Designing in Dark Times: an Arendtian Lexicon

To celebrate the release of Designing in Dark Times: an Arendtian Lexicon, we are organizing a series of dialogues to further explore what “dark times” means today and design’s recent positioning towards the expanded field of the society within it through an Arendtian lens.

Each Dialogue will convene several of the book’s contributors to discuss connections between design, politics, and philosophy for acting and designing against, within, and through dark times.

This session will feature Liesbeth Huybrechts (Common Interests), Andrew Shea (Human Rights), Andrea Botero (Humanity), Eric Gordon (Play), and Caroline Dionne (Speech) with the mediation of the book’s editors Eduardo Staszowski and Virginia Tassinari.

Join us on Zoom this coming Wednesday, 14 April, 12:00 ET in this conversation about our present, universal moment navigating darkness, light, and the many shades in between. Register at


About the Book:
Edited by Eduardo Staszoswki and Virginia Tassinari, “Designing in Dark Times: An Arendtian Lexicon” gathers 56 terms drawn from Hannah Arendt’s writings as entry points for authors to explore what “dark times” means today and design’s recent positioning towards the expanded field of the society within it. The book is part of the “Designing in Dark Times” series, published by Bloomsbury, which investigates design’s capacity to offer critical and transformative perspectives on our contemporary condition.

Guy Debord’s Game of War: A Conversation With Emmanuel Guy

Thursday, November 14
6:00 pm
Kellen Auditorium
66 5th Avenue

We know Guy Debord (1931-1994) as a poet, filmmaker, artist, revolutionary theorist, editor and founder of the Situationist International avant-garde movement. But above all else, he was a strategist: poetry, cinema, theory and the avant-garde were, for Debord, means to be deployed in a struggle against the society of his age. To sharpen his strategic instincts and those of his potential comrades, Debord designed a game, the Jeu de la guerre (Game of War), which consisted of a gridded board and a set of pieces representing the various units of an army. Through an exploration of the genealogies, contexts, gameplay and contemporary uses of this object, Emmanuel Guy proposes to consider the implications of this unique ludic and social object for our understanding of Debord, and what lessons might be gleaned from a Situationist art of war.

Emmanuel Guy is a researcher, curator and Assistant Professor of Art and Design History at Parsons Paris The New School.

Presented by the Art and Design History and Theory Program at Parsons School of Design

Plot(s) Call for Editorial Board Members

ADHT Dean, Rhonda Garelick, Joins Bard Graduate Center for BGC Late: Jazz & Conversation in the Gallery


Bard Graduate Center Gallery
18 West 86th Street New York, NY 10024
Thursday October 10, 2019 6:00  – 8:00 pm
*free, registration required

Join The Bard Graduate Center for BGC Late: Jazz & Conversation in the Gallery. See the exhibitions and learn from provocative conversations about the objects on view. Gene Perla and the musicians he brings together start playing at 6 pm. At 7:00 pm, fashion scholars Waleria DorogovaRhonda Garelick, Mellissa Huber and Jan Glier Reeder lead a conversation about women designers, including Gabrielle Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, Boué Sœurs and Jeanne Paquin. Music Provided by: Troy Roberts (Sax), Rachel Z ( Piano), Gene Perla (Bass) and Clarence Penn (Drums)

Waleria Dorogova is a historian and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Bonn, where she studied Art History and Classical Archaeology. Now based in Vienna, she currently works at the interdisciplinary project Austrian Center for Fashion Research at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Prior, she was curator of the Goldsmiths Textile Collection and worked for Kerry Taylor Auctions, as well as an independent researcher. Her research and publications center around early twentieth-century haute couture, Russian diaspora in Paris fashion and international relations in fashion. The subject of her dissertation is the history of the Franco-American fashion house Boué Sœurs (1897-1957).

Rhonda Garelick is the Dean of the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons/The New School. She is the author of Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History (Random House, 2014); Electric Salome: Loie Fuller’s Performance of Modernism (Princeton University Press, 2007); Rising Star: Dandyism, Gender, and Performance in the Fin de Siècle (Princeton University Press, 1998); and co-editor of Fabulous Harlequin: ORLAN and the Patchwork Self (University of Nebraska Press, 2010). Her column, “Reading the Signs” appears regularly in The Cut (New York Magazine), and she her cultural criticism appears often in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Brooklyn Rail, and other venues. She is a Guggenheim fellow and has also received awards from the NEA, the NEH, the Getty Research Institute, the Dedalus Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the Whiting Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Mellissa Huber is assistant curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and specializes in twentieth-century fashion. Since joining the Museum in 2012, she has assisted the department with research and content development for numerous special exhibitions, including Punk: Chaos to Couture (2013); Charles James: Beyond Fashion (2014); Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire (2014); China: Through the Looking Glass (2015); Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style (2015); Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology (2016); Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion (2016); Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and The Catholic Imagination (2018); and the forthcoming In Pursuit of Fashion: The Sandy Schreier Collection (2019).

Jan Glier Reeder is a fashion historian and consulting curator for the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Music for BGC Late: Jazz & Conversation in the Gallery is guest curated by musician Gene Perla. Perla was raised in New Jersey where he studied classical piano and trombone. After attending Berklee School of Music, he moved to New York and began his musical career as a jazz bassist. He has performed and/or recorded with Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Elvin Jones, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Chuck Mangione, Joni Mitchell, Buddy Rich, Sonny Rollins, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Stone Alliance, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, and others.

Playing The Auditorium – Kabir Carter

Playing The Auditorium
Kabir Carter

October 2, 2019, 5:00 PM to 6:15 PM
The Auditorium (Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall)
The New School, 66 West 12th Street, New York

Register Here:

This event celebrates the sonic possibilities of one of The New School’s oldest and most stunning spaces. Designed in the 1930s by legendary architect Joseph Urban, The Auditorium has served as the venue for notable lectures and performances including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 speech “The Summer of Our Discontent.” In a 2004 article, the New York Times described the auditorium as “one of the city’s great modern interiors,” an “egg-shaped room [that] focuses on a broad, arched proscenium,” with a “delicate, layered ceiling” “painted in nine tones of gray.”

Contemporary sound artist Kabir Carter will evoke the architecture and history of this auditorium in performing a unique sound composition, using the space not simply as a site for performance but as an instrument to be played. Sound technicians who have worked at the auditorium over the years have been invited to participate in the performance.

Kabir Carter has physically interrogated and spatially expanded the acoustic and durational limits of performing with microphones. He has installed temporary sound works in a variety of indoor and outdoor locations in several cities. His interests include architectural acoustics, the transmission of sound across medium boundaries, and the affective potentialities of sound-in-space. Carter has been a fellow at Hochschule Für Bildende Kunste Braunschweig and resident at Aalto Acoustics Lab at Aalto University, and LMCC Workspace Program, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. His work has been presented and exhibited at: Nokia Bell Labs, Murray Hill, NJ;  HKW – Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Museet for Samtidskunst, Roskilde; and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. He holds an MFA from Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.
Organized By: Caroline Dionne & Sreshta Rit Premnath
AV and Technical Support: Brian Kase & Sylvan Simon

2019 ADHT Graduate Student Symposium

At Parsons, we celebrate curiosity and critical thinking.
Every path taken broadens our perspectives.
Welcome to The 2019 Parsons Festival ADHT Graduate Symposium
Nexus: An Intersection of Ideas.

Graduate students from the School of Art and Design History and Theory including Fashion Studies, Design Studies, and History of Design and Curatorial Studies will present their work during this two-day symposium that kicks off the 2019 Parsons Festival on Thursday, May 2nd and Friday, May 3rd!

Our speakers come from different fields within ADHT, yet their methodologies demonstrate an interdisciplinary way of thinking and addressing larger issues at the intersection of art, design and theory.
Come learn how historic issues converge with contemporary lives, how material objects carry relationships in society, and how these different fields of scholarship cross paths.

This year we are pleased to continue the tradition of presenting a series of longer talks and multimedia projects each morning. During the afternoon sessions we will have shorter, fast-paced PechaKucha talks. This is a swift presentation style developed in 2003 by the Tokyo-based architecture firm Klein Dytham; its origins and exciting tempo make it ideal for conveying the diverse and rich work of our ADHT students.

2019 ADHT Symposium Planning Committee

Designing after the Designing is Done

Irem C. Yildiz’s (MA Design Studies 2018) thesis project is selected as a finalist

We are proud to announce that Irem C. Yildiz’s (MA Design Studies 2018) thesis project The Vacant Store Initiative has been selected as one of the finalists in the Student Category of 2019 World Changing Ideas Competition of Fast Company. Irem’s project can be explored here.


Plot(s) Journal of Design Studies Call for Submissions

Plot(s) Journal of Design Studies will be accepting a second round of submissions with a new deadline of November 30, 2018. Please see below for the original Call For Submissions:

Plot(s) Journal of Design Studies is an annual peer-reviewed publication produced and edited by the MA Design Studies program at Parsons School of Design in New York. As a multidisciplinary journal, Plot(s) attempts to articulate the ways in which design can shape and transform the human experience.

This year we will produce a double printed issue featuring Volume V and VI, which will be released in Spring 2019. Accepted submissions will appear in print and online as part of our multimedia online journal that explores the realm of design research. Submissions are open to graduate students, recent graduates, design practitioners, and academics from all fields.

We are seeking submissions in the following suggested areas of exploration. Submissions venturing outside and beyond these themes will also be considered.

  • Design and Intersectional Politics
  • Design and Crisis Management
  • Dangerous Design
  • Design Futures/Design Realities


Guidelines for Submission:

We ask that submissions are guided by a process that involves design thinking/reasoning, and strongly encourage the use of supporting visuals.

As a multidisciplinary journal, we accept a wide range of formats including:

  • academic essays,
  • visual essays,
  • design research,
  • timely book/exhibition reviews,

and well-documented design/architectural projects that reflect upon or challenge current design discourse and fit within our theme.

We will also be accepting exploratory audio-visual formats including:

  • interviews
  • podcasts
  • and unique video essays


Digitally-native content will be posted exclusively on Plot(s) Multimedia.

Papers should be submitted as Microsoft Word documents. Papers between 1,500 and 3,000 words will be peer reviewed. The Plot(s) editorial board will edit shorter texts falling between 500 and 1,000 words. Submissions must be properly cited as endnotes and formatted in the Chicago style upon submission. Images must be at least 300 dpi, captioned, and copyright permissions must be attained. Please submit images in a separate zip folder attached to the email.

Submissions which do not fit these criteria cannot be accepted.

Please send submissions by November 30, 2018 (Friday) via email to

Announcing the 2018 Design History Society Conference: Design and Displacement, September 6-8, 2018

Design and Displacement, the 2018 Design History Society Annual Conference, will take place at Parsons Parsons School of Design September 6th-8th, 2018. The conference examines displacement and attendant issues from a design perspective. In addition to the current displacement of people and populations, sessions will consider the theme more broadly and historically, including connections among the displacement of objects and styles, changing technologies, and broad geographies and histories related to landscapes and urban development.

The keynote speakers reflect a variety of methodological approaches and are drawn from a range of academic disciplines. The keynote speakers are: Paul Chaat Smith, Comanche author, essayist and curator; Lowery Stokes Sims, Curator Emerita, the Museum of Art and Design, New York; Tony Fry, designer, theorist, educator and author; and Mabel O. Wilson, architect and architectural historian.

In addition to the conference sessions, delegates are invited to an evening reception at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, as well as a choice of several conference visits including: Flushing Meadows Park, the site of the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fair; a curator-led tour of Cooper Hewitt; or a trip to the Paul Rudolph House. The conference gala dinner will be held aboard the “Spirit of New York”, a dinner boat that will sail past some of New York City’s most significant architectural landmarks. For more information please visit the conference website: or contact conference convener,  Sarah A. Lichtman at

Parsons Festival 2018: Art and Design History and Theory Graduate Student Symposium

Thursday, May 3 1000 am – 5:00 pm
Friday, May 4 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

The Bark Room, Room M104
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
2 West 13th Street
New York, NY 1001

The School of Art and Design History and Theory will sponsor a graduate student symposium as a part of the 2018 Parsons Festival. Planned by HDCS, MAFS, MADS students- the two day event will feature short presentations followed by a reception. All are welcome to attend.

