Join us this summer in the School of Visual Arts MFA Design Criticism studio for a two-week intensive devoted to research and writing about design. Participants will be introduced to a range of techniques for constructing compelling narratives about images, objects, and spaces. You will experiment with different research methods, writing formats, and complete several projects across media, including a collaboratively produced publication.

In addition to the unique opportunity to study closely with leading writers, editors, curators, and researchers, each participant will have a workstation in the light-filled, open-plan D-Crit studio in New York’s Chelsea district, and 24-hour access to department resources. A robust daily schedule of seminars, lectures, workshops, and one-on-one consultations, will be supplemented with visits to the city’s design collections, archives, libraries, design and architecture studios, and behind-the-scenes access to new exhibitions, buildings, and urban planning developments.

Apply today, as spaces fill up fast!

Instructors include: Steven HellerKarrie JacobsNeil DonnellyJennifer KabatAdam Harrison LevyRobin PogrebinAlice TwemlowRob WalkerMimi Zeiger.

Studio visits include: EAR Studio, Carla Diana Design, Randy Hunt/Etsy, Project No.8, Eight and a Half, NYC Department of Design & Construction.

Applications are due May 9.

Tuition is $2,250.


  • Steven Heller
  • Karrie Jacobs
  • Neil Donnelly
  • Jennifer Kabat
  • Adam Harrison Levy
  • Robin Pogrebin
  • Alice Twemlow
  • Rob Walker
  • Mimi Zeiger


Photos from the Intensive are now available.

Platform Project

Reading Room

2 Curriculum

Project 1: Narrative Strategies for Objects, instructed by Rob Walker and Adam Harrison Levy

Rob Walker will lecture on how to develop narratives around objects, while Adam Harrison Levy will lecture on research methods. Students will engage in close observation, archive research, and other means of data gathering, and then experiment with strategies to illuminate an object’s significance through storytelling.

Project 2: Studio Profiles, instructed by Adam Harrison Levy and Jennifer Kabat

This project launches with lectures on Reporting and Interviewing Skills. Students will then perform exercises to develop their interviewing techniques, prepare questions, and do background research, before visiting some of New York’s most prominent design studios in the fields of architecture, interaction design, graphic design, fashion design, and product design. Each student will interview the principal designer and write a studio profile for critique in a mid-Intensive review session.

Project 3: Exhibition Reviews

Students will be introduced to the principles of reviewing across genres and across media, with a focus on the exhibition review as a type. After some initial exercises to hone writing skills, the development of a point of view and argument, and some reading exercises to examine exemplars of the form, students will visit a selection of design exhibitions, and meet and interview their curators, before writing their own reviews, and presenting them for critique.

Project 4: Platform Project, instructed by Mimi Zeiger

Contemporary design writing is no longer confined to essays and reviews published in newspapers, journals, and magazines. Increasingly it finds platforms in digital formats such as Twitter, blogs, and downloadable PDFs. This course will focus on how these alternate formats prove the perfect platform for topical and experimental design discourse. Intensive participants will collaborate to produce a publication featuring their best work to be launched on the final day of the Intensive.

Studio Visits

  • EAR Studio
  • Carla Diana Design
  • Randy Hunt/Etsy
  • Project no.8
  • Eight and a Half
  • NYC Department of Design & Construction

Sample Timetable

Week 1

Session 1
10 AM–12 PM

Session 2
1–3 PM

Session 3
4–6 PM


Introduction of Intensive projects

Rob Walker: Writing Stories about Objects

Workshop critics: Rob Walker, Alice Twemlow


Adam Harrison Levy: The Art of the Interview

Jennifer Kabat: Reporting and Writing Design Studio Profiles

Design Studio Profiles Workshop


Adam Harrison Levy: Out of the Box: Images from the Archives.

Visit to International Center of Photography Print Study Room and New York Public Library

Research Workshop


Visits to studios, stores, exhibitions

Visits to studios, stores, exhibitions

Visits to studios, stores, exhibitions


David van der Leer, Van Alen Institute Director

Mimi Zeiger: Alternative Design Writing Platforms

Platform Project Workshop and visits

Week 2

Session 1
10 AM–12 PM

Session 2
1–3 PM

Session 3
4–6 PM


Overlooked/Undervalued Object Workshop

Critics: Adam Harrison Levy, Alice Twemlow, and Rob Walker

Platform Project Workshop: Visit to Newark Waterfront, New Jersey. Tour with Damon Rich and Glenn Cummings


Robin Pogrebin and Michael Kimmelman: How to Write an Exhibition Review

Studio Profiles Workshop

Curator tours of exhibitions: Museum of the City of New York and Museum of Arts & Design


Karrie Jacobs: Truth & Beauty in New York

Times Square visit

Truth & Beauty Workshop


Platform Project Workshop

Writing one-on-one consultations

Writing one-on-one consultations


Exhibition Review Workshop

Final presentations: multiple critics

Reception for Launch of Platform Project Publication

3 Participants

Coming soon.

