Tim Parsons Speculative Design Workshop


Workshop description:

How design can help communicate issues of climate change? Students will learn about the emerging approaches of critical and speculative design and understand how object design, storytelling and scenario-building contribute to the creation of compelling design fictions that help the public re-think important issues of our time.

Building on the recent Future Climate [Hi]stories project Tim Parsons completed with his wife Jessica Charlesworth, students will generate new future climate fictions based on existing climate science, and design and make objects or images that illustrate their narrative.

CCA MFA Design Presents Tim Parsons (Parsons & Charlesworth)


Tim Parsons is a designer, design writer and Associate Professor in Designed Objects at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A graduate of the Masters program in Design Products at London’s Royal College of Art, he has gone on to teach product design for fifteen years at universities in Britain and America. Tim is co-founder, with his wife Jessica Charlesworth, of the experimental and speculative design studio Parsons & Charlesworth. His design work has been exhibited widely, including at The Design Museum, London and MCA, Chicago. As a writer he has contributed articles and essays to publications including Blueprint, ICON, Crafts and Phaidon’s Design Classics and his book Thinking:Objects: Contemporary Approaches to Product Design was published in 2009 by AVA Academia.

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Image Credit: Char Dolly, by Parsons & Charlesworth
Artifact from Disegno Magazine 2°c Project Future Climate [Hi]stories
The Char Dolly is an artifact designed to accompany a story about a group of individuals dedicated to the task of sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is forms part of an on-going series of design fictions aimed at helping re-shape the narratives around climate change.

MFA Design presents (as part of the Graduate Studies Lecture Series) : Experimental Jetset


Experimental Jetset is an Amsterdam-based graphic design studio founded in 1997 by Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers and Danny van den Dungen. Focusing on printed matter and site-specific installations, Experimental Jetset have worked on projects for a wide variety of institutes, including Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Centre Pompidou, Dutch Post Group and Whitney Museum of American Art.

Their work has been featured in group exhibitions such as ‘Graphic Design: Now in Production’ (Walker Art Center, 2011) and ‘Ecstatic Alphabets / Heaps of Language’ (MoMA, 2012). Solo exhibitions include ‘Kelly 1:1’ (Casco Projects, 2002) and ‘Two or Three Things I Know About Provo’ (W139, 2011 / Moravian Gallery, 2012).

In 2007, a large selection of printed matter by Experimental Jetset was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (New York). Other institutes that have collected work by Experimental Jetset include Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), SFMOMA (San Francisco), Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago), Museum für Gestaltung (Zürich), Centre National des Arts Plastiques (Paris), and Cooper Hewitt (New York).

In 2015, Roma Publications (Amsterdam) released a monograph titled ‘Statement and Counter-Statement: Notes on Experimental Jetset’, featuring essays by Linda van Deursen, Mark Owens, Ian Svenonius and Jon Sueda.

Between 2000 and 2013, Experimental Jetset have been teaching at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. They are currently teaching at the Werkplaats Typografie and Artez (Arnhem).
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About the 2015-16 Graduate Studies Lecture Series

The 2015–16 Graduate Studies Lecture Series explores the many ways in which we undertake daily acts of both literal and implied translation, whether from ideas into actions or ideas into artworks, designs, films, or exhibitions; plans into buildings; or thought into the written and illustrated word.

In addition to exploring more general modes of translation, this series offers opportunities to consider specifically the challenges and opportunities of translating from one language, medium, or context to another.

Martin Venezky: Wallscapes


Come join us to celebrate MFA Design faculty member Martin Venezky’s selection as a new member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale in 2016!

On this occasion we have installed an exhibition of Martin’s recent work in our MFA Design Studio titled Martin Venezky: Wallscapes, and will hold a reception and Conversation between Martin Venezky and Faculty members Megan Lynch and Brett MacFadden. Please join us!

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Martin Venezky: Wallscapes  
CCA MFA Design Studio
Reception: Thursday, Jan 28th,
at 6:30pm followed by Conversation at 7:15 pm
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Exhibition on view: Jan 25-Feb 5
If you are not a CCA Student, Faculty, or Staff,
please email jsueda@cca.edu to make appointment
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Course: Light Studio / Year One Topic Studio