Parsons Festival is an annual series of art and design events in which cutting-edge student work is presented to the Parsons community and the public. The festival takes place at the end of each academic year and includes thesis exhibitions and critiques, thought-provoking public programs, interactive installations, gallery openings, workshops, and special events.

The New School’s Parsons School of Design, which was recently named the number one art and design school in the United States by Top Universities, has been a pioneer in art and design education for more than a century. Based in New York but active around the world, Parsons offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. An integral part of The New School, Parsons builds on the university’s legacy of progressive ideals, scholarship, and pedagogy. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century.

Unruly Design: Making, Changing and Breaking Rules

A colloquium in Design Studies, Fashion Studies, History of Design & Curatorial Studies

Friday, March 2, 2018
Opening conversation with Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Design and Architecture, MoMA, and Jamer Hunt, Vice Provost for Transdisciplinary Initiatives, Parsons School of Design, The New School
Theresa Lang Center, Arnold Hall 
55 West 13th Street,
New York, NY 10011


Friday, March 2, 2018
Join us for an unruly feast
RSVP required
Wollman Hall, Eugene Lang
65 West 11th Street, New York, NY 10011


Saturday, March 3, 2018
Panel presentations and discussions
Theresa Lang Center, Arnold Hall
55 West 13th Street,
New York, NY 10011

The School of Art and Design History and Theory is pleased to announce its inaugural colloquium, scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3, 2018 at Parsons School of Design in New York City.

“Unruly Design” explores the rules that govern design concepts, acts of making and fashion practices both historically and in today’s context. Who sets the rules within a design field, designers, clients, consumers or end-users? How should designers engage the legal structures that bind production and consumption and/or respond to market forces? How might consumers and end-users rewrite explicit or implicit codes of use through practice? How are the rules of design made, changed or broken? Discussions will move across several fields of design— from design history to fashion studies; design studies to intersections of design with artistic practices—taking into account current historical and contemporary perspectives including policy making and service design. This two-day colloquium responds to current discussions on the inherent political and ethical implication of design practices, as well as an expanded cultural terrain where the idea of design has become mainstream. This series of interventions and conversations navigates the complex relationship of design with a certain sense of order—with ways of doing and modes of saying that frame design processes and their outcomes within more or less strict, often conflicting sets of rules. Is today’s design unruly or can it be?

Speakers: Paola Antonelli, Museum of Modern Art; Otto von Busch, Parsons School of Design, School of Design Strategies; Lily Chumley, New York University; Tracy L. Ehrlich, Parsons School of Design, History of Design and Curatorial Studies; Carma Gorman, University of Texas at Austin; Denise Green, Cornell University; Elizabeth Guffey, State University of New York at Purchase; Victoria Hattam, New School for Social Research; Jamer Hunt, Parsons School of Design, Transdisciplinary Studies; Charlene K. Lau, Parsons School of Design, Fashion Studies; Ulrich Leben, Parsons School of Design, History of Design and Curatorial Studies; Andrea Lipps, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Lauren Downing Peters, Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University; Nicole C. Rudolph, Adelphi University; Georgia Traganou, Parsons School of Design, Design Studies; McKenzie Wark, New School for Social Research.

Event Schedule

Friday March 2, 2018

5:30 – 7:00pm Opening conversation with Paola Antonelli and Jamer Hunt

7:00 – 10:00pm Unruly Feast

Saturday March 3, 2018

10:00 – 10:30am Participants arrival & coffee

10:30am – 12:00pm Session 1 – RULE MAKING

Drawing Beyond the Academy in Eighteenth-Century Rome 
Tracy L. Ehrlich, Parsons School of Design, History of Design and Curatorial Studies

The world of plenty or a headless chicken?
Ulrich Leben

Dangerous Curves: Disciplining the Fat, Female Body Through Design Discourse
Lauren Downing Peters, Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University

Design wants to be free: copying as democratic practice in the USA
Carma Gorman, University of Texas at Austin

Lily Chumley

12:00 to 1:15pm Lunch break

1:15 – 2:45pm Session 2 – RULE CHANGING

Robes of Resistance: Nuu-chah-nulth Declarations on Cloth
Denise Green, Cornell University

Making and Breaking Rules: Selwyn Goldsmith Designing for the Disabled
Elizabeth Guffey, State University of New York at Purchase

Rule-makers and Their Discontents: Who Changed French Postwar Housing?
Nicole C. Rudolph, Adelphi University

Border Rules: Design and Production across the Rio Grande
Victoria Hattam, New School for Social Research

Design in Autonomy
Jilly Traganou, Parsons School of Design, Design Studies

2:45 to 3:00pm Coffee break

3:00 – 4:30pm Session 3 – RULE BREAKING

Touching and Taking power: Hacking and DIY Activism
Otto von Busch, Parsons School of Design, School of Design Strategies

Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Era
Andrea Lipps, Assistant Curator, Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, Smithsonian Design Museum, NY

The “Porn-Again Avant-Garde”: Transgression and the Contemporary Fashion Vanguard 
Charlene K. Lau, Parsons School of Design, Fashion Studies

Design for Concepts
McKenzie Wark, New School for Social Research

4:30 – 5:00pm Closing Reception


Organizing Committee:
Rosemary O’Neill, History of Design & Curatorial Studies;
Caroline Dionne, Design Studies;
Rachel Lifter, Fashion Studies

Students Launch Design Studies Wikipedia Page

Graduate students from the Fall 2017 course Writing for the Public Realm, taught by Susan Yelavich, joined forces to give the discipline of Design Studies its very own nook in the world of Wikipedia.
The Design Studies Wikipedia page was entirely student written, with Professor Yelavich providing editorial support. In the true spirit of crowd sourcing, both the Wikipedia community and Design Studies community at large are expected to contribute to the ever-evolving article moving forward into the future.

Left to right: Susan Yelavich, Diana Duque, Kayla O’Daniel, Mariann Asayan, Irem Yildiz, Kashish Mittal, Lane Rasberry, Narender Strong.

Professor Yelavich awarded a 2018 Bogliasco Fellowship

Susan Yelavich, Associate Professor of Design Studies, has been awarded a month’s residency at the Bogliasco Foundation in Bogliasco, Italy, located outside of the city of Genoa. (See:

While she is there in February 2018, Yelavich will be working on the final chapter of her book Thinking Design through Literature (Routledge, 2019). She joins a distinguished group of 32 artists, composers, musicians, performers, writers, and scholars of the humanities and literature, who have made significant contributions to the arts and humanities. During her absence, Jilly Traganou will serve as Acting Director of the MA Design Studies program.

Join Parsons Alumni Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler for a talk at the Met

Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, founders and designers of Proenza Schouler join journalist Alina Cho for a fast-paced, insightful talk about fashion at the intersection of art and ideas.

Pioneers of style and craft since they launched their brand 15 years ago, the fathers of the perennial “It Bag” known as PS1 will chat with journalist Alina Cho about why they showed their most recent collection in Paris, how they manage their personal and professional relationship, and what inspires them. Named after the designers’ mothers, Proenza Schouler won the inaugural CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and has won five CFDA awards including Womenswear Designer of the Year and Accessory Designer of the Year.

Use promo code is STUDENTPS to secure your ticket for just $15.


Stand up for Democracy

By Susan Yelavich

The following posts grew out of a Parsons Design Studies workshop on “Design and Political Agency,” which was inspired by “Stand Up For Democracy,” on September 8th, 2017. Each student read the “Open Letter to the Design Community: Stand up for Democracy” and chose an object that fosters (or deters) people’s power to speak and act in the political sphere. In the particularities of each observed thing, the students identified the potentialities of design to afford a larger form of agency and politics.

Design and Political Agency

AIGA Eye on Design honors Adam Ridgeway ‘17

Adam Ridgeway’s cover design for the online publication of the MA Design Studies journal Plot(s) Issue 3 was recently featured on AIGA Eye on Design. The cover for the journal features graphic elements that are echoed throughout the interior. The reductive visual nature of the book is an intentional stark contrast to the complexity of the content within. This was an attempt to make the content approachable by a wider demographic than those directly in the field.

Polish Protest Poster Goes Viral

By Susan Yelavich

KONSTYTUCJA is constitution, TY is you, JA is me

This protest poster by designer Luka Rayski has become the identity of the Polish protest movement over plans to put the supreme court and the rest of the judicial system under the political control of the Polish Parliament.  I am proud to say that my colleague and friend Mateusz Halawa, Anthropology PhD candidate at New School for Social Research, has been the driving force behind getting the posters out – coordinating their printing and distribution over the long hours of the past two weeks.

NORDES, Norway, Design (and not in that order)

By Susan Yelavich

Oslo side street. Photo: Susan Yelavich

Oslo looks to be a very different kind of city, even for a reasonably well-traveled New Yorker. It seems largely residential populated by six to eight-story buildings (many in a restrained, neoclassical style others in Scandinavian cottage form) in pinks, blues, yellows, reds, and white, framed with trees and parks of the deepest green.

Construction around the harbor in Oslo. Photos: Susan Yelavich

Yes, there is all the new construction on the harbor, which speaks to a more rapacious Norwegian prosperity. But otherwise filthy lucre is hardly in evidence. You don’t see it in people’s dress, which tends toward practical sport-driven garb. There is almost no aggressive advertising outdoors and little in the way of attention-getting shop displays. All in all, a feeling of self-effacement dominates, which makes for an odd kind of assertiveness.

Equally, the NORDES 2107 conference was marked by calls for modesty. They were evident in almost all of the keynote speeches. Yoko Akama spoke of “philosophies of absence [that] take non-being or nothingness as the necessary grounds for being” as relevant to truly conscientious design. Even Westfang took exception to ‘design exceptionalism.’ Thomas Binder embraced the idea of design’s ‘weakness.’ All this at a conference of designers dedicated to participatory design, co-design, and social change.  (Even in the workshop I co-led with Nik Baerton, Virginia Tassinari, and Elisa Bertolotti, participants cited their solitary acts of writing as the most satisfying part of the collective storytelling process.)

However, none of this amounted to calls to return to the Post Modern 1980s when architecture and design withdrew from the social sphere after modernism’s failure to ‘change to world.’ It was rather a recognition that the ambition to ‘change the world’ is ridiculously hubristic if seen as a project of design alone. Well-intentioned design efforts to care for refugees or house the homeless can be tacitly complicit with the political conditions that make them possible. Mahmoud Keshavarz and Jocelyn Bailey, respectively, made the case that designers are often put in the untenable position of perpetuating greater political systems of injustice in their efforts to help. For example, in providing shelters for those the state refuses to care for, designers risk confirming the state’s estimation that these are people unworthy of the resources we ourselves take for granted. In that view, refugee housing could be considered second-class shelters for second-class citizens.

Notably, though, there was a scarcity of propositions as to how to contend with design’s relative powerlessness in this difficult present when democracy and other forms of political agency are under threat. If retreat isn’t ethically tenable, then what is?  Here Evan Westfang (whose own work has to do with making public data both public and visceral) offered an interesting response.  He called for a return to ‘normative design’ – not design-for-design’s sake, the stuff of international design fairs and the like.  The ‘norm’ of design that he referred to is it’s inherent generosity.

Oslo Opera House, Snøhetta, Wikipedia.

That said, I’m not sure he or anyone else in Oslo would find that generosity where I did during my brief visit, given how skeptical we’ve become of design that is anointed ‘successful.’ I’m referring to my experience of Snøhetta’s Oslo Opera House (2008), which yielded so many unexpected epiphanies—epiphanies, which I suspect are not mine alone.  Walking up, on, across, and down its sloping planes, you are never quite sure whether your feet are on the ground or in the air.

Oslo Opera House roof, Snøhetta, Photo: Susan Yelavich

Childhood and adult sensations were felt more than remembered. For me, at least, there was a palpable sensation of the risk that comes from playing in and on a space that seems illicit, namely, the roof.  There was the pleasurable disorientation of losing any sense of scale while walking on a glaring white landscape akin to a desert; and the mysterious possibilities of hide and seek around its volumes that Michelangelo Antonioni captured on the roof of Antonio Gaudi’s Casa Mila (1912) in his 1975 film “The Passenger.”

