By the People: Designing a Better America Exhibition Review

By Claudia Marina

For the past ten years, Cooper Hewitt, National Smithsonian Design Museum has dedicated exhibition space to designed objects that defy the very idea of being displayed in a museum. This is partly a result of the work of Cynthia E. Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design, who has travelled across the United States visiting poverty-stricken areas in search for design that stems from everyday necessity. In 2007, this culminated in the exhibition titled Design for the Other 90% (later changed to Design and the Other 90%) followed by Design with the Other 90%: CITIES in 2011, and most recently By the People: Designing a Better America, which was on view from September 30, 2016 to February 26, 2017.


On Aesthetic Activism: Musings from Yale’s J. Irwin Miller Symposium

Yale Aesthetic Activism

I figured the words “Yale”, “Aesthetic”, “Activism” and “Free” would add up to a worthwhile and day trip to New Haven. It did not disappoint.

“Aesthetic Activism” was the title of this year’s J. Irwin Miller Symposium hosted by the Yale School of Architecture. The word aesthetic, here, is central as it has been highly contested as to whether or not this quality can exist in its purest form within social, ecological and political engagement. Beyond relationships with objects, the event’s flyer drew me in by attributing aesthetics as key factor in our relationships “with each other and with the political structures which we are all enmeshed.”


Two Conferences on Future Creation – A Comparative Reflection

written by Anke Gründel

Interest in design is on the rise in the public sector, an apparent need the various design communities are working hard to fill.  That is the main convergent message emerging from two recent design conferences, the Global Service Design Conference in New York City and the Politics for Tomorrow Conference in Berlin, Germany.  Other than this apparent main point there was very little that remained similar.  To make sense of the levels of discourse in these two recent events, perhaps it would make sense to first look at the disparate settings in which these two conferences took place.  

The first of the two took place in early October 2015 in New York City. The Global Service Design conference was organized through the Global Service Design Network, an organization that aims at connecting the diverse strands and currents of the still somewhat novel field of service design. The private organization this year partnered with Parsons, The New School for Design in Manhattan, which lent its spaces and expertise to pull together and tend to the many professionals from across the world who streamed to New York and cure their jet-lags over coffee in the large Tishman auditorium of The New School’s University Center.

The first thing I noticed while shooting glances up and down the isles was that the service design population gathered there seemed to suffer from relative monochromatism that allowed a primarily Euro-American worldview to predominate, while engaging the occasional Scandinavian perspective. Certainly, among the speakers were also designers from Singapore and Russia whose perspective aligned all too well with the business-minded rationality communicated in success-and-solution-lingo.  The relationship of the speakers to the crowd was dominated by mutual understanding and the profound belief that what connected everybody there was a desire to change the world with almost unilaterally agreed upon methods shared in an atmosphere of reciprocal back-patting.  At some point a speaker asked the audience who amongst them considered themselves optimists or realists.  Unsurprisingly, a forest of raised hands signaled the majority of the optimist camp, a visual marker for the rosy-future visions dominating this event.  Few words of caution were uttered against this future-oriented designer optimism, understanding current pervasive social issues as problems to be solved by, through, and as design.  If not critique then at least skepticism came from one of the very few non-designers at the conference.  

Cameron Tonkinwise, a philosopher by training, problematized the temporal claims in many of the projects presented at the conference in that he pointed out the apparent piecemeal nature of service design as a project-based practice. While discourse around transformations predominated, there was no consensus that would have allowed for social accountability structures beyond the overall common built-in auditing practices of many design approaches.  Once the (funding) clock has run out on most service design projects, there is little thought about who takes responsibility for the aftermath.  In the absence of an overarching institution which could hold actors accountable and bundle aims for a future into a coherent whole, the market is dominated by a preponderance of small, middle and large design labs and lab-like organizations practicing social entrepreneurialism. One might wonder why a global conference of such scale, attended by hundreds of people in one of the world’s leading design universities – ironically part of the formerly Marxist New School – drew such an ideologically, professionally, and socially homogeneous crowd.  Any mystery is soon resolved however, if one takes a look at the conference prices demanded by the Global Service Design Network.  With rates of almost $1000 for non-member (the price of around $900 for members is only marginally more affordable) and around $300 for students for a two day conference it comes at no surprise that diverging opinions were neither desired nor encouraged.  Surely, as a professional conference, the rationale was to create a context for practitioners to share, support each other, and create new connections, however given the general emphasis on public participation and the expressed desire to enlist a multiplicity of different stakeholders in co-creative processes the virtual absence of diverging opinions about the kind of future designers want to create was jarring. Needless to say, I left feeling rather disenchanted but at least with a realistic overview of service design and its constituency.

