We are excited to share student projects, department news, event information, and photos from the MFA in Products of Design program. Check back frequently for updates.

Masters Thesis: Whateverest: Exploring the Landscape of Apathy and Agency, by Charlotta Hellichius

Masters Thesis: Whateverest: Exploring the Landscape of Apathy and Agency, by Charlotta Hellichius

Charlotta Hellichius’ thesis, “Whateverest,” investigates the landscape of apathy and agency. She positioned it as an exploration into her own shortcomings, and an attempt to understand why she “can’t care about everything.” Charlotta set out to understand and explain why certain behaviors are integral, while others fail to become equally as important. Whateverest is about how to overcome the “whatevers” that we face in our everyday lives, and explores the landscape of apathy, harnessing personal agency, and designing for our cognitive limits of engagement.

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Every day we face an avalanche of choices that we have to “deal with”—what to wear, what coffee to order, what to prioritize at work, what lunch to eat, what YouTube video to watch, what email to respond to right now, and which ones to save for later. This affliction is called “decision overload,” and all of these small decisions are taxing our capacity to focus.

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Masters Thesis: Five+: An Exploration of Mindful Experience Through the Lens of Sense, by Cassandra Michel

Masters Thesis: Five+: An Exploration of Mindful Experience Through the Lens of Sense, by Cassandra Michel

Products of Design MFA student Cassandra Michel’s thesis titled “Five+: An Exploration of Mindful Experience Through the Lens of Sense,” started as a question of happiness and how happiness is achieved. She began by conducting research, discovering the philosophy of Mathieu Richard who proposes that happiness is a skill that is cultivated.

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Cassandra also identified a 2010 Harvard research study conducted by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert which revealed that humans have a unique ability for mind-wandering. Mind-wandering is the ability to think about the past and the future, but can quickly lead to unhappiness. In the Buddha’s Brain, Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson contends “our vastly more developed brain is fertile ground for a harvest of suffering. Only we humans worry about the future, regret the past, and blame ourselves for the present. We get frustrated when we can’t have what we want, and disappointed when what we like ends. We suffer that we suffer.”

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Masters Thesis: The End. By Matthew Barber

Masters Thesis: The End. By Matthew Barber

Products of Design MFA student Matthew Barber’s thesis, entitled “The End.” looks at the shifting landscape of death and dying in today’s society, and the consequences of living an increasingly digital life. Matthew chose to tackle this subject after observing the effects of his grandmother’s passing from dementia. “I think this thesis really began back in 2011,” he reflects, “I saw my family struggling with my grandmother’s passing and thought that there must be a better way. I wanted to understand why this was so hard on us.”

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Instead of looking at traditional patient-driven solutions, Matt began by looking into design solutions based on the patient’s extended family and friends. He saw an opportunity to investigate the terminally ill, but more specifically, the things and the people that they leave behind.

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Masters Thesis: The Teacher’s Lounge, by Joseph Weissgold

Masters Thesis: The Teacher’s Lounge, by Joseph Weissgold

Products of Design MFA student Joseph Weissgold has spent the past year exposing the similarities he’s seen between his two background disciplines: Education and Design. Both these disciplines, he argues, are in a state of transformation, shifting from industries focused on optimizing efficiency through mass-produced offerings, to industries focused on experiences that are flexible enough to be personally relevant to their intended audiences—whether users or students.

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Masters Thesis: In the Running: Human Mobility in a Sedentary World, by Emi Yasaka

Masters Thesis: In the Running: Human Mobility in a Sedentary World, by Emi Yasaka

Products of Design MFA student Emi Yasaka’s thesis, entitled “In The Running,” examines the barriers to physical fitness in contemporary life. The project was inspired by her own running journey, as well as her experience with a local community running program catering to underserved. Developed through environmental, cultural and social lenses, as well as through perceived motivational factors, inner-city youth, the thesis resulted in three principal offerings.

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