Jack Nicholson on the roof of Gaudi’s Casa Mila. Still image from the 1975 film “The Passenger.”

My conscience pricks me as I write this paean to the pleasures of feeling, to paraphrase Philip Johnson, my ‘molecules being rearranged’ by architecture.  Yet, is this so selfish?  The philosopher Jacques Rancière argues otherwise. He places value on “the possibility of being together and apart” because space for solitude has become “a dimension of social life which is precisely made impossible by the ordinary life… .”1 (Ordinary life, here, being the relentless bids for our money and our attention.)

Now Rancière is actually writing about the conditions in Paris’s poor suburbs where he sees a need for spaces and places that offer the dignity of solitude (not the despair of loneliness) for its residents, the very same people who designers are quick to gather into configurations of participatory design. But I would argue both situations – the collaborative and the solitary – are powerful frameworks for design and, that at its best, design creates conditions to be ‘together and apart.’ Even and especially on the roof of an Opera House, where seeing an opera isn’t required.

“Apart and Together on the Oslo Opera House roof.” Photo: Susan Yelavich

  1. Rancière, Jacques. “Aesthetic Separation, Aesthetic Community: Scenes from the
    Aesthetic Regime of Art
    ” taken from an edited transcript of a plenary lecture delivered on 20 June 2006 to the symposium, Aesthetics and Politics: With and Around Jacques Rancière co-organised by Sophie Berrebi and Marie-Aude Baronian at the University of Amsterdam on 20-21 June 2006. Accessed 6/20/17.

An Open Letter to the Graduating Class of 2017

Salma Shamel Bakr speaking at the 2017 New School Commencement ceremony.

by Susan Yelavich

I’d like to offer some reflections as you embark on new paths, having spent the last two years, preparing for this moment. And I’m sharing them here for those who will follow your footsteps and those friends and colleagues who will miss you greatly. Myself, chief among them. Above all, I want you to know that if you felt your time here slipped away far too quickly, that I felt it just as keenly. The Irish in me thinks “we hardly knew ye.”

But, what I do know is that you are a forceful lot. Your exhibition in the University Center’s Events Café confirmed that. You are a class fully committed to the possibilities of Design Studies. Put another way, you didn’t hesitate to question the norms of design. You weren’t just dissatisified with the conventional categories of design and the usual ways of designing, you also proposed alternatives and alternative futures.  And in doing so, you confirmed the value of Design Studies.  It’s the canary in the coalmine at a time when we need it most:  in this very moment, when the environment and civil society are under siege.  We may not be the New York Times or the Washington Post, but our questions are no less valuable for that. Design Studies looks beyond the immediate present, a present we all hope will pass soon. We need to ask the questions you ask – questions that make us look at design in unexpected ways and in unexpected contexts.

Who would have thought that a national archive could be designed to suppress information? Salma Shamel Bakr’s investigations threw a harsh light on how archival systems and buildings, on how paper and pixels, can be, and have been, designed to deny history.

Who would have thought the American desert was an object of design? Fattori Fraser showed us that this most barren of landscapes is especially vulnerable to human interventions — precisely because it’s an environment that thrives of a myth of isolation. But what happens in the desert – think, nuclear testing – doesn’t stay in the desert, no matter what they say.

Who would have thought that childbearing was a matter of design? Sandra Gichuhi showed us how the labor of women—and I mean that in every sense of the word—is now built into a complex transnational network of lives and bodies.

Who would have thought that we design the lives of animals—including we human animals—in the muck of our barnyards? Shea Mandolesi took the lay of that land and redesigned a farm to promote better health.

Who would have thought that a world-famous architect was not completely in control of her work? Qionglu Lei broke through the fiction of the lone maestro, to reveal the wider cast of characters that make up a building, including those who use it.

And lastly, speaking of control, who would have thought design was more about erasure than mark, more about reconfiguring than configuring? Leticia Oxley found the essence of designing in prototyping, not in the ever-elusive idea of resolution.  She, like all of our students, knows while every work of design addresses a question, it also poses countless others.

Keep questioning, stay curious, and stay in touch!

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Komal Sharma, MA Design Studies ’15

Tell us about your career path from New Delhi to New York? Any advice for prospective Parsons ADHT students planning a move to the United States?

Before coming to Parsons, I was working in New Delhi as a journalist, writing for the weekend edition of a paper. I would write stories about people who were doing something new, making something interesting—maybe a beautiful chair, a bicycle of bamboo, setting up a whacky new office, a new clothing line of banana fiber and silk, and such. I never really called it design with a capital D. I had a cozy apartment and good friends. My family was in a city just a few hours away. I was settled and comfortable. There had been a breakup with a boyfriend, and that possibly had something to do with staying up late nights reading random blogs. That’s when I came across Susan Yelavich’s note on the MA Design Studies blog. I instantly knew I had to pursue it. I had to at least try.

However, I belong to that group of people who don’t believe that everything is pure coincidence. One thing leads to another, often over time and so subtly, and you connect the dots only much later. Anyway, I had been to New York a couple of years before I moved there for school. I had walked past The New School, down Fifth Avenue, and sat outside Bobst and watched the world go by. I had walked enough of the city as a tourist to know that if you walk slowly, you’re going to get grumpy looks. I didn’t mind it. I smiled back. And when I moved here, I walked faster myself. There was always somewhere to get to.


So I applied to Parsons—shot an arrow into the dark. After being accepted, I bought a one-way ticket from New Delhi to New York. I packed up my apartment, gave away most of my things, except those that could fit into two suitcases.

As much as my career path was about learning design, and about living in a new city—and exploring the world in general—it was ultimately about self discovery. To go from one city to another, from a job back to school, from a place of familiarity to the complete unknown—all of it is related to getting to know yourself better. To potential students of The New School, or any other school which is far from all that is known to them, I’d say, take a plunge. Do it. You’ll find out who you are.


Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker? If so, what are the terms? And did this identity form before or after graduating?

While I lived in New York I definitely felt a sense of belonging in the first few months. New York not only accepts you for who you are, it also embraces you and sucks you in and celebrates you for all your differences or unexpected similarities. No doubt it can be rough—and maybe I’ve been lucky—but I found friends who smiled a smile of knowing and understanding, who disarmed me with their honesty, who sat at the bar and talked of weird, dark politics of the world and made me feel right at home. Also, strangers. If it’s too much to say that most New Yorkers are friendly, it’s safe to say that they are straightforward and will do what they can to help you. When I was moving into an apartment, I found a bed to buy off of Craigslist. The owner—a slightly grouchy German gentleman—was shocked that I didn’t have any tools (to fix up the bed). “Not even a screwdriver?” he had asked, as if traumatized. I apologetically said I would buy one on my way home. While leaving, he gave me his pocket folding tool set. He said that it was old, that he had used it for a very long time—mostly on his bicycle. He said he wanted me to have it.


Hypothetically speaking, where does one in your field live and thrive outside of New York City?

While attending The New School, I learned a lot inside and outside the classroom. Needless  to say, the city and its people are a tremendous influence. The city becomes a classroom. Other students come from worlds of their own and bring perspectives you don’t ordinarily consider. To be honest, I tried desperately to stay in New York after graduating from the program, to work for a couple of years simply because there is so much happening and there’s so much scope. But visa issues didn’t make it easy.

Returning home had its share of excitement. India has its own set of possibilities. Design is a field that’s everywhere and beyond borders and across cultures. The Parsons Design Studies Program gives you a very open-ended socio-political perspective of design. So even if I took electives as specific as Dutch Design or History of Modern Architecture or Socially Engaged Art Practices, it all essentially gave me an anchor to grasp what is going on in the world. Some people might prefer to learn specifics, to focus, to specialize—and you can do that. But for me, as a journalist, I was seeking coordinates, milestones, directions to navigate the world with a little more knowledge and understanding. When taking up an issue to write about, I want to come from a sensitive place of understanding. Which is also why I don’t find it imperative to be in one particular place or market hotspot suited to my field of work. An IDEO at San Francisco or Museum of Art+Design in New York would be amazing, but a weaver’s studio in rural Nepal that is collaborating with designers to contemporize their weaving traditions is equally fantastic to me. The world is my oyster.



How has life been post MA DS? How do you think the courses have changed your course?

I am back in India now. My central area of study during the program (including my thesis) and after the program has been about the relationship of craft and design. In India, you grow up in a significantly handmade culture. And yet it’s equally industrialized. So the lived experience of craft is very alive and thriving, rather than just a theory that existed pre-industrial revolution. It’s not a complete surprise to me that my research and interest lie in craft and design. Since my return, I have been traveling across India—Pondicherry, Cochin, Kutch, Kashmir—to centers of traditional crafts, to craft+design collaborative studios, to artisan workshops, to design schools. I’ve been doing this with the aim of putting together a travelogue of the craft and design landscape of India.

While I am from India and have lived here all my life, I don’t think I’ve considered and traveled through its length and breadth before, as I’m doing now. And it is certainly my period of study at The New School that has brought this on.  Sometimes one has to detach and go away from the familiar, to look at it from a distance and return with a renewed perception and vigor. And it helps tremendously that while you’re away, you’re among a set of people who put you through painful projects of research and writing.

Next week I’ll be starting a new job: a writer at a newspaper, covering design and culture issues. I’ll be based in Mumbai, which is similar to New York—a fantastical, messy, churning pot. While I write short weekly stories, I hope I will be disciplined enough to continue working on my book and not lose the steam that MA DS and New York has built for me.


Do you think your writing, or your work in general, has changed after graduating from The New School? In terms of voice, insight, theory, and other writing skills, have you compared them with your journalism before Parsons ADHT?

Developing writing skills is a constant, persistent, unending process. And design knowledge evolves and expands as each day passes. While I admit and submit to that, I find that a graduate course really gives you an edge. It gives you the tools to hammer, chisel, crack open something with a little more sharpness and precision. It equips you with a way of thinking and approaching issues.

Having said that, I find that when I write an article and read it a few months down the line, more often than not I’ll be cringing at what I’ve done! But that’s just me and the ghosts I have to battle on my own. And it doesn’t stop me from writing at all. During school’s second semester, I interned at Metropolis Magazine, where I had the opportunity to write. The year after, I interned at Maharam, a textile design studio, doing writing work that was specific to the textile industry. Soon after school, I worked at Herman Miller’s editorial department, writing about their historical, as well as new, products. I think there’s something that has changed, though. I don’t find myself writing for the sake of filling newspaper space. I need to have an original idea, however small, and then build my language around it. I also think there’s more clarity in my narrative. I’ve realized that the more you know, the more there is to know. And that at some point you will miss out on something quite crucial. Yet an independent idea is invaluable. The authenticity of your voice will carry forth your argument despite its limitations. Which is why I want to reiterate that the most valuable thing about this MA program has been to help me develop a way of thinking. My teachers and peers are to thank for that.


To elaborate a little on your area of interest, how do you interact with a pre-modern idea of craft and a post digital state of design? What has survived from the old infrastructure that you find indispensable or, perhaps, unhelpful?

While in theory craft is pre-modern, to me the notion is timeless. It has existed throughout history, even at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, adapting to become part of the industrial model in one way or another. Whether as a division of labor or a specialization of skill, in small or big ways the notion of craft has existed. But yes, the industrial and digital modes of production change the definition and scope of craft quite significantly from its pre-modern conception. To my mind, it is an interesting moment for craft and its renewed relevance simply because the digital model allows for more freedom in conception and production. It gives the maker power over each individual piece, more than an assembly line industrial model has offered. I also see a u-turn in the values that we aspire to. For example, aesthetics like imperfections, unstandardized pieces, the qualities inherent in the handmade. However, there is a tendency to fetishize such qualities. I believe that craft has to be understood not as a category of handmade objects but as a way of thinking and making. Something that requires skill, work hours, material knowledge, and learning by doing. Craft has the capacity to intersect philosophy, social practices, technology, sustainability—in turn embedding a humanity into what we make. Most importantly, craft is about people. I was recently reading a book called Critical Craft, and the authors Clare Wilkinson-Weber and Alicia Ory DeNicola brought the discussion of craft down its expansive anthropological reach. “We believe that research on craft and artisanship has the potential to open up new and evocative questions about the ways that we construct some of anthropology’s most critical contemporary concerns: technology, access to markets, means of production, control over work practices, tradition and innovation, urban and rural spaces, human rights and the environment to name just a few,” they wrote. So yes, I think craft as a way of thinking-knowing-making is indispensable. But to look at it through a nostalgic lens of the beautifully handcrafted objects of yesterday—that’s unhelpful.


