Faculty at 20th anniversary


First Year

Embracing The Unknown Will Harding

This course will introduce students to the design sprint process and how it can help designers quickly form hypotheses and test them. With an emphasis on iterative and collaborative design thinking, we can use simple tools to get our best ideas into testable forms quickly with results that can deliver critical business insights.

Design Conception: Developing your Venture Sue Walsh

In this course, students will build essential skills required for the conception and development of their thesis. This will be an intensive where students explore what is personally significant to them, examine industries and research social organizations towards the goal of developing thesis concepts. Throughout the course, students will grow lateral thinking skills, generate ideas and test their assumptions. The goal is for each student to have a fundamentally sound concept to be further developed during second year.

Telling Stories Gael Towey Stephen Doyle

The power of design is its ability to communicate; the enchantment of design is its ability to tell us stories and connect with us emotionally in ways that are surprising and memorable. This course will explore the alchemy of design as a narrative device, in specific contexts and over time. Using any media known or unknown, we will adventure into the realm of enlightenment: in print, digital, video, monumental, or any other media.

Design and Branding Kevin Brainard

In this course, students will develop a comprehensive brand identity that reinforces the narrative of a chosen business or service. Our theoretical readings will be complemented with historical competitive audits to identify and leverage unique opportunities to develop the brand’s story. Critical thinking, iterative design methodology, and a synthesis of research, design production and presentation will be emphasized.

Writing and Designing the Visual Book Warren Lehrer

This course combines design and literature to create integrated and meaningful expression. Students will develop their creative writing skills through a sequence of exercises in continuous writing, observational writing, titling objects and images, theatrical improvisation, storytelling, writing from different points of view, structuring a narrative and editing. Selected texts from exercises are then set into a variety of book formats, using any combination of book structures, typography, images and symbols. Emphasis is placed on discovering a visual form that emerges out of the meaning and shape of an original text. Historical and contemporary examples of “visual text” will be presented.


Design and Intentions Milton Glaser

The course is structured to help students examine their assumptions about their own work. It begins with a restaurant project where many design considerations intersect; i.e. communication, service, interior spaces, lighting, color, comfort, etc.

The course continues with a series of exercises that intend to disrupt or compliment the students working methods. Ultimately, the objective is to develop the students awareness of what they are already doing.

Can Design Touch Someone’s Heart Stefan Sagmeister

It is widely assumed that movies, literature and music get to our emotional core. It seems to be more difficult for design to achieve a similar effect. In this course, students will explore how to achieve this with three individual assignments.


Design to Context Willy Wong

This course supports the culmination of the MFA Design thesis. We will examine student ventures’ core product/service and ancillaries as contextually experienced by audiences in order to maximize relevance, resonance, and remarkability. Expect to build focused yet immersive storyworlds that guide audiences from a state of ambivalence to action, deliver on ambitious yet achievable goals within scope/schedule, and engage in rigorous peer/guest reviews.

Mapping the Customer Journey Marc Rabinowitz

Customers increasingly experience brands, products and services through multiple channels and touchpoints. Students will participate in a facilitated workshop to map an end-to-end view of their customer’s journey, from discovery and first use through ongoing use of their product/service. With a focus on user needs and tasks, students will identify key moments to research and develop uniquely branded/ownable interactions, points of differentiation and increased value for their users.

Design Technology Workshop I Ron Callahan

The purpose of this course is to familiarize the students with the tools and services available in the MFA Design studio as well as other on campus facilities. A series of lectures, online learning and hands on workshops will provide training on the equipment and build the skills needed to become a well rounded designer in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. Communication with print, video and online digital formats will be the focus of these workshops.


Design Decisions Allan Chochinov

Design Decisions is a course on design thinking and design making. It acknowledges that designers deal with scale, and as a result are capable of creating powerful design gestures that multiply out into powerful design consequence. The course is hands-on; students build prototypes and create sketches each week, exploring design through various design lenses and personal point of view.

Interaction Aesthetics: Designing Digital Products for the 21st Century Fred Kahl

User-centered interactive design is the focus of this course. It will examine how to put users at the heart of the experience, and explore the fundamental building blocks of all successful interactive products. Students will work on a semester-long project that will address the core phases of creating a successful digital product. All projects must consider how the product will adapt to specific platforms including desktop, mobile, tablet, wearables and the Internet of things. Guest speakers will share their insights of creating and working in the interactive realm.

Paul Rand Lecture Series Steven Heller Keith Godard Jeff Scher

These lectures address various aspects of the history of graphic design over the past 150 years, including movements, pioneers and icons, as well as issues and events. Lectures focus on 9th-century premodern practice, early and mid-20th century orthodox modernism, and the late 20th-century postmodern. Themes include racism and design, symbolism and the swastika, type and culture, politics and propaganda, modernism and Art Deco, and avant-garde magazines of the 20th century. Students will engage in critical and analytical discussions that relate design history to current communication practices.

