Page 1

New York City April 30, 2014

Do you care about design and its impact on the individual, society, and the environment? Are you interested in honing your research skills and developing your unique point of view? Whether your background is in design, journalism, science, history, or something else entirely, the SVA MA in Design Research, Writing and Criticism might just be the next step in your career trajectory. I’m Alice Twemlow, chair of program, and I want to invite you to find out how we’re building on the success of our Design Criticism program (D-Crit) in order to offer a high-intensity, one-year graduate degree that is unique in the field. If you’re interested in improving your current practice, or in changing direction completely, you should apply for admission this fall. We’re accepting applications through the end of June 2014. Feel free to email or call me, or drop by the department for a visit. I’m always happy to talk about our exciting curriculum, show you our lovely studio, and introduce you to faculty, alumni, and students. Here in the SVA Department of Design Research we study design in all its manifestations, with a focus on its implications. This means we don’t just focus on designed products or buildings, but also on the infrastructure that connects them, and the policy that shapes them. We try to look at what happens after a designed product is launched. We go beyond the glossy images supplied by the manufacturer to discover how things actually get used and discarded, and how they impinge upon our daily reality. We learn to build arguments, based on reporting and research, and to develop compelling narratives, which we then aim to get out into the world in the most targeted way possible. Central to the MA in Design Research are workshops in radio podcasting, video, exhibition curation, conferences, events, and online media. We’ve had remarkable success so far, with our graduates going on to work at museums and institutions like MoMA, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Vitra Design Museum, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Public Policy Lab, The Glass House, and Institute of Play; at publications including Metropolis, Domus, Curbed, Arch Daily, Surface, PIN-UP, and Architizer; at companies such as Real Art and Facebook; and design firms like Ziba Design, Steven Holl Architects, and Project Projects. Additionally, our graduates have gone on to teach at schools such as RISD, Pratt, NYU, Rutgers, University of Lisbon, and California Institute of the Arts; to pursue post-graduate research at V&A Museum and Harvard University; to publish books

with Thames & Hudson, MoMA, Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, and Princeton Architectural Press; to launch their own enterprises such as CLOG and Superscript; and to contribute to publications including Design Observer, Dezeen, New York Magazine, Works that Work, Core77, Designers & Books, Disegno, Los Angeles Review of Books, Print, Abitare, Domus, The Architect’s Newspaper, Design + Culture, and Wallpaper. They have also won writing awards and grants from Core 77, Design Observer, Design History Society, Frieze, and AOL. With the MA in Design Research we plan to expand this list still further by preparing students for future-facing careers in research, publishing, education, museums, institutes, design practice, and entrepreneurship, or for continued studies in a design-related subject. In fact, the program is geared toward providing graduates with a comprehensive set of research tools and methods you can apply to any foreseeable career path. The new MA program combines the rigor and depth of D-Crit and the lean physique of the Summer Intensive in Design Writing we’ve run for the past few years. We’d really like to attract even more professionals to the program—designers, architects, writers, educators, curators, and managers; your experience of working life always enhances our discussions. Condensing and refining our curriculum into a two-semester format, running from September to May, will surely make graduate study more realistic for those of you already embarked on your careers. And you want to know the really good news? All successful candidates will be offered a significant scholarship, bringing the tuition cost to way down below market rate. I believe that this, plus the fact that the program runs for just eight months, should make our MA in Design Research a very appealing and viable proposition to mid-career professionals as well as anyone who wants to deepen their knowledge of our manmade environment. What do you think? I look forward to discussing your individual goals for graduate study in design research. Yours truly,

Alice Twemlow

Gold Dust, The Tang of Shoe Leather, and Sheer Nerdy Joy: Reflections on Design Research Adam Harrison Levy, p. 3 Karrie Jacobs, p. 6 Anne Quito, p. 8 Justin Zhuang, p. 9