Two weeks later, a different continent, a different language and a different experience.  Over the course of the two day conference, during which it rained non-stop under a sky so gray that it created the illusion of all-day dusk, around 90 guests attended the small and well-organized Politics for Tomorrow conference.  While embedding design processes in policy-making and governance processes is gaining acceptance in the US as the altogether 29 government innovation labs would attest to, in Germany design’s legitimacy as public action tool is all but established. Indeed, in contrast to its neighbours Denmark, France, and Austria as well as fellow EU member states Spain, Portugal, the UK, and the Netherlands, Germany seems rather behind (presupposing the goal is governmental innovation) when it comes to identifying innovative methods for connecting citizens and the government.  

To address this stated (and highly debateable) need for innovation, the organizers from Next Learning, an association focusing on creative transformation services, brought presenters from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and approaches together to share their work.  The only thing everybody had in common was their investment in political transformations.  While most had an explicitly design-oriented focus front-lined by the usual suspects in these types of discourses, Nesta (UK) and MindLab (Denmark), there were also other organizations present whose formation by far predates the explicit articulation of design as a protocolistic action framework (in the form of design thinking or human centered design).  Among them were Forum Alpbach (Austria) and The Young Foundation (UK) neither of which felt it necessary to explicitly use the label of design.  

In contrast to the Global Service Design Conference what was surprising was that the guests were not only designers.  Interspersed were also a handful of civil servants, academics, and those from the public sector tangentially engaged in creative practices.  To be sure, there also were a select few civil servants present in New York, however their curated and innovation-focused opinions were not markedly different from the mass of cheerleading designers. In contrast, among the mere 90 people at the Politics for Tomorrow conference the vocally distinct non-designers shifted the discourse perceivably towards substantial critique and caution.  Among the typical question as to how designers may help the government to recognize problematic relations between citizens and policymakers that perhaps remain irreconcilable with traditional methods, there also was a relatively strong critical attitude toward the practices designers employ to render such problems visible.  Thus one of the most interesting tenets emerging from interactions between the audience and the presenters was the problem of methods as ends in themselves. Indeed, the dominant challenge to designer from those who had not yet bought into the “inherent value” of creative innovation techniques, pressured designers in the public sector to explicitly state their goals rather than merely discuss the value-adding aspect of their methodological toolkits. Interestingly, the critique of methodological overdetermination operated on different discursive levels and was sometimes vigorously debated.  In one of the workshop sessions that typically followed the presentations, this problem of design methods emerged in all clarity.

I was participating in a workshop in which design as a primarily market-based practice was explicitly called into question. Yet despite this critical attitude, typical methods were nonetheless central to the session.  Tasked with creating a network of characteristics for a healthy and supportive community, we were struggling to fill our stereotypical post-its with meaningful content that could be contained by the small sheet of colored paper.  Unsurprisingly to me, this did not lead to much and we all got frustrated over the methodological format.  Post-its can be useful for getting thoughts out quickly, yet they are no replacement for vigorous discussion, as we all realized.  As most design methods aim at reducing conflict and thus obfuscating power dynamics inherent to any social group, one has to ask whether design can ever unproblematically become part of the public sector.  While no doubt practical, as a civil servant from the Düsseldorf municipality remarked, practicality of design methods alone is not reason enough to discard a whole system especially given the inability to accountably foretell contingent outcomes.  In that private services are not at all like public services in scope, necessity for accountability systems, and heterogeneity of service recipients, the public sector has other requirements than the market-oriented dynamism inherent in private services.  Service customers are construed as entirely different entities in the private versus the public sphere. Whereas private services encounter consumers, their public counterparts face citizens, a crucial definitional distinction in which whole hosts of assumptions are embedded.  

In short, this conference was rife with diverse sometimes optimistic sometimes critical positions and contra to the predominantly enthusiastic Global Service Design Conference, in Berlin there was a broad spectrum of critique and a variety of discursive levels in the gamut of problematizations ranging from future research in climate matters, biodiversity, immigration, to business mentality and entrepreneurship which was at times fiercely challenged as excessively neoliberal.  Design was introduced not only as a set of methods but as an alternative to technocratic expert panels especially when it comes to the problem of funding and directing scientific inquiry.  Discussed were also power dynamics of organizational change in that questions were raised over who wins or loses if design gets integrated into established institutional structures.  It was refreshing to hear such a reflective position as we tend to ignore consequences of organizational change we support.  Certainly, some will benefit, but others will lose their jobs or their representation.  As much as the design debate wants to align itself with discussions around the changing nature of democracy, any potentially undemocratic power dynamics inherent to the political design movements are rarely problematized.

