Posts Tagged ‘Design Studies’

Komal Sharma, Class of ’15 Launches a Design Special edition of “Lounge”

By Susan Yelavich

Komal Sharma

Design writing in India beats New York criticism and coverage of design hands down. That was literally my first thought when I opened the pages of the new design edition of “Lounge,” the weekend cultural section of Mint, one of India’s leading business newspaper. Edited by MA Design Studies alumna Komal Sharma, the May 13 issue (picture here) featured far more than the usual press release-driven pieces we have grown accustomed to in our newspapers. If design is covered at all here in the U.S., it tends to focus on style or technological one-upmanship. (Metropolis magazine is, of course, an exception but it is directed specifically at designers. And it isn’t a daily paper; nor are the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books or the Atlantic, my other go-to sources for (the very occasional) design essay.)

‘homo faber’

I can’t imagine any of our mass-market news outlets printing a headline like Komal’s inaugural essay, “An Ode to the Homo Faber.” I doubt that even the New York Times T Magazine would countenance using Latin, much less featuring stories with such a high degree of criticality.  Whereas “Lounge” has no qualms about expressing skepticism about certain aspects of the design industry.

For example, Manu Joseph’s piece on Tristan Harris, “former product philosopher and ‘design ethicist’ at Google” is quick to note that the Ted Talk star’s cautions about media addiction are embraced all too readily to ward off even stronger reactions.  Stories like “But What About Feeling at Home?” look askance at the future of ‘living smart.’ Its author Sidin Vadukut is concerned that the efficiencies afforded by artificially intelligent systems in houses increasingly controlled by our Alexa’s will only increase detachment from the physical material home, to the point where we change residences and digital appliances the way we change apps.

Unsurprisingly, “Lounge” balances its critiques with fairly normative coverage of products, furniture fairs, and food design trends. But it does so with an equilibrium that is all too rare. Yes, its writers tease us with purchasing possibilities and the ever up-and- coming.  But with no sacrifice to the broader implications for the future that are inevitably embedded in design and designing.

A personal note: Warm congratulations to you, Komal, and best wishes on your trajectory as a design writer who understands how to reach the public realm without pandering or condescension. We hope to welcome you back to Parsons next time you’re in town to tell us how you do it!

Design Special-homo faber

Sidin’s page on smart home

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.


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:


Irem Yildiz, Class of 2018


I am Irem from Istanbul, Turkey. I have started to the Architectural Design Master Program right after graduating from Architecture at Istanbul Technical University in 2014. Following my change in major from Urban and Regional Planning to Architecture, my interest of urban texture and cultural networks has been shaped. During my undergrad years, I have worked on diverse scales and concepts both on design studios and internships. Besides school, I got the opportunity to join various workshops, exhibitions and events.


Mariann Asayan, Class of 2018

I will be joining the MADS family fresh out of my bachelor program at Syracuse University where I pursued a double major in Fashion Design and Psychology. Knowledge for knowledge sake has never rang true to me. Knowledge can never be meaningless as it allows you to open your eyes to the invisible network that connects everything. It was at Syracuse where I experimented within this invisible network and learned how intrinsic the relationships between design, technology, and psychology truly were.


Addy Fadina, Class of 2018


My name is Adebola Fadina. I am Originally from the Bronx, NY but recently moved update New York. Since I was young, I’ve always held interest in all aspects of art and design. I always used drawing as an outlet to express myself at times where words couldn’t. In middle school I attended a school that specialized in theater arts.


Kayla O’Daniel, Class of 2018



My name is Kayla O’Daniel and I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. As an undergrad I studied at North Carolina State University where I completed a BS in Business Administration & Marketing and a BA in Design Studies. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the realm of Design Studies early in my undergrad education. In an attempt to broaden the reach of design influences among the university, the College of Design developed the Design Studies program to connect to the other colleges including the College of Management, which was where I was studying.


Diana Duque, Class of 2018



I see myself as an Observer, Communicator, Problem­solver, Editor, Translator, Curator, Creative Thinker and, quite dutifully, a Cultural Diplomat. Growing up in both the US and Colombia, SA, I was given the opportunity to master two languages (sí, dos idiomas!), understand two cultures (dos culturas MUY diferentes), and recognize the many beautiful tones of gray that exist in a world that others so often choose to view in black and white (o al revés, blanco y negro).


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.

Do Drones Have DNA?

by Jilly Traganou

Drone flying in "Research and Methods" class presentation by Mehdi Salehi. Photograph by Mathew Mathews

Drone flying in “Research and Methods” class presentation by Mehdi Salehi. Photograph by Mathew Mathews.