Bryn Smith, p. 11 Angela Riechers, p. 13 Molly Heintz, p. 14

SVA MA in Design Research, Writing and Criticism


Behind every great design exhibition, article, or initiative there’s a great researcher. And not just a bury-your-head-in-the-books researcher, but an active, on-the-streets-and-asking-the-toughquestions researcher—doing what urban design critic Karrie Jacobs calls RBWA (Research by Walking Around), what Zora Neale Hurston characterized as “poking and prying with a purpose,” and what architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable called “kicking a building.” Meaningful interpretation of design requires data. We glean this from primary sources in archives, town meetings, interviews with stakeholders, and visits to the studios, workshops, factories, stores, homes, and landfills where design is conceived, made, used, and disposed of. At a recent Open House for the SVA MA in Design Research, I invited faculty, students and alumni to tell us about the ways in which they use critical research in their working practices as designers, writers, filmmakers, teachers, and scholars. Their reflections were as diverse as they were 2 insightful and I’m glad to be able to share some of the gold dust with you here. Alice Twemlow, Chair SVA MA Design Research

ncy design  The Monocle-lization of cities  Nation branding in 

Adam Harrison Levy Instructor, MA in Design Research, Design Observer author, and BBC documentary producer and interviewer

Research is at the center of two of the classes I teach here: “Art of the Interview,” and a class we call “No Google: the design research class that demands legwork” which I coteach with Steve Heller. In the interviewing class students read and analyze exemplary interviews and profiles (like Truman Capote’s searing profile of Marlon Brando), and learn specific strategies and techniques from them. Then the students get to go out and start interviewing for themselves: first fellow classmates; then strangers on the street; and finally, through a series of studio visits, some of the most dynamic and innovative designers currently working in New York. A successful interview is almost always the result of great research: it’s the spine that gives you the knowledge to ask penetrating questions. But just as importantly, if not more so, it gives you the confidence to allow for tangents and digressions, which are often more revealing than more conventional answers. In the “No Google” class, one assignment is to visit the archives at the International Center of Photography, where we get a behind-the-scenes look at how the institution functions, as well as an

introduction to the weird and compelling world of the photographer Weegee. We see vintage prints of his work, and then each student is assigned an image. They research it using the vast holdings of the Picture Collection at the New York Public library. Weegee often photographed crime scenes and fires, so drawing on newspaper accounts, letters and recollections, and other visual sources, the students will construct a narrative, entirely based on fact, but using some of the techniques of fiction, to tell the story of what took place. Recently we visited the New York Historical Society where a curator gave us a tour of their amazing object collection—everything from Napoleon’s chair, to carved children’s toys from the 1920s, to an elaborate coach from the 1770s. From a list, our students get to choose an object, most from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and then use the closed stacked library to do primary-source research using letters, diaries and inventories, as well as secondary sources about design and manufacture, to build up a compelling narrative portrait of their object, as in Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects.


  South Sudan  Rem Koolhaas: the generic spectacle  The Swis

In terms of my work as a writer, and as a filmmaker, research is vital. I’m drawn to stories that start off as a knot—stories that have to be unraveled or untied, like mysteries or enigmas. In 2003 I was working as a historical researcher for a big budget BBC film drama documentary about Hiroshima. In the course of my research I stumbled on the following story:


One rainy night in Watertown, Massachusetts, a man was taking his dog for a walk. On the curb, in front of a neighbor’s house, he came across a pile of trash: old mattresses, cardboard boxes, a few broken lamps. In the heap of garbage he spotted a battered suitcase. He bent down and pulled it out. He turned the suitcase over and popped open the clasps. Inside he found a jumble of black-and-white photographs of devastated buildings, twisted girders, and blasted bridges— images of a ruined city. He snapped the clasps closed, tucked the suitcase under his arm, and hurried home. Standing at the kitchen table, he opened the suitcase again. He was looking at something he had never seen before: the effects of the first use of the atomic bomb. The man was looking at Hiroshima. The most gripping stories have the tang of shoe leather about them: narratives that are built from the

ground up, and based on original research, rather than stories that have been re-purposed from information that is already out there. This type of research and writing inevitably takes time, and calls for an acceptance of dead ends and seeming failures, but ultimately it’s much more rewarding for writer and reader alike. The ideal is to find an object, or a physical place, or a piece of graphic design, or a set of ideas, and to probe it from multiple angles: the biographical, the historical, the political, and the theoretical. It’s similar to cutting between a close-up in a movie to a wide shot and then back again, in a way that flows rhythmically and seamlessly. You want to combine three levels of storytelling, which you can think of as the brain, the eye, and the heart. So there’s the nuts and bolts of factual research and historical context; the evocative

