Renowned for serving as the launch pad for real-life, solution-based projects rooted in practical design, MFA Products of Design at SVA aims to mentor and prepare some of the industry’s most formidable and forward-thinking talent. Thanks to the program’s history of partnerships with organizations like MoMA Design Store and its small, incubator-like environment, students are inspired to devise new ways of dealing with the world around us that are imaginative, effective and civic-minded. Two thesis projects from the program’s latest graduating class are highlighted below.
N-3+Me: Urban Resilience at Human Scale, by Regena Paloma Reyes (MFA 2021 Products of Design), is aimed at promoting resilience among city dwellers during times of global crisis.
Through interviews with resilience experts and engineers, Reyes developed a collection of original products and technologies that examines survival and preparation tactics in densely populated places, aiming to help urban communities thrive in the face of destruction and catastrophe. From a chic-as-hell DIY hazmat wardrobe and home air-filtration fixture to mobile apps for anonymous support and crowdfunding during times of need and a digital service to repurpose under-appreciated city streets as places for serendipitous connection, N-3+Me’s innovations would have come in handy in 2020. Also, Reyes’ aforementioned airflow-manipulation product, Isla, just won a 2021 NYCxDESIGN Student Award.
Uplifting / Lifting Up: Asian Power From Our Own Hands, by Tingyu “Danica” Dou (MFA 2021 Products of Design), asks how design can be a tool to combat anti-Asian hate, using hours of interviews with cultural experts and an online community as research.
The products comprising Uplifting/Lifting Up touch on connectivity, shared histories and celebrating cultural traditions, utilizing design as a way to restore power to marginalized groups, specifically Asian and Asian American people, and particularly amid the recent rise in anti-Asian hate and violence. Dou is bridging the gaps in her community in ways both whimsical and impactful. Her project includes an educational platform, Tso Delicious, aimed at broadening interest in misunderstood Asian foods through soundbites; a networking app that gives voice to Asians and Asian Americans to empower one another through shared personal storytelling experience; a line of colorful and humorous print-at-home protest signs; and a game for kids to create the Asian or Asian American superheroes of their dreams.
These are just two of the many noteworthy projects from the MFA Products of Design class of 2021, whose collective thesis works tackled such varied subjects as burnout culture, sustainable fashion, mental health, empty nesting, indigenous languages, and more. Alumni of the program will often pursue and build on these concepts in their post-SVA work, finding design-based solutions to practical issues.
Watch the full MFA Products of Design thesis presentations, done TED Talk-style, below. Progressive, forward-thinking companies should take note: These innovative alumni are designing a better tomorrow, right now.