Now a one-year program with student funding, the Design Research, Writing & Criticism MA program at NYC’s School of Visual Arts empowers professionals as researchers, writers and—above all—critical thinkers.
“Will I get a job with this degree?” It’s a question that would-be students around the world are having to engage with far more seriously these days. In a climate where graduates can often find themselves “under qualified” when entering a lopsided jobs market, the number of institutions and programs that can confidently point to proven track records are on the decline.
One institution determined to buck that trend with a seriously impressive line-up of graduates in coveted positions is the School of Visual Arts in NYC. SVA’s renowned “DCrit” course first appeared on my radar in 2012 when the person who gave me my first ever internship in the world of publishing, Vera Sacchetti, then web editor of Domus, told me about her time there.
Design Research, Writing, and Criticism started life as a two-year MA program but in 2015, switched to a single year format with the goal of being viable for working professionals. I’ve long been intrigued by the pride with which alumni talk about their time at Design Research, or “DCrit” to use their favored term, and the close relationship that they continue to have with the faculty and their former classmates.
Curious to uncover just what it is about DCrit that makes it so successful, I contacted three alumni whose careers are at an enviably exciting stage. Anne Quito, Class of 2014, now works for Quartz, the business offshoot of The Atlantic magazine, reporting primarily on design and architecture. But prior to signing up for the course, Quito could have never imagined being a journalist. “I’d reached an impasse in my job as a graphic designer,” she told me, explaining that the usual routine of projects had worn thin. Having been attracted to DCrit by the curriculum, the “interdisciplinary purview of design that the program encouraged,” and the design idols that the faculty comprised of, Anne found herself confidently embarking on a new chapter of her career.
She describes the program’s approach as “scrappy, creative, and courageous” in the quest for getting original and accurate stories. In an age where the validity of much of what we read is—quite rightly—being questioned, the value of writing with true integrity can only increase. With instructors like design author Steve Heller, director/producer Adam Harrison Levy, and New York Times senior culture reporter Robin Pogrebin underlining the importance of first person encounters, DCrit students do not take shortcuts.
They did all they could to help me and my peers find a footing in the outside world.
Indeed, it was the rigorous process of the program that attracted Avinash Rajagopal to DCrit. At the time of applying Avi was teaching at the National Institute of Design in India. He’d become interested in what it would take to create a critical culture around design in the country, but found many programs to be arcane and “hopelessly Eurocentric.” In DCrit he saw “a toolkit for the now and the immediate,” one that he envisaged would likely enrich his teaching practice or open up avenues as a researcher or strategist.
As it happened, an internship with Metropolis magazine opened another door and Avi is now the senior editor at the publication. He has found opportunities to teach through SVA and the University of Texas and also works with design firms on research and strategy through Superscript, the consultancy founded with Molly Heintz (now DCrit Chair) and the aforementioned Vera Sacchetti, and fellow DCrit alum Aileen Kwun. The most valuable element of DCrit for Avi was the faculty’s mentorship: “they did all they could to help me and my peers find a footing in the outside world.” From facilitating professional connections to going above and beyond in giving advice and always being available to help, he is undeniably sincere in telling me that he still idolizes many of those staff members.
It’s a reputation that radiates out from alumni and has a great standing within the design industry. 2016 graduate Ida Benedetto found DCrit held in high regard amongst the editorial and curatorial circles she moves in. Now a senior experience designer at SYPartners, Ida was keen to improve her writing skills and expected that the course would “help to articulate and amplify” her creative practice. In fact, it acted as a catalyst for a change of direction.
Having found a methodological mismatch when initially presenting her thesis idea, the critical rigor of the thesis development course proved over time to be “invaluable.” “It helped me understand what I valued and wanted to push for” she tells me, and that seems to be a unifying factor with DCrit alumni. They emerge from the course totally focused on their next step. Empowered by a caring, undaunted faculty who rise to the challenge and guide each student in the manner best suited to their aspirations, skills, and interests.
Article written by Alec Dudson - founder and editor of Intern magazine.
Originally published in Issue Four of Intern.
DO YOU CARE ABOUT DESIGN and its impact on the individual, society and the environment? Are you interested in honing your research, writing, and critical thinking skills and developing your unique point of view?
Whether your background is in architecture, design, journalism, science, history, or something else entirely, the SVA MA in Design Research, Writing & Criticism might just be the next step in your career trajectory.
We accept applications on a rolling basis. Classes for the Fall 2017 semester begin September 5 in New York City.
To apply or learn more about the program, visit our website or contact us at email@example.com.