Lassor Feasley’s thesis You Are on the Fastest Route: Intentional Community and Responsible Autonomy examines how self-driving cars might impact American culture and the habits of everyday life. For many Americans, the traditional motor vehicle mediates access to everything from social and economic connections to childhood independence and family roles. "What happens when the underlying calculous behind motor age culture is rewritten and the way people explore and understand the world is reimagined?”, Lassor asks. Through his research, Lassor wanted to try and anticipate the consequences that autonomous cars might inspire. Over the past year, he has explored the social, the economic, and the ethical aspects of car culture, and leverages the tools of design to imagine how an advanced mobility system might drive positive change.
SVA Products of Design and the Omidyar Network are collaborating this summer 2018 on an initiative that explores how we can harness our interdependence to build a stronger, more tolerant and tolerable society; how we can reveal to one another the ways in which we are already deeply interdependent; and how design can facilitate a consciously, radical interdependence that draws on emotional connections with loved ones to more clearly invest in the vast network of humanity that provides the interconnected framework of daily life.
As a designer, Jiani Lin believes that great design can be inspired by our everyday experiences. Her thesis YES, MAYBE NOT: A Design Investigation into Young Adulthood focuses on exploring the shared emotions, behaviors, and experiences young adults have as they graduate college and enter the working world, or plan to do so, all while leaving behind their comfort zone. She addresses young adults’ identity exploration on a professional, romantic, and social level through designing objects, products, service platforms, apps, and systems that can help this generation prepare for the period of life post-graduation.
Nowadays, many people enjoy visiting amusement parks like Disneyland or Universal Studios. These parks are all about theme-based experiences—experiences which, in a sense, are very close to living inside a game. “Why then, can’t a person’s daily life be experience-based in a similar way? What would it look like if we augmented ordinary life with games and experiences to make a new lifestyle for people” Teng Yu questions. In response, he developed Respawn: Activating the Bedroom Generation By Gamifying Public Spaces—a thesis of speculative, service, experience, and product design that imagines near futures where games are designed to help people building character, learning skills, and conquering challenges. Yu’s designs and ideologies subvert the unhealthy lifestyles associated with gamers by providing new and wholesome ways to game in real-world contexts.
Bernice Wong’s thesis, In Equality: Migration, Labor, and Our Modern Global Economy, explores our relationship and role in the interconnected systems that allow some to prosper and others to suffer exploitation or enslavement. She traces the state of labor rights in today’s American agricultural industry back in time to the abolition of slavery in 1865, understanding that agriculture in the U.S. remains rooted in a system historically intended to control and repress the black body. Her design projects seek to intervene where there are structures of abuse, confronting the issues of immigration, exoticism, colonization, and race as intersected and inseparable.
In her thesis Prosumerism: Crafting Alternate Consumption Experiences, Sowmya Iyer explores whether products and services can ease the consumer’s guilt of excessive spending and materialism by providing them with options that best fit their values of sustainability. She also wanted to find out if these products/services could be adaptive to the consumer’s lifestyle and built for their convenience. As part of her research process, Sowmya spoke to researchers, innovators, educators, authors, and artists exploring ways to reduce the effects of modern consumerism on the environment.
Juho Lee’s thesis work was inspired by the conversation that he had with his close friend about depression and suicidal feelings in South Korea during the summer of 2017. He recalls, “It seemed like a very serious issue, and I didn’t know what my friend was going through until he shared his suicide ideation. Even though he said he is okay now and laughed it off when he told me, I didn’t know how to respond.” This experience made Juho realize that perhaps Korean men are unable to reach out for help when they really need it. As someone who spent his youth in South Korea, Juho also recognized that he never learned how to discuss the topic of suicide with anyone. This insight inspired his master’s thesis Cast Away: Designs for Socially Isolated Korean Men Contemplating Suicide.
The historical mindset towards people with physical disabilities has been one of pity and exclusion. While the notion of pity and exclusion is looked down upon in liberal societies, an understanding of what constitutes the objectification of people with disabilities, as well as a greater effort towards inclusion, is still not widespread. The voices of people with limb loss and limb differences (LL/D) are not part of an extensive ongoing conversation about their rights, needs and wants. Through her thesis Upgrade, Adya aims to create the conditions that lead to more open conversations about and with people with LL/D and their acceptance in society, as well as easier access to products and services that improve their quality of life.
Before Jingting He started her thesis, she did a year-long project that consisted of sliding anonymous thank-you notes underneath the Department Chair’s office door every Monday morning. By designing these letters anonymously, she felt she could express herself more freely and creatively. She wouldn't have realized she was creative enough to produce such delightful work if she hadn’t given herself a mask of anonymity. Therefore, Jingting developed A Mask That Reveals: Exploration and Expression Through Anonymity, a thesis that creates anonymous platforms to help people explore and express other sides of themselves.
Louis Elwood-Leach’s thesis Invisible Possessions explores the rise of these invisible products and considers opportunities to reclaim our relationship with possessions in an augmented age that increasingly values access over possession, experience over product, and machine over individual. Elwood-Leach argues that in losing sight of the possessions in our lives, we are losing the means to engage with our memories, culture and sense of self.