Admittedly, the critical tenor of this event may have been impacted by the general cultural environment – as a German living in the US, I cannot deny that I felt positively liberated from the burden to filter my own critical attitude when it comes to interacting in the design field.  But I cannot help but feel that design could only benefit from harsh-but-productive critique.  All concerns for legitimacy aside, if design is to become a practice that does not merely reproduce hegemonic neoliberal problems but that offers a real alternative to New Public Management as it was presented in this event then it cannot shy away from involving those who remain skeptics about why design delivered by designers should reconfigure government.

Anke Gründel researches the entanglement of conception of the state, citizenship, and design practices inherent to the current proliferation of design-led innovation approaches in governance practices. She interrogates design expertise vis-à-vis the history of technocracy within liberal democratic systems. She received the Parsons Student Travel grant to document the Politics for Tomorrow Conference.

New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America

by Mae Wiskin


Last week, a few fellow first year MA Design Studies students and I went to The Museum of Arts and Design to see their latest exhibit: New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America. We are all taking the same participatory curatorial design course with Professor Nitin Sawhney titled, “Co-Lab: Curatorial Design and Media Practices: Guatemala Después,” which is a weekly studio that explores the culture of curatorial practice with a particular focus on the subversive contemporary art scene in Guatemala. The focal point of the Co-Lab revolves around theGuatemala Despues project which critically reflects upon the political, economic and cultural influences between the U.S. and Guatemala through the multi-disciplinary lens of creative practitioners from both locations. 
New Territories is a deftly designed exhibit that examines how the state of creating in today’s globalized society has inspired a convergence of art, design and craft, within several distinctive cities throughout Latin America, where some of the most influential directions in design are developing. It is a dynamic and thought-provoking exhibition and all of the pieces speak to various issues that are manifesting themselves in compelling ways within most parts of the region, from commodification and production, to urbanization, collective memory and sustainability. It’s an incredibly thoughtfully laid out display that also artfully blends craft, tradition, and new technological innovations. The exhibit’s strength lies in its subtle ability to transcend regionalism and national identity. New Territories will be at MAD until April 5th and is well worth a visit; its an ideal space to feel good lost. 
Additional information about Guatemala Despues and its joint exhbitions and public programming can be found at the following link:
(New York City (Sheila Johnson Design Center) from April 9-29, 2015 & Ciudad de la Imaginación in Quetzaltenango in June 2015)


A Roadmap for the Study of Urban Architecture

Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies documents Reyner Banham’s encounter with the city of Los Angeles. The text sets the groundwork for a new understanding of urban architecture. Beyond the consideration of the geographical, social and historical contexts that distinguish Los Angeles, his accounts of the sprawling metropolis include the actively changing and evolving aspects that define the architecture of the human structure of the city, from freeways to hamburger stands. The book serves as one writers attempt to digest the whole unique fabric that comprises L.A. Published in 1971, Banham’s Los Angeles: Architecture of the Four Ecologies provides readers with a road map for understanding the context of the new urban metropolis. In its categorical breakdown of the urban region, Reyner Banham’s account of Los Angeles establishes a new milieu for urban architectural history. The sprawling, horizontal city of Los Angeles served as the perfect vehicle for Banham’s motive, in that it did not operate on an established grid system and its structure and space defied those of a more traditional city.

Reyner Banham identifies the impossibility of producing a conventional historical account of this city that is entirely unconventional in its essence. In order to accommodate the city’s expansive architecture from Pop ephemerides to civil engineering, Banham’s catalog of Los Angeles deviates from the traditionally accepted norms of urban architectural histories. Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies introduces a new approach of unpacking urban architecture. In his attempt to digest the immense and expansive urban region, Banham breaks the city of Los Angeles down into four ecologies; “Surfurbia,” “The Foothills,” “The Plains of Id” and “Autotopia.” This approach takes advantage of the city’s diverse localities and provides a new way of critically examining the metropolis that reflects the order and logic of the city’s rare form. Tying the ideas of urban architecture to ecology, Banham’s innovative method of understanding the city allows him to cohesively merge the architectural extremes of the expansive city, providing context through it’s unified report of the vast urban region.