Light Studio will center on the ethereal and physical character of light, as a source of inspiration and provocation. Light(ing) is one of the basic constituents of our built environment. The last fifteen years has witnessed a radical shift in how we consider light, primarily because of new technologies for the creation and simulation of “pervasive emissive surfaces”. The studio will explore new lighting strategies/technologies with the intention of manifesting results in built forms. Various methods for engagement will be explored (e.g., slice of time, word/place prompts, design precedence, etc.). There will be three distinct projects, coupled by a framework created by each student according to their own interests. Work will track according to independently defined exploration areas, with reviews and milestones coordinated as a class. The Studio will move through three contiguous phases of work, exploration/research, definition/validation and execution/refinement. Students will learn 3D modeling tools, how to move from digital information to physical output, prototyping techniques, how to collaborate with people from relevant disciplines and translate design strategies into tangible, realized concepts. Outside critics will be introduced as appropriate to the subject.
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William J. Bottini
Dashiell Corvin-Brittin
Sanchit Gupta (video)
Nicholas F. Hansen
Maya Kremien
Lingjiang Lai
Aaron Levine
Li Lin
Robert Sieg
Yunwen Tu
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Course: Year One / Form Studio


Form Studio offers students a strong foundation in the making, assessing, and critiquing of visual materials and begins a discussion that will reverberate through the rest of their studies. Students learn the use and structure of materials and media, and the development of a rigorous and disciplined process through which they can create and analyze what they are creating.
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Rasha Alamoudi
Xuefei Bai
Yisha Dai
Sophie Feller
Peixin Fu
Jitpanan Jaturuntawanichya
Bo Peng
Veena Ramachandran
Hanzi Shao
Rob Sieg
Kelly Steben
Tracy Tsutsumoto
Shihan Zhang
Siyao Zhu
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In the Making / Fall Faculty Presentations: Josh Nimoy, Chris Hamamoto, and Laurel Schwulst


IN THE MAKING is a new student-run faculty lecture series. This series aims to explore the grad school experience… how faculty members developed of a personal way of working in school, including relevant challenges, influences, and transition to their current practice.
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The Fall Series included:
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Josh Nimoy / Friday, Oct 16th, 3pm
Josh Nimoy is a multifaceted software artist with a design and new media arts education. He makes a heavy use of computer programming to produce a lot of his work, and allows the world of code to inspire both is process and his aesthetic. Josh is interested in producing interactive work which “addicts” the audience, through use of synaesthesia and simple game design fundamentals.Josh has spent the last half decade writing simulations and custom generators in Hollywood for use in Film and Television, most notably the hologram elements in TRON:Legacy. 

Josh attended undergraduate school at UCLA Design | Media Arts until 2002, and got a Masters in Professional Studies from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in 2004.
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Chris Hamamoto / Friday, Nov 20th, 3pm
Chris Hamamoto is a San Francisco based graphic designer currently working with Landscape in the Lower Haight. He most recently worked with Flipboard after completing his MFA at RISD. Prior to graduate school, Chris worked at FontShop, Studio Kudos, RISD Museum, and taught at RISD. He now teaches at CCA and co-designs, develops, and writes for Typographica and Type Review.
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Laurel Schwulst / Friday, Dec 4th, 3pm
Laurel Schwulst is a designer and artist. She is currently Designer in Residence at California College of the Arts for the Fall 2015 semester. She is owner of Beautiful Company. Previously she worked at the design studio Linked by Air and lectured at Yale University. She is interested in the intersection of art, nature, and the internet.

MFA Design Lecture: Valkyrie Savage


Presentation Synopsis:
As 3D printers increase in quality and in accessibility, we see them moving out of industrial design labs and into maker spaces, libraries, museums, and homes. Even those without physical access to 3D printers can order custom 3D prints from services like Shapeways to be mailed to their homes. But what can people make with these machines, and how can they design those objects? There is a large skill gap between expert modelers and novices; this translates to differences in the types of objects they produce. We want to aid novice makers in moving away from plastic trinkets towards functional objects with embedded electrical and mechanical components. I’ll discuss two projects in this space: one tool allows makers to author geometry using clay and stickers, and the other helps makers create internal pipes.
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Valkyrie is a PhD student working with Bjoern Hartmann in the (UC) Berkeley Institute of Design. Her research focuses on design tools for 3D printing, specifically for creating interactive objects like video game controllers. She is broadly interested in technologies to encourage interest and participation in STEAM.
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Expanding Field Guides Exhibition

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CCA MFA Design / AICAD Symposium
November 6th, 6-10 pm
Organized by Sara Dean
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The field guide is a designed item, an collection of a place, and a tool for exploration. Using the Marin Headlands as their starting point, these guides explore the roles that collection, field work, measure, and nature can take in design. The projects are cross-disciplinary collaborations, combining students of from Graphic, Industrial, and Interaction Design.

