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

Products Of Material Culture – SVA MA Design Research

Shani Rodan

Products Of Material Culture

Products Of Material Culture


As socialized people who live in a globalized world community, we are all part of the infamous consumption culture. We buy all kinds of different commodities such as food, clothing, shoes, and accessories. The products one owns help to create an identity which represents personal preferences and point of view, and which distinguishes one person from another. Consumer products carry a cultural narrative within them, being connectors between an individual and society. Due to globalization, many products are manufactured in the Far East, at the same factories, designed by the same retail agencies. Concurrently, a product considered beautiful and trendy is adopted by a large segment of the population. This results in the existence of products that are universal, instantly recognized and familiar. In fact, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer claim that  “culture today is infecting everything with sameness”.

As I was recently furnishing my entire apartment, I faced a dilemma. Should I design an individual space and create a personal atmosphere by purchasing unique furniture, or would it be better to buy almost everything at Ikea, which is the most affordable option, in the knowledge that my apartment might be too similar to other apartments. Another area where I experience that issue is at school – in my class, which contains a diverse human mix,  people use primarily Mac computers and iPhones.

Following all of the above, I was very happy when a good friend of mine asked me to join him at Material Connexion, a unique venue in the city, which essentially functions as a material library showcasing materials instead of books. More than 1000 assorted materials, arranged as pieces or tiles, welcome visitors to touch and explore them.New developments and technological processes enable the creation of new materials such as a very light polymer which integrates with medical fields, or give new qualities to existing materials, such as a knitted 3D textile which functions as a conductor.

Nowadays, when consumer products are manufactured far away from our view and presented to the customer as a finished product on a lighted shelf in a store or as an image on an e-commerce website, it is a true joy to discover a place like Material Connexion, which respects the process of creation, honors the process of production and draws major attention to the raw material which constitutes the foundation of the finished product. Material Connexion is a place that encourages that innovative thinking and research which invokes the question of the roles of nature and human labor working together with technology in a material culture.


Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”.Trans. John Cumming. New York: Continuum.2002.