Previous Intensive Participants Show

Bonnie Abbott is an Australian graphic designer and design writer. After graduating with a BA in  Graphic Design and MA in Design Studies, Bonnie split her time between Melbourne and London, working in print and publication. Interested in the practical applications of language and writing as part of graphic design practice, she launched the online journal Gather&Fold and began writing in 2011. She has since been published in Creative Review, Made Quarterly, and Process Journal. She is attending the Summer Intensive as a way to learn outside of her own experience and limitations, and to explore the possibilities of graphic design in society, history, and within the broader design discipline.

Carl Alviani is a writer at Ziba, a design and innovation consultancy in Portland, Oregon. As one of just a handful of writers in a studio full of designers and strategists, he spends most of his time sucking stories out of the creative minds around him, and translating the results into case studies and web copy, guide documents for clients, and articles for print and online publications, including Fast Company, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review. Starting out as a Peace Corps science teacher with an engineering degree, he studied and then practiced Industrial Design in New York City for several years before discovering that he was happier explaining the design process than pursuing it. Like any good Portland stereotype, he spends his off-hours geeking out on food, beer, and bicycles, and is almost as excited about exploring NYC’s new bikeshare program as attending the Summer Intensive.

Tim Belonax is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and currently works at Facebook, splitting his work between the Communication Design team and the Analog Research Lab. Tim’s work has been recognized by AIGA, TDC, ADC, Graphis, Adobe, Communication Arts, and Society of Typographic Arts, as well as a myriad of publications. His work has also been exhibited in the U.S. and abroad by museums and arts associations. Tim is excited to join SVA’s Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive because of its critical focus on the built environment and its potential to shape design. In his spare time you can find Tim screen printing, playing hockey, or wandering through one of San Francisco’s bookstores.

Shantel Blakely currently lives near Boston and is pleased to meet you. She would like to write for the sake of clearer thinking but also to be read. She is drawn to a kind of suggestive explanation that invites the reader to think in a new way, or wonder what might come to be. As an architectural historian, she builds accounts of the past using primary sources and archives. In research on design in the 1950s, she found the best writing in journals and magazines. Design, it seems, is part of a larger topic called “change”—so she wants to write about the present. What details or venues of architecture and design are scenes of change? Who might be the people to bring us tomorrow’s indispensable invention, or lead us to a happy frame of mind we knew once before? With that in mind, Shantel looks for answers through varied topics—You might find her telling you about stereo photography or French pastry.

amery Calvelli is an advocate for the merit of design. Raised on a farm, she began her career in fashion, working for Giorgio Armani, Agnes b, and as a press representative for Comme des Garçons. In the twenty-first century she has mostly focused on the advocacy of architecture. Having re-located just above the 51st parallel to Calgary in 2009, she is contributing to a local dialogue around the built environment. She hosts a radio show called “space + place” on community-supported station CJSW and is co-founding a series of local design conversations called d.talks. She is attending the Summer Intensive to hone her writing with a more critical focus. She has found that the habitual stroll cultivates a deeper understanding of place, and enjoys the discovery of new things that she missed before traveling a familiar path.

Kate Carmody holds a MA in the History of Design and Decorative Arts. Currently a curatorial assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art, Kate has co-organized, with Paola Antonelli, “Talk to Me: The Communication between People and Objects” (2011); “Born out of Necessity “(2012); and “Applied Design” (2013), among several other exhibitions. Previously, she served as adjunct faculty in the Art and Design History and Theory department at Parsons, The New School for Design; preparator in the department of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History; fellow in the Wallcoverings department at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum; and co-organizer of the Big Urban Game and Design Camp while working at the University of Minnesota Design Institute. Kate hopes to learn to like writing at the Summer Intensive. Her two favorite things to do are watch TV and hold small animals.

Del Hepler is an architectural intern and LEED Accredited Professional based out of Charlottesville, Virginia. He graduated with a BS in Architecture from the University of Virginia and has since split his time between New York City and Charlottesville. As an undergraduate, he participated in the design and construction of UVA’s ecoMOD project, which aims to build sustainable and affordable prefab housing. This led to an interest in the social responsibility of art and architecture in a community. More recently, he has become interested in exploring the relationships between architecture and other art disciplines (dance, film, photography, painting, creative writing). He is excited to be joining the Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive to explore how writing creatively and critically about space and objects can strengthen the design process and vice versa. Outside of design, he enjoys reading, painting, and collecting artwork from friends and local artists.

Dana El Ahdab is a graphic designer on weekdays and an assistant scuba diving instructor on weekends. Originally from Lebanon, she grew up in Qatar and studied in the UK where she completed a MA in Design Education at Goldsmiths College. Dana’s interest in edutainment lead her to work at Al Jazeera Children’s Channel for four years, after which she started a design practice that catered mostly to NGOs and educational projects for children. Dana also worked at the Qatar branch campus of Virginia Commonwealth University as a Graphic Design assistant professor. During her involvement with Purple Reef, a marine conservation NGO in Lebanon, she became interested in community learning through design practice and critical thinking. She sees the Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive as an opportunity to improve her writing and storytelling skills, in order to access diverse audiences, and promote environmental awareness through design and creativity.