Read Komal Sharma’s work here.

ADHT Graduate Student Symposium at Parsons Festival 2017

Join Us for the 2017 ADHT Graduate Student Symposium

All are welcome to attend the annual ADHT Graduate Student Symposium, held May 11 and 12th, 2017 from 11am to 4pm.

Graduate students from MA Design Studies, MA Fashion Studies, and MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies will be presenting their work from the past academic year in the Bark Orientation Room at 2 W 13th Street.

For the full schedule of presentations, click here.

We hope to see you there!


Faculty Rally Together for International Women’s Day on March 8

Left to right in Washington Square Park: front row: Susan Yelavich, Design Studies; Francesca Granata, Fashion Studies; back row: Sarah Lichtman, History of Design/Curatorial Studies; Jilly Traganou, Design Studies; Rachel LIfter, ADHT; Charlene Lau, ADHT; Hazel Clark, Design/Fashion Studies; Heike Jenss, Fashion Studies

Making Home in Wounded Spaces featured on Archinect

Making Home in Wounded Spaces, an international symposium co-sponsored by the MA Design Studies program of ADHT, and its keynote speaker Lina Sergie Attar were recently featured on design and architecture blog Archinect!

As cities densify and the global population increases, much has been made of reclaiming physical spaces: but how does one reclaim a place that is bound up in tragedy, whether that tragedy was natural or man-made? 

To continue reading about the symposium on Archinect, please visit their page here.
For more information on Making Home in Wounded Spaces, please see the The New School event pages for days one and two of the symposium.

MA Design Studies 2017 Symposium: Making Home in Wounded Places

Reminder: CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS open until Dec. 10th for

Making Home in Wounded Places: Memory, Design, and the Spatial

March 3 – 4, 2017


An international symposium co-sponsored by the MA Design Studies program, Parsons School of Art & Design History & Theory, The Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, New School for Social Research, and the Global Studies program at The New School.

Keynote speaker: Lina Sergie Attar 

Link to The New School events information page


The Every Day Project Relaunches Post-Inauguration

Illustration by Anna Horowitz. Image courtesy of The Every Day Project.

President Trump’s first 100 days are not easily digestible for many MADS students and alumni. Before Inauguration Day, alumna Mae Wiskin (MA Design Studies, 2016) helped launch The Every Day Project, which aimed to bring achievable everyday acts of activism to subscriber’s inboxes. In light of the current events following January 20, 2017, The Every Day Project has relaunched and renewed its commitment to bringing awareness to the types of initiatives that are crucial to maintain engagement with.


Website live for Making Home in Wounded Places symposium!

Join us on March 3 & 4 for a symposium that looks at the conditions and possibilities for “Making Home in Wounded Spaces: Design, Memory, and the Spatial.” See our new website for details on the conversations and register soon, as space is limited!


Alumna Mae Wiskin helps start The Every Day Project in response to Trump Presidency

Illustration by Anna Horowitz. Image courtesy of Mae Wiskin.

MA Design Studies alumna Mae Wiskin writes to us from her new venture, The Every Day Project, which started a #45to45 social media campaign to make 45 acts of change before Inauguration Day. 

Earlier this year I completed my masters in Design Studies from Parsons The New School of Design. Once I left school, I quickly found a position working in digital media. I was content in my new role until the shock of the presidential election hit, and like everyone else, I found myself questioning everything. Chief among them was what do we do now? Coming from a university that challenges its students to fight against the belief that the way the world works is the way the world must be, I found myself wondering how we ought to redesign our systems in order to move forward.


Jilly Traganou Awarded Fulbright Scholarship to Conduct Research on the Olympics and Design in Rio

Lecture at the Carioca Center of Design, Rio de Janeiro, August 2016

Jilly Traganou is an architect and Associate Professor in Spatial Design Studies. Her recent publications include a book titled Designing the Olympics: Representation, Participation, Contestation (Routledge, 2016). She is the author of The Tokaido Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan (RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), a co-editor with Miodrag Mitrasinovic of Travel, Space, Architecture (Ashgate, 2009) and a contributor to several books, most recently the Routledge Companion to Design Studies (2016). Professor Traganou has been Fellow of the Japan Foundation, the European Union Science and Technology postdoctoral program, Princeton Program in Hellenic Studies, and Bard Graduate Center, as well as a recipient of two Graham Foundation grants. She has most recently been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and spent last summer in Rio de Janeiro conducting design research on the last Olympic Games.


Claudia Marina, MA Design Studies ’17, Published in The Avery Review

Interior of one of the classrooms in the Sugar Hill Museum Preschool. Photograph by Qionglu Lei.

Current MA Design Studies student Claudia Marina is published in Issue 20 of The Avery Review, a project of Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Her paper, “Checking in: David Adjaye’s Sugar Hill Project, Two Years Later,” is the result of a research project that began at the beginning of 2016 in Jilly Traganou’s “Research and Methods” course. The paper investigates the Sugar Hill Project, a collaboration between developer Broadway Housing Communities and architect David Adjaye, two years into the building’s architectural afterlife.


Plot(s) Journal of Design Studies Call for Submissions


The call for submissions for Plot(s) Volume IV is now open. Plot(s) Journal of Design Studies is an annual peer-reviewed publication produced and edited by the MA Design Studies program at Parsons School of Design in New York. As a multidisciplinary journal, Plot(s) attempts to articulate the ways in which design practices shape and transform the human experience.

Submissions are open to graduate students, recent graduates, design practitioners, and academics. Plot(s) accepts a wide range of formats including, but not limited to, academic essays, visual essays, design research, interviews, book/exhibition/film reviews, and design/architectural projects. In addition to this, our website allows for the submission of other multimedia formats such as video and audio projects. Attached below, you will find a detailed guideline for submissions.  The deadline to submit forPlot(s) Volume IV is December 19, 2016.

Please send all submissions to


The Plot(s) Editorial Team

Plot(s) Website is Live


This month, the MA Design Studies program proudly launches the online companion to our print journal, Plot(s). Volumes I, II, and III of the journal are now available to read and download on the website.


Call For Applications: MA Design Studies



The deadline to apply to the graduate MA Design Studies program is January 1, 2017. Click here to apply. Click through for more information on the program. (more…)

Jilly Traganou Wins Design Incubation Award

Red Tent Housing protest, LiveCity Downtown, Vancouver, February 10, 2010. Photograph by Stephen Hui.

Red Tent Housing protest, LiveCity Downtown, Vancouver, February 10, 2010. Photo by Stephen Hui.

Associate Professor of Spatial Design Studies Jilly Traganou won the Design Incubation Communication Design Educators Award in the category of Scholarship for her research in the graphic design histories of the Olympics. The material awarded came from her recent book Designing the Olympics: Representation, Participation, Contestation (Routledge, 2016)—specifically the chapters on graphic design, which deal with issues such as how the design program for the 1964 Tokyo Games helped shape Japan’s post-war identity, London 2012’s foray into making the public a part of the design process, and ways political groups appropriate official Olympic images as a form of dissent.


Eating What Your Food Eats: Misha Volf, Design Studies ’16, Connects The Production and Consumption of Meat


On a recent evening, a cadre of foodies crowded into a residential loft in Bushwick, Brooklyn for a four-course farm-to-table feast. Having just gotten off the Myrtle Avenue M stop, though they probably didn’t expect to be this close to the farm. Instead of a table, the diners gathered around a communal feeding trough complete with a mini “pasture” and dined on salt licks, colostrum, hay, and grass.

MADS Alumni Quizayra Gonzalez and co-curator Cass Gardiner awarded Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design’s 2017 Curatorial Fellowship


Title: 16 Artist: Arjan Zazueta Materials: Hand-stitched cotton thread on paper towels Size: 44 x 44 inches

MADS Alumni Quizayra Gonzalez and co-curator Cass Gardiner have been awarded the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design’s 2017 Curatorial Fellowship.  Together they will design a show for Fall 2017.   We extend our congratulations to Quizayra and Cass!  Here is more detail about the show:


Jilly Traganou to Speak in São Paulo and Rio

Jilly's talk

Jilly Traganou, Associate Professor of Spatial Design Studies, is giving a talk tomorrow, August 23rd, titled “O design olímpico e o meio (Olympic Design and the Social Environment)” at Curso de Design da FAU USP e LabVisual – Laboratório de Pesquisa em Design Visual da FAU USP in São Paulo.

Professor Traganou is also giving a talk in Rio on Wednesday, August 24th at the Centro Carioca de Design, titled “The Olympic Design Milieu and what would its Legacy be for Rio? // O Ambiente do Design Olímpico e seu Possível Legado para o Rio.”

These presentations are only some of a myriad of activities Professor Traganou has been involved with as a part of her Fulbright fellowship, which she has undertaken in these past few historic weeks in Brazil as the Summer 2016 Olympics were taking place.

A John Heskett Reader edited by Clive Dilnot

by David Brody


In July, my Parsons colleague, Clive Dilnot, will publish his edited volume A John Heskett Reader. Heskett, who died in 2014, was a remarkable thinker who brought design to life for diverse audiences through his engaging prose. Indeed, Heskett helped bring the field of design history and design criticism to life through his numerous books that covered topics from industrial design to German design to corporate design. He was, as many of us have grown to appreciate, unwilling to simply embrace design as a formal practice. Heskett was committed to social and historical context and the essays  in Dilnot’s text speak to Heskett’s larger oeuvre.

Jilly Traganou’s Designing the Olympics: Book release and lecture in Rio, Brazil


Jilly Traganou, ADHT Associate Professor of Spatial Design Studies, is releasing her new book Designing the Olympics: Representation, Participation, Contestation. (more…)

Susan Yelavich on the ‘Why’ Behind Design, the New Academic Year, & her Latest Book


Susan Yelavich, Associate Professor and Director of the MA Design Studies program, returns this fall after a year-long sabbatical. We catch up with Professor Yelavich as she pauses in writing her new book, Reading Design, and looks toward some exciting developments for the new academic year.


Professor Susan Yelavich Interviewed by Andrea Cuevas, Mexican Design Curator

Susan Yelavich


Design Studies Professor Susan Yelavich visited Mexico for the first time in 2015. Since then, when she lectured at Centro, she has been fortunate enough to have made many good friends.  In part this led to the request for the interview featured here which explores questions about design’s role in social responsibilities and in shaping the future.

MA Design Studies Students Want You to #SeeRikers


By Claudia Marina


How often do you see Riker’s? For most in New York City, unless you or your loved have worked or lived on the island, the answer is not often. Daily life for inmates and correctional officers is defined by the island, wedged between The Bronx and Queens on the East River, but the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority has a tricky history with labeling the island, which is home to a notorious prison complex, on its subway maps. In most underground stations, it is labeled but without means of getting there, and Riker’s is altogether forgotten inside subway car versions of the map. The Q100 bus line, which takes New Yorkers from Long Island City to Riker’s Island, exists almost as a myth.


New Work & Work-in-Progress by Core Faculty: Clive Dilnot, Jilly Traganou and Susan Yelavich



EVENT: MANIFESTO: From Brazil’s Recent Events to a Manifesto on Latin American Democracy

From Brazil’s Recent Events to a Manifesto on Latin American Democracy
May 10th 2016, 16:15 to 18:00 hrs.
The New School – Wolff Conference Room
6 East 16th Street, Room D1103
In the need to discuss the current political  debates on Brazil and Latin America, from the impending impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, to the rise of other conservative leaders in neighboring countries, Laura Belik, MADS second year student from São Paulo, is organizing together with a group of students from the Latin American Student Organization Somos OLA the event “From Brazil’s Recent Events to a Manifesto on Latin American Democracy“.  This event is organized in a pecha Kucha style, where 12 guest-speakers were invited to discuss the Manifesto Somos OLA students created as well as to give their overview on the current situation of their country’s scenario. 