Design Lab NightLife / Featuring CCA Design


CCA MFA Design / California Academy of Sciences
November 5th, 6-10 pm
Organized by Leslie Roberts, JD Beltran, and Scott Minneman
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In keeping with CCA’s annual partnership exhibition with the California Academy of Sciences, Design Lab explores and illuminates the parallels between the processes of design and the processes of science — identifying a question/problem, researching the field/discipline, proposing theories. developing and experimenting with methods of testing and prototyping, and innovating a solution. Exhibits and projects should illuminate these processes and ideally, engage your audience in thinking about, participating in and learning about these processes, as well.

MFA Design Program Retreat and Workshop


CCA MFA Design / Headlands Center for the Arts
Oct 30th, 9 am – 5 pm
Organized by Sara Dean
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This was a one-day retreat for students and faculty at the Headlands Center for the Arts. MFA Design Faculty member Sara Dean organized a series of designer/artist presentations and student charette under the theme of “Field Guides.”

We exhibited the results of the projects at CCA, during the opening of the AICAD Art + Science symposium, the following Friday. (See Expanding Filed Guides Exhibitions)
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Featured Speakers: Megan Prelinger, Jenny Odell, Jason Groves, and Amy Balkin

Rapid Craft 3: Not Your Average Bean Bag!!!


Friday, October 9th, 4-7:30pm
(@ hybrid lab)
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Not Your Average Bean Bag!!!, learn to sew and make some not so average bean bags for our studio space.
Workshop by Phumelele Mthimunye
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Workshop Brief:

Participants will be broken up into groups of 3 and work together to design a bean bag pattern shape, then sew and stuff the beanbags. I will provide a large pattern of 1 possible bean bag shape circular/square and then participants can modify and design to their hearts desires.

It’s about having fun in learning to sew, getting your hands dirty and creating something for your local environment while cultivating a skill and craft. Your don’t need to be good at making things or sewing. Bags will be made out of canvas.

MFA Design Lecture: Monica Martinez

08_MartinezMonica (1)

Monica Martinez is an artist, educator and entrepreneur whose creative work explores ideas about food production and economics. In 2011 she launched Don Bugito, the first startup food business in the country with a full menu based on edible insects, and placing her at the forefront of the sustainable foods movement. Monica is a native of Mexico City, receiving her MFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design 2009. Monica’s artworks have been exhibited internationally and she is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony as well as Sculpture Space in New York. Her work and ideas has been featured on Nova, PBS, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, PRI’s The World, and validated by the United Nations FAO report on Food Security. Monica resides in San Francisco, California.
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MFA Design Lecture: Sara Teasley / Design in global context, and what history has to say about it.

Presentation Synopsis:
The summer of 2015 saw the United States and Europe preoccupied, yet again, with global migration, as American presidential candidates sought strong positions in party leadership campaigns and refugees fleeing war, poverty and oppressive regimes arrived on European shores. At the same time, Chinese stock market and currency fluctuations have sent analysts into overdrive, seeking to forecast the effects on global and national economies alike.

What does this have to do with design? Everything, global design historians would argue. In this talk, Sarah Teasley, Head of Programme for History of Design at the Royal College of Art in the UK, outlines the questions, methods and perspectives that she and colleagues bring to understanding global historical conditions and shifts through design and material culture, and argues for design history practice that engages directly and overtly with contemporary issues and practice today.
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Dr. Sarah Teasley is joint head of the V&A/RCA History of Design MA/PhD at the Royal College of Art in London.

Her research uses case studies in the history design and manufacturing to offer perspectives on issues in design, society and technology today. She is particularly concerned with policy implementation and its impact on everyday experience, and in how design mediates, shapes and reflects our relationships with technology. Her current research explores relationships between state organisations, furniture manufacturing communities and designers who mediated between them in twentieth century Japan.

Teasley is an active advocate for history’s contributions to design practice and policy-making. She consults for public and private organisations and runs workshops on public-facing, practice-based history through design and material culture. Her publications include the books Global Design History (Routledge, 2011) as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. She is Associate Editor of the journalDesign and Culture.

Teasley holds degrees from Princeton University, Musashino Art University and the University of Tokyo, and taught previously at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Northwestern University. She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from organisations including the British Academy, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Association of Asian Studies and the Design History Society.

Teasley portrait Jul14

Rapid Craft #2: Making A Chair Really Fast, or . . .


Results from CCA Grad Design’s RAPID CRAFT #2 (AKA Skillshare Fridays) on February 20th, organized by Rafi Ajl. Titled: Making A Chair Really Fast, or an exercise in quick decision making and following an idea through to the end

The program will provide each participant with three (3) 8′ foot 2″x4″ pieces of standard construction wood. I will give a very short lecture about chairs (in some nominal way), and they we will all go upstairs to the shop. The project is, using all 24′ feet of the wood (no more and no less), to make a chair of your own design. It doesn’t need to be useable, beautiful, or even interesting. It needs only to have some arguable relationship to the idea of “chair”. You can attach the wood to itself in any way you want – screws, glue, nails, magic, rubber bands, string etc. etc. etc..


