Four years of MFA Products of Design graduates are now out in the world, and here below share their thoughts looking back at the program:


"Learning a skill takes time. Learning many skills simultaneously takes a team of talented faculty. Learning the courage to apply those skills takes an environment that celebrates risk, challenges preconceptions and empowers the student. I now run my own design studio in New York and work with an amazing range of clients from GE to Miley Cyrus. I wouldn't have been able to do any of it without the skills, network and courage I gained during my studies at Products of Design."
 
—Richard Clarkson
Founder and Senior Designer at Richard Clarkson Studio, LLC.

 

"The most valuable piece of my education at Products of Design was learning to attentively critique, question, and confidently articulate a perspective on systems, trends, and problems as well as on the design process itself. It is a tribute to the wonderful combination of powerhouse faculty and staff, contextualized and adaptive pedagogy, a multifaceted student body, and the freedom to experiment and self-direct."

—Jenna Witzleben
Design Strategist, Arup

 

"I don't think I will ever forget what the program did for me. I came in with nothing and I left with everything. It was an extraordinary experience where I explored a wide array of design lenses with a star-studded faculty and an extremely talented, rare, diverse group of individuals. 

Every week brought wonder and serendipitous, magical opportunities. Examples include meeting Neri Oxman and Michael Beirut, participating in a Hackathon for the Cooper Hewitt around their digital pen, and of course the unique opportunity to design products for the world's most honorable brand—the Museum of Modern Art."

—Oscar de la Hera Gomez
Creative Technologist, R/GA

 

“It was a transformational journey to attend MFA Products of Design—for many reasons. But in the end I emerged with my own manifesto, a roadmap for my dream projects, and new skill sets...alongside an extensive design vocabulary that continues to give me confidence in my career.”

—Berk Ilhan
Lead Designer, NewLab

 

“Products of Design is a multi-disciplinary design program that is firmly at the intersection of making, thinking and doing. It’s super challenging because it requires you to constantly prototype, to iterate, and to think not only about the “what”, but also about the why. It deconstructs the typical design process, then helps you put it back together for yourself.”

—Cassandra Michel
Design Researcher, frog design

 

“My biggest takeaway from the program is around confidence: I know myself better and understand my strengths. I can jump into conversations easily. I can take on leadership roles and be seen as someone who can be trusted. I am highly organized. In the end, the program has allowed me to create ambitious goals for myself, and then to achieve them.”

—Kathryn McElroy
User Experience Designer, IBM Watson

 

“The program helps you understand that design isn’t just about the product, but also about the context—the surrounding elements; oftentimes, the user experience may be more important than the physical product itself.”

—Emi Yasaka
Environmental Designer, Twenty Four 7

 

“I’m taking into my professional career the soft skills that I learned in the program: How to write a generous email; how to talk about design with a contemporary vocabulary; How to visualize information and systems; and the acknowledgment that prototyping can equal thousands of words.”

—Rona Binay
Designer, Pentagram

 

“While I’m proud of the projects I made in the program, the more important thing for me was realization of how many miles ahead I am of where I used to be. I discovered where my passions lie, and what I really want to do. I was hoping the program would give me some answers, but it was really the first business classes that started to give me the confidence to just put my work out there; to just put a price on it. I sold some furniture before, but things didn’t really happen until it came here. Using the Visible Futures Lab as an incubator, and the Products of Design department as a mental and business incubator, everything came together for me. And it worked: I have the confidence to know who I am.”

—Richard Clarkson
Founder & Lead Designer at Richard Clarkson Studio

 

“What am I most proud of from my time at Products of Design? Well, I was unemployed for less than a week after graduating!”
—Charlotta Hellichius
Strategist/Designer at PSFK Labs

 

“I met a prospective student at this year’s Open House, who said that she was impressed with the kinds of jobs people were getting—not just the places where they were working.”

—Samantha Moore
Design Strategist, Aruliden

 

“The program taught me to always shoot for the moon; to go beyond the assumed and predictable. This is quite evident in the thesis, where you can really create amazing work going further than what you thought you were capable of.”

­—Damon Ahola
Interaction Designer, frog

 

“The program is thoughtful and crazy. There’s an insane amount of work, high expectations and so many incredibly talented people. You basically live in school, and you become a new person. I got a breadth of education and exposure that I couldn't have gotten anywhere else. The whole premise of the program is - when you learn how to make, speak and perform like a great designer, then you become one.”

—Charlotta Hellichius
Strategist/Designer at PSFK Labs

 

The program helped me to understand the role of designer as catalyst—knowing when to insert yourself into a conversation, and when to bring up a specific subject to contribute to it; knowing when it’s your voice that needs to be heard, when to agitate, and when to instigate.

—Zena Verda Pesta
Program Curator & Consultant for Strategy and Development, Beam Center
Domain Director, Beam Camp

 

“The most difficult thing that I did in the program was the thesis. It was designed to be as much about the process as it is the deliverable, and it forced me to get out into the world and work with people that were outside of my domain. It was the biggest challenge...with the biggest payoff.”

—Matthew Barber
Production Designer, SYPartners

 

“For sure the most valuable thing I learned in the program is the design thinking process. I apply that to everything now. I apply to everything in life. That’s been a great tool.”

—Samantha Moore
Design Strategist, Aruliden

 

“When you get to this grad school, the problems all become a lot looser, the subjects more personal, and you are asked repeatedly to draw from your own experiences. You are pushed to try things out that may make you uncomfortable, but so much of this program is about you bringing your own interests in and then using them. If you expect the teachers to give your projects a specific direction, then you'll end up pursuing their interests, when really this is one of those rare opportunities to dig in and pursue your own.

—Joseph Weissgold
Director of the Design Lab, The Future Project

 

My experience during DesignWeek with the Also Project at Wanted Design was the absolute reassurance that I was exactly where I needed to be: at SVA, in New York City.

—Richard Clarkson
Founder & Lead Designer at Richard Clarkson Studio

 

"Presentation has always been a part of my process, so I take that stuff very seriously. But we worked on presentation so much in the program–being able to speak about the work, to construct the story, and to create concise narratives that were overtly humanistic."

—Clay Kippen
Experience Designer, Collins.

 

“The most valuable things I learned in the program were around vocabulary and presentationI can talk about my work professionally, with the language and learning necessary to pitch an idea to someone, to explain your own work to a potential buyer, and ultimately to sell that idea.”

—Willy Chan
Industrial Designer