Samantha Fodor holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Urban Geography from The University of Calgary. She began a career in the environmental consulting and oil industry, then returned to school to examine her passion for architecture, urban planning, and environmental politics. She developed an interest in journalism while producing an Emmy-award nominated documentary related to oil and energy in the media. A strong passion for design has governed hobbies, including industrial/interior design and writing. She most recently returned to the corporate world as a technical writer, and has plans to shift her career toward design altogether. She is attending the SVA Summer Intensive to further develop her design knowledge and writing, and expand her critical eye. Samantha enjoys indulging in great food, riding her three-speed bike on flat terrain, painting and filmmaking, and listening to rock and roll whenever possible. In keeping with the title of aspiring writer/designer, she currently slings beer to thirsty patrons every weekend.

Liz Guthrie is a graduate of the Growth & Structure of Cities program at Haverford College and received her master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University. Liz developed an early interest in nature in cities after living abroad in Paris. Liz has held teaching and management positions with schools and nonprofits on the east and west coasts, which fueled her interests in environmental education and community greening. Currently, Liz is the staff liaison to the American Society of Landscape Architects’ Sustainable Sites Initiative, where she works with volunteers and partner organizations to pioneer a national rating system for sustainability and landscape. As a landscape architect and LEED Green Associate, Liz is trained to see the space between buildings. She is inspired to join the Summer Intensive for the chance to reflect on these architectural intersections—places where ecological and cultural patterns emerge to shape the urban landscape.

Mercedes Kraus is an editor and writer on visual culture and the built environment. She publishes and edits Womanzine, a theme-centered, quarterly zine with a set of international women contributors who range from up-and-coming artists to published authors. As an editor-in-residence at, Kraus co-runs the international project Women in Housing, a multimedia exploration of gender and the design of communities. She also produces the Midway, a stage and space for vanguard digital journalism and technology at the Online News Association’s annual conference. Previously, Kraus held management roles at Van Alen Institute and the Institute for Urban Design. As she seeks to engage a wider public in communities and the visual realm, Kraus prefers digital publishing formats and accessible language in her projects. She comes to the Summer Intensive to improve both her writing and research skills to better articulate a sense of place in the natural and built environments.

Erica Lester received a Master of Interior Architecture and Product Design from Kansas State University. Her final course of study explored the dynamics of storytelling and interventions within shared space. Currently based in New York City, she designs a range of brand identity based environments with the creative agency Imagination. She has also worked within a number of educational settings, including the Dow Chemical Multi-cultural Resource Center as a reference collection attendant. She enjoys identifying drivers of change in cultural communities, participating in local politics, and aiding the next generation. She joins the SVA Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive to become more effective at expressing observations and forming contextual assessments of contemporary design issues.

Yin Loh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication and currently works as a Creative Strategist in Singapore. She fostered a deep interest in research and writing when creating conceptual narratives for brands. Having interests laying within creativity and analytics, Yin joins the Summer Intensive to develop a unique lens through which she sees and writes about the world. In her free time, she seeks out museums and eclectic boutiques. Her favorite city by far is Stockholm and she hopes to visit Helsinki, Amsterdam, and Prague in the near future.

Victoria Matranga is a museum consultant and design historian, and promotes design of home products for the International Housewares Association (IHA), a major trade association. She has been an exhibition curator and writer for the Art Institute of Chicago, Toledo Museum of Art, Museum of Science and Industry, and Kendall College, among other institutions. She wrote America at Home: A Celebration of Twentieth-Century Housewares and contributed to Toledo Designs for a Modern America, and other books. A Chicago native, she has a BA in the History of Architecture and Art (University of Illinois) and an MBA in Marketing (Northwestern University). She was the creator of IHA’s student design competition, today in its twenty-first year. A passionate gardener, she beautifies her corner of the world: a 1890s home in an Oak Park neighborhood of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings. Chicago is well known for its architecture, but its legacy in product design is largely invisible. She hopes the Summer Intensive will enable her to change that.

Anne Miltenburg is a Dutch designer, suffering from an often-experienced but rarely diagnosed condition called fernweh. Where heimweh (homesickness) is the longing for home when you are away, fernweh is the longing of being away when at home. As a result, she travels at every work opportunity, with branding assignments taking her to unexpected places—from designing outfits of a Tour de France cycling team, to setting up a studio in Seoul. Living and working across Europe, and in Mali, South-Korea, Australia and California, Anne first started writing to capture all the small experiences a foreigner has in daily life (like the smells and sounds of the ten people, two goats, and a chicken you are crammed with into a tiny delivery van for a nine-hour, trans-Saharan trip). Over the years, Anne has written for international design magazines such as WorksThatWork and Open Manifesto. She hopes that the Summer Intensive will make her a better writer, and if not, that it will be great story material.

