the seminal 1941 Jorge Luis Borges short story, “La Biblioteca de Babel.” Written in response to another not-so-distant foray into mutually-assured self-annihilation, his narrative fantasy offered readers a metaphor for the biblical scale of our global, cultural crisis.

Thesis Research

Style on the Inside

Within an American penal system intending to remove individuality through the enforcement of uniformity, incarcerated individuals’ clothing in fact functions as a site of negotiation, on which articulations of identity and institution combat, push-pull, and give-take symbolic ownership of the body.

Thesis Research

Designing Civic Participation

Experts agree that civic engagement is receding across the globe. To improve civic discourse and sustain democratic societies, active interventions are required. But these interventions cannot be expected to come from governments, who rather prefer less scrutiny from a highly engaged citizenry. Instead, interventions need to be pursued by civilians vying to protect democracy.

Thesis Research

Porcelain Cigarette Holder

As an object, it is subtle. It is made of porcelain and hand-painted with a delicate pink floral motif. It is shaped like a small tea saucer with an attached pedestal, featuring three tiers of tiny, hollow cylinders jutting upwards, waiting to be filled, like vases for microscopic roses.

Thesis Research

Research Conversation 

Codename: “What if something had appeared that you had never known, but only imagined?” Context: There is no time. There is no space. When will we talk—face to face? Keywords: un/consciousness, fiction, love, cosmos, relationship, humanity, distance 

Thesis Research

On the design of interactive art for healing

One in five American adults use at least one psychiatric medication. In 2010, 11 percent of adult men and 21 percent of adult women revealed they were taking antidepressants. Aldous Huxley, the early 20th century English writer and philosopher, foresaw that we seem to be entering the age of mockery; one example being that medical research has “advanced” to the point where few people are considered healthy.

Thesis Research

The State of Kuwait

What does it mean to be Kuwaiti? A seemingly straightforward question—yet, one of present urgency. In only 14 years, the population of Kuwait exploded, doubling in size from 2.1 million people to its current population of over 4 million people, of whom 70% are not Kuwaiti.

Thesis Research

Framing The Wayfinding Experience Through The Lens Of A City Language

Wayfinding is not just a beautiful map and well-designed signs. It’s a practice that should aim to encourage humans’ abilities to find their paths and promote urban mobility. This feels especially imperative since 55 percent of the world’s population is thought to be living in an urban area or city, with that figure set to rise to 68 percent over the coming decades.

Thesis Research

Partial Fish, Whole Truth

The Classic Norwegian Roasted Salmon (or CNRS for brevity’s sake) – of the “Changing Seas: Responsible Seafood” line of products from the “Blue Circle” organization, which serves its commodities exclusively through Whole Foods Market, a subsidiary of a corporation known as Amazon – is a sophisticated truth.

Thesis Research

Hitting the Ceiling

There is really only one word in the English language to describe the top enclosure of a building: roof. No synonyms of “roof” are directly equivalent, but they are revealing. Some, like “ceiling” or “parapet,” describe parts of a roof. But others, like “house,” “shelter,” or “crown,” point to the essentiality of the element. To put a roof over your head means to be housed, to have shelter. This is arguably the fundamental purpose of architecture.

Thesis Research

Unfolding the Soul

As I walk through the city of New York, I pass by a multitude of flags which conjure up a sense of intensity. Their movements caused by the wind, their reverberating aura, embody my thoughts. I gaze at these moving images. I touch them with my eyes, I hear their waving sounds with my gaze. 4,600 miles away from my homeland, the presence of the American flag is constantly animating my memory, my identity, and reminding me where I am located geographically, emotionally, and culturally.

Thesis Research

Learning In-Situ: The Materiality of Knowledge-Making

At the front of Mrs. Balliett’s second-grade classroom at The Buckley School, an independent all-boys school in Upper Manhattan, is a colorful, wall-to-wall rug. It is deep blue with multicolored polka dots woven into 100% Invista type 6.6. Continuous Filament Nylon. 

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, […]