Faculty at 20th anniversary


First Year

This course focuses on key principles and best practices of user experience (UX). Students will explore a variety of user-first methodologies and processes, related to both physical and digital, in order to develop end-to-end holistic experiences across multiple touchpoints. Students will explore their thesis through the lens  of user experience with a variety of methodologies and exercises.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


This course will survey the idea and practice of propaganda from its religious roots to early 20th-century propaganda to the practice of spin and the current threat of artificially generated News. Half of each session is devoted to participatory lectures, guests and inquiry. The other half will involve students presenting one-offs and campaigns comprised of design narratives—including iconic signs, symbols and original alphabets—that will alternately express personal and universal concerns.

The intricacies and nuances of typography will be examined in this course, through a working environment in which the languages of type and image are released from the conventional rules of engagement. Students will have the opportunity to test their design and typography skills, and their talents on an extra-large platform. Working individually and together, we will explore the outer limits of graphic design through experimental approaches. Projects will be print-based and broadsheet-sized. Weekly critiques will be an important component of the course.

This course will be dedicated to type and typography in order to help raise typographic fluency through classes and exercises. It will allow students to refine and refresh their skills and toolkit. In addition, the class will provide critiques of work for other first semester classes.

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.

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.

Second Year

This course prepares students for full-scale graduate thesis development. Students will review their venture’s purpose and opportunity, expand understanding of user and community needs, and uncover insights to drive key design decisions and chart new territories of value. Throughout the semester, students will initiate a habit of iterative design thinking and making to move their venture through phases of low- to high-fidelity sketches/proof-of-concepts/prototypes, in preparation for an eventual pilot and viable launch.

Designing a business is not just about building a successful product. A venture can only succeed if it has a realistic (and profitable) business model, a deep understanding of its customers, the competition, and the marketplace, and a thoughtful go-to-market strategy. This course will go through the basics of venture design including value proposition design, business model design, testing business ideas, and understanding the business model environment. Using real-world examples and the designers’ own ventures, the designers should finish this course with a framework for creating, launching, and scaling asuccessful venture.

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.

To enliven the program and bring students into contact with a significant number of working professionals, a series of workshops will be scheduled each semester. Seminar topics will change from year to year based on student interest and shifts in the overall field.

Various approaches to building a brand identity system for your venture will be explored in this course. We will discuss your venture’s purpose, and the motivations for pursuing it, and find inventive ways in which to embody your ideas. The first few projects will be ambitious and experimental; the final project will be strategic and practical. The goal is to lock your venture’s brand and be ready to move on to preparing for the pitch and launch.

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.

This course is the foundation for Thesis Preparation and Thesis Development.  It is an overview of the thesis process with guidelines and milestones for the development of your original idea.  The various components of thesis – venture, brand, product/experience, and business model – will be reviewed to clarify what your venture is and how it will be accomplished.

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.

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.


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.

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