MFA Design is an open site for the investigation of contemporary design practice. Built on a firm foundation of technical skills, pushing the limits of cutting-edge tools and technologies alongside traditional craft-based techniques, MFA Design students work to reimagine the methods, modes, and meanings of design in contemporary culture. Whether intended to be commercial, civically minded, personal, experimental, or all of these, work here is challenged to be technically sophisticated, culturally engaged, and even socially disruptive. It is research driven and richly informed based on a thorough examination of users and contexts. It is also both formally and conceptually inventive. MFA Design provides its students with foundational technical, formal, and conceptual skills alongside contextual understanding. It prepares its students for a range of personal, private, and public careers in design, including advanced work in creative leadership, whether in commercial, civic, and curatorial arenas. Grounded in personal exploration, MFA Design is educating a new generation of design leaders.

The History of CCA MFA Design

The program was launched in 2000 under the leadership of the San Francisco graphic design icon Lucille Tenazas. It called itself strictly a graphic design program at first, but even then it was attempting to broaden those definitions a little, looking into and leaning toward so-called art-making practices.

A shift came in 2007 with the hiring of Brenda Laurel as chair, whose emphasis on transdisciplinarity, design research, and entrepreneurship led the program toward a different approach, where students take an emphasis in graphic, industrial, or interaction design, but they all work and learn together under one curriculum in a single workspace.

Then Leslie Carol Roberts, who served as chair from 2012–14, brought the lens of a writer to the program, strengthening our critical culture even further.


About the Design Program Today
Contemporary design is a cross-disciplinary landscape. Today, a single firm or practitioner can explore terrain outside their field and produce work that expands the parameters of a given discipline.

Our dynamic curriculum encourages students to interrogate disciplinary boundaries and create a range of work, from pragmatic solutions for real-world problems to speculative projects dealing with emerging technologies.

We aim to encourage intersection, hybridity, and reconfiguration.

To fuel the making of work, we value design history, theory, research, and all forms of critical discourse. We’ve developed a vertical track within the program called Design in Context, which is a series of courses dedicated to exploring contemporary design practice on a discursive level.

We want to expose students to essential texts and different types of historical, theoretical, and contemporary writing about design and encourage an ongoing discourse about our ever-changing practice.


About the Student Culture
We have a diverse range of students from all over the world who come to CCA with the desire to be in residency, making work alongside other like-minded designers.

Our students have created an inclusive and rich studio community where they work together, share skills, and participate in workshops, discussion groups, and impromptu critiques in the wee hours of the night.

CCA has a range of art, design, architecture, and writing programs, so on any given day you can walk through the building and run into fine arts students installing work, architects building robotic drawing machines, or fashion students conducting a critique.

We have dedicated studio space for our students, and the facilities on campus include 3D printers, laser cutters, a woodshop, computer labs with a range of printers, and a new Hybrid Lab, which is a space for students from various programs to work with electronics, sensors, and digital media.

Of course we hold classes and give assignments, but we also encourage students to make work independently that is fueled by what they are learning in the classroom.

Recently we initiated the Overprint Project, a student group that is creating silkscreen and risograph posters for all our lectures and events. And we are looking to develop a similar group revolving around learning “code” and developing that skill across disciplines.


Careers for Alumni
Our students land in a wide range of places and spaces: everything from large companies like Google and frog, to arts institutions such as SFMOMA, to smaller design studios and artist residencies. Some go into teaching. Some initiate their own studios, collectives, or other initiatives.

The practice of a designer today can be quite expansive, and there are many opportunities that involve fluid crossover between design and connected fields.


Apply to CCA MFA Design


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Current Students


Sourcebook Class of 2015: The World, The Collective, The Secrets


The World, The Collective, The Secrets is a publication of the 2015 MFA in Design program at California College of the Arts. It is an archive that looks past individual inquiries in favor of a collective voice. It is a zeitgeist – a cumulation of topics addressing the current state of design. These topics include: the relationship between analog and digital, the cost of higher education, tech-industry buzz words and the media’s greater effect.

A Range of Indeterminate Results: MFA Thesis Show 2015


The Graduate Program in Design is proud to present the 2015 MFA Thesis Exhibition: A Range of Indeterminate Results.

The exhibition will feature individual and collaborative works of graphic, interaction, and industrial design from more than 40 degree candidates who have completed CCA’s prestigious transdisciplinary graduate curriculum.