blind see art in museums  Trash cans  Affordable housing in 

who ended up with the photographs and brought them back, illegally, to America. I used Microfilm at the NYPL of the declassified War Department Records of the United States Bombing Survey. I identified specifics such as the names of men, units, chronology and validation that the photographer was there. Most importantly, I think, in order to capture “the grain of the voice,” I studied Hiroshima coverage in newspapers of the time. It was a total surprise to me that the tone of these accounts was not triumphant, but rather it conveyed a widespread anxiety about what was unleashed and aesthetic description of the at the time, and in particular, the place or the object, or the image; fear that these new weapons would and an aspect of the story that be used on US cities. opens out into human, universal In oral history archives at the themes such as jealously, desire, University of Nevada, I found interloss, ecstasy, death, and love. views with scientists who worked on For Hiroshima I started off with the Atomic Energy Commission, as the “fact” of this cache of photowell as soldiers’ letters and diaries. graphs. But the mystery was: how Then I got on the phone with the did they end up on that Watertown children and grandchildren of Hirostreet corner? That was the knot that shima survivors and those involved had to be untied. in the attack. I went on a journey to establish Our aim is to teach you these the veracity of the story. I drove to research skills and methods and Watertown, Massachusetts to see to encourage you to deploy them what the place felt like. I took notes, to tell evocative, compelling narbut wasn’t sure if I was going to ratives—which we all still hunger include any of this in the final piece. for—using all the new and multiple Next I had to unravel the history platforms that are now available to of what happened on the ground us, and which explored here in this after the bomb was dropped: I department: written text, podcasts, consulted key books such as Richard blogs, exhibitions, and video. This Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic aim is girded by the belief that Bomb, John Hersey’s Hiroshima, and this kind of research helps to take the history of aerial bombing. design and cultural writing out of Then I conducted granular the groves of academia and into biographical research into the man the world.


NYC  Design of horse bits  Mannequin design  Pantone’s co

Karrie Jacobs

Instructor, MA in Design Research, and urban design critic


When Jane Jacobs wrote of Le Corbusier’s Radiant City in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, “It was so orderly, so visible, so easy to understand. It said everything in a flash, like a good advertisement,” her point, of course, is that real cities are nothing like advertisements. But it also reminds me of the way that renderings work like advertisements. I think that a lot of writing about design that we see now is based only on renderings—using really sexy renderings as link-bait in a blog or on Twitter. One of our graduates Chappell Ellison has written about this eloquently on Design Observer recently. I am here today to advocate what I call “Research By Walking Around,” or RBWA, as opposed to “Riffing on Rendering” or ROR. I think it’s impossible to really assess the meaning or value of a building, place, or object by encountering it in two dimensions. The real building, place, or object is always different than the ideal version in the rendering. From my own work I know that even if you’re dealing with a building that has yet to be built, just exploring the site and the surrounding neighborhood will tell you things you won’t find out from reading the press materials.

NYC is changing dramatically— it’s full of old buildings and new buildings, and amazing conflicts over development, and blocks that haven’t changed in one hundred or two hundred years, and blocks that are changing every single minute of every single day. And so I’ve been sending students out to places and buildings in NYC, encouraging them to develop their own point of view about what’s happening. And this is the method that I’ve used for almost everything I’ve written in my life. I remember working on a story for New York magazine about the Trump World Tower, the Seagrams Building knock-off that Trump built over by the UN on the east side of Manhattan. It was a very controversial building and it was being opposed by a powerful set of neighbors including Walter Cronkite. It seemed obvious that Trump was wrong, because he generally is. But then I walked over there, and realized a few things: One is that First Avenue, over by the UN is very, very wide—and this has to do with Robert Moses, who actually made sure that there was no commercial activity anywhere near the UN—so it’s this big, open place that doesn’t feel like Manhattan at all. To me it felt like Brazilia. And the other thing I noticed is that the UN Plaza build-

ed Solo cup as American icon  Louis C.K.’s fashion sensibility 

ings that all the people like Walter Cronkite lived in actually were large buildings and blocked all the sunlight from Beekman place that runs perpendicular. So their buildings that they live in had done exactly what it was that Donald Trump’s building was going to do. And, as loathe as I am to support Donald Trump, I thought, “well maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.” And what changed my mind was walking around the neighborhood. But Research By Walking Around only works if you’re paying attention. So a lot of what I do as an instructor here in the Design Research department, is to come up with tasks that force students to pay attention.