Katy Niner is a freelance writer based in Jackson, Wyoming. With her English Literature/ Creative Writing diploma from Princeton University, she moved to Ha Noi, Viet Nam, where she spent 16 months as a subeditor at the only English-language daily newspaper. Back stateside, she worked in merchandising at West Elm and marketing at the Asia Society before decamping to Wyoming. At the Jackson Hole News&Guide, she started as a general assignment reporter and left as the arts editor. Now freelance, she supplies words for various projects ranging from public art advocacy to strategic arts planning. She is approaching the Summer Intensive as a launching pad to expand her network beyond Wyoming and to explore the field of international design.

John Payne is a principal at Moment, a digital product-design firm he co-founded in 2002. His work explores the positive contribution that mobile technologies can make to healthcare and education, with a focus on empowerment of patients and learners. Through his consulting work, John has developed an approach to design fueled by participant observation, but rooted in business concerns. He brought that perspective to a conference series he co-chaired in 2012, the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC), and to Parsons The New School for Design, where he teaches Masters courses on Design Methods, Business Models. John was educated in Design at Auburn University and Institute of Design at IIT (the New Bauhaus). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he’s a proud husband and father who lives in Brooklyn with his family. Through the Summer Intensive, John hopes to hone his abilities as a teacher and storyteller.

Sarah Kathleen Peck is a writer, designer, storyteller, and mover. She is the founder of the award-winning Landscape Urbanism website and journal, a website that explores the future of cities from a design perspective. She also leads the communications team for SWA Group, an international landscape architecture and urban design firm, where she designed her own position within the firm and launched the firm’s digital and print media outlet, “Ideas.” Prior to entering the design world, Sarah’s research and writing in psychology focused on the relationships between design, environment and behavior; Today she runs several event-based projects that focus on curating conversations between high-impact individuals. Based in San Francisco, Sarah finds herself constantly moving: she is a twenty-time NCAA All-American swimmer who has successfully swam from Alcatraz 9 times, most recently raising $29,000 for Charity: Water and swimming from Alcatraz in her “birthday suit” as part of the campaign. In her free time, you’ll find her blogging about psychology and motivation on the website It Starts With, doing handstands, and telling stories.

Leanne Prain is a writer, graphic designer, and maker living in Vancouver, Canada. She co-authored Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti (with Mandy Moore) and authored Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery. She is currently at work on a new book titled Strange Material, on the relationship between textiles and storytelling. An in-house and freelance designer since 1999, Leanne holds a BFA in Creative Writing and Art History from the University of British Columbia and a Master in Publishing Degree from Simon Fraser University. She has been blogging about crafts, handmade communities, and design in various incarnations since 2005, notably keeping the infamous knit-graffiti blog from 2008 to 2012. By attending the Summer Intensive, she hopes to expand her ability to document graphic design in her native Canada. In her spare time, Leanne enjoys strong coffee, documentaries, hand-painted signage, silk-screening, walking around cities, and vintage Pyrex.

Hailing from the bucolic hills of the Ozarks, Patrick Templeton is newly graduated from the Fay Jones School of Architecture in Arkansas, with a professional degree in Architecture and a concentration in Art Criticism. His interning experience includes two small Arkansas firms: Stuck Associates and Cahoon Steiling Studio. He currently works as a jack of all trades for Theatre2, designing props, building sets, crewing shows, and selling cookies during intermission. He also freelances with architects and entrepreneurs developing competition entries and design patents. With several other Arkansas alumni he is developing an architectural zine titled Why_?. Patrick believes that architecture is a discourse, and that buildings are only interesting in the ways they provoke new discussions that cross disciplines into art, music, history, and science. With this philosophy, he dabbles in music, theatre, painting, and writing alongside his design practice. He is attending the Summer Intensive to explore criticism as a possible career, and to develop writing skills that will undoubtedly assist him in whatever trajectory he settles upon.

Zack Tornaben holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, where he studied philosophy and aesthetics. He is currently the Associate Director at Guided by Invoices, a contemporary art gallery in New York, NY, where he has assisted in the production of exhibitions since the gallery’s inauguration in 2011. He is interested in the narratives of everyday design objects and the possibilities of the field from a curatorial perspective, and looks forward to exploring these interests during the D Crit Summer Intensive. Zack was raised in South Florida and sometimes likes to dance.

Katherine Wheeler holds a Ph.D. in Architectural History and Theory from MIT and currently teaches at the University of Miami. Her arrival in Miami six years ago from a research stint in London left her a little befuddled, but she has since embraced the city. Her first book, Victorian Perceptions of Renaissance Architecture, 1850–1914, addresses the intersection of architectural history and education in nineteenth-century Britain, and will be published in spring 2014. Kathy’s research draws on her architectural background (B.Arch. from University of Tennessee and M.Arch.H. from University of Virginia), and her work addresses shifts in architectural practice, representation, and design methodology. She is looking forward to the Summer Intensive as an opportunity to explore new ways of thinking about design with other participants, and take her writing in new directions. When not writing or reading, Kathy loves to bake muffins, make soup, laugh with friends, and practice yoga.