Special Issue of The Design Journal: “Visual Communication Design in the Balkans” Co-edited by Associate Professor Jilly Traganou

Design in the Balkans


Jilly Traganou, Associate Professor in Spatial Design, recently co-edited a special issue of The Design Journal: An International Journal for All Aspects of Design entitled “Visual Communication Design in the Balkans.” The edition, which was released on April 6th, explores the role of visual communication in numerous aspects of life in the Balkans, from economic conditions to countercultural music scenes to historical textbooks.


Latin America Documentary Series: Discussions of Space

Latin America Documentary ImageOver the month of April, MA Design Studies student Laura Belik, in conjunction with the Design Studies Forum, organized the “Latin America Documentary Screenings: Discussions Of Space,” a series of film screenings and talks focusing on the spatiality and urban environments of the region. Each event highlighted different aspects of the topic of space, with discussion topics ranging from cities, urban democracy, and social justice to public spaces, the commons, and displacement.


MADS Student Salma Shamel Curates Film Festival

Film Horizontal-01edit
This weekly film screening event is to introduce The MENA Working Group, an informal network of graduate students and faculty members working at The New School (NSSR, Parsons, Milano) and concentrating their research on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), broadly construed. Launched in October 2015, the Working Group organizes a graduate student conference on April 22nd and hopes to serve the needs and interests of graduate students at TNS. With this series of films, the MENA Working Group offers a space of discussion open to all New School students, Lang and graduate researchers. The screenings are free and will generally be held Thursdays, 8-10p, followed by a peer-led discussion.


Matters of Debate: Mapping Research on the Middle East – New School Student Conference


In the World of Medical Apps, Bridging the Divide Between Designers and Clinicians


Melissa Wiskin, Design Studies ’16, completed a stint in the Peace Corps in Zambia, where she learned about the power of mobile technology to dispense health care.


Visualizing The Middle East and North Africa Film Screenings





The MENA Working Group is an informal network of graduate students and faculty members working at The New School (NSSR, Parsons, Milano) and concentrating their research on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), broadly construed. Launched in October 2015, the Working Group organizes a graduate student conference on April 22nd and hopes to serve the needs and interests of graduate students at TNS. With this series of films, the MENA Working Group offers a space of discussion open to all New School students, Lang and graduate researchers. The screenings are free and will generally be held Thursdays, 8-10p, followed by a peer-led discussion.  Organizer: Salma Shamel Bakr  Faculty contact point: Benoit Challand


Jilly Traganou to give two talks on counter-Olympic Dissent


Associate Professor of Spatial Design Studies, Jilly Traganou, has a productive February ahead of her.


Speaking about Design in Mexico City

by Susan Yelavich, Associate Professor of Design Studies

Last fall, from October 28th to November 1st, I had the good fortune to be a guest of Centro, Mexico City’s premiere design school. During my stay, I gave a lecture to 200 members of the school and its design community in which I explored the ways design can hinder or enhance leisure, depending on the degree of control and serendipity it offers. I also conducted a more intimate workshop where graduate students proposed schemes for sites of ad hoc leisure within the highly-composed and elegant architecture of their recently built campus, designed by Enrique Norten e Ten Arquitectos.


yelavich mexico2

The Centro building designed in 2015 by Enrique Norten e Ten Arquitectos (courtesy of Centro).

During my time (my first time) in Mexico City, Centro’s director of academic affairs Gabriela Traverso made generous arrangements for me to visit their city’s major cultural sites, from Casa Luis Barragán to the Frida Kahlo Museum to the world-renowned National Museum of Anthropology. I’ve rarely been so warmly welcomed as I was at Centro, and I’m forever grateful to Centro’s director Kerstin Scheuch and her dedicated faculty. Among all the events and trips they planned, they also arranged for me to speak with Janine Porras of the design magazine Glocal.  What follows is the interview Janine conducted in which I discuss design as an agent of dignity.

Read Susan’s full interview here.  (Note: This interview is published in Spanish)

yelavich mexico

Susan leads her graduate student workshop: Configuring Spaces of Leisure (courtesy of Centro).


Prospective Students Webinar Discussion: November 24th from 12-1pm

Please join Design Studies Program Director, Jilly Traganou, on November 24th from 12-1pm in a webinar to discuss the program!  This webinar will provide you with detailed information about this diverse and innovative graduate degree program. You will also have the opportunity to ask whatever questions you may have. The webinar will also include information about the application and financial aid/scholarship process. We hope you will be able to join us!
To register for this event, please go here and enter your information.


Class of 2016’s Mae Wiskin featured on VICE News segment

Mae Wiskin, class of 2016 MA Design Studies second year candidate, was recently featured on VICE News On The Line. The segment was on India’s mental health crisis and women’s rights. Mae spoke to VICE News journalist Neha Shastry about the ways in which digital technologies can be used to help battle the stigma and shame associated with mental illness. Mae researches the intersections between “smart” technologies, text-based behavioral therapies and psychopathology. Her work on “designing” the new frontier of mental health treatments and interventions advocates for the incorporation of tele-health technologies in order to gain access to those most vulnerable both in India and globally.


Mae’s VICE News feature begins at 19:19.

ADHT Welcomes 64 New Graduate Students

Design Studies incoming students touring The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum with docent, Sakura Nomiyama

On Monday, August 24th, 64 incoming graduate students gathered in the Kellen Auditorium to make up the School of Art and Design History and Theory’s incoming class of 2017.  ADHT is the home to 29 new students in Fashion Studies (FS), 10 in Design Studies (DS) and 26 in The History of Design and Curatorial Studies (HDCS).  These programs’ incoming students will join 70 of their classmates in their final year— and joining them in the rigor of this year’s curriculum and undertakings.

Director of Design Studies, Jilly Traganou, agrees in saying that the incoming graduate students have a deep well of resources to draw from, especially in regards to “cross-divisional and cross school collaborations.”  And a key aspect of these resources that Traganou points out to not only her graduate students in DS, but to those across ADHT’s programs is the faculty they have the occasion to work with.  As a graduate student in ADHT, one has the unique opportunity “to be a part of the research that faculty of our school is involved with,” and utilizing that relationship in one’s own study, “from the conception of ideas to the final production of a publication.”

Bolstering the substantial work from within these programs, is ADHT’s exceptional lineup of events this semester.  For one such upcoming event on September 8th, DS and The Japan Foundation will host Japanese Design Today: Unique, Evolving, Borderless with professor, Hiroshi Kashiwagi and architect / designer, Yoshifumi Nakamura, to discuss the evolution of contemporary Japanese design.  ADHT will also be hosting two events partnered with the American Academy in Rome, among others.

“This start of this school year is a specially meaningful one,” begins the “Welcome Statement from the Dean,” Sarah Lawrence, “At its inception, the studio training of a Parsons student is undertaken now within a culture of historical reflection, critical thinking, and eloquent expression.  These are essential activities of ADHT.”  As though in agreement with this idea, pictured above are incoming students during orientation, taking in The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum where they will be spending the next two years of their graduate studies.  “And so, with great anticipation, I welcome you to the start of the new year.”


Design and Storytelling at Cumulus Conference on Design Culture in Milan

Pearl Diver_Poster_WEB_4

This June, at the Milan Cumulus conference, I had the pleasure of speaking with colleagues from around the world about how literature—stories in which objects and places act as protagonists—can offer fresh perspectives on design. Mine was just one contribution to a larger discussion organized around the role of narrative in design for social innovation—a conversation organized by Elisa Bertolotti, Heather Dam, Francesca Piredda and Virginia Tassinari. All of them have become treasured colleagues and partners in future collaborations.

Elisa Bertolotti, Heather Dam, Francesca Pileddi, Virginia Tassinari

This summer, Elisa, Heather, Francesca, and Virginia will release their first collection of essays on design and storytelling entitled The Pearl Diver, published by DESIS Philosophy. (For a preview of my article in that collection, see:

Ezio Manzini, Scientific Chair

Our session on Storytelling and Design was just one facet of the conference theme conceived by conference chair Ezio Manzini. Ezio asked us to examine the dynamic between culture and design in light of the changes in practice today. Questions were raised by Manzini about issues of rupture and continuity with the past. He suggested that in rethinking the culture of design today, we might learn both from the individual genius of Leonardo da Vinci, and from the work of groups such as Collecting Cultures, whose impressive director Anna Detheridge was among the opening night speakers as well. (See:

Self-portrait and Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1490

The introduction of the 15/16th-century Italian polymath into the conversation about the future and culture of design was startling (even in an Italian context). For surely, Manzini is not a traditionalist or remotely nostalgic. My own reaction (which may not or may not reflect the tenor of the conference) was that as design pursues its righteous and necessary ambition to address pressing social and environmental problems, the activity of private reflection has come to be tainted with elitism. Our urge to be social may be at risk of endangering the nurturing possibilities of retreat.

Detail of poster wall at Storytelling and Design

Taking a break while being part of the conversation

Clearly, the pendulum of design culture needs to oscillate between the two states. Moreover, some of us have greater affect working alone for long periods of time before joining the wonderfully messy fray of democratic exchange that is design for social justice. At least this is my defense as I begin my sabbatical this July and embark on the hermetic project of writing the book that the Storytelling and Design session took me one step closer to formulating—A Literature of Places and Things: Reading and Writing Design.

Susan Yelavich

Veronica Uribe Del Aguila’s Valedictory Address to the Class of 2015


So, Design Studies… You are probably asking yourselves what is Design studies. Well…I don’t have an easy, straightforward answer to this question. However, this is what I can tell you after two years of studying design.

Think about the fork you used to eat yesterday’s lunch. Yes, the fork. Just …go with it.

Think about how its shape and size fit perfectly in your mouth and hand—so perfectly that you almost did not pay attention to it until I asked you to think about it.

Now think about how this shape and size determines the amount of food you eat in every bite, hence how you eat and how meals occur.

That…. is design studies.


Now think about the materials and the process in which this fork was produced. Was it part of an assembly line that involved a system of mass production and distribution, and in that sense, considers labor and environmental issues?

Or is it the outcome of a relation that evolved over time between an individual or a community with a material and a craft?

All of these processes and the status they have in the market are also design studies.

Think about chopsticks and how both forks and chopsticks are elements of cultural practices that keep changing and redefining themselves.

Think about how these items can easily be linked to national narratives and to collective identities as symbols. And how they can help sediment or challenge given power relations.

That…. is… also design studies.


Think also of the designer who, via the fork, expressed her ideas regarding who we are and how we should eat.

Also think about the person that purchases this fork (and probably the spoon and knife, I mean the whole set). Think, too, how this act of consumption allowed her to define her identity: to express some sense of uniqueness.

And think about the trucks, the stores, the freezers and the vegetable stands that feed the fork, and the people who use it.

Guess what… that is also design studies.


Finally…forget the fork and think about streets, buildings and cities. Think about services and infrastructures; think about technologies and games.

All that I brought up about the fork applies to any design, any thing, That a thing is more than a thing. Think of design as systems or assemblages that change over time.

That these systems and the nodes that make up the systems never act alone; that they are always part of bigger networks that include other objects and humans.

Think now about all the possible assemblages that have not yet been designed; think about what design could be.

That is also design studies.


On behalf of my classmates I want to thank Jilly, Susan, Clive and Barbara for helping us carry forward this two-year conversation about design.

To all our teachers: thank you for joining this conversation. To our fellow students in our program and other programs: thank you for helping us to keep the conversation going beyond classes.

I personally want to thank Jilly, Susan and Clive for the long conversations and the many times I left their offices even more confused that when I got there; because confusion is an obligatory step in the way to understanding.

I want to thank Michelle and Ethan for the opportunity they gave me to teach. It was challenging, terrifying and ultimately incredibly rewarding. I also want to thank my family and friends for supporting me in so many different ways.

And last but not the least, I want to thank my classmates and now friends because you made it possible and you made it fun.

Thank you and Congratulation to you all!

Announcing the publication of PLOT(S) Journal of Design Studies, Issue 2


The Design Studies Classes of 2015 and 2016 are pleased to announce the publication of the second issue of Plot(s), a peer reviewed, student-edited and produced journal exploring the plurality of design studies.