I ask the students to read some John Ruskin essays, consider his notions of truth and beauty and then to observe Times Square from the vantage point of the TKTS booth bleachers. Sitting still and looking at the place from this quiet point of view often elicits new insights.

One student came back from that exercise with an essay about the old New York Times building as an early example of promotional branding, since it renamed the square, and also one of the cities first subway stations. Another essay explored the life of Father Duffy and why the square where the TKTS booth bleacher sits is named for him. And another made some interesting comparisons between Times Square and the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. I often assign students blocks in midtown and ask them to identify the most noteworthy building on the block, an assignment that intentionally leaves a lot of wiggle room. One student found a church designed by a little-known architect who was briefly famous in the 1960s for designing a trio of high modernist chapels at JFK that have since been demolished. Another told the story of the building on Lexington Avenue that was built for the Radio Corporation of America but was sold to General Electric and the connection between the building’s rich ornament and the cutting-edge technology it was built to celebrate. In closing, I’m not saying that Research by Walking Around is enough on its own, but it certainly beats Riffing on Renderings!


Digital innovation and the museum visitor experience  Role of

Anne Quito Class of 2014

Where does a critic sit? It was when Karrie Jacobs held her class right in the middle of Times Square that the answer became clear to me. A critic and a writer operates best not from a distance or from behind a Skype interface, but as part of the crush. A critic sits not in the balcony but right in the mosh pit. This was my mosh pit: an apartment made from a shipping container in Juba, South Sudan.


For my thesis I was researching the design of national identity—the symbols, emblems, objects, and buildings that signify nationhood—

and, in the hopes of learning first hand how a “corporate identity kit for a nation” might be designed, I traveled to the world’s newest country, South Sudan. There I met Hakim, a graphic artist and project manager at the Juba printing press, who had been charged with shepherding the process of creating a state emblem. The result was formulaic. The final design is a familiar eagleshield-cartouche combination—a trompe l’oeil of legitimacy. The motif is so commonplace that it looks ready-made. The graphic design equivalent of an instant meal—just add flag. But the process of its production, with twenty-eight cabinet ministers involved in its art direction, as well as Hakim’s immense pride in the contribution he had made to his emerging country, were fascinating and indelible. And of course such aspects of a design story can only be accessed first hand. I spent seven days in Juba, came back with a notebook full of notes and first person stories. But my research did not quite wrap when I left. A few days before Christmas, South Sudan plunged into an intense civil war following the dismissal of their Vice President Riek Machar. Reports of brutal violence from ethnic factionalism resulted in the loss of least a thousand lives, with hundreds more displaced. A tenuous ceasefire was signed last

as a political trope  Architecture of exclusion  Co-production 

month, but reports of sporadic conflicts still emerge. The people I had interviewed were either exiled to Kenya or evacuated to Uganda. “We are in a difficult moment now and our prayers are for peace in this country. I have been in exile before and I do not wish to go to exile again,” my Juba guide Paulino wrote to me. He and his family were transferred to Nairobi soon after the violence escalated. The crux of the conflict was, in fact, about national identity and I realized that the study of nation branding is—as design criticism is itself—a moving target.

Justin Zhuang Class of 2015

I came into this program as a writer and researcher from Singapore. I wanted to reflect upon, and refine, my practice and learn more about design. I also wanted to operate in a different context—in this case, New York City—to sharpen my perspectives on my home. In my first two semesters at SVA, I’ve tackled a wide range of design subjects, from urban planning to industrial design and visual culture. One of my favorite assignments was for Steve Heller’s Design Research class. I was looking for an object to research and tell a story about, when