Michael Wirtz is an educator and librarian working at Virginia Commonwealth University in Doha, Qatar, where he primarily works with MFA students in the interdisciplinary design program. In addition to a BA in Journalism and a BFA in Fine Art, Michael holds a MFA in Painting from Arizona State University and a MA in Library and Information Science from the University of Arizona. Michael is also the co-editor of Tasmeem, an academic art and design journal with a focus on the Middle East. Currently, Michael is researching the voice of the practicing designer within academic communication. He is attending the Summer Intensive not only to improve his own writing, but also to experience research and writing methodologies that may contribute to his research and instruction.

Murrye Bernard (writings) is a New York-based architecture and design writer. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree, is a candidate for architectural licensure, and is also a LEED Accredited Professional. Her work appears in publications including Architectural Record, Architect, Eco-Structure, Buildipedia, USA Today and Design Bureau. Additionally, Murrye serves as a contributing editor to Contract magazine and the AIA New York Chapter’s newsletter, e-Oculus. She is participating in the Summer Intensive to refocus her career goals while honing skills in interviewing, researching, analyzing and critical writing. Outside of her writing career, she enjoys traveling, particularly to Italy and Mexico.

Garreth Blackwell (writings) graduated with an M.A. in journalism from the University of Mississippi, and then joined the faculty at the Meek School of Journalism to teach courses in visual communication and photography. As a freelance designer, Garreth formed Wide Open Air, a firm founded on principles of social design. His projects range from school bond issues and community design initiatives to the endeavors of an international pearl company. Currently based in Richmond, Garreth is a second-year student in Virginia Commonwealth University’s interdisciplinary doctoral program in Media, Art, and Text. As a side project, he currently is developing to mobilize community in the Richmond area. Garreth is attending the Summer Intensive to better understand and critique the ways in which design impacts us both personally and societally. When not reading for classes, Garreth enjoys craft beer and pickup games of soccer.

Alexandria Brown (writings) received a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and a Minor in History of the Built Environment from the University of California, Berkeley. While originally from the faded Art Deco streets of sun-baked Miami, she prefers the cold winds of Eastern Europe where she studied the formation of Post-Soviet identity through architecture in Budapest, Hungary. Undergraduate research on preservation versus destruction of architectural manifestations of history continues to fuel Alexandria’s interest in the relationship between architecture and memory. Alexandria has worked for Surface magazine, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and currently works as a Marketing and Research Coordinator for the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). She is attending the Summer Intensive to improve her writing and to meet others that hold similar lenses with which to see the world.

Irene Chin (writings) holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Pratt Institute and is currently based in Chicago where she freelances as an exhibitions preparator at various university museums and contemporary art galleries. It was while studying in New York and interning at the Storefront of Art and Architecture that she began to foster an interest in non-profit organizations. She hopes to build upon her design background and work experience, and develop her critical voice at SVA this summer as she continues to pursue a career in the public arts sector. She has studied abroad in Rome with Pratt and at Hooke Park with the AA School of Architecture. While traveling, she seeks out museums, sculpture parks, and land art sites, recently having visited Arcosanti. She is planning a trip to Marfa for the end of this year. (blog/twitter)

Daniel Cole (writings) is a designer residing in Richmond, Virginia. His interests center around social design, education, and curation. He is a candidate for the MFA in Visual Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University. His penchant is for collecting very old, and sometimes, very smelly books and artifacts.

Line Ulrika Christiansen (writings) is Director of Design Foundation at VCUQatar. Educated as an interaction designer, she worked several years leading projects at the e1 (Exhibition Unit) of the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. In 2005, she became a co-founder and partner of Id-Lab in Milan. She has exhibited at the V&A Museum, La Triennale di Milano, La Biennale di Venezia, and at the Biennale of Contemporary Art in Seville. Line travels worldwide to international design institutions to teach and lecture her design ideology, design=fiction. She joins the Summer Intensive to explore views of contemporary design, strengthen a critical perspective, and fuel her current fixation connecting the fictional super heroine with the real-life ones in today’s Arab world.

Emma de Crespigny (writings) has a BA in Film and Philosophy and is finishing a Master’s in History of Decorative Art and Design at Cooper-Hewitt/Parsons The New School. She has spent the last eight years working for Alan Moss, whose store specializes in luxurious decorative arts. About to write her thesis (on the use of art deco symbolism in movies of late 1920s and early 1930s and its reflection and impact on modernist ideals), she joins the Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive to strengthen her writing skills, after after being out of practice for a ten-year period. Outside of design, Emma is interested in film, theater, and collecting vintage fashion and twentieth-century decorative art.