Curatorial StatementWe are shaped by the spaces and things we create. We are simultaneously orchestrators and participants in the transformation of ideas from concept to thing. Hierarchies and understandings of social relations and norms are in deep flux.

Our insides have become our outsides, our intimacies public, we socialize in the private space of solitary interfaces. The ground we stand on is rapidly moving, but there are moments in this shifting landscape to lead by example in the advocacy of resiliency, purposeful translation of human thought, and creation of joy.

The California College of the Arts Graduate Program in Design class of 2015 invites you to walk in and among the overlapping fields of our work, practices, and lives in A Range of Indeterminate Results.
Please join us in congratulating the graduating class of 2015.

Opening Reception: Thurs., May 14, 6-10 p.m.*
Exhibition hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily
More information: Estee Eliasoph at eeliasoph@cca.edu

* Note: The exhibition opens to the public May 14 at 6 p.m.

Sound Horizons: Designing for Perspective, Connection, and Reflection / MFA Thesis 2015


Some days technology really wrecks me. I wake up and the first thing I do is reach for my phone to switch off my alarm. Without thinking, I make my way through text notifications, email, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and the Weather app. I wake up, and I don’t look out through my window.

When I think about our relationship with technology, there is a lot to be grateful for. But experience also reminds us that access and ease are only part of what goes into a meaningful life. How are we spending our minutes, our hours, and our days? What will we remember when we look back?

My work is a meditation on our relationship with mobile, networked technology. Using sound as a tool, both in the process of designing and within the designed, I am exploring ways to disrupt habitual, automatic behavior. My goal is to broaden the conversation interaction designers have when considering the whole complexity of the human experience for which we are designing.
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The Block The Beast The Tower / MFA Thesis 2015


Lawrence’s work examines the role of competing mythologies in the formulation of ideas of place. Lawrence calls the friction between societal-level myths and personally held ideologies ‘myth tectonics’. It is in the space of these ‘myth tectonics’ that Lawrence creates graphic design to respond and contribute to understandings of place, myth, community, and politics. Lawrence has been working specifically with the Bison Paddock of Golden Gate Park, Sutro Tower, and the Mission Neighborhood near 24th and Folsom Streets for his thesis.

Variability & Play In The Third Place / MFA Thesis 2015


This thesis focuses on our relationship to the urban environments we inhabit as well as the people who we share them with. We are constantly navigating a sea of people, usually strangers, but we don’t realize the impact those people have on our perception of our surroundings, their impact on our wellbeing, and our own ability to positively affect another person’s life. Throughout this exploration I play with different modes of intervention in public space as a way to disrupt the environment, people’s lives and the way we relate to each other. The work looks to provoke momentary connections between people in the public realm, which means: getting strangers to interact in unexpected yet delightful ways, as a reminder of the importance of human connection outside of our private contexts.The ultimate goal of this thesis is to infuse the urban landscape with variability, play and most importantly, kindness.

Endless Constructions / MFA Thesis 2015


Rules, habits and definitions arise from agreements that humans have made to construct a reality that we can all understand. These parameters create order within ourselves and our environment, allowing this world to function. However, I wonder whether an excess of automated behavior restricts our ability to experiment with new ways of making and delight in the unexpected.

Due to my graphic design background and my lack of knowledge of 3d software, I am interested in exploring how to construct physical objects using graphic design tools. Through this process, objects turn into unexpected forms between the 2d and 3d realm, the known and the unknown, leaving space for endless interpretations.

All methods used share the ability to distort, which, Jacques Aumont suggests in the book The Image, is an effect directly related to innovation. Most of the time, for a work to show what Aumont calls “formal freshness,” it must pay the cost of appearing distorted. Such distortion can only happen to a legitimate form.

Influenced by artistic movements and techniques that manipulate and distort vision, perspective and form, such as Cubism, Defamiliarization, Anamorphosis, and Multistability, I am interested in presenting ordinary objects in unusual ways. In doing this, I seek to raise questions about perception and enable viewers to experience more than simply the pure functionality of objects.

Ecological Imagination / MFA Thesis, 2015


Cristina Gaitán’s thesis focuses on enabling a sense of ecological imagination in the urban population of San Francisco. She examines water systems as a typology of natural systems, seeking to make massive scales and systems legible at human scale. The body of work is a collection of discrete performative objects, deployed as interventions into public and private urban space. By designing disjunctive moments of noticing, the work asks people to investigate their relationship, understanding and connection to the natural networks that surround them.