Access PDF here: PLOT(S)

Susan Yelavich speaks at RISD/Brown symposium on Critical Design


On April 24th, Susan Yelavich joined colleagues at RISD and Brown University at a symposium organized by Damian White (History, Philosophy + The Social Sciences, RISD) and Ian Gonsher (Engineering, Brown Universitiy) on “Critical Design/Critical Futures.” Through a series of panels and workshops, as well as an online publication, the event explored critical design, design activism, and design-led social innovation. Yelavich presented her research on literature as an untapped mode of design research and study.

Jilly Traganou Awarded Prestigious Grant from Design History Society


The School of ADHT is proud to announce that this past March, Jilly Traganou received a Design History Society grant in support of her book publication Designing the Olympics.  Designing the Olympics looks at the “Olympic Design Milieu” to ask questions on the relations of design with national identity and citizenship. The book is based on an understanding of Olympic design from 1896 to our days, and focuses on the period from post-WWII to the present. It looks at Olympic design in different geographical and political contexts: the graphic design program for Tokyo 1964, spatial planning for Athens 2004, brand design for London 2012, and a broader analysis of material practice of Olympic dissent in the context of the Mexico 1968, Vancouver 2010, and London 2012 Olympics.

For Traganou, the Olympics is an important nexus where material culture becomes a vehicle for the development of new national values and forms of citizenship. Using primary research material collected in archives (Olympic Museums of Lausanne, Tokyo and Sarajevo, online databases of newspapers and other institutions), and through interviews with designers and other Olympic constituents, she hopes to use the grant for the compilation of the book’s index.

Original post from Insights.

Design Studies Students Intern at Metropolis


The New York-based architecture and design magazine, Metropolis (, covers the full spectrum of design with a critical perspective and a long standing tradition of highlighting the potential of design with the arenas of politics, culture, social justice, and sustainability.

Parsons MA Design Studies program has been fortunate to place several interns over the past everal years: Dora Sapunar, Class of ’14; Komal Sharma, Class of 15′; and Estefania Acostica, Class of 16′. EAch of them share their experiences below. Internships are important opportunities encouraged by the Design Studies program for the ways in which they enable students to transfer the knowledge gained within an academic setting to a workplace environment. Metropolis offers an ideal complement to the Design Studies program’s critical interdisciplinary approach to the consequences and possibilities of design.

dora-cropped IMG_7050

Dora Sapunar, Class of 2014

I interned at Metropolis in the summer of 2013. The internship included doing research for magazine features, attending events and exhibitions—from the Le Corbusier exhibition at the MoMA to the FitCity Conference at the AIA Center for Architecture—as well as writing blog posts on any and all topics that I was interested in. My favorite projects included helping with research on gender inequality in architecture for the infographics supporting Alexandra Lange’s article Architecture’s Lean In Moment ( and writing about James Turrell’s sublime exhibition at the Guggenheim ( Working with Metropolis editors was a great learning experience (not to mention very fun!) and I’m still always excited to contribute to the magazine.

komalmetropolis cake

Komal Sharma, Class of 2015

The few months I spent at Metropolis magazine was a great learning experience. It offered a terrific opportunity to learn how to write clearly and quickly. The experience helped me to be connected with what’s happening in the city, and there’s always a lot happening. I was able to go to exhibitions, write about them, interview designers. The Contemporary International Furniture Fair (ICFF) and New York Design week happened during my time at the magazine, and I was able to attend those events, meet people, and write. At Metropolis, it’s really about how much can you do, how much do you want to do. The team–Paul Makovsky, Avinash Rajagopal, Shannon Sharpe, and Samuel Medina–are fantastic and always happy to guide you. Even after my internship ended, I have continued to ask them for freelance work, and they’ve always responded with opportunities. The day I was leaving, I was moved by their friendship. They surprised me with a cake!


Estefania Acosta, Class of 2016

The office of Metropolis magazine houses a surprisingly small team. The office environment consists of shelves full of magazines and books and mountains of papers. I’ve been an intern in the editorial department for about a month, now. Thankfully, the majority of the work is researching and writing. When that’s not the case, it’s usually because there’s an interview that needs to be transcribed. It takes a lot of time, but I enjoy it—the last one I did was with an association that promotes unknown female architects. Before that, I listened to a very passionate conversation with the head of a company that designs toilets. The opportunities to learn, needless to say, are plentiful. The magazine itself is a great source of information for designers and architects. Being able to contribute to the content is a great experience in making thing concise and learning to let your writing go. Editing is important, but I’ve only recently learned when to stop—the deadline.

Matter(ing) by Design Symposium


Register for Matter(ing) by Design at:

Special lecture: How Does Mapping Make Up the World?


Join us for a special lecture:

“How Does Mapping Make Up the World?”

Visiting Professor Peter Hall
Design Department Head, Griffith University Queensland College of Art, Brisbane, Australia

Tuesday, February 10th @ 5:00PM
Hirshon Suite: Room 205 in Arnold Hall (55 W. 13th Street)

Please RSVP by contacting Jenn Soong (

Save the date: Matter(ing) by Design


MA Design Studies and “Matter(ing)” at Carnegie Mellon University and Fallingwater

By Mae Wiskin

The first thing I thought upon landing in Pittsburg was how much I wished I had packed gloves. I was freezing, but also completely enlivened by the fact that November had already come and it was finally time to participate in a symposium I had been looking forward to since the start of fall semester. From November 7 – 9, Parsons The New School for Design – Design Studies masters students collaborated with the doctoral candidates of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design on a workshop concerning ‘Mattering.’ More specifically, students from both Universities discussed and delved into the notion of “(How design makes) What matters (Matter for us).”


Parsons Design Studies MA students Mae Wiskin and Rachel Smith enacting a scenario of delegated morality by design at the Matter(ing) workshop at Carnegie Mellon University.


The one-day symposium explored the dynamic interactions between human behavior and information technologies, as well as the multidimensional relationship designed objects share with the concept of morality. Prior to arriving at CMU, each of us was asked to come up images of twenty things that “delegated morality,” things such as seatbelts, security devices, and automatic timers that regulate energy consumption. Once I was able to wrap my head around how we delegate our moral agency to things, I could not maneuver through New York City without constantly noting such objects. It became a sort of game and encouraged me to question what it means to be human in an increasingly monitored, digital world. The issues we explored over the course of the symposium paved the way for a larger scale design thinking conference that will be held at Parsons in March 2015.

Once the workshop ended, everyone slowly parted ways and disappeared into the cold Pennsylvania air to enjoy the pleasures of Pittsburgh on a Saturday night. The discourse presented at the symposium was intellectually rigorous; I left Carnegie Mellon feeling invigorated and excited to explore the notion of ‘mattering’ further.

Parsons MA DS Students at Fallingwater. Back row, l to right: Laura Sanchez, Mae Wiskin, Susan Yelavich, Misha Volf, Olly Bolton, Estefania Acosta, Laura Wing; middle row: Micki Unterberg, Rachel Smith, Sonja Holopainen, Quizayra Gonzales; front row: James Laslavic, Gene Duval, Maggie Lin, Juan Pablo Pemberty, Veronica Uribe.

Parsons MA DS Students at Fallingwater. Back row, l to right: Laura Sanchez, Mae Wiskin, Susan Yelavich, Misha Volf, Olly Bolton, Estefania Acosta, Laura Wing; middle row: Micki Unterberg, Rachel Smith, Sonja Holopainen, Quizayra Gonzales; front row: James Laslavic, Gene Duval, Maggie Lin, Juan Pablo Pemberty, Veronica Uribe.

The following morning, before returning to New York, our energetic director, Susan Yelavich, treated us all to a trip to visit Fallingwater (1934-39), a very rare home built over a waterfall by America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. It was a beautiful crisp autumn day and the modernist icon was absolutely awe-inspiring. We all left rejuvenated and ready to return to the city with a fresh sense of perspective and energy. The trip was really special and reminded me not only how lucky I am to be a member of a program that encourages disruptive and innovative thought, but also, that it was time to buy winter gloves.

Upcoming Design Forum Events

11.6 meeting flier
THURSDAY, Nov 6th // 7 PM
University Center, Room 201
Get a behind-the-scenes look at “How Things Don’t Work,” the Victor Papanek exhibit currently on view in the Kellen Gallery on campus.
Students from MFA Transdisciplinary Design who participated in the development of the exhibition will share their experience collaborating with the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, creating their contributions, and what they hope the format and content of the exhibition will provoke.
11.13 meeting flier
THURSDAY, Nov 13 // 7 PM
University Center, Room 201
This week, Design Forum invites you to join in the discussion of the food industry, food design, and culinary businesses. MS Strategic Design & Management students Romy Raad and Natalie Neumann will present on their blogging venture and MA Design Studies student Yoko Wang will discuss her research.
Rad&Neu will lead a brainstorming session on how food can be used as a catalyst for productivity, creativity,and community.


MA Design Studies Student Speaks on Policy and Design in London

By MA Design Studies Candidate, Jhen-Yi Lin

Jhen-Yi Lin blogpost photo2

Photo courtesy of Lin

How might design provide a new approach to inform public policy planning and implementation? And what brings designers and public policy makers to sit at the same table and discuss social issues?

On September 4, 2014, I presented an academic paper “Design Capabilities in the Public Sector” at 19th Design Management Conference, which was held in London by Design Management Institute. With its definition expanded by the knowledge of design history, political science, sociology, anthropology and management, it appears that the meaning of design is changing and widening from creating an artifact to using artifacts in a broader context to drive behavioral change. In the first year of Design Studies program, I was challenged to rethink everything in my everyday life, from a chair, a potato-peeler, an iPhone, to a subway map diagram and the natural and artificial world that we all live within. I was challenged to depart from tangible and familiar forms of objects and dive into intangible and unfamiliar internal structures and intentions that were embedded in objects.

In trying to understand the essence of design, my research has led me to think about the relationship between design and public policy. Not just public policy for the design industry, but more importantly, the design of public policy, public organizations, city-level systems and management, that, on one hand are so intangible, yet on the other, so close to our everyday life. The paper I presented in London—based on thinking design at a systems level, human- centered value and design capabilities—tries to explore a common ground, to bring design communities and public policy makers to work together to improve social causes and address long-term public policy effectiveness.

Approaching public policy as design artifact provides a new avenue to rethink capabilities of design. I used the Transport for London as one of case studies and illustrate four attributes that design artifacts and public policy share. Both public policy and design artifacts exist within constraints and boundaries, form their task structures hierarchically, rely heavily on negotiation between process and incommensurability, and synthesize their outcomes from components and resources. In this case, the transport system made a good example to illustrate how public service has been designed to meet everyday needs. Everything from the tube map, street signs on the road, different mechanisms to guide pedestrians and vehicles—just to name a few— jointly provide a synthesis to carry millions of passengers across the city every day.

Design Forum: Fall 2014 Sharing Sessions

Animation by Cindy Suen and Skip Dolphin Hursh

Network. Collaborate. Learn.

1 Presentation + 1 Workshop +  1 Moderator

Design Forum Fall Sharing Sessions will provide a platform to present and workshop current student research. Graduate students from programs across all divisions of The New School are welcome and encouraged to participate and provide feedback. Join us at our first session to hear more about how to sign up to run a workshop, present your research, or moderate the discussion. While the task of the presenters will be to engage the group in a lively discussion on the subject matter, the forum will serve as a resource of interdisciplinary critique and debate of issues raised and topics addressed. Students are encouraged to share misunderstandings, confusions, and difficulties as well as working techniques and insights.

Join us for our first meeting!
Thursday, September 25th, 7:30pm
80 Fifth Ave., Room 802

Refreshments will be served. 

About Design Forum

The purpose of the Design Forum is to convene graduate students across all divisions of The New School interested in furthering design discourses as they relate to design practice and the field’s social, political, and economic contexts. The Design Forum shall serve as a primary vehicle for actively facilitating interdisciplinary dialogue about design-related issues.

MA Design Studies Orientation Events

The MA Design Studies program welcomed its third cohort with a series of Orientation events designed to introduce everyone to Parsons, the New School, and New York City; and, most of all, to get to know each other a bit before diving into classes. The week began on Monday, August 18th, with official welcomes, followed by informal introductions, toasts, and a wide-ranging conversation with professors Clive Dilnot and Jilly Traganou at Director Susan Yelavich’s loft in Soho.

Appropriately for a program that explores values and ideologies embodied by design, on Tuesday we visited the Guggenheim Museum for a guided tour of Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe.