This manifesto of the city of Los Angeles identifies and contextualizes the distinct territories of L.A., in a holistic way that leaves the reader with a fully formed impression of the city as a total complex entity, rather than a scattered city comprised of small separate towns. Banham provides the context needed to comprehend this often-misapprehended city. Looking at the ecologies as both a cause and consequence of the city’s architecture and infrastructure, Banham establishes a foundation capable of conceptualizing the city of L.A. In Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, the tone and structure of Banham’s optimistic take on the city seems to reflect the spirit of Los Angeles itself. Banham writes, “Simply to go from the oldest monument to the newest could well prove a short, boring and uninstructive journey, because the point about this giant city, which has grown almost simultaneously all over, is that all its parts are equal and equally accessible from all other parts at once.” The curious structure of his text is engendered by the unique qualities of Los Angeles itself. His breakdown of ecologies provides his audience with a conscious reflection of an unparalleled model of the urban region. The text seeks to inform readers of the easy mobility, informality and diversity embedded into the multi-centered character of the city. Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies emerges as a tightly constructed urban geography capable of provoking new discourses on the city.

Reyner Banham. 1971. Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. New York: Harper & Row.

“Designing a Better World: Fireside Chat” or Designing a Stronger Capitalism

On August 27, I attended “Designing a Better World: The Journey of Entrepreneurs” Fireside Chat at the Michael Neumann Architecture Studio (MNA). I was driven to attend this lecture by my personal interest in finding proactive, effective, and sustainable ways of helping the world while still making a living as a designer in a capitalist society. As entrepreneurs take it upon themselves to “design a better world,” I thought of this symbiotic relationship—of design and business—as the perfect balance to “Designing a Better World” but maybe we need to redefine what “a better world” means, and to whom.


The Spaces of Others

(As part of the Writing for the Public Realm class the students were asked to analyze an interior inspired by the famous Nest magazine. Dora Sapunar took a look at the interiors in the German film The Lives of Others (2006).) 

At some point we started equating interiors with the people living inside them. From the earliest interior design manuals, such as Elsie de Wolfe’s House in Good Taste the homeowner was cautioned that the interior reflects his or her personality. To visitors, objects in apartments seem to recede as they reveal the person that they’re representing. But what can we glean from an apartment that appears to be mute. Too drab to indicate character, too cold to convey emotion. Can sometimes the very existence of these gaps in the communication of interiors be indicative of the person inhabiting the space?

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen), a 2006 German Oscar-winning film attempts to achieve precisely this by letting the viewer grapple with the gaps and silences of a subtle narrative revolving around Gerd Wiesler, a Stasi surveillance officer, who is assigned to monitor the apartment of a playwright suspected of working against the government. As the task ends up being a ploy by a political dignitary to force the playwright’s girlfriend to accept his advances Wiesler grows disillusioned by his profession and obsessed with the lives of the people he is monitoring.


The Strange Attractor at the End of Human History

(Second year Design Studies student Finn Ferris gives an insightful review of Douglas Rushkoff’s book “Present Shock” and touches on many of the pressing issues of today’s ever-accelerating digital culture.)

It’s not the end of the world in the traditional sense — but it might be the end of traditional sense. Inspired nominally by Toffler’s influential Future Shock but more reminiscent of Lasch’s Culture of Narcissism in its scope, Douglas Rushkoff’s new book, Present Shock, takes a broad survey of the multi-generational shift towards all things instantaneous and incoming. From television remote controls to smartphones, gadgets are implicated in the degeneration of our collective attention spans and increasing inability to untangle what’s happening right now and deal with whatever comes next. The promise of the internet to connect us all to each other and to the things we want (digital and material) continues to drive the development, sales, and use of internet-connected devices. Rushkoff argues for a reevaluation of this scripted response. But, the promises of more productivity, a more efficient democracy (don’t miss Newt Gingrich’s smartphone musings on YouTube) and access to anything anywhere are so appealing. Of course we want this. What else is there?