Our perception has myopically evolved to perceive only a limited scope of the scales of time and space, creating dissonance in matters of interpreting ideas of larger terrestrial and celestial systems. We have created technologies that reach far beyond our narrow existential understanding of the world, and how things are interconnected. The ambition of Ecological Imaginations is the development of processes to (re)connect people to the earth, one another, and the self.


Temporal Typography / MFA Thesis 2015


Within the field of typography, letterforms typically embody either static or kinetic forms. However there is yet another category that escapes the purely static or purely kinetic. This is temporal typography.

Unlike static typography, these forms are not bound by one iteration within a singular viewing experience. And similar to kinetic type, temporal typography carries the stamp of time but is not relegated movement or time-based media.

Temporal letterforms have the ability to manifest themselves in both static and kinetic ways, as well as physical and digital and therefore cannot be evaluated by the same functional factors of traditional typography: legibility and readability. Viewership and perception are elevated, and formal and experiential conditions are re-prioritized as the forms transition from one state to the next.

As a means of mapping the territory of temporal typography and setting parameters for my explorations, I have identified and defined three independent qualities of temporal type: transitory, navigable, and medial. My studies examine these characteristics as distinct from one another allowing me to explore the boundaries and define intrinsic qualities of temporal typography.
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Understanding Our Relationship With Water / MFA Thesis 2015



With California facing a severe drought, the way we consume and waste our water is becoming an increasingly important issue that must be addressed both individually and collectively. Yet, information regarding such environmental concerns tends to be presented in forms that are abstract, overwhelming, and easily dismissed as ‘someone else’s problem.’ The goal for this project is to work towards methods of creating a hopeful mindset that foster action and lead to change. It consists of activities and objects presented in the form of a challenge that inform and highlight our consumption of water.  Participants should come out of the experience equipped with confidence, knowledge, and novel ideas around how they can positively influence their community and environment.

You Are The Text / MFA Thesis, 2015


In narrative texts, there exists an intangible space between an author/creator’s written word, and how that written word is perceived in the mind of a reader/viewer.  My thesis explores the role of the designer in activating this space.

The use of words in the English language works because it possesses a set of groupings of letters that we have agreed signify a specific set of meanings. While these meanings may seem rather inflexible (as the English dictionary would have you believe), this is not the case at all. Our own personal memories, identities, and biases reform and reshape these meanings all the time. This is particularly so because when we see the visual manifestation of the word, it is symbol. Visual symbols however, leave a great deal of room for interpretation. How can these visual symbols of reading be manipulated to convey a certain viewpoint or context? And how does that change the experience of reading and imagining?”

Hear Here / MFA Design Thesis 2015


Hear Here is about the use of sound as an effective medium of communication to improve intimacy and longevity of long-distance relationships.Initial field research determined that the use of environmental sound as an alternative means of communicating, in real time, what is occurring in the respective lives of each person in a relationship enables a couple to feel closer emotionally. It even creates the illusion that they are physically closer. Moreover, auditory perception offers a strong balance between reality and imagination, and can lead to a synchronizing of the couple’s senses. Most importantly, constant communication with partners through sound fulfills couples’ most essential emotional need to feel their partner’s company.
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See Video

Towards The Object As Event / MFA Design Thesis 2015


My thesis project presents a constellation of work that surrounds the idea of presentness. What is it to be present in the world? How can an object be designed to facilitate and enhance presentness in the user? How can an experience be designed that occupies a space of becoming, a moment in time that an be experienced and taken out into the world?

The object as event is an experience where the object spills outside of its physical dimensions, into a 4th axis of movement. I design and create objects that ask the user to participate in their completion as experiences. This is the experiencing of presentness or activated awareness that can be used as a certain practice for taking out into the world around you. It is to enable a detour into an alternative mode of existence or perception. It is a space of curiosity and inquiry with the world.
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Instruments of Harmony / MFA Thesis, 2015


The Instruments of Harmony are digital instruments, constrained by specific parameters and a specific intent. The parameters: (1)The instrument should be for two or more people to play together. (2)The instrument should be controlled by gesture only, without traditional digital music controls like knobs and buttons. (3)The instrument should play digital sounds. The intent: To offer alternative tools, platforms, and contexts for music-making.
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MFA Design Lecture: Everything you Always wanted to know about Swiss Graphic Design* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) Marco Walser of Elektrosmog in conversation with Jon Sueda

Marco Walser studied visual communications at the Zurich University of the Arts and spent a year in London with an internship at Graphic Thought Facility. In 1999 he founded the Büro Elektrosmog in Zurich, which he heads as creative director. The studio designs books for artists, architecture magazines, visual identities for museums, and posters for theaters.

Walser offers workshops and teaches graphic design and typography at various institutions including the Zurich University of the Arts, the Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam or the University for Graphics and Arts of the Book in Leipzig.