Left to right: Micki Unterberg, Anke Gruendel, Soohee Cho, Gene Duval, Sonja Holopainen, Laura Sancez, Estefania Acosta, Quizayra Gonzales, Laura Belik.

Left to right: Micki Unterberg, Anke Gruendel, Soohee Cho, Gene Duval, Sonja Holopainen, Laura Sancez, Estefania Acosta, Quizayra Gonzales, Laura Belik.

On Wednesday, Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine at the Rubin Museum of Art offered a contemplative respite in the middle of a week of concentrated informational meetings with librarians, archivists and student services administrators.

The day after exploring bodily health at the Rubin, we shifted gears on Thursday and looked at how design can contribute to the health of the city and its residents.  We were hosted at the loft of Marpillero Pollak Architects in Tribeca, by MAP partner Linda Pollak, who shared insights into how she and her partner Sandro Marpillero approach the design of urban open spaces in conjunction with residential architecture, museums, and cultural institutions.  After a conversation that ranged from the efficacy of New York City’s project to plant a million trees to designing for differently abled bodies, we were treated to a tour of MAP’s live-work loft with its own unique network of open spaces.

Thoroughly saturated, but with a better sense of each other and the program they’ve embarked on, the Class of 2016 closed out a week by celebrating with all of  the other new MA and MFA students at a reception on Thursday evening at Parsons—a reception that marked not just the end of Orientation but the beginning of a host of  exciting new academic trajectories.

Left to right: Estfania Acosta, Quizayra Gonzales, Laura Belik in Marpillero Pollak Architects studio.

Left to right: Estfania Acosta, Quizayra Gonzales, Laura Belik in Marpillero Pollak Architects studio.

 Left to right: Architect Linda Pollak, Misha Volf, Quizayra Gonzales

Left to right: Architect Linda Pollak, Misha Volf, Quizayra Gonzales

“Thirst” at Proteus Gowanus

Opening on Saturday, March 22nd, “Thirst” is the second exhibition sponsored by the Proteus Gowanus gallery on the annual theme of “Water.” Curated by Lydia Matthews with a transdisciplinary group of New School graduate and undergraduate students as well as numerous collaborators, “Thirst” explores the uses and abuses of water in the local and global context. Though often taken for granted, water is a precious but disappearing resource, a biological necessity, an environmental concern and a metaphor for spirituality, purification and healing. This new exhibition asks us to consider our complex relationships with and need for water in provocative ways. “Thirst” continues Proteus’ laboratory-like, community engaged exhibition style including installation, practical workshops, roundtable discussions and tours around Gowanus. The model of engaging a curatorial theme through different exhibitions and various partners over the course of a year allows a long term and multi-faceted exploration.

It was a perfect fit for Professor Matthews and her “Curating as Social Practice” students who have been studying and developing experimental curatorial platforms. They will transform Proteus Gowanus into ThirstLab, a living laboratory with an evolving open archive, and will host a series of cross-disciplinary, hands-on workshops on topics as diverse as water-based crafts, the politics of fresh water access, hydroponic farming and liquor distillation, and therapeutic water sports. Juan Pablo Pemberty, an MA Design Studies student and member of the contributing curatorial Current Collective, explained, “Its not an easy thing to do; it’s not something you do in a month. It needs planning and investigation to fit the issues you want to show in an exhibition format. But I’m more than happy with the result of “Thirst”, it will be a show where our relationship with water is explored from very different realms, a mixture of ideas and conceptions.”

“Thirst” will be on view from March 22nd at Proteus Gowanus at 543 Union Street, New York, NY 11215. See the Proteus website for further description of events and activities:

Narratives and Design Studies on Video

If you missed the Narratives and Design Studies symposium, here are a few of the presentations for your viewing pleasure. 

Welcome Remarks – Susan Yelavich

Narratives of History: Peter Hall and Phillip Lopate (Keynote)

Olympic Design

Narratives of Artifice and Technology

Narratives of Social Engagement

Design and Gender

Photo highlights of Design Studies Symposium

Media designer and design educator Sean Donahue discussed the subversive capabilities of design that can be used to incite action; here he shows a student project in which Doritos were detached from their consumerist brand identity and displayed as individual ingredients.



A Literary Treat at the Design Studies Symposium

Peter Hall and Clive Dilnot at the Design Studies Symposium

At the Design Studies Symposium at Parsons The New School for Design the two speakers invited on the first day were: Peter Hall, design writer and professor at Griffith University, Queensland, who flew down from warm and sunny Brisbane into freezing New York, while the keynote speaker was essayist, critic and professor at Columbia University, Phillip Lopate, best known for his writings on New York.

After Susan Yelavich, director of the MA Design Studies program, introduced the themes that would be addressed in the course of the two days—design and narratives of gender, agency, social engagement, artifice among others—Hall took the stage and addressed his topic, Narratives of History.

A gripping argument about an alternative approach to writing design history followed. With the risk of sounding simplistic, in a nutshell, Hall questioned the  inclination of history-writing to be too canonical. “You can’t learn about the mountain range by studying the peaks, and who decides which peaks to study?” asked Hall.


Design Studies Symposium begins with a workshop on storytelling

Hello and welcome to the Design Studies Symposium at Parsons the New School for Design. This post is to give you a glimpse of what goes on in these two days, as guests speakers come in and we address various threads that run through this vast fabric that has come to mean design, and we’ll find out how they are being reinterpreted.

The symposium began today afternoon. As a build up to it, the students of the MA Design Studies and Transdisciplinary Design program had an intimate workshop with about 20 students to talk about “Storytelling for Social Change.” It was led by Lee-Sean Huang of Foossa, a company of designers, storytellers and problem solvers, as they call themselves. Foossa essentially partners with individuals and organizations to create campaigns that have a significant participative character.

In the three-hour session, Lee-Sean took us through the thought process that goes into the making of a social campaign. The presentation, dotted with case studies—some interesting, some banal, some endearing— was fast-paced, packed with content and interspersed with workshop time. We worked in groups as well as individually, sometimes graphically mapping ideas elaborately and other times haiku-condensing them.

Consider the three-fold model of narrative strategy that Lee-Sean identified for as:

Identity — who am I?

Protocols — what do we believe in?

Artifacts — the objects, interfaces, gestures.

The task at hand was to visualize and map these three elements in a way that portrays how narratives flow within and around them. While Lee-Sean visualized the three elements as three bubbles set in a linear fashion, the students’ visualizations took on many complex shapes and outlines.

There was a pyramid-shaped model that might have seemed hierarchical but for the ocean-current resembling arrows that ran across them, showing the interdependence and a fluid nature of a narrative strategy. Another group did a tree-shaped model, and another did a color-coded radial model resembling the structure of an atom at microscopic level. Another group broke away from this method of conceptual mapping and articulated their thoughts via a real world situation and application.

The exercise was certainly fun, proactive and reflective of how we process the information around us and consequently approach design.

We moved on to addressing a problematic area of social campaigns, that they can sometimes be absolutely tone-deaf.

A dated but perfect example was the Sally Struther’s campaign for Christian Children’s Fund, advocating for impoverished children in Africa. However well intentioned, a lot of socially inclined communication turns out cringe-worthy.

In contrast to that, we watched the hilarious and provocative Raid-aid campaign, where the “tables are turned” and Africa is singing in a very “We Are the World” style to help the people of Norway to get through their subzero temperatures.

Towards the end, we saw the must-watch Save The Children campaign on how war affects children. It starkly illustrated the change in impact the change in tone of communication can cause.

In the midst of fleshing out the idea of storytelling as a way to approach design, another problematic area emerged. It seems that in some cases, design boils down to research, to knowledge of the context, to the story that’s being told.

Yet stories as a method of collecting information can be limiting. “Any story is only a partial glimpse of a bigger whole,” as one of the students put it, “and the ability of a story to create a perception can sometimes be helpful and other times tie us down.”  The solution to this limiting-nature of a storytelling approach did not come immediately, but emerged in the course of time and conversation: “It does not have to be absolute knowledge, but a story that makes sense to the people who are involved,” said Lee-Sean rather unselfconsciously. There was a sense of agreement to this among students, as that would lend some semblance of credibility to a social campaign, or any design for that matter. Also, we may never get the whole view, but a human view would be a good place to start.


Parsons Narratives and Design Studies conference

The Language of Design

For the past three months, the Museum of Modern Art has been running an online exhibition titled Design and Violence that has now culminated in an interesting, layered, often controversial discussion about, well, design and violence.

Adding to the on-going thread is the latest post by Parsons professor Clive Dilnot.

Dilnot writes about Green Bullets, a design developed by the US Army that replaces the lead core of the bullet with copper. While he addresses the dark humor behind an object that is designed to infiltrate and destroy a living body, even if without contaminating the environment, his article raises controversial questions about the very language used to talk about design.

While the title of MOMA’s exhibition goes as ‘Design and Violence,’ Dilnot challenges the separation that the conjunction ‘and’ suggests. “ as violence, violence by and through design. There is no “and,” he writes.

Read the full post here.

A Better World by Design 2013 Conference

A Better World by Design is an internationally-acclaimed conference held annually at Brown & RISD campuses in Providence, RI. Connecting students, professionals, and individuals from different disciplines, it strives to build a global community of socially-conscious innovators. This year’s conference will be held from September 27 to 29.


Admitted Graduate Students Reception

Last Thursday, June 25th, we welcomed the incoming graduate students of the New School. The event was a wonderful opportunity for students from different programs to meet and socialize, ask questions, get advice, and learn about what it’s like to be a part of the New School. It was also a great way to usher us into the new school year, which is starting in less than a month!


Investigating New Design Practices

dppbooklet-coverIn Design Practices & Paradigms, members of the inaugural MA Design Studies cohort at Parsons explored the scope and ambitions of design in the 21st century. Students interviewed designers and mapped their practices. They wrote about their approaches to production, collaboration, and authorship as well as the social and intellectual context that shape their respective projects and values. Featured here are three case studies from Design Practices & Paradigms.

The Business of Design 2012: Design Thinking

On June 13, 2013, Director Susan Yelavich spoke about the MA Design Studies program at an event discussing the changing landscape of design practices, processes and productions. For more information click here.


The Prescience of George Nelson

Last November the Yale School of Architecture hosted a two-day symposium on the work of seminal architect, designer, writer and teacher George Nelson.  Susan Yelavich was invited to attend and review the event for the School’s journal Constructs. (more…)

Design Studies Symposium Rescheduled

11_19_2012_rescheduled1Our inaugural symposium, Negotiating the Terrain of Design Studies, was postponed by the storm. It has been rescheduled for Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2. We look forward to welcoming speakers Alison Clarke, Victor Margolin, Jürgen Häusler, Hugh Dubberly, and Peter-Paul Verbeek.

Negotiating the Terrain of Design Studies: Research, Reflection, Practice

New dates: Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, 2013
Friday: 66 West 12th Street, Room 407
Saturday: Wollman Hall, 65 West 11th Street, 5th floor
Free and Open to the Public

To mark the inauguration of Parsons’ MA Design Studies program, this symposium looks
at the intellectual currents that charge the growing field of design studies as a branch of
the humanities and the social sciences, and a critical force in industry. An international
roster of scholars, practitioners, and entrepreneurs will consider how design both shapes
specific experiences and embodies fundamental assumptions about our relationship to,
and with, the world and each other. Together, they will explore the unique potential of
design studies to operate between among the realms of research, analysis, and advocacy.

