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Founded in 2013, Design for Social Innovation at SVA is the first MFA program in social impact design, created for designers and leaders in other disciplines who want to work at a strategic level—whether in business, government or the social sector, as part of a larger organization or as entrepreneurs—to solve the major challenges humanity faces.

The two-year, 60-credit program prepares graduates to expand the methodologies of design to address the belief systems and mental models that drive behavior, employing all forms of visual design to engage and inspire participation. Students learn to scale the impact of research through mastery of change models, communication design, mapping, game mechanics, metrics, data visualization and more. Throughout the course of the program, they work with real clients, gaining hands-on experience with multinational corporations, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. The curriculum encompasses a broad range of issues, including conservation, health, food and agriculture, poverty, gender equality, social justice, fair trade, education and community revitalization. Program enrollees have come from 22 countries and counting, with undergraduate degrees in anthropology, design, economics, engineering, science and technology.

2016 – 2017 student population

46 matriculated students

Department chair

Cheryl Heller, partner, CommonWise

Faculty members

Asi Burak (co-president, Games for Change), Maggie Breslin (design researcher, formerly with Mayo Clinic), Jaimie Cloud (founder and principal, Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education), Archie Coates IV (co-founder, PlayLab, Inc.), Alison Cornyn (founding partner, creative director, Picture Projects; multidisciplinary artist), Patricia Dandonoli (chief corporate responsibility and sustainability officer, Natural Systems Utilities), Jane Englebardt (principal, founder, Upshot Advisors, LLC ), Megan Fath (managing director, Conifer Research), Hannah du Plessis (principal, Fit Associates), Jeffrey Franklin (co-founder, PlayLab, Inc.), Aubrey Hays (director of operations, MFA Design for Social Innovation Department, School of Visual Arts), Lee-Sean Huang (designer and strategist),  Aurelia Moser (developer, Mozilla Foundation), Jonathan O'Brien (art director, design, Playlab), Ksenia Pachikov (designer, researcher), Despina Papadopoulos (founder, Studio 5050), Tina Park (design researcher, Johnson & Johnson),Toni Pizza (game designer), Karen Proctor (founder and principal, Harbour Workshop LLC), Marc Rettig (founder and principal, Fit Associates), Gabriel Schuster (cartographer, researcher), Lina Srivastava (principal, Lina Srivastava Consulting)

Department website

More information

SVA Admissions: 212.592.2107 | [email protected]

Media requests

SVA Communication: 212.592.2010 | [email protected]


209 East 23 Street, New York, NY 10010-3994 | 212.592.2000 | sva.edu

School of Visual Arts | 209 East 23 Street, NY, NY 10010-3994 | Tel: 212.592.2000 | Fax: 212.725.3587