Of course, all the students want to see the big drone flying. A loud, unpleasant noise fills the room immediately. The black and white aircraft floats stably in the air and creates a strong draft in the room, which is apt to produce goosebumps. I am impressed by how insecure I felt. Of course, this drone was not equipped with weapons or other harmful objects. However, the propeller and its speed give me a queasy feeling. No one in the room wants to get too close to it or even feel the propeller near his or her skin. The drone moves around the room like a foreign body, almost like a dangerous animal whose intentions are uncertain and difficult to read, but always ready to attack.” (Lisa Merk, MA Design Studies student )


Misha Volf’s Speech at Graduation Ceremony of MA DS 2016 class

Talk by Misha Volf as the student speaker given at the graduation of MA Design Studies, May 19th 2016:


Thank you, Faculty, Administration, Friends, Family, Graduates,

Two years ago, when I was considering Design Studies, I came in to interview with Susan [Yelavich, Director of the Program]. Among the ways she framed the program, one of them was as a NEXUS of THEORY and PRACTICE. After the interview, as I travelled back home, I was abuzz. “This is perfect,” I thought. This wasn’t going to just be some heady, theorizing about commodities, or semiotics, or the anthropocene; nor was this simply going to be about the production of stuff, putting design to work, so to speak, or something my father with increased longing would call “marketable skills.” No, no. This was going to be something else. This was going to be, … THE NEXUS!


Clive Dilnot’s Speech at Graduation Ceremony of MA Design Studies 2016 class

Clive Dilnot: Introductory talk given at the graduation of MA Design Studies, May 19th 2016:


It is an honor today to introduce to you the 3rd cohort of graduates of MA Design Studies, a very special and indeed brave, group of students.

They are special because the MA in Design Studies is one of the most exclusive degrees in the world. The program is unique in North America and I think is unique in the world. These are, in the best sense of the word a rare group of students. We have to hope they are not also an endangered species.


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.

Lisa Stenhaug of Design Studies on Andrea Zittel’s Wagon Station Encampment & Challenging “what is”

Lisa Stenhaug feature

Lisa Stenhaug at the Wagon Station Encampment. Photo by Emre Balık.

As research for her capstone, Lisa Stenhaug, MA Design Studies ‘16, stayed at artist Andrea Zittel’s Wagon Station Encampment in Joshua Tree, California for one week in April. Read about her experience at the encampment and her capstone project below!


Lisa Merk of Design Studies reflects on her award-winning project REMIND ME & more

Lisa Merk portrait

Lisa Merk, MA Design Studies ‘17, was recently the recipient of the New Talent Award from A&W Magazine, a German architecture and lifestyle magazine, for her project REMIND ME. REMIND ME is a sideboard and storage area with a motion-sensor light bulb that glows whenever a user gets close to it, ensuring that he or she will never leave the house without their necessary belongings. As a product designer, Lisa’s work focuses on furniture, packaging, and tabletop design as a way to promote a “high quality of living.”


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


Breathing Design: A Reflection on the Beginning of the Semester

by Jilly Traganou, Director of MA Design Studies

Design is what we breath here at Parsons; design, that is as much in the process of “cleaning and reorganizing a desk drawer” (Victor Papanek), as it is in the makings of synthetic biology and 3D food printing.  Now that the academic year is upon us, I’d like to reflect on everything that we’ve so far accomplished.

This year, students with backgrounds as variable as their places of origin (India, Germany, Egypt, Canada, US, China, Great Britain) have joined Design Studies in continuing the tradition of diversity that has characterized the program since its inception three years ago. Our new students bring experiences and knowledge from the fields of philosophy, art history, media, marketing and, of course, design practice. They are here to engage critically with design, as both intellectuals and practitioners, to bridge theory with practice, to develop their own distinct pathways through elective course choices across The New School and to undertake their capstone work in the second year of study.  Our incoming students’ orientation took place in the third week of August. As an initiation to the discourses in which students will be enmeshed in the next two years, we visited two different sites of design, the Navy Yards and the Cooper Hewitt museum: the first, a site of design production, where future designed worlds are being conceived and manufactured; the second a site of display, education and curation.


Visit to Capsys, Navy Yards, Brooklyn. Incoming students orientation, August 2015

In the first, we were guided by architects Christian Huber and Vivian Kuan, both associated with the studio Terreform ONE (Open Network Ecology). Christian and Vivian took us on a tour at the modular homes construction company Capsys, a realization of the metabolists’ and other utopian architects’ dream, where homes are constructed in a factory setting indoors to be transported and plugged in or assembled on location.  We also visited the Terreform ONE’s own studio where biology meets urbanism in fascinating experimental work such as the Urban Farm Pod, that integrates ideas of urban agriculture with the growing of architecture as food.