Brandy Gibbs-Riley (writings) holds a BA in Studio Art from Bates College and an MFA in Graphic Design from Boston University. She is Associate Professor of Design at Colby-Sawyer College, where she teaches courses on graphic design and design history. She has been an active designer for over sixteen years, working with clients such as Siemens, Humanscale, and the Industrial Designers Society of America. Over the past seven years, Brandy has collaborated with author and historian Alston Purvis on projects including Meggs’ History of Graphic Design fifth edition, for which she served as research associate, curator, editor, and co-author of new material. She is attending the Design Summer Intensive to learn different approaches to writing about design, as she is currently embarking upon new projects of her own. Brandy also loves mid-century furniture, lighting design, painting, printmaking, classical music, and jazz.

Nicole Lavelle (writings) has lived one half her life on the salty shores of San Francisco and one half in the wet green of Oregon. The mythologies and realities of the American West continue to dictate her ideologies, actions and vocabulary.* Nicole received her BA from Portland State University, where she studied Graphic Design and Art and Social Practice (She is currently an adjunct professor in the same program). Her projects are often considered art, design, writing, research, teaching, or walking. She is currently interested in documentation and place. Last summer she rode a bamboo bicycle from Alabama to San Francisco. She comes to the Summer Intensive with an eagerness to understand how design and place are interrelated, and to become a better writer about the discipline of which she is a part.
*Nicole uses the word “hella” on a regular basis, without a hint of irony or affect.

Laurene Leon Boym (writings) received the 2009 National Design Award in Product Design from Cooper Hewitt for her work in collaboration with partner Constantin Boym in the NYC based design consultancy, Boym Partners Inc. Utilizing an education in the plastic arts at SVA (BFA), and in design at Pratt Institute (MID), she helped turn the design industry towards a fresh designer-production model, manufacturing and selling editions like Buildings of Disaster via e-commerce webstore, as well as to private vendors such as Moss. At her core beliefs there is a punk rock DIY ethic that endorses the idea that everyone is a creator, and needs an introduction to simple methods, tools and thinking to make it happen. A native New Yorker, she has resided for the past two years in Qatar with Constantin Boym and their teenage son, Bobby. She is a regular contributor on features for T New York Times Magazine Qatar and a design columnist for Qatar Today. At the Summer Intensive, she hopes to explore a mass-market design critique for all types of media, especially for television. In her spare time she likes to home-brew kombucha, smoke cigarettes, and stand on her head.

Born in Brussels, Adrian Madlener (writings) quickly moved to the East End of Long Island where his father maintained a long-standing residency at the Jackson Pollock Studio. Growing up in a creative household, Adrian’s education focused on critical thinking rather then “teaching to test.” An early interest in architecture evolved into the decision to study industrial design at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. High school also introduced him to conceptual art, dance, and theater. Adrian has worked with Robert Wilson at his Watermill Center for performing arts for the past 4 years. During Adrian’s design education, his interest in theory, criticism, and gaining a more intellectual context for work developed. He believes that design a has philosophical and sociological value, not limited to the aesthetic configuration of a product.

Megan Marin (writings) is an industrial designer by day and musician by night, currently enjoying the view from Canada on this incredible spaceship that is our home! After graduating from design school last year, she decided it would be fun to start collecting professions in the same way that people collect postage stamps or state quarters. Eventually, everything does connect, and in that spirit she hopes to cultivate a job title that is a hyphen-stitched list of all of the things that are meaningful to her. Megan sees attending SVA’s Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive as the perfect way to continue adding writer-researcher-storyteller to her collection.

Susan Merritt (writings) grew up in the south, graduated from Queens College in Charlotte when it was still an all-girls school, and completed five years of graduate study at the Basel School of Design. She lived in Hawaii for five years before settling down in San Diego. Susan is a graphic designer, heads the Graphic Design program at San Diego State University, and cofounded the nonprofit Design Innovation Institute. Her interests include travel, cross-cultural design, design history, and the arts of the book, especially typography. Her handcrafted books can be found at the New York Public Library, Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University, and the Weingart Archive at the Museum of Design, Zürich. Susan is coauthor of The Web Design WOW! Book and author of ancillary materials for Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, edition 4. She lives with her husband Calvin in a 1912 Craftsman bungalow and collects vintage objects and furniture. Susan hopes to hone her research and writing skills and develop new approaches to teaching.

Kelly Murdoch-Kitt (writings) relocated to Berkeley, California in 2009 after completing her Master of Graphic Design degree at North Carolina State University’s College of Design. Her thesis research explored theories of situated learning and experiential elements of virtual communities. Her undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University is in fine art and theatre, and she has more than ten years of professional experience in print design. In addition to doing design research and UX strategy at San Francisco-based gotomedia, Kelly also teaches in the Design Program at University of San Francisco. In her spare time, Kelly likes taking photos, making lists, gardening, hiking, teaching yoga, and finding adventures with her husband.