He has received many awards and prizes for book production, including the prize for the Most Beautiful Swiss Books and the Jan Tschichold Prize (2005).

Walser lives and works in Zurich.


MFA Design Lecture: Keetra Dixon


Keetra Dean Dixon is a designer and artist who relocated from NYC to rural Alaska in April of 2014. She and her partner, JK Keller, test the claim “We can work from anywhere” by building a new studio practice with a remote home base. Dixon traded in her team leading role as an Experiential Design Director for more independent practices, including Lettering and Product Design. Her hybrid design background continues to lead her work towards speculative terrain, leveraging emergent technologies and process focused making.

Dixon has been recognized on several fronts including a U.S. presidential award, a place in the permanent design collection at the SFMOMA, and the honorable ranking of ADC Young Gun (6). Her clients have included NYTimes, Nike, VW, and Coach. She acted as Design Director for installations featured at the Venice Architecture Biennale and has shown at the Walker Art Center, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC, and will be included in Paola Antonelli’s Design and Violence with the MoMA in 2015. In April of 2015 Dixon will be a featured speaker at the Type Directors Club in NYC.
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Keetra Dixon Workshop: FORM (MISUSED & ABUSED)


Workshop Synopsis:
This workshop asks participants to innovate using formally focused processes. It’s a peak into R&D from my perspective. There is blending of analogue and tech fabrication, intentional and accidental output, and embracing of the unexpected. I often integrate ideas of “theft,” exchange, transparency of process, and social authorship. The workshop evolves familiar methods in hopes of revealing new methods of form making moving between “thinking through making” modes and “making through thinking.”
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Keetra Dean Dixon is a designer and artist who relocated from NYC to rural Alaska in April of 2014. She and her partner, JK Keller, test the claim “We can work from anywhere” by building a new studio practice with a remote home base. Dixon traded in her team leading role as an Experiential Design Director for more independent practices, including Lettering and Product Design. Her hybrid design background continues to lead her work towards speculative terrain, leveraging emergent technologies and process focused making.

Dixon has been recognized on several fronts including a U.S. presidential award, a place in the permanent design collection at the SFMOMA, and the honorable ranking of ADC Young Gun (6). Her clients have included NYTimes, Nike, VW, and Coach. She acted as Design Director for installations featured at the Venice Architecture Biennale and has shown at the Walker Art Center, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC, and will be included in Paola Antonelli’s Design and Violence with the MoMA in 2015. In April of 2015 Dixon will be a featured speaker at the Type Directors Club in NYC.

Keetra received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the Minneapolis College of Art + Design in 1999 and a Masters of Fine Arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2006.

MFA Design Lecture: materious / Bruce Tharp

Lecture Synopsis:
Bruce will be discussing the topic of discursive design—when designers use the product-form as a means to communicate substantive ideas in hopes of inspiring reflection and debate, allowing design to participate more broadly in culture. While this mode of design has historically been located outside of industry and commerce, it is now being used within traditional corporate design research processes. While commonly understood as critical design, I will also discuss the notion of criticality and how discursive design differs.
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Bruce M. Tharp and his wife Stephanie M. Tharp established their creative studio, materious, in Chicago in 2005. “Materious” is an archaic word that means both “substance” and “substantive,” reflecting their concern for imbuing deep meaning, messaging, and value within domestic artifacts. At times aiming for provocation and pertubation, while at others sustenance and service, their practice spans the four fields of commercial-, responsible-, experimental-, and discursive design. They have patented and licensed designs that are sold commercially, been awarded commissions from Moet-Hennessy and the Art Institute of Chicago, and also engage in self-production and wholesale/retail sales. Materious has exhibited in Milan, Paris, New York, and in China, with their work represented commercially in Japan, China, Singapore, Australia, Russia, across Europe, Canada, and South America. After studying mechanical engineering at Bucknell University and becoming the distinguished graduate of Pratt Institute’s Master of Industrial Design program, Bruce went on to receive a MA and PhD in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Chicago. As an anthropologist he spent two years living with the Amish of Indiana studying their material culture and consumption. His dissertation work was published as “Ascetical Value: The Materiality of Spirituality among the Old Order Amish.” Currently he is finishing an essay, “Value in Dispossession,” for an Anthropology of Arts Reader (Bloomsbury), and along with Stephanie Tharp is working on a book project entitled Discursive Design – a realm of alternative and expansive design practice that they have helped to problematize and legitimize over the past decade. Previously to the Stamps School of Art and Design Bruce helped plan and build the Designed Objects graduate program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He most recently was the Director of Graduate Studies for the School of Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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MFA Design Lecture: Mike Kuniavsky / Why make the Internet of Things?

