Good design can be a catalyst for change. Or at least that is the message of two new graduate programs—Products of Design and Design for Social Innovation—at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Both are two-year MFA programs that aim to educate designers about how they function in and relate to the world in which they practice.
“We know that we can’t keep making stuff the way we’re making it, so we can’t keep teaching design students the way we’ve been teaching them,” said Allan Chochinov, chair of the Products of Design program. Products of Design will focus on exploring the meaning and the role of objects in contemporary culture and finding new approaches to antiquated methods of design. Chochinov said the program will “sensitize designers to the power that they have,” by training them to be strategic agents of change who have the capacity and tools to challenge people’s assumptions about what design is. “Design is not all about problem-solving, it is also the business of creating value,” said Chochinov, adding that “not all design situations call for a design answer.”
The curriculum is still in development, but Chochinov wants students not only to gain project experience through hands-on learning but also to cultivate a professional point of view. In addition to Chochinov, who is also the founder the website Core 77, other faculty includes author Rob Walker, Julie Lasky of Change Observer, MoMA curator Paola Antonelli, and Bill Moggridge, director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
In Design for Social Innovation, SVA’s second new MFA program, students will explore how design can make the world a better and more sustainable place. The curriculum addresses design in the context of broad social issues like poverty, health and aging, women’s rights, agriculture, social justice, community development, sustainability, education, and fair trade. Chaired by Cheryl Heller, a communications designer who has concentrated on working with social entrepreneurs, the program’s diverse faculty includes ethnographer Marc Rettig, anthropologist Tracy Brandenburg, and conservation biologist Mary Corliss Pearl, among others.
Both programs will begin in the fall of 2012.