9/22/2022 Fall ’22 Designer in Residence: Karen Proctor, Improv Lab


Chair’s Letter

Miya Osaki

Miya Osaki giving the opening words to Thesis show 2021, she is behind a podium that reads SVA NYC

We are incredibly excited to be back in the DSI space together this Fall! As we walk into the DSI space after a year and a half–after months of social, racial, political, and environmental unrest, amidst a global pandemic, virtual classes, and tons of learning and unlearning–we are so aware of the tides and waves moving us forward. 

This continues to be a time of transition and these two words–time and transition–frame how we do our work in social design with care. We explore time, proceeding with intention and urgency, and slowing down when it is needed and required. The transition is about making spaces–iteratively, with others–to seek innovative, emergent, and enduring pathways. 

We are grateful for the collaborative efforts to transform DSI into a place where we can do this critical thinking together. We spent the summer sharing, reflecting (I re-read adrienne maree brown’s incredible Emergent Strategy), discussing, and preparing. I’ve been spending time outdoors; awakened to learning from Nature. In conversation with our faculty, students, and partners, we are processing what these shifts mean for the field of social innovation. As a community of designers, we are re-envisioning our design practices. We are imagining possibilities, thinking through making, breaking from things that no longer serve us, collaborating, and experimenting. We are refining how to approach our work and with whom, to reduce harm, to increase justice, create joy, and increase our capacity to care and creatively respond. Watch this space.

We imagine you are visiting MFA Design for Social Innovation because you find yourself wondering what else is possible, what needs to shift and change. You might be reflecting on your values and are ready (or starting to feel ready) to make a change in yourself. You may be design-curious and wonder what role design can play in the quickly evolving world today. We hope you will explore the inspiring people and thinking that is happening at DSI. Read on. We hope you will consider collaborating with us. 

—Miya Osaki, Chair (Sept 2021)

Design for Social Innovation evolves because the world is evolving.
Social design is about creating the social conditions—in cities, ecosystems, cultures, and communities—resulting in increased creativity, equity, social justice, access, greater resilience, and a healthy connection to nature. It is relevant to every business, government, city, community, and individual. We study the design of systems; and the relationships between people and things, instead of only the things themselves.

Design is a practice, as as a practice it can improve. Social design can only be mastered by practicing it. This is an experience-based program. DSI is a balance of academic and practical where you’ll learn to think critically, explore, iterate, and measure. You’ll work with complexity, in dynamic contexts, and with partners out in the world. You’ll learn systems design, critical thinking, human-centered approaches, research/strategy, game mechanics, social change, sustainability, and collective leadership to move people to think differently and become more resilient and resourceful themselves. DSI is STEM certified, too. This is a two-year degree, but you will develop capabilities that will grow long after you graduate.

We are committed to living our values. This is what our program is about—what we teach and what our students are out in the world doing. And the curriculum reflects on our history, legacy, and global and economic structures. We value lived experience and an investment in communities and our planet (and beyond). We are a diverse group of pioneering practitioners passionate about design, development, policy, health, media, art, tech, government, gaming, research, business strategy, and innovation. 

It’s about the relationships we build. Students come from 28 countries and counting. Cross-cultural literacy is one of the skills that employers look for, and it’s a key aspect of the program here. We encourage people from all kinds of backgrounds to engage with design. We’re in the heart of New York City, but we connect across the world. We are visited by the most exciting global experts and speakers in science, business, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, creativity, and activism (and some things yet to be defined). Our students are connected to an unmatched network of potential partners by the time they leave school.

We model creative collaboration and leadership. Our students join us because it fulfills a deep need that nothing else can—to shift and make a positive impact, disrupt the status quo, advocate with communities, and use their own powers of creativity to bring something to life that has not existed before. They are remarkable people…curious, unpredictable and visionary. If you want to know what an MFA in Social Design will do for you, take a look at what our alums are doing in industries, government, nonprofits/NGOs, education, creative consultancies, and as founders of their own enterprises. Talk to our students, faculty, and alums to learn more. 

The future needs you. If this has sparked your curiosity and interest, please keep exploring our website and social media @svadsi and say hello

136 W 21st St,
5th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 592–2205