Lecture Synopsis:
Why make the Internet of Things?

There’s a lot of hype today around the Internet of Things, but there are few clear descriptions of what it is, why it’s valuable, and how to design for it. This talk will describe one approach for thinking about why we make the Internet of Things, and how it’s different than just making more gadgets. In the process, the talk discusses the effects that the IoT has on consumers, on developers and on business models and touches on both user experience and service design.
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Mike Kuniavsky is a user experience designer, researcher, and author. A twenty-year veteran of digital product development, Mike designs products, business processes, and services at the leading edge of technological change.

Prior to joining PARC, he co-founded several successful user experience centered companies, including ThingM, which designs and manufactures ubiquitous computing and Internet of Things products, and Adaptive Path, a well-known design consultancy. He specializes in multi-device interactions, cloud-based service design, and design of hardware products connected to cloud-based services. His background includes design for social analytics, consumer electronics, appliances, image retrieval, RGB LEDs, and financial services.

He has worked with some of the world’s top technology companies, such as Samsung, Sony, Nokia, Whirlpool, and Qualcomm, to design new products, guide product strategy, and create user-centered design and development cultures.

He is the author of “Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research” and “Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design” both of which are used as standard university textbooks. He received a dual major B.S./B.A. in Computer Science and Film/Video Studies from the University of Michigan.

He lives in San Francisco with his family and loves new music.

Mike Kuniavsky Poster

MFA Design Lecture: Julian Bleecker / Near Future Laboratory


Lecture Synopsis:
TBD Catalog — the near future’s normal, ordinary everyday product catalog. It’s a glimpse at your future as hinted at through 166 products, advertisements and classifieds. It’s your future, only not the future you may have imagined. It is, though, the quite likely future if the titans of Silicon Valley and their earnest eager app programming day laborers see that their visions become reality.

Come. Take a look. This is your near future normal ordinary everyday. This is TBD Catalog.
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Julian Bleecker is the co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory and Creative Director of TBD Catalog, a design fiction project of the Near Future Laboratory’s Publishing Bureau. The Near Future Laboratory produced a workshop in Detroit in which the archetype of the product catalog was used as a template to imagine today’s “disruptions” as tomorrow’s normal, ordinary, everyday products. This is what became TBD Catalog.
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Julian Bleeker Poster

Satellites / MFA Thesis, 2014


Processes, Recipes, Laws, Operations, Techniques, Titles, Teachings, Prescriptions, Modus operandi, Equations, Programs, Haiku, Philosophy, Paradoxes, Requests, Puzzles, Principles, Proposals for actions, Methods, Invitations to participate, Restrictions, Poetry, Proverbs, Pure concepts, Training, Coaching, Lessons, Constraints, Restrictions, Abstractions, Rituals, Mechanisms, Conditions, Protocols

Instructions, Scores, Algorithms etc. explores using process-based systems, algorithms, and instructions to generate discursive images and forms, as an alternative to the commercial design process. The goal of developing this methodology is that it will lead to surprising results that cannot be premeditated. The outputs from these operations should act as non-prescriptive starting points for functional objects that can be interpreted, divided, and remixed into an infinite number of potential products categories.

The methodology I develop for working with procedural design should be a tool for my work, and ideally other designer’s work, in the future. Building this strategy for design is not an endpoint in itself, but an exploration into some of the potential avenues for working in this way.

MFA Design Lecture: Luna Maurer (Moniker)


Luna Maurer cofounded Moniker studio with Jonathan Puckey and Roel Wouters in 2012. Moniker works on commissioned designs as well as projects of an autonomous and experimental nature.

The studio works across various media for a wide range of clients in the cultural and commercial sectors.

Maurer, Puckey, and Wouters’s work explores the social effects of technology — how we use it and how it influences our daily lives. Often, they ask the public to take part in the development of their projects.

The results grow like plants, displaying their inner organizational process.

This program is funded, in part, by public funds from the Netherlands Consulate General in New York.
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Luna Maurer (Moniker) Workshop: Dutch Design Week


Workshop Synopsis:
For the Luna Maurer workshop with the MFA Design program at CCA, students were split into four independent teams. Each team had to create one letter of the NATO phonetic alphabet while following a set of rules.

Instructions for each turn and player:
– Connect your line to a line of another color: 
You may not connect it to your own colour. Start and end at a dot.
 Lines may not cross.
– Place a dot.
– Try to form the words Alpha Bravo Charlie etc..
– End when all tape is finished.
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View a Video of the Workshop
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This program is funded, in part, by public funds from the Netherlands Consulate General in New York.