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

Posture vs. Gesture – SVA MA Design Research

Derek Bangle

Posture vs. Gesture

Next time you are walking alongside a row of parked cars, single one out and take a moment to understand its posture. The car you’ve chosen to look at may be crouched like a sprinter in the starting blocks, or lazily leaning back as if on an ottoman eating grapes, or sitting upright as if it had a book balanced on the crown of its head. It’s easy to anthropomorphize: we relate to things in terms of our own bodies, and, well, we’ve never been a car ourselves.


To look at the design of a car in terms of posture is not revolutionary, but it has one implication that I would specifically like to examine. Posture is by definition static: it is defined as “a person’s position when standing or sitting.” It is not the position while running, jumping or climbing trees. The idea of posture is easily transferrable to the automobile because cars, too, spend most of their lives standing still. Even at speed, the body of the car remains unchanged. The forms of a car are defined by stamped metal and molded plastic – in other words three-dimensionally frozen media. Car design is framed within the bounds of posture.


But what if we have exhausted the formal possibilities within the concept of posture? What if we reframe the conversation in terms of gesture? Untold creative opportunities lie untapped because cars, in and of themselves, are fixed in one shape. Gesture is defined as “a movement of part of the body, […] to express an idea or meaning.” It is that last part that has remained unattainable for car designers so far – a whole new stratum of communication based on the movements, broad or subtle, that the car makes of its own accord.


In his book Cruising Utopia, José Esteban Muñoz provides insight into the concept of the gesture: “the body in motion is the foundation of a visual lexicon in which the gesture speaks loud and clear.” Although Muñoz is referring to the “ephemeral knowledge” contained within the gestures of the queer dancer and singer Kevin Aviance, the idea of the gesture as an impermanent but incredibly rich medium for communication could be applied outside of the performance realm. Or rather, objects that previously contained no performative aspect could be brought into the performance realm.