I re-discovered the IKEA instruction manuals in my apartment. It occurred to me that these were something most foreign students would acquire when they first move into a foreign country, since they have to cheaply furnish their new home. Through my research I found that the manuals were only small parts of a larger system IKEA had intentionally designed. “Democratic Design” for IKEA was first and foremost defined as offering low prices. By selling its furniture flat-packed, IKEA could keep costs low by passing on the


  of product design  Exhibiting graphic design in the wild  Tran

But every regime has its “resistance fighters.” I’ve been following the Maker movement and 3-D printing for a while and I knew about the IKEA Hacker community. They are hobbyists who use IKEA’s cheap furniture parts to create their own designs. This to me was truly “Democratic Design”—a re-imagining of how IKEA could actually open up its design system and empower its consumers. I realized I could juxtapose the contrast between the corporate vision and the anti-corporate interventions to form a narrative. Moreover, by connecting IKEA’s past with contemporary trends, I could also write about a more desirable future of flatpack design.


most expensive components of the business—transport and assembly— to customers. Over the years, IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad had redesigned the IKEA corporate structure to give it “eternal life.” By separating the brand from its retail enterprise, and creating two companies, IKEA could expand globally and avoid going public. It turns out Kamprad was once a recruiter for what became the Swedish Nazi Party. Here was a former Nazi talking about democracy! This background information helped me see the benign-looking manuals in a different light. They were part of a larger design system IKEA created to help the company reduce costs. A common set of tools and parts (each with its own distinct label), a common product sold all around the world—IKEA was a corporate version of a Totalitarian regime!

trucker hat’s shifting role in American society  Urban farming 

Bryn Smith

Class of 2013, graphic designer and writer

Research has taken me to some unusual places in the past few years. Before coming to SVA, research for me probably involved looking something up on the Internet. But before I knew it I found myself looking through microfiche in the basement of the New York Public Library, researching the evolution of the pop-top beer can. For my final podcasting project, I interviewed the superintendent of a wastewater treatment plant about his Valentine’s Day tours. And my thesis research, which centered on graphic design’s problematic relationship to the gallery, was one of my most rewarding research experiences. In search of primary sources I visited the Walker Art Center archive in Minneapolis, MoMA’s archive here in New York, and I even discovered an archive that no one knew about or had access to. I was working in the editorial department at Print magazine as part of a summer internship when I realized that just a few steps from my cubicle sat every issue of Print’s seventy-three year history on one bookshelf. Only a quarter of this archive existed online and so, using a giant, dusty binder containing every table of contents page from June 1940 onward, I was able to pinpoint articles and reviews that discussed my subject.

Many of the topics I began researching here at SVA have since grown into larger obsessions—and jobs too! Not only did I study contemporary graphic design exhibitions, but I also worked on one. Working with Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast on a retrospective of their poster work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art meant long days in the Pentagram archive and fascinating hours sifting though flat files of their design work. Octogenarians are another current obsession. I’m putting my interview skills, honed in Adam Levy’s class, to good work. Together with Aileen Kwun, another graduate of the program, we’re working on a book project for Princeton Architectural Press which involves interviewing designers, architects, and design educators over the age of eighty about their lives and their work. This includes people like Mildred Friedman, who curated the first major exhibition on graphic design


  controversies in Brooklyn  Evolution of the poison label  Dem


in 1989, as well as other design legends like Ralph Caplan, Milton Glaser, Alessandro Mendini, and Phyllis Lambert. Archives continue to be a research passion. I’m working on another project with Seymour Chwast to help him develop an online archive. And I get to make amazing discoveries such as the first book he designed and handpainted in high school (which is sitting on my desk waiting to be scanned) or a never-before-seen pricelist from a show of large-scale metal pieces in 1994. And lastly, the everyday. It’s hard to imagine my life or work today without research. This program has really opened my eyes to the possibility of a story in every object, and in every person, if you just ask, or dig a little deeper. On my list of personal projects is unraveling the story behind these amazing garage doors. I took these shots of what I’m provisionally calling “Elmhurst Garage Vernacular” on a trip to Illinois over the holidays last year. And now I have the tools to uncover and tell the story behind them, so they can have a life beyond Instagram. A few weeks ago, the British critic Rick Poynor was here lecturing and, in reference to a rare book he recently found, he said “We’re researchers…this stuff is gold dust for us.” And I couldn’t agree more. It’s a really exciting time to be a designer, and to be a design researcher, and so if you like gold dust (and who doesn’t), this might be just the program for you.

symbolism of the Al-Kafiye  The role of smell in design  Essie 

Angela Riechers

Class of 2010, art director and writer

My research focused on contemporary personal memorial objects, or the things we make to remember and honor the dead. I was interested in the way their forms, but not their functions, have changed over time. The elevator pitch is: “The Victorians had jewelry made from someone’s hair, while today we have Facebook pages for the dead.” Same, but not the same. In the second semester of our first year, we had a number of assignments meant to inspire our thesis research. One of these was for Andrea Lippke’s “Crit Lab,” where I wrote about accidentally created memorials, or objects that become traps for painful or unwanted memories. I had Sherry Turkle’s book, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, in mind as I worked. It’s a collection of essays we read in Akiko Busch’s class, “Reading Design” about how everyday objects tell stories about their owners, examined through the lenses of anthropology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis.

