Wednesday, May 2, 2012
12:30–7:00 p.m.

Visual Arts Theatre
333 West 23rd Street

Eventually Everything: The 2012 D-Crit Conference, featuring graduating students of the SVA MFA in Design Criticism, and moderated by Change Observer co-editor Julie Lasky, will take place on May 2, 2012 at the Visual Arts Theatre in New York City.

This year’s conference is comprised of four themed panels, each introduced by keynote speakers, including media historian Stuart Ewen; Pentagram partner Michael Bierut; 2×4 founding partner Michael Rock; cultural historian Jeffrey Schnapp; and Interboro Partners principal Daniel D’Oca. Topics to be addressed include the absence of firearms in design collections, the persistence of an anti-ornament bias in architectural discourse, Main Street USA as rhetorical trope, and the need for designers to make repairable products.

This is the third D-Crit conference organized by, and featuring, graduating D-Crit students. Join us for a richly programmed afternoon of provocation, insight, and inspiration that aims to re-chart the future of design discourse. There is no charge for admission, so sign up today to save your seat.

“Eventually everything connects—people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.”
—Charles Eames

Videos from the conference


Wednesday, May 2, 12:30–7:00 p.m.

  • 12:30 Registration, desserts and coffee
  • 1:00 Opening remarks: Alice Twemlow
  • 1:15 Opening remarks: Julie Lasky

Panel 1: Calculated Nostalgia

Nostalgia for times and places that one has not actually experienced exerts a powerful allure. So it’s not surprising that marketers and designers mine the warm associations of imagined pasts and fictional elsewheres. This panel explores the idea that what is remembered or imagined holds extraordinary sway on the decisions made by entire populations. From the promises of the pastoral food package, to Main Street USA as a recurring rhetorical trope, to the visual marketing of “home”—this panel examines the sites, meanings, and cultural effects of calculated nostalgia.

Panel 2: Working/Not Working

The breakdown of architecture and design tends to be avoided as a topic, outside of the occasional catastrophe like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, 1940, or the tragedy of the Kansas City Hyatt’s Skywalk, in 1981. Garden-variety, everyday failure, on the other hand—whether complex, as is the case when a public housing system doesn’t work, or simple, when a tool breaks into pieces—is less popular subject matter, and understandably so. Designers don’t relish the prospect of failure and, outside of abiding by safety regulations, they rarely address the issue head-on. Design criticism affords an opportunity to investigate what doesn’t work by gathering evidence from commissioners, creators, and users, and gives voice to the experience of technicians and “maintainers” who deploy and work with the outcomes of design first-hand.

Panel 3: Speaking Surfaces

While serving as functional designs, built structures and typefaces are also visual expressions of creativity. Over the past century, the limits of creativity have been guided significantly by the radical statements of figures like Adolf Loos who, in the early twentieth century, announced a new age of the machine, advocated for an aesthetic that accommodated production, and railed against the use of ornament. Advances in technology have both inspired human expression and restricted it. Examining examples of ornament in architecture and figurative typography, this panel looks beyond the surfaces of architectural planes and letterforms to explore the influence of aesthetic movements on the evolution of creative expression, and to reveal the ways in which Modernist theories still haunt the current discourse.

Panel 4: Man, Machine, Morality

Design is not a one-way street: objects make us as much as we make them. Machines of all types invariably shape human experience on a daily basis. But do they make us better people? This panel questions technology’s capacity to inform, improve, or end human life and investigates the ways in which objects reflect the morality of the user while questioning the designer’s accountability. Powerful social interactions between man and machine can lead us to attribute agency and sometimes tyranny to our devices. The power struggle between man and machine—a critical question of who controls whom—provides a cyclical relationship informing design practices and the ways in which we navigate our lives. This panel will discuss the design of current toy technologies, fitness equipment, and firearms, along with the social interactions and moral rituals surrounding them.

See below for speaker bios.

Videos, teasers, and photos from the conference are now available.


