Who should apply?

Published on: January 18th, 2012


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.

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.

Those students who come to the program from a specific field of design study or practice will want to explore how the disciplines they know are expanding, how they are bleeding into other realms, and how they are fundamentally related to the ways we choose to live in the world.  In this scenario, I can imagine projects that examine the role of professional design (i.e. communication design, urbanism) in a world where community- and self-initiated projects are rapidly growing.

I also look forward to working with students who want to explore the intellectual history of design.  These students might investigate how design, as a form of tacit cultural knowledge, continues to be informed by mythology. They might consider the ways in which works of literature reveal how design affects human relationships.  Or, they might examine how our conceptions of time and chronology have been changed by design from the advent of electric lighting to the digital 24/7.  Design has operated under various names and with various understandings over time.  So the possibilities for illuminating our knowledge of its dimensions are rich.

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.