This was my father’s 1970 Firebird, his prize possession; my mom couldn’t bring herself to get rid of it

after he died. It sat in her driveway untouched for more than ten years. It was truly a loaded object; I averted my eyes from it. I was even a little scared of it. A car without license plates looks like a nearsighted person without glasses: blind and lost. The only way to write about it was to do onsite research—something I really didn’t want to do. One day when I knew my mom wouldn’t be home, I went over, removed the tarp, and forced myself to sit in the driver’s seat and look around the interior for a moment before I jumped out. I felt like Howard Carter leading his expedition into King Tut’s tomb, only I found no gold. It was a difficult experience. Sometimes research leads you into dark places. With any research project, you accidentally learn so much along the way. Much of it proves useless, much of it you weed out from the current project, but file away for use at a later date. I take a kind of carpetbombing approach to research: the Internet is definitely my BFF but I also love to sift through stuff: libraries, archives, collections, and walk around to see what’s what. I love the hunt. I’m a firm believer in reaching out to anyone, even if they’re really famous, to see if they have information they can share on topics of mutual interest. In my experience, they are invariably generous and gracious with their knowledge and


  nail polish naming and the prescriptive feminine ideal  Implica

time. One well-known writer invited me over and showed me her personal collection of relics, from the purse retrieved from her mother’s hospital room after her death. It contained a silver box insider of which was all of her three children’s baby teeth (and one of her husband’s wisdom teeth). Didn’t expect that. Lately, I’ve become especially interested in digital or non-tangible memorials. I wrote a paper titled

“Memorial Objects, Design, and Dematerialization” that will be presented at a design conference in Portugal this July. My main focus is the strangeness of holographic performance duets featuring a live and a dead singer: Snoop Dogg with Tupac, for example. What are we looking at? What are we remembering? I’m still not sure. Research is the one area of my life where I have endless patience. Sometimes you find the answer years later. I love research because I love solving puzzles. The hunt can be very frustrating but when you finally find that one missing piece— the clue that bridges everything else—it really feels like Christmas. It is a nerdy joy unlike any other.

Molly Heintz

Class of 2011, managing director, Superscript


What do you do when you’re confronted with a blank slate? This globe has no names of countries or oceans, no national borders. With the help of an array of experts, archivists, and librarians, I was able to discover that it is called a Graphic Project Globe and was used in school classrooms starting in the 1930s. But through my research, the context in which this particular model of globe operated also came into focus. The globe was made by a Chicago-based map company called Nystrom and in 1938 the company’s president was interviewed

Campanas and Havaianas  Design of multiplex movie theatres 

for an article in the Chicago Tribune. The story had a great lead: “These are the days that give mapmakers gray hair.” A few months earlier Hitler had invaded Czechoslovakia, having already annexed Austria. So this uncharted territory took on another dimension—one that I think certainly resonates today. In research you have two kinds of sources: primary sources, original material like the globe, and secondary sources, the existing scholarly literature around a topic. My educational background is in archaeology and art history, so I was used to “classic” primary sources, like pot-shards and paintings. Studying design research drove home the point that anything can become a primary source. For my thesis, which investigated the ways in which the public image of industrial designers is crafted, marketing and PR materials became my primary sources for an examination of three designers working across the last century: Raymond Loewy, Karim Rashid, and Yves Behar, and the sources I referred to ranged from advertisements to childhood photographs to tweets. In 2011, after the thesis and graduation, four of us from SVA started an office called Superscript, an editorial consulting firm. In addition to writing and editing services, Superscript offers strategy, programming, and research. And I think it’s the way we’re able to see the world that sets us apart in what we do. Our method of digging into a project is always very research-based, and we’re not afraid of a blank page or a blank wall—as was the case in a project we

did last spring with the Museum of Arts and Design. We were invited to develop an installation and program for MAD’s annual “Homefront” project about the state of American design. The exhibition theme was “Beyond the Museum.” We decided to create an installation about the future of museums that was based on our own research, and drew on history to speculate on the future of the museum at different scales—object, exhibition, and building. But the installation became interactive by virtue of crowd-sourced comments made at events we held in the gallery.