D-Crit Conference Moderator

Julie Lasky is co-editor of Change Observer, a Web site devoted to design for social impact, supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in association with the Winterhouse Foundation. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of I.D. Magazine, after positions as editor-in-chief at Interiors and managing editor at Print. A widely published writer and critic, she has contributed to The New York Times, Metropolis, Dwell, Architecture, Slate, Surface, The National Scholar, Graphis, Grid, Print, Eye and NPR, and her most recent book is: Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle (Lars Müller, 2010). Julie’s honors include a National Arts Journalism Fellowship at the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, and the Richard J. Margolis award for writings on the cultural life of postwar Sarajevo. At D-Crit she teaches Reporting on Design and Social Change and will be a core faculty member of the SVA Design Writing and Research Intensive, June 18–29.

D-Crit Conference Keynote Speakers

Michael Bierut is a partner in the international design consultancy Pentagram and a co-founder of the online design magazine Design Observer. A selection of his pithy essays has been collected under the title Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007). Michael has taught blogging at D-Crit and lectured on “Design, Writing, Teaching: Not my Real Job.” Michael is co-editor of Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design, vols. 1 through 5 and a regular contributor to Public Radio International’s arts program “Studio 360.” He is also a senior critic in Graphic Design at Yale University School of Art. Among the many honors Michael has received is a Medal of Excellence by the AIGA, an organization for which he was the president from 1998 to 2001, and the 2008 Cooper Hewitt National Design Mind Award.

Stuart Ewen is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Film & Media Studies at Hunter College, and in the Ph.D. Programs in History, Sociology and American Studies at The CUNY Graduate Center. He helped define the field of Media Studies with books such as PR! A Social History of Spin (Basic Books, 1996), All Consuming Images: The Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture (Basic Books 1987; 1999), and Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture (McGraw-Hill, 1976). All Consuming Images provided the foundation for Bill Moyers’ four-part, Peabody, Emmy, and National Education Association Awards winning PBS series, “The Public Mind.” PR! provided the basis for the BBC Television Series, “Century of the Self.” Stuart’s most recent book is Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human Inequality, co-authored with Elizabeth Ewen (2006).

In 2011, Stuart wrote the introduction for a new edition of Edward Bernays’s 1923 classic, Crystallizing Public Opinion (iG Publishing).

Daniel D’Oca is an urban planner, educator, and curator who specializes in the politics of the contemporary built environment in America. He is Design Critic in Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Design School, Assistant Professor of Art History, Theory & Criticism at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and Principal and co-founder of Interboro Partners, an architecture, planning, and research firm in New York City that has won many awards for its innovative projects, including the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program, the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices and Young Architects Awards, and the New Practices Award from the AIA New York Chapter. Daniel has been a guest critic at D-Crit in Karrie Jacobs’s Urban Curation class and, with the other principals of Interboro Partners, has lectured on “Advocacy and Pluralism in Architecture.” His forthcoming book, The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion,will be published by Actar in 2012.

Michael Rock is a founding partner and creative director at 2×4, and Director of the Graphic Architecture Project at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Michael, whose expertise spans graphic design and architecture, has lectured at D-Crit on “Superficiality: Dematerialization and Branded Surfaces.” At 2×4, he leads a wide range of projects, both cultural and commercial, for Nike, MTV, Prada, Kanye West, Vitra, Harvard Art Museum and CCTV. He has been a contributing editor and graphic design journalist at I.D. Magazine, his writing on design has appeared in publications worldwide and a new book of his writing, Multiple Signatures, is forthcoming. Michael is the recipient of the 1999/2000 Rome Prize in Design from the American Academy in Rome and currently serves on the board of the Academy.

Jeffrey Schnapp is the faculty director of metaLAB at Harvard, a research and teaching collaborative dedicated to exploring networked culture in the arts and humanities. He is also faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, professor of Romance Languages & Literature and on the teaching faculty in the Department of Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Jeffrey’s most recent books are Speed Limits (Skira) and The Electric Information Age Book (Princeton Architectural Press). Also forthcoming in 2012 is Digital Humanities (MIT Press), a book co-written with Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, and Todd Presner. His pioneering work in the domains of digital humanities and digitally augmented approaches to cultural programming includes curatorial collaborations with the Triennale di Milano, the Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, the Wolfsonian-FIU, and the Canadian Center for Architecture. His Trento Tunnels project—a 6,000 sq. meter pair of highway tunnels in Northern Italy repurposed as a history museum—was featured in the Italian pavilion of the 2010 Venice Biennale.