Lauren Palmer (writings) is a designer, researcher and writer. She recently returned from London after pursuing a MRes in Design at Goldsmiths College. She has an MA in Textile Design from Chelsea College of Art and Design, where she was shortlisted for the Fashioning the Future Awards 2009, and a BA in Biochemistry from The City University of New York. She is looking for opportunities that allow her to explore emerging topics in design. She is interested in value systems, axiology and sustainability. By transitioning from academic writing to professional practice, Lauren hopes to develop her writing voice. She can usually be found in a bookstore or reading New York magazine with a cup of coffee.

JenJoy Robal’s (writings) career spans across sustainable design, urban planning, architecture and public art. She recently left a position at the Buckminster Fuller Institute where she ran the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an international design competition that awards $100k to a project that is seeking to solve some of our most entrenched global problems.

Chase Stone (writings) is a graduate of Oberiln College and a candidate for the M.A. in Aesthetics and Politics at CalArts in Los Angeles. His interest in design criticism was fostered at Vitra Design: Boisbuchet, where he lived and worked with designers from around the world. Chase focuses on analyzing how the human body reacts, both physically and emotionally, to contemporary design interventions. He is looking forward to working closely with peers at the SVA D-Crit program and exploring critical lenses together. Chase also enjoys listening to house music and reading William Gibson novels.

Caroline Tiger (writings) is a Philadelphia-based freelance journalist, author, and blogger who has been writing professionally since 1999. She worked in book and magazine publishing after studying literature and art history at the University of Pennsylvania. Her journalism career began at a general interest magazine, where she followed her curiosity from story to story. Eventually she found herself writing story after story on design. Caroline’s book credits include a biography of Isamu Noguchi for young adults and City Walks: Philadelphia (Chronicle Books). At SVA, Caroline is excited to meet some like-minded folks, expand her professional opportunities, and take a break from writing to focus on her writing.

4 Instructors

Alice Twemlow is chair and co-founder of the SVA MFA Design Criticism program. Twemlow is a contributor to Design Observer and writes about design for publications including Eye, Design & Culture, and The New York Times Magazine. She is the author of What is Graphic Design For? (Rotovision) and of essays for books such as The Barnbrook Bible and 60 Innovators: Shaping Our Creative Futures (Thames and Hudson), and the catalogue for “Graphic Design Worlds” at La Triennale Design Museum. She has directed several national conferences for AIGA and moderated conferences such as the Tasmeem Doha Conference 2011 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, the College Art Association Conference 2011 Conference in New York, and “Abstract: The Future of Design in Media Conference” in Portland Maine. Alice has recently given lectures at the ICOGRADA conference in Beijing, the QT series at MoMA, and at AIGA Chicago.

Steven Heller is the co-chair (with Lita Talarico) of the MFA Design / Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program and the SVA Masters Workshop in Rome. He writes the Visuals column for The New York Times Book Review, a weekly column for The Atlantic online and The Daily Heller / Imprint online. He has written more than 140 books on graphic design, illustration, and political art, including The Design Entrepreneur (with Lita Talarico), Paul Rand, Merz to Emigre and Beyond: Avant Garde Magazine Design of the Twentieth Century, Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design, Citizen Designer, Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. He is a contributing editor for Print, Baseline, Design Observer, and Eye. Heller is the recipient of the Art Directors Club Special Educators Award, the AIGA Medal for Lifetime Achievement, the School of Visual Arts’ Masters Series Award and the 2011 National Design Award for “Design Mind.”

Neil Donnelly is a graphic designer who makes books, printed matter, websites, exhibitions, illustrations, and typefaces, often with clients in architecture and art. He has worked with the Guggenheim, Yale University, Domus, Columbia University, The New York Times, Princeton Architectural Press, and Storefront for Art and Architecture, among others. His work was included in the 2012 Brno Biennial of Graphic Design, and he has designed commissioned installations for the Gwangju Design Biennale, the New Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design, and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. He has taught courses and led workshops at Yale, SVA, MICA, Parsons, Rutgers, and the University of Illinois, and he holds an MFA in graphic design from Yale. He lives and works in Brooklyn.

Karrie Jacobs is contributing editor at Metropolis magazine where she writes a monthly column, “America,” about how ideas and strategies in architecture and design play out on the landscape, and is a regular contributor to Travel + Leisure, where she writes about destinations of interest to the architectural tourist. She is author of The Perfect $100,000 House: A Trip Across America and Back in Pursuit of a Place to Call Home (Viking, 2006), a book about housing in America. Between 1999 and 2002 Karrie was the founding editor in chief of Dwell, a San Francisco-based magazine about modern residential architecture and design. Prior to launching Dwell, Karrie served as the architecture critic of New York Magazine, and she has written about design, technology, and visual language for many periodicals including The New York Times, I.D. Magazine, and Fortune. And in the early 1990s, Jacobs was the founding executive editor of Benetton’s Colors Magazine.

