Designed by recent grad Louis Elwood-Leach as part of his Masters Thesis, FirstHand is a watch with an algorithmically-generated and digitally-manufactured watchface. Using parametric design on the input side, and digital fabrication on the output side, the innovative watch concept produces a unique design every time it is ordered and sold. "The experience of purchasing and assembling the product connects the user to the design and manufacture process," Elwood-Leach offers, "thereby developing a relationship with the product through understanding the details of its design.”
Faculty member Becky Stern has written an article featured in Make Magazine (vol 64) that focuses on IF THIS THEN THAT (IFTTT), highlighting student examples from her Making Studio Class. Check out the article and all the links below!
Manako Tamura has spent the last year trying to reconcile her experience as an assimilated immigrant of color by interviewing, designing for and reflecting with the generation 1.5 immigrants of color who, like her, migrated to the US in the most formative years of their identities. Going into this journey, she first thought her thesis was going to be about transnationalism, where the main tension she had to resolve was around immigrants’ countries of origin and their adopted homelands. “As I spoke with users and experts on the subject, it became clear that the real tensions had to do with the transactional nature of assimilation where,” she reveals, “one could not embody both American and another culture.”
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.
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.
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.
As an avid climber and hiker, Alexia Cohen found herself interested in examining the role of women in the great outdoors. When she started climbing three years ago, she attended an event organized by Flash Foxy—a group of women dedicated to celebrating and empowering women climbers. Through this event, she met her climbing partner Janice, who as Alexia recalls “quickly became a friend and a mentor. Her guidance and support helped me develop my climbing technique and become more comfortable in this new space.” She also began to understand the importance of community and women mentors in traditionally male-dominated spaces.
As artificial intelligence’s capabilities continue to expand, there’s a growing anxiety that the impending AI Revolution may automate more jobs than it creates—triggering a crisis of worker displacement to rival the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. In response, Will Crum developed Me, Myself and A.I.: How I Learned to Love the Machine That Took my Job, a thesis of speculative designs that imagine near and distant futures where AI is used to increase individual agency—not diminish it. Crum’s proposals and provocations address access to work and other ways to protect human dignity in an automated age.
In his thesis GENTLEmen: Challenging Adults to Raise Feminine Boys, Andrew Schlesinger explores gender identity, masculinity, stereotyping, parenting, education, and male culture. Andrew has been investigating the restrictive nature placed on men and the necessity for them to conform to a masculine ideal, which is destructive to themselves and those around them. Through the feminist movement, most would acknowledge there has been a significant approach towards teaching girls traditionally masculine traits. This thesis argues we need a similar, foundational shift to teach boys feminine traits.
LoopWhole is a suite of ecological service provocations that increase conservation through impact reframing. Popular culture supports the message that material possessions represent drivers of happiness and satisfaction. For businesses, a significant measurement of success relies on endless growth and constant expansion. Thus, both consumers and producers help create centrifugal force that contributes to excessive rates of production and consumption. In turn, that taxes our financial, physical, and environmental health. They also create rampant pollution, excessive consumer debt, and a rapidly-degrading environment for many species.
With their unique ability to make ideas that seem plausible, feasible, and even inevitable, product designers are able to critique contemporary systems through tangible means. Speculative objects can provoke conversation by raising questions: Should the object exist? Why doesn’t it exist already? What must we do today to avoid needing the object in the future? In Radical Times, students from the Products of Design Master’s program at the School of Visual Arts explore speculative futures to inform product proposals for the present day. Each of these 17 products is a three-dimensional manifestation of their year-long theses, offering the students’ assessment of an urgent, contemporary issue.
The students have created The Datalogue, a four-part stationary machine which emulates the systems and unmasks the consequences behind data collection. Though data mining is an invisible procedure that occurs through countless digital channels, the exhibition transforms it into a visible, tangible process.
On Friday, February 23rd, the MFA Products of Design department held its fifth annual Design:Match Job Fair event, where global and local firms and organizations met with students, shared work, and discussed employment, funding, and entrepreneurship. Below is a list of this year's attendees, along with some photos of the event!
We are beyond honored to be featured in the brand new MoMA Wholesale Catalog in the form of an entire spread devoted to the projects produced as a result of MoMA's 4-year-long collaboration with SVA's Products of Design program. (Last year one of our students' projects was featured on the cover!)
"Everyone knows that it's a myth that technology has reduced our use of paper of course," offers first-year student Runshi Wei. "But there is also a unique gratification with crumpling up drafts and throwing them into the trash bin." Thus was born SLAM JUNK. Indeed, there is a long history of office-based basketball hoops, and Runshi's project takes things to the next level by integrating motion sensors, light and sound effects—all powered by Arduino.