VPA Launches M.F.A. in Collaborative Design

The Department of Design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts has launched a master of fine arts (M.F.A.) degree program in collaborative design. The two-year, 60-credit program engages students in collaborative practice within a dynamic, multi-disciplinary studio environment at the Nancy Cantor Warehouse.

Professor Don Carr, left, works with design students at The Warehouse.

Professor Don Carr, left, works with design students at The Warehouse.

“The future of design is all about collaboration and how we apply our skills to an ever-widening array of challenges,” says Don Carr, program coordinator of collaborative design and a professor of industrial and interaction design. “This is happening at a time of unprecedented change as we navigate within an interconnected world. Problems traditionally addressed by the sciences are now being addressed by interdisciplinary teams that approach them from multiple technological, cultural and behavioral perspectives. Our degree in collaborative design is therefore ‘a call to action for design’ to frame the challenge, facilitate the collaborative process and articulate a series of viable solutions.”

In the program’s supportive and inclusive work environment, which encourages both risk and play, collaborative teams will actively explore compelling projects that demand deep immersion. Teams will be composed of individuals with multiple talents who approach problems from a range of perspectives. The study of collaborative design will be undertaken with full knowledge that design is rapidly moving toward a shared philosophical core.

“This is happening as we begin to look to intelligent spaces, products and materials that sense and anticipate our needs,” says Carr. “By embracing this convergence, we believe the ideas that emerge will create transformative experiences that move society forward. Thus, the M.F.A. will focus as much on the ‘design of collaboration’ as the design of the final artifact. By saying this, we hope to learn from best practices, knowing that great ideas flourish within a fertile environment.”

Central to the program’s mission is the search to find ways to support and maintain a given lifestyle through design. For the first of what will be multiple tracks within the M.F.A., the program will partner with SU’s Aging Studies Institute on a series of collaborative efforts to focus on one of the most pressing issues of our time: the needs of an aging population. This will be the first of many partnerships offered with leading programs across the SU campus.

Why is now the ideal time to launch an M.F.A. in collaborative design?

“As a profession, design has become a transformative force for both market-driven and social initiatives,” says Carr. “‘Design thinking’ as a methodology has become a way to translate values through a deep understanding of user needs. With each project, the question of ‘what is’ vs. ‘what could be’ explored as a design problem becomes ever more compelling.”

To learn more about the program and to apply, visit http://vpa.syr.edu/design/graduate/collaborative-design. A background in design is not required for admission to the program.