Jennifer Kabat is a writer whose journalism and criticism has appeared in publications from the Financial Times to The Guardian, Wired, Wallpaper*, Condé Nast Traveler, Frieze, New York, The Rumpus, Salon, and Metropolis where she’s a contributing editor. Her novel Our Greater Selves grew out of a story that was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s short story award for new writers, and “As If I Could Assume Your Life” was the only story by an unpublished writer in the British anthology X-24 Unclassified, edited by Tash Aw. She did graduate work in art history at Columbia University and attended the Whitney Independent Study Program. In 2003 she received an MA with honors in creative writing from the University of East Anglia supported by a grant from the British government. Additionally she’s developed innovative brand strategies and worked on marketing projects for major companies like Nike, Converse, Johnnie Walker, and Apple, and teaches creative writing in her community in the Catskills.

Adam Harrison Levy is a writer and freelance documentary film producer and director. He specializes in the art of the interview. For the BBC he has conducted interviews with a wide range of actors, writers, musicians and film-makers including Meryl Streep, Philip Glass, and Gay Talese. He was the U.S. producer for “Selling the Sixties,” a cultural history of advertising in New York in the early 1960s and “Close Up,” about the artist Chuck Close. Levy is currently a contributing writer for Design Observer. He wrote the catalog essay for “Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945,” an exhibition at the International Center for Photography (2011), and “Saul Leiter: Retrospective” at the Deichtohallen, Hamburg (2012).  In the fall of 2012 he co-taught a course in Visual Biography at Wesleyan University. Levy has an MA from the Royal College of Art/V&A History of Design course and a BA from Wesleyan University. In 2012 he was a Poynter Fellow at Yale University.

Robin Pogrebin has been a reporter at The New York Times since 1995. As a culture reporter she covers arts institutions, architecture and other issues. She previously covered the magazine industry for the Business Section and city news for the Metro Section. Prior to joining The Times, Robin worked as an associate producer for Peter Jennings’ documentary unit at ABC News. Before that, she was a staff reporter at The New York Observer. She has also written freelance articles for various publications including VogueDepartures, Architectural Digest and New York Magazine and her work has been featured in several anthologies. She teaches a journalism seminar at Riverdale Country School. Robin has a BA from Yale University. She lives in New York City with her husband and their two children.

Rob Walker is a technology and culture columnist for Yahoo News and a blogger at Design Observer, and until 2013 wrote The New York Times Magazine’s Consumed column. He is the author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are (Random House, 2008), Letters From New Orleans (Garrett County Press, 2005) and the co-editor with Joshua Glenn of Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things (Fantagraphics, 2012). Walker is the co-founder, with Ellen Susan and G.K. Darby, of The Hypothetical Development Organization, and founding collaborator of the Unconsumption project, and is often called on as an expert commentator on the subject of material culture and branding, notably in the documentary Objectified.

Mimi Zeiger is editor and publisher of loud paper, a zine and blog dedicated to increasing the volume of architectural discourse. She is a founding member of #lgnlgn, a think tank on architecture and publishing. The group’s work has been shown at Urban Design Week, the New Museum, Storefront for Art and Architecture, pinkcomma gallery, and the AA School. As a writer and critic, she covers art, architecture, and design for a number of publications including The New York Times, Domus, Dwell, and Architect, where she is a contributing editor. Zeiger is author of New Museums, Tiny Houses, and Micro Green: Tiny Houses in Nature. Always obsessed with the intersection of architecture and media, she is Director of Communications at Woodbury School of Architecture in Burbank. As a teacher, her cross-disciplinary seminars explore the relationships between architecture, art, urban space, and popular culture.

5 Apply

We are still accepting applications through May 9, 2014.
Tuition is $2,250.

How to Apply

Email the following materials to

  • Completed application form
  • Work sample (see guidelines below)
  • Statement of purpose (250–500 words)
  • CV

Work Sample Guidelines

Writing sample: Up to 2,000 words of published or unpublished writing (such as essays, blog posts, or articles) about design, architecture, or related subjects (.doc or .pdf file)

International Applicants

International applicants are welcome, however, the College cannot provide any I-20 or other forms to nonmatriculated students, so it is your responsibility to speak with your consulate to determine the proper means of traveling to the United States. SVA cannot provide you with a visa, nor assist you in obtaining one. Applicants are expected to have fluency in English sufficient for engaging in meaningful dialogue with other participants.

Refund Policy

A $1,000 nonrefundable deposit is required upon acceptance to the program. Full tuition is due two weeks prior to the start of the program. There will be no refunds once the program begins.

To withdraw from the program you must notify Keren Moscovitch, Assistant Director of Continuing Education, in writing, of your intention to withdraw. You may do so by e-mailing your withdrawal to; or by sending written notification via mail or fax. The Division of Continuing education is located at 209 East 23rd Street. All refunds for payment made by American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa, will be credited to the appropriate credit card account. Payment made by check or money order will be refunded by check, payable to the registrant. Processing of refunds takes approximately four weeks.


Find further details about applications, enrollment, refunds, and housing here.