D-Crit Conference Student Speakers

Barbara Eldredge grew up in museums all over the country, developing a deep love of art, culture, and the stories objects tell. Before moving to New York in 2008, Barbara graduated summa cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University with majors in Philosophy and Theater. A knowledge synthesizer, Barbara is most interested in generating multi-perspectival and interdisciplinary examinations of culture. She highlights New York exhibitions and museum news at her blog, museummonger.com. In her spare time, Barbara is writing a non-fiction play, Yoricks, about the human skulls used as props in Hamlet over the past four hundred years. She has conducted interviews for Metropolis and her writing has been published by core77CLOGflavorwire, and others.

Tara Gupta, a graphic designer and critic, aims to inspire design discourse, and is partial to puns and good typography. She earned her BFA degree from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Graphic Design program. Her D-Crit studies have led her to Dolly Parton and to the contemporary health club. Tara has worked with Susan Grant Lewin Associates, learning the ropes of public relations for artists, architects, and designers; Steven Heller, as a research assistant on his forthcoming book about graphic design magazines; and most recently at Print. She looks forward to a career in design research and strategy, as well as diving back into her love of print and exhibition design.

Anna Kealey was born in Dublin, Ireland, and holds a BA in Visual Communications. She won the Design History Society prize for her undergraduate thesis Innovation and Exploitation: a Critique of American Apparel. She works as a researcher and writer at the creative recruitment agency Wert&Co and as a research assistant for Steven Heller. In 2011 Anna worked as conference assistant at AIGA, helping to organize Pivot: AIGA National Design Conference. She is a recipient of the SVA Alumni Scholarship Award and will present her thesis research at the International Conference for Designing Food and Designing For Food (ICDFDFF) at London’s Metropolitan University in June. Anna hopes to become an educator, while maintaining a career in design and writing.

Derrick Mead has worked at various times with implements and machines in every conceivable state of disrepair, from farms to kitchens to crawlspaces, and remains fascinated with how stuff gets fixed. He’s worked in the past for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Phillips de Pury and Company, and written for Metropolis, Architect’s Newspaper, and Eric Fischl’s America: Now and Here Foundation, among others. He was the recipient of the SVA MFA Design Criticism Henry Wolf Scholarship, and received a Barnabas McHenry Grant from the Open Space Institute, to produce The Hudson Valley Cider Route with Glynwood. Derrick’s research has definitively settled on the best toaster ever produced—the Sunbeam model T-20, 1949–1954.

Katya Mezhibovskaya is a designer and critic hailing from Moscow and Brooklyn. After studying Painting, Art History, and Gender Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Katya then transferred to the School of Visual Arts to complete her BFA in Graphic Design, with a focus on print design and semiotics. She is fascinated by cultural and linguistic etymologies, both as a book cover designer at Vintage Español and Vintage/Anchor Books, and as a researcher and writer on memory and its historical artifacts. Katya is writing a book on the cultural history of nail polish, designing a book cover series for Jorge Luis Borges, planning her honeymoon in Italy, and looking for ligature opportunities in texts.

Erin M. Routson is an unabashed native of Cleveland, Ohio, and a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning in Graphic Design. She has worked as an art director and graphic designer for Goody Products and Abercrombie & Fitch, among others. After a brief dalliance with the idea of attending law school, she discovered that Design Criticism gave her the opportunity to discuss social justice, politics, and the intersection of gender, race and class through architecture, urban planning, and design. Erin writes about sports, music and pop culture and is a regular contributor at music blog b3sci, the policyxdesign blog at Public Policy Lab, and has been published by CLOG and Unbest.

Amna Siddiqui firmly believes that everyone has the right to access, understand, and appreciate the objects they are looking at, living in, or sitting on. Her long-term goals include making art and design appealing to a wider audience. Amna’s background is in Art History, English, and Technology. She has been a Fellow at the non-profit, America: Now and Here, and worked for organizations like the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Surface magazine. Before coming to D-Crit, Amna worked as a producer for an interactive agency and as a social media consultant. Her writing has appeared in Surface, Curbed NY, and Flavorwire. In her spare time, Amna enjoys painting, visiting museums, attempting to cook, and cruising through New York City as an ambitious pedestrian.