This project, along with a series of articles on the future of architecture written by Superscript partner Vera Sacchetti, led to us being invited to participate in the 2014 Venice Architectural Biennale, which is being curated by Rem Koolhaas. We’ll be doing an installation and event series called “Towards a New Avant Garde,” which focuses on the future of architecture. In summary, a rigorous grounding in design research gives you what it takes to face the future in all its forms—blank pages, blank walls, and blank slates.


Role of graphic design in Jean Luc Godard films  Dansk kitch

Announcing the new SVA MA in Design Research, Writing and Criticism. We are accepting applications to the program, on a rolling basis through the end of June 2014. Tuition is $37,580 and prospective students will be very glad to hear that each successful candidate will be granted a significant scholarship. Combining the rigor of its predecessor, D-Crit, and the velocity of our annual Design Writing & Research Summer Intensive, this one-year MA offers a high-impact, targeted program of study well suited to the circumstances of established professionals, in addition to graduates wishing to continue their studies at an advanced level. With a twosemester, eight-month timeframe (September to May), the SVA MA in Design Research provides an intensive immersion in techniques for researching and interpreting design, its contexts, and its consequences. The program’s curriculum charts the cutting edge of design practice and is responsive to exciting developments in the media landscape. Through studying images, objects, and environments, and learning ways to construct multi-format narratives that bring them to life, students will be amply prepared to launch or develop research-related careers in publishing, education, museums, institutes, design practice, entrepreneurship, and more.

Design: Neil Donnelly & Stefan Thorsteinsson

Our faculty is comprised of leading editors, writers, curators, and producers, including: Paola Antonelli, senior curator of design and architecture at MoMA; Kurt Andersen, author and host of “Studio 360;� Robin Pogrebin, culture reporter for The New York Times; and Elizabeth Spiers, a media launch consultant and entrepreneur. Feel free to contact us to arrange a time to meet with the program founding chair, to discuss any aspect of the program or its application process, to tour the department, or to sit in on a class: More information about the program can be found on our website at




page, line, word

Robert Anasi, The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 173, 7, 1. Leanne Shapton, Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), 53, 23, 7. Philip Nobel, Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2005), 19, 25, 3. John Allen, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (New York: Anchor Books, 1995), 1, 12, 6. Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc. (New York: Random House, 2011), 7, 33, 6. M. F. K. Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf (New York: North Point Press, 1998), 3, 12, 1. Edward Tenner, Our Own Devices: How Technology Remakes Humanity (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 3​, 3, 5. E. B. White, Here I​s New York (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1949), 10, 2, 9. Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (New York: Penguin Classics, 1985), 27, 1, 14.  Mike Davis​,  City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 4, 25, 8​. Sherry Turkle, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), ​175, 35, 4.

Senior editor, TERREFORM c.a.u.r. Staff writer, Architizer Curatorial assistant, Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum Managing editor, PIN–UP Researcher/writer, Real Art Communications coordinator, Carbone Smolan Agency Associate and recruiter, Wert & Company Writer, Ziba Design


Senior researcher, Public Policy Lab Community manager, Institute of Play Communications director, Eyebeam Co-founder and editor, CLOG Director of Press and Marketing, Steven Holl Architects Designer, mobile products, The New York Times Communications consultant, The Water Tank Project Editorial director, Curbed

This rigorous one-year program equips students with tools for researching, analyzing, and interpreting design. Through workshops, seminars, lectures, and site-visits, students examine the issues and policies that shape the designed environment; learn research methods, reporting techniques, and theoretical models; and experiment with a range of media vehicles for communicating their research, including online writing, podcasting, video, exhibitions, and events. Each student will identify an individual research territory to explore during the year, culminating in a thesis portfolio of written and applied media projects.