Thesis Introduction Bobby C. Martin Jr.

This course will introduce students to faculty thesis consultants who will assign exercises that are designed to initiate R&D and jumpstart the conceptual process for the thesis project. By the end of the course, students will have identified at least two areas of interest to be further explored for the final thesis.

Second Year

The Venture: From Theory to Reality Ken Carbone

In this course students will explore thesis concepts to be fully developed in the second year. This will be like thesis “boot camp” where students will take a disciplined process of idea generation that balances a personal passion with a practical, market-driven opportunity. During this process we will focus on your core skills and base of knowledge that can best support your thesis and insure an outstanding result. The goal is to prepare you to enter the second year with a strong conceptual foundation to further develop your venture. This will not be the final thesis but a direction that has been tested for its fundamental viability in advance of further refinement.

Designing Value Amy Wang

Successful ventures are technically feasible, financially viable, and desirable on a personable level. But—who is doing the desiring? What do they want? And how will they trust they are getting it? This course will guide thesis projects through the desirability lens using design research methodology, and arrive at insights that inform the design principles, value proposition, and business model of each venture.


Thesis Consultation: Preparation Jennifer Kinon

This course will prepare students to identify a product suitable for full-scale development for the audience they aim to target. It will help students identify concepts that matter to them, and then expand those concepts into design. The semester is divided into four sections: developing a market research survey, writing a comprehensive business plan, e-commerce and e-ideas. In addition, there will be seminars on the theory and practice of design and fabrication. Throughout the semester students will learn how to produce viable thesis projects with marketable potential.

Thesis Consultation: Research and Development Deborah Hussey Lita Talarico

This course enables students to apply their design, planning, writing and presentation skills to their thesis concept. Students will develop a comprehensive brand platform that reinforces the narrative behind the product or service, across all marketing applications. In addition, students receive consultation on naming, identity development, 2D, 3D and digital design, writing, manufacturing processes and time management. Five key criteria are used to measure thesis development —ingenuity, utility, universality, sustainability and beauty.

Thesis Consultation: Pitch and Presentation Lita Talarico

In this intensive course, students will develop a viable and professional pitch book and video to use as a tool to bring their thesis product to potential producers, investors and the market. In addition, they will be given tutorials on how to deliver a verbal pitch to potential backers and clients.

Business for Design Entrepreneurs Anthony D'Avella

This course provides students with tools to build a business case into their theses. Through a series interactive workshops students will develop strategies to win support for their projects. By interpreting and deepening their summer research, students will articulate value created for targeted user segments and define the markets those segments represent. Exercises in Discovery-Driven Planning will familiarize students with income statements and help to develop roadmaps for iterative learning. Students will outline pricing and create tools for understanding revenue and cost calculations. In addition, the course will cover fundraising basics, team building and techniques for business storytelling.

Making it Real Adam Katz

This course will help students to envision a complete user experience in order to create a clear and focused product narrative. By thinking through the various touchpoints that users might have with their products, and then designing based upon these characteristics, students will be able to successfully convey a detailed experience for the users.

Thesis Matrix Lita Talarico

This course is the starting point for thesis preparation and development, offering an overview of the thesis process. Guidelines for the form of each student’s original idea will be given. The various components of the thesis process will be addressed.

Thesis Video and Media Launch Ada Whitney

The video created in this course will define the essential need for the product, what it does, and how it will be viable. The resulting spot (30 seconds to two minutes) will become a cornerstone of students’ marketing and fundraising plans. This course is divided into conception and production sections. Students will develop narratives through storyboards and scripts. Shooting, lighting, sound, editing and authoring skills and software programs will be covered. In addition, collaborative class projects are dedicated to concept, design and production of branding and packaging for the Thesis Forum.

Intellectual Property and the Law Frank Martinez

The general concepts of law and intellectual property law as they apply to the practice of design will be examined, including basic legal issues of contract and property law, within the creative context. Among the topics explored will be the work-for-hire agreement, the consignment agreement and the agency agreement. The law of copyright, trademark and patents will also be explored. Issues such as registering a copyright, copyright infringement, registering a trademark and trade dress infringement and patents (in particular, design patents) will be examined from the perspective of the professional designer. In addition, design and information issues presented by new technology, such as the web, will be included throughout the course.


Thesis Consultation: Production Brian Collins

In this, the third semester of thesis classes, students will complete the development of their viable thesis project resulting in a well designed, fabricated product prototype ready to be marketed. With the input of thesis advisors, students will also demonstrate viability, market research and business capability. A final presentation to the Thesis Review Committee is required. The MFA degree will not be conferred without approval by the Committee.