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…)

Achieving Social Justice through Spatial Justice: A Review of Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967

© The Gordon Parks Foundation

It is only fitting that Gordon Parks’ famous photographic essay documenting the dire living conditions of the Fontenelles, an impoverished African-American family in late-1960s Harlem, is housed in a 7-month exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem, “the nexus for artists of African descent…and for work that has been inspired and influenced by black culture.”[1] The centennial of the iconic artist/activist’s birth offers an apt opportunity to highlight one of his most famous works, A Harlem Family, which was published in a March 1968 issue of LIFE magazine, for whom Parks was the first African-American staff photographer. Commissioned to capture “the source of America’s urban violence,”[2] Parks used his assignment as a means for alerting “thousands of readers across the country to the realities of poverty, racial discrimination, and economic marginalization.”[3] (more…)

The Music Box: A Shanty Sound Laboratory

Photo Credit: Tod Seelie

Once upon a time, a group of ramshackle houses made up the landscape in an almost adult make-believe village known as The Music Box: A Shanty Sound Laboratory, an experiment in design and musical architecture. The first phase of the Music Box closed almost a year ago, making way for what will be a bigger and more permanent structure within the New Orleans community. Looking back on the Music Box project, I fondly remember it being referred to as Never, Never Land, a place where adults go to stop growing up and are allowed to once again be children. (more…)

Yayoi Kusama Exhibition at the Whitney Museum

Recently, every window of the Louis Vuitton store in New York City was filled with polka dots and a life-size wax figurine of Yayoi Kusama. Polka dot Princess, psychopath, resurgent Queen of the Japanese art world, precursor of the pop art, Queen of the Hippies, minimalist, even her fans call her “Weird Grandma”, all these labels can’t complete describe Yayoi Kusama (草間彌生)’s complicated and legendary life.

Her art work is often considered controversial. Some people distaste her work, think it is abnormal, creepy, or even can cause trypophobia. But more people admire her work, like me. I love her dense patterns of polka dots and nets, her bold usage of collision color and her strong personality: No one has better talent, and the work never feels old.


Century of the Child: Tracing a History of Design

As design constantly evolves to include not just artifacts and their designers, but processes, ideas and relationships, planning and executing an exhibition that traces a narrative of design history spanning a hundred years is no small task. Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000, opened to both child and adult audiences alike this fall at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Drawing on a hundred years of child-centered design, the exhibition was curated by Juliet Kinchin and Aidan O’Connor of the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMa. It borrowed heavily from Ellen Key’s writing in 1900 on what the role of progressive design would be in a child’s education and experience of a swiftly changing world in the coming century.  (more…)

Graphic Design: Now in Production

Michael Schuurman

Just thinking about graphic design, and everything that it encompasses, can sometimes make your head spin. To tackle it in its entirety is a daunting task, which is the reason why so few curators and museums have even attempted this tricky venture. Graphic design can be seen as both a process, tool and discipline. The Graphic Design: Now in Production exhibition, which was open to the public this summer in Building 110 on Governors Island and curated by Andrew Blauvelt of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and Ellen Lupton of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum attempted to give a broad overview of design production in the past decade.


Swept Away: Dust, Ashes, and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) has explored the intersection of traditional or unusual materials and techniques as viewed through the lens of contemporary art and design in a series of exhibitions that include Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting; Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary; Slash: Paper Under the Knife; Dead or Alive: Nature Becomes Art; and Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities.

The next investigation into unusual mediums features an international group of artists whose major materials are dust, ashes, dirt, and sand. Swept Away: Dust, Ashes, and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design will highlight works that deal with issues such as the ephemeral nature of art and life, the quality and content of memory, issues of loss and disintegration, and the detritus of human existence. Sculptures made from ash by Chinese artist Zhang Huan, life-size sculptures of unfired dirt by American artist James Croak, and works created from city smog by American artist Kim Abeles, among others, illustrate the transformative potential of humble, overlooked, and discarded materials.


Projects about Objects

Some ongoing projects concerned with the value and significance of objects:

A History of New York in 50 Objects

An artichoke and an elevator. A Checker taxicab and a conductor’s baton. A MetroCard and a mastodon tusk. Inspired by “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” the British Museum’s BBC radio series and book, the New York Times recruited historians and museum curators to identify 50 objects that could embody the narrative of New York. The Times sees their project as a people’s histor–not the history, but a history–and they invite your participation.


Show and Tell

Cabinet is pleased to be the spring 2012 home of “Show-and-Tell,” Paul Lukas’s monthly open-mic night. Previously hosted by City Reliquary, “Show-and-Tell” is exactly what it sounds like: Anyone can bring an object of personal significance and talk about it for up to three minutes. There is no theme or agenda—interesting objects and the stories behind them are their own reward.