Managing director, Superscript Managing editor, The Architect’s Newspaper Marketing manager, The Museum of Modern Art Associate editor, Surface magazine Associate editor, Metropolis magazine Managing editor, Barragan Foundation Archivist, SVA Milton Glaser Archives Curator, Vitra Design Museum

The MA in Design Research features an unparalleled core faculty, comprised of celebrated curators, editors, critics, and designers. They include:

Editorial manager, Facebook Web editor, NYC Department of Design and Construction Lifestyle product writer, Frontgate Communications manager, The Glass House Editor, ArchDaily Senior editor, The Monacelli Press

Paola Antonelli, senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design and Director of R&D at the Museum of Modern Art Akiko Busch, author, whose latest book is The Incidental Steward: Reflections on Citizen Science (Yale University Press, 2013) Steven Heller, columnist for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Print, and author, whose latest book is 100 Classic Graphic Design Journals (Laurence King, 2014) Karrie Jacobs, urban design critic, and contributor to Travel & Leisure Alexandra Lange, architecture critic, blogger, Loeb Fellow, and author of Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012) Adam Harrison Levy, Design Observer contributing writer, and a documentary producer/ director and interviewer, primarily for the BBC Leital Molad, radio editor, reporter and senior producer for PRI’s “Studio 360” Murray Moss, curator, retailer, design consultant, and founder of Moss Bureau Robin Pogrebin, culture reporter at The New York Times Anooradha Siddiqi, lecturer, The New School, and consultant, United Nations Foundation Elizabeth Spiers, media launch consultant, entrepreneur, and editorial director for Flavorpill Productions Alice Twemlow, author and founding chair of the SVA Department of Design Research, Writing and Criticism

GUEST LECTURERS AND CRITICS With more than 30 guest lecturers and critics visiting the department per semester, the program takes particular care to connect students to inspirational mentors, potential employers, and colleagues. Our regular guest critics include: Kurt Andersen, host of PRI’s “Studio 360,” columnist, and author, whose most recent novel is True Believers (Random House, 2012) Michael Bierut, Pentagram partner, writer, and co-founder, Design Observer Daniel D’Oca, partner, Interboro Partners Stephen Duncombe, author and professor, NYU Media, Culture and Communications Department Dwight Garner, literary critic, The New York Times Rob Giampietro, partner, Project Projects David Hajdu, music critic and professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
 Peter Hall, design writer, senior lecturer and design department head, Griffith University Queensland College of Art Gary Hustwit, filmmaker and director Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic, The New York Times Starlee Kine, public radio producer and writer Mark Lamster, author and architecture critic, Dallas Morning News Andrea Lippke, visual culture writer and editor Ellen Lupton, curator of contemporary design, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Rick Poynor, author, critic, Design Observer co-founder Alan Rapp, senior editor, Architecture and Design, The Monacelli Press Roberta Smith, art critic, The New York Times Karen Stein, writer, editor, and architectural consultant Meredith TenHoor, author, associate professor, Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture Lawrence Weschler, author, columnist, and director emeritus, NYU Institute for the Humanities Rob Walker, technology and culture columnist, Yahoo News Mimi Zeiger, journalist and critic

DEPARTMENT RESOURCES Each student has a desk space within an open-plan, light-filled workspace. The program takes advantage of its central location in Manhattan’s Flatiron District with frequent visits to the city’s design collections, archives, libraries, design and architecture studios, SVA design departments, and behind-the-scenes access to exhibitions-in-the-making, new buildings, and urban planning developments.

HOW TO APPLY Tuition for the one-year MA is $37,580. Each successful candidate receives a significant scholarship bringing the tuition amount to well below market rate. Feel free to contact us for details. THE DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS IS JUNE 30, 2014. Applying is easy. All you need to do is submit: • Official transcripts for your bachelor’s degree; • One letter of recommendation from an instructor or practicing professional; • A written statement of your reasons for pursuing graduate study in design research (500 words); • A writing sample or samples (1,000–2,000 words); • Résumé; • Proof of English proficiency (required of applicants whose primary language is not English).

CONTACT INFORMATION To arrange a visit to the department, or an appointment with the program’s founding chair, Alice Twemlow, please do not hesitate to email or call us: +1 212 592 2228 For more information about the program, please visit:

SVA MA Design Research: Gold Dust  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you