Friday, March 1, 5:00 to 7:30 pm

Welcome: Joel Towers, Dean, Parsons; Sarah E. Lawrence, Dean, School of Art and Design History and Theory, Parsons

Introduction: Susan Yelavich, Director, MA Design Studies program, Parsons


“Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things”
Peter-Paul Verbeek, Socrates Chair, Philosophy of Man and Technology, University of Twente, The Netherlands

Saturday, March 2, 9:30 am to 5:00 pm

9:30 am Breakfast

10:00 am    Welcome

Tim Marshall, Provost, The New School

10:15 am – Noon Session I: The Values in (and of) Reflective Research

“The Present-day turn towards Design Anthropology”
Alison J. Clarke, Professor, Design History and Theory, University of Applied Arts, Vienna

“Design Studies: The Challenge to a New Field”
Victor Margolin, Professor Emeritus of Design History, University of Illinois at Chicago 

Moderator: Clive Dilnot, Professor, Design Studies, Parsons 

Noon – 1:30 pm Lunch Break

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Session II: The Values in (and of) Applied Research 

Introduction to the afternoon
Susan Yelavich

“Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Design – But Were Afraid to Ask”
Jürgen Häusler, Chairman, Interbrand Central and Eastern Europe; Professor for Strategic Business Communication at the University of Leipzig

“Design as an Essentially Political Activity—Especially within Business”
Hugh Dubberly, Principal, Dubberly Design Office, San Francisco

Moderator: Cameron Tonkinwise, Director, Design Studies, Carnegie Mellon University

3:30 pm Break

4:00-5:00 pm   Summary Roundtable: Design Studies Perspectives

Respondent Panelists:
Orit Halpern, Assistant Professor, Committee on Historical Studies, New School for Social Research
Aleksandra Wagner, Assistant Professor, Sociology, New School for Public Engagement
James Dodd, Associate Professor, Chair Philosophy, New School for Social Research
Moderator: Susan Yelavich, Parsons

Conversation with Lorraine Wild: Expanding the Purview of Communication Design

Lorraine Wild

Thursday, Oct. 25th, 9:30-11:00 am
Room 1200,12th Floor of 6 E 16 St.

On Thursday, Oct. 25th, designer Lorraine Wild will join MA Design Studies program director Susan Yelavich in an informal discussion about the various modes of practice she sustains: writing, teaching, designing, publishing and (most recently) rethinking communication strategies in the context of a museum. (more…)

Experiments in Design Research: Expressions, Knowledge, Critique

The fifth Nordic Design Research Conference, Nordes ’13: Experiments in Design Research: Expressions, Knowledge, Critique takes place in Copenhagen/Malmö in 2013 June 9th – 12th.

Design is closely affiliated with the experimental, which is as an exploratory and probing undertaking. What does this mean in the context of design research? Today, design research relies on various and divergent notions of design experimentation and ideas about their value and use. In one corner, experimentation is conceived of as designerly exploration into, for instance, materials, technologies, and expressions. In another corner, design experimentation is shaped according to hypothetical-deductive models of knowledge production inherited from science and engineering. Yet, in a third corner, design experiments are explored as a means for promoting social change or as a critique of political and ethical values. For instance, this can take the form of critique through fiction and utopias. This raises a set of central questions for design research: How is design experimentation similar and different from experimentation in other research fields and areas? What is the relation of exploration vis-à-vis experimentation in design research? How is it possible, if at all necessary, to provide a consistent account of research methods underlying experimental design research? How can design experiments be staged other than as highly idealized probing situations? What is the role of design experiments as aspects of a critical aesthetic practice? (more…)

Toward a New Cosmopolitanism

Monday, May 14, 2012, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Toward a New Cosmopolitanism, an event at The Storefront for Art and Architecture with David Adjaye, Stan Allen, Anthony Appiah, Teresita Fernández, Enrique Walker and Sarah Whiting, will address themes from and celebrate the release of two books (From Rules to Constraints and Authoring: Re-Placing Art and Architecture). Toward a New Cosmopolitism presents 6 manifestos on contemporary understandings of art and architecture emerging between global and local contexts.


Histories and Theories of the Modern Interior

Barbara Penner, Senior lecturer, Architectural History, Bartlett School of Architecture
Friday, April 27th. 6:15. 25 East 13th Street, 2nd Floor
Parsons The New School for Design
A lecture series curated by Ioanna Theocharopoulou, SCE and Sarah A. Lichtman, ADHT
X is for An Expert on Bathrooms: Alexander Kira & Peter Greenaway’s 26 Bathrooms
Hayden White once noted, “Every discipline [is] constituted by what it forbids its practitioners to do.” In this talk, I adapt White’s statement to argue that disciplines are equally constituted by what they allow practitioners to speak about or how they are allowed to speak. Bathrooms and toilets test the boundaries of disciplinary limits like no other subject. Toilets are not invisible in art and design discourse – far from it – but they are spoken about in very particular ways in order to contain their taboo aspects.The first part of this talk considers the ways in which toilets have been “cleansed” within architecture, specifically through the modernist language of formalism. In the second part, Peter Greenaway’s rare 1985 film, 26 Bathrooms will be screened. The film wittily (but always sympathetically) exposes the restrictions of such cleansed discourse through the figure of the Bathroom Expert. This figure was loosely based on Alexander Kira, whose unique bathroom studies at Cornell University resulted in the 1966 book, The Bathroom, now regarded as a classic of “user-centred” scholarship. Through the figure of the Expert, Greenaway probes the silences or strategic gaps in scholarly discourse, in a way that continues to be highly relevant today.

MESDA Conference on American Material Culture

The seventh biennial MESDA Conference for recent research in the field of early American material culture and decorative arts will take place on October 25-27, 2012 at the East Tennessee Historical Societyin Knoxville, Tennessee.The conference provides the only major forum for scholarly presentation and interaction on American material culture and decorative arts with specific emphasis on the South.The MESDA Conference includes the Gordon Seminar, a day of presentations on a variety of topics in American material culture.

Film Club

One of the four core areas of inquiry of the MA in Design Studies program has to do with how we ‘speak’ of design.  And since design speech includes video and film along with the written word, we’ve started a virtual Film Club. This is the first of several posts featuring films where design plays a leading role.

The medium of film engages design in a number of ways—as critique of the built environment, as documentation of design processes and affects, and as commentary on the ways we design our daily lives, project our hopes, and fabricate our fantasies. Costumes, buildings, and interiors an act as protagonists and provide settings that are central to film plots. From the opening graphics of a James Bond movie to Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe to the experimental shorts of Charles and Ray Eames—the cinematic can tell us something about the power of design. Walter Benjamin in his work of art essay endows both design and film with the capacity to inspire agency. We agree and believe the cultural form of film offers a lens through which we can critically and pleasurably consider design on a variety of registers including the aesthetic, the historical, the political, the social, the global, and the imaginative.

To begin our developing design filmography, below is a list of design documentaries for your enjoyment. Watch for coming attractions and see how, cities, objects, and even typography play their parts in science fiction, romance, drama, mystery, and comedy. (more…)

23rd Biennial of Design: Design Relations


Participation in the 23rd Biennial of Design

The Biennial of Design (or BIO, from its Slovene acronym) is an international design exhibition that, through its selection of well-designed works and emphasis on quality, originality, and innovation, presents current trends in contemporary design. The exhibited works are eligible to receive the Biennial’s awards for the best designs of the past two years.

With a tradition of 48 years, BIO is one of the world’s oldest international design events. With the publication of these Rules for Participation, the Organiser of the Biennial, the Museum of Architecture and Design, is inviting submissions for the 23rd Biennial of Design. At the same time we are announcing the appointment of Margriet Vollenberg and Margo Konings, from the studio Organisation in Design, as the curators of BIO 23. The curators have decided on the theme for BIO 23, namely, “Design Relations”, and they will select the works to be exhibited. In making their selection, they will be guided by the criteria of functionality, sustainability, commercial viability, cultural significance, social importance, the concept of the work, the use of materials, the production process, and aesthetics.


Jilly Traganou leads London 2012: Space of Dissent / Space of Control Workshop

London 2012: Space of Dissent / Space of Control was the title of a workshop I conducted at the Royal College of Art last week (February 2-9). Participants included students of the RCA/V&A Design History and RCA Product Design programs, who worked in mixed teams. Students worked in teams to explore London Olympics as terrain of contestation, in which actors of control and actors of dissent compete for their impact to the city during and after the Olympic Games. The workshop asked questions of the following nature: Who are the institutional or individual actors who participate in the creation of these two realms, and what are their values? How does design (objects, systems, services, spaces) express their wills and articulates their acts? What can design do for advancing certain positions that facilitate, balance or polarize the differences between these two realms? What kinds of new objects, systems, services and environments can we envision in response to the various stakeholders’ needs and desires? What are the values that these new designs promote?


Bringing it Back: Design and Revivals

Bringing it Back is a symposium that looks at revivalist movements in the history of the decorative arts and design. The symposium examines design’s role as a cultural metaphor and as a mediator of sociopolitical perspectives. This event considers how design engages with the past and considers revivals from a variety of perspectives. Whether Egyptian, Greek, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Colonial, or Modernist, revivals can look back just a few decades or millennia. Revivals can be soberly archaeological or promote a historical fantasy. Some revivalist movements are primarily stylistic, while, for others, idealized notions of history are invested with social, political or moral meaning in the present. (more…)

Susan Yelavich lectures at RISD this spring

MA Design Studies Director Susan Yelavich will be a featured speaker in Rhode Island School of Design’s Textiles Department’s spring lecture series: Textiles at the Intersection: Architecture, Art, and Science.  On March 21, Professor Yelavich will speak of her research on her forthcoming book Petrified Curtains: Animate Architextiles in which she explores the relationship between textiles and architecture – a relationship that has enjoyed periods of intimacy and fertility, suffered separation, infidelity, and compromise.  (more…)

Design Frontiers: territories, concepts, technologies


The 8th ICDHS conference, “Design Frontiers: territories, concepts, technologies,” aims to discuss how design history and design studies may push the limits of design knowledge. The frontiers of design may be challenged by the exploration of new territories, by the establishment of new concepts, by the emergence of new technologies, as well as by rediscovering the past and by finding new ways of applying current wisdom. Paper proposals are being accepted until February 29, 2012. (more…)

International Conference on Design Creativity

The 2nd International Conference on Design Creativity will provide a forum to discuss the nature and potential of design creativity from both theoretical and methodological viewpoints. It will include panel discussions on the directions for design creativity research. The aim of these discussions is to develop directions for future research on design creativity. (more…)


The School of Art Design History and Theory at Parsons and the History Department at the New School for Social Research are sponsoring Design/History/Revolution: An Experimental Workshop at the Frontier of Art, Design, Politics and Historical Study on April 27-28, 2012. This conference explores the relationships between design, history and revolution and brings together scholars and practitioners from the humanities, sciences, social sciences, design, and art to consider how design acts as a historical agent, a contested category, and a mode of historical analysis. (more…)

Insights Interviews Susan Yelavich

Design Studies director Susan Yelavich was recently interviewed by Insights, the magazine of the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons.

Here’s some of what she had to say about the new design studies program:

I can imagine students who will be issue-driven, students who are driven by attraction to a particular design discipline, and students who want to explore design in relation to other disciplines altogether. Those who are concerned about issues (which could range from sustainability to food systems to education) will want to explore the role that design plays within those realms. For example, they might study how cultural conceptions of nature over time have led to the precarious state of the environment and are still affecting efforts to design more sustainably today.

Keep reading for more from the interview.


Design and Emotion: Out of Control

The 8th International Conference on Design and Emotion, Out of Control, will examine how a world driven by uncertainty, crisis and chaos demands different responses from design (as a community, as a practice and as a process). Conference participants will consider how design acts as both a problem-solving activity and a springboard to a creative future. The emphasis is on the spectrum of human emotion experienced at the macro (socio-cultural), micro (personal), meta (philosophical), processural (methodological) and strategic levels. (more…)

Who should apply?


A large "at" symbolRecently a colleague asked me if I could describe the ideal candidate for a Masters in Design Studies.  The easy answer would be that there is no ideal student, no more than there is one true ideal of any stripe.  But that’s far too facile. In fact, there are several ideal student profiles we can imagine and several more we can’t presume to know—that is, until we meet you.

That said, I expect we will have students who have studied art and design history, students who have practiced design, and students from fields such as journalism, literature, cultural anthropology, philosophy, and sociology (to name just a few of the possibilities). We will have students that are fresh out of school and those who’ve been working for several years. All our students will write well and enjoy thinking through writing.  They will be intellectual border crossers who think synthetically—raising questions and offering new ideas backed by new evidence. (more…)

Program Contact

Caroline Dionne, Program Director

Program Update

Parsons is not currently admitting new students to this master’s degree program. Parsons is now offering a Graduate Minor in Design Studies that is designed to complement the MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies and other graduate programs across the university in design, liberal arts, and social research.