Objects that have previously been presented at “Show-and-Tell” have ranged from the eccentric (a glass eye, an electroshock machine found in an abandoned mental hospital) to the everyday (a candy bar with an odd connection to a Chinese funeral, a pair of jeans acquired via some highly unusual haggling at an Egyptian village market). But “Show-and-Tell” is less about the objects than the histories that accompany them. Look in your own pocket or home, and you will find many excellent show-and-tell candidates. You can either (a) bring an object and be prepared to talk about it or (b) simply be part of the audience, because show-and-tell also needs people who like being shown and told. Beer for this event has been lovingly provided by Brooklyn Brewery.

The Object Ethnography Project

The Object Ethnography Project aims to show how stories influence the value, meaning and circulation of objects. It is a creative laboratory where participants–like you– determine the outcome of the cultural experiment. The team behind the Project will look at the objects and stories accumulated through the project for trends, patterns and insights about the types of objects people donate, the kinds of stories they tell about them, and how those stories influence the object’s value and subsequent exchange. The results of these studies will be presented at a conference at New York University in March 2012. An ethnography is a way of gathering knowledge about cultural phenomena that reflect the day to day meanings and systems of understanding of a particular group of people. It is a method of collecting stories and looking for trends within them. As this project moves forward, we are hoping that we gather enough objects and stories to see patterns emerge about how people relate to objects and their histories.

If you are interested in joining the group, either as a volunteer or researcher, please contact Max Liboiron at The project will continue until all objects have been exchanged for new stories.

Studio 360: Significant Objects

Rob Walker doesn’t see junk. He sees “objects waiting to be made significant.” Dozens of great writers contributed fictional backstories for weird and mundane objects gathered by Walker and Joshua Glenn. They’re featured in the new book Significant Objects: read some examples here. Walker and Kurt Andersen visited Vintage Thrift in Manhattan to find these three prime examples of junk. Your task is to make one piece of junk (or more) significant. Walker will judge the entries, with one winner for each object. The prize, of course, is the piece of junk itself. Click here to find out how to enter.

Mind the Gap

I first heard the expression “mind the gap” on the London Underground.  I thought it so much more considerate than “don’t fall in between the trains.”  In the same spirit of consideration, we offer the following titles as a way of filling some of the gaps that are inevitable in anyone’s design education, given how vast the territory it embraces.  In addition to disciplinary surveys, you’ll also find some critical and historical anthologies in this very condensed compendium. Consider these references as part of the essential underpinnings of design studies.  But only part!  There’s much more to come as you will see in future posts.

See all 10… (more…)

Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency: Common Assembly

Mar 14 – Jun 2, 2012 | Exhibition

The James Gallery is pleased to present the work Common Assembly by Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, a design group and residency program founded by Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal, and Eyal Weizman in Beit Sahour, Palestine. For their first exhibition in New York, Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency will produce a large-scale installation in the James Gallery based on their research on the Palestinian Parliament building in Abu-Dis, located on the periphery of Jerusalem. Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency conducts research, collective learning and public meetings, and makes critical design from its research on existing architecture and infrastructure. Their projects articulate the potential of architecture to open an “arena of speculation” that incorporates varied cultural aesthetic and political perspectives. Works, whether in the form of large or small-scale models, video, maps, photographs, interviews, or discussions, have been exhibited at Nottingham Contemporary (2012); Neuchâtel, Switzerland (2011); Red Cat, LA (2010); NGBK, Berlin (2010); the Istanbul Biennale (2009). The group was awarded the Prince Claus Prize for Architecture in 2010. (more…)


Interface: IBM and the Transformation of Corporate Design, 1945-1976

The Interface: IBM and the Transformation of Corporate Design, 1945-1976

I just finished John Harwood’s book The Interface: IBM and the Transformation of Corporate Design, 1945-1976 (Minnesota, 2011).

Harwood, who teaches at Oberlin College, does an excellent job of discussing IBM’s design program in an expansive way. Instead of limiting his discussion about what constitutes design, he contends “that the outward appearance of objects is only of secondary importance when considering how these objects (and indeed systems of objects, processes, and concepts) came to be (224).” This perspective allows Harwood to rethink the history of IBM in relation to the interface, or what he defines as the “hinge between the world of things and the world of numbers (9).” (more…)

Deep Surface

Deep Surface - Contemporary Ornament and PatternWith Denise Gonzales Crisp I co-curated the exhibition “Deep Surface: Contemporary Ornament and Pattern”, which opened September 23 and runs until January 2, 2012 at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina. We selected an international roster of 42 designers, drawn from all disciplines of design, which we broke into six thematic sections. (more…)

Open Design Now: Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive

Cover of book, title Open Design NowAs an authors of Open Design Now declare, there is a revolution going on in design.


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.