The second stop during orientation was the Cooper Hewitt, a site of display, education and curation.  Here, we were guided by History of Design and Curatorial Studies student Sakura Nomiyama, who discussed with us selected exhibits of the “How Posters Work” exhibition, while pointing out innovations in the early 20th century mansion of the Carnegie family that houses the museum (its elevator, air-condition, and heating system), which is easy to take for granted a century later. This house was as much a masterpiece of engineering innovation back then, as the Urban Farm Pod is of urban agricultural innovation today.


“Japanese Design Today,” Q & A session, Kashiwagi Hiroshi, Nakamura Yoshifumi, Jilly Traganou (right to left). Co-organized by The Japan Foundation, New York; MA in Design Studies; MFA in Industrial Design, Parsons New School of Design, at The New School, September 2015.

On September 8, in collaboration with the Japan Foundation, New York and the new Parsons MFA program in Industrial Design we hosted the event Japanese Design Today: Unique, Evolving, Borderless.  The event included two lectures, the first by Kashiwagi Hiroshi, a prominent design historian of Japanese design and professor at Musashino Art University, and the second by architect and furniture designer Nakamura Yoshifumi, a professor at Nihon University. In his lecture Professor Kashiwagi examined the characteristics of contemporary Japanese design (craft, minimal, thoughtful, compact, cute), while Professor Nakamura’s lecture focused on his architecture of hut dwellings, residences of energy efficiency and minimum size that function as retreats for everyday life. After the lectures I was moderator of a conversation on the state of Japanese design today, which opened up questions on nationalism and otherness in today’s Japan, as well as of the role of materialism in everyday life. Having been a Japan Foundation fellow in the past, and admittedly a Japanophile, I hope that the event has inspired our students to look into future research and funding opportunities offered by the Japan Foundation and other sources, which would allow them to research the role of design and material culture in Japan. We also hope that we will continue our collaboration with the Japan Foundation, who has already co-organized and supported several events with Parsons, such as for instance the Kon Wajiro exhibition on design ethnography in March 2014.

Continuing a guest-Professor sequel that began with Peter Hall earlier this year, in September 14-25, we hosted Albena Yaneva as Visiting Professor at Parsons. Albena Yaneva, a Latourian anthropologist, is Professor in Architectural Theory at the University of Manchester. Albena taught an intensive elective class titled “Ecologies of Practice: An Anthropological Approach to Design” that attracted students from across the New School. She also met individually with PhD students in anthropology, and gave two lectures, one in the anthropology lecture series and one in my Advanced Thesis Preparation class for the MA program Theories of Urban Practice program. Her lectures focused on the concept of cosmopolitical design—the subject of her forthcoming book with Ashgate, an approach to design that takes into account both the material and the living world, and entities with differing ontologies: viruses, natural disasters, climate, carbon dioxide, floods, rivers, and so on. Comsopolitical design can be seen as much in the work of contemporary architects grappling with the problem of the sun glaring in the glass facades of their buildings, as in the work of environmentalists who take care of natural ecosystems trying to balance people’s engagements with nature with acts that regulate ecology and allow nature to “recover.” Albena was a valuable resource for our students who had the opportunity to develop in-depth case study research and writing in her class, utilizing ethnography and developing a pragmatist approach to the understanding design and what it does in the world.

On September 25-27, a group of 14 students and myself attended “A Better World by Design,” a conference organized by students of Brown University and RISDI in Providence, Rhode Island.  Besides giving us the opportunity for critical conversations on design and its impact in the world, we enjoyed several of the lectures, such as the one by Alexis Lloyd, Creative Director of the R&D Lab of The New York Times, and a Parsons alumni, on the role of computational systems and the way they can become tools for conversation, an issue which resonates with several of our students’ capstone research.


“Spatial Representation: Verticality,” visualization of MA Design Studies student Juan Pablo Pemberty’s thesis titled: “The Spatial Conjunction: Design Redress and the Social Urbanism of Medellin,” submitted May 2015.

On September 30, ADHT participated in the Parsons Career Expo. We were happy to have work of two of our MA Design Studies alumni, Niberca LluberesRinicon and Juan Pablo Pemberty, presented at the ADHT table, as well as the last issue of Design Studies magazine Plot(s).  

After the divergence and excitement of the first two months we are now converging our energies into the end of the semester.  Many things are up in the ether but I hope it will not be a spoiler if I tell you that our students are Plotting again, and a call for proposals is in the works.  We look forward to a productive year!

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.