Julia van den Hout is the press and exhibitions manager at Steven Holl Architects, where she has led the communications department since graduating from NYU in 2008 with a BA in Art History and Urban Design & Architecture. In 2011, Julia co-founded CLOG, a quarterly architecture publication that aims to slow down the rapid pace of architectural discourse and provide a platform for discussion of one topic at a time. Alongside the three issues published thus far, CLOG has organized events and lectures in New York and Boston. Julia’s writing has been published in C3, CLOG, and Domus, and she is currently on the curatorial team for the US Pavilion at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale.

Ann Weiser, a former Senior Creative Director at Showtime Networks and Vice President/Creative Director at Lifetime Television, is now a design writer and critic. Ann is currently working on a documentary, examining the differences between the “real” Main Streets of the United States and the mythical street that is used as a symbol in political rhetoric. She is also at work on a book about the design history of kitchen utensils, from the mundane to the fantastic. She has written online for Metropolis and participated in an off-Broadway talkback panel following A.R. Gurney’s play Children where she discussed the cultural messaging of clothing styles, in particular the phenomenon of the “preppy” style. Ann enjoys writing about the impact of architectural choices on New York City neighborhoods.

Cheryl Yau is a designer and critic who comes to New York from an even more densely built and populated cosmopolitan city: Hong Kong. She graduated from York University/Sheridan College’s Joint Program in Design, Toronto. Her writing has been published in Design Observer, Print, Metropolis, Motionographer, and others. Together with SVA faculty member Steven Heller, Cheryl is co-editing the forthcoming D-Crit chapbook, Object Lessons, which uncovers new narratives about old objects. Cheryl enjoys immersing herself in a fast-paced influx of social media but also finds the same pleasure in handcrafting leather accessories stitch by stitch. She looks forward to applying her skills as a critic to new design work as well as extending her voice into documentary film making and teaching.

Register & Attendees

Immerse yourself in new thinking about design though short presentations and tightly moderated discussion, enjoy keynote talks by the likes of Michael Bierut and Daniel D’Oca, and meet the next generation of design critics, researchers, educators, editors, curators, and managers. There is no charge for admission to the D-Crit Conference but registration is required.

Previous Conferences

Present Tense: The 2011 D-Crit Conference was moderated by documentary film producer Adam Harrison Levy, and featured The New York Times Magazine contributor Rob Walker as keynote speaker, the 11 graduating students, who each made a sharply honed 10-minute presentation on their thesis topic, and a panel of prominent critics on the future of design criticism. The students’ topics ranged from the design of playgrounds to the use of sound as a communicative tool in design and architecture and from a consideration of decay and impermanence in design to an analysis of the Afro as visual archetype.

The panel included MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, BIG’s founder and architect Bjarke Ingels, Van Alen Institute’s executive director Olympia Kazi, The New Yorker’s John Seabrook and Fast Company’s Linda Tischler, who all joined Levy and Walker onstage to debate the priorities, possibilities and impact of design criticism. The conference was rounded off with a reception at GD Cucine.

Crossing the Line: The 2010 D-Crit Conference was moderated by D-Crit faculty member, award-winning author, and “Studio 360” host Kurt Andersen. The event featured thesis presentations by all 15 graduating students alongside keynote talks by design visionary and Doors of Perception founder John Thackara and author and educator Peter Hall. Topics under discussion ranged from the design of personal memorial objects to the use of smell as a communicative tool in design and architecture, and from design and visual language in the films of Jean-Luc Godard to the applications and implications of car sharing. The conference reception took place in the Sky Room at the New Museum.

Videos of past conference presentations available here:


Wednesday, May 2, 2012
12:30–7:00 p.m.

Visual Arts Theatre
333 W 23rd St. (between 8th & 9th Ave.)


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“D-Crit remains one of the most interesting and thought-provoking ongoing conversations about design and contemporary culture.”

“The groundbreaking MFA’s second annual conference features thesis presentations and a powerhouse panel on the state of design criticism.”

“The fast n’ fascinating thesis presentations are sure to keep attendees glued to their plush red SVA Theatre seats.”
—Mediabistro’s UnBeige