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Degree candidates must successfully complete 60 credits, including all required courses, with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0. A residency of two academic years is required.

In the first year, students will be given advanced instruction in a variety of authoring skills, such as writing, editing, criticism, typography as a visual language, Film and new media directing, visual journalism and book and magazine publishing. Along with these skills-based classes, courses in marketing, research, advertising, promotion, publicity, intellectual property and networking will be offered. 

The goal of the second year is product-oriented. Participants are required to devise and develop a viable idea for a specialty market. Students will write and design a proposal for a product that will be presented to a panel of "guest faculty" who will decide whether it has enough merit to progress to the developmental stage. At the developmental stage, students will produce a prototype for backers, publishers, producers or distributors. Working individually, this final proposal, dummy or prototype will be professionally produced for presentation purposes.

Degree Requirements

• Successful completion of 60 credits, including all required courses and the thesis project. Documentation of all thesis projects must be on file with the MFA Design Department to be eligible for degree conferral. 

• Students are required to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (B) in order to remain in good academic standing. 

• A matriculation of two academic years is required. Students must complete their degree within four years, unless given an official extension by the provost.

First Year Requirements

DSG-5080  Paul Rand Lecture Series           
DSG-5130  Writing and Designing the Visual Book 
DSG-5210  Can Design Touch Someone’s Heart?    
DSG-5250  Thesis Introduction                                 
DSG-5310  Design Technology Workshop I            
DSG-5380  Telling Stories                                        
DSG-5410  Type for Masters                        
DSG-5420  Embracing the Unknown            
DSG-5450  Design Decisions                                   
DSG-5470  Interaction Aesthetics: Designing Digital Products for the 21st Century
DSG-5480  Design and Branding                  
DSG-5640  Design Conception: Developing Your Venture
DSG-5682  Mapping the Customer Journey

Second-Year Requirements

DSG-6030  Intellectual Property and the Law
DSG-6050/6052 Seminars I                           
DSG-6053/6055 Seminars II                          
DSG-6061  Thesis Matrix                             
DSG-6070  Thesis Consultation (preparation)           
DSG-6080  Thesis Consultation (research and writing)
DSG-6090  Thesis Consultation (production)                       
DSG-6120  Thesis Consultation (pitch and presentation)
DSG-6130  Thesis Video and Media Launch            
DSG-6270  Designing Value                                     
DSG-6310  Design Technology Workshop II                       
DSG-6610  Design in Context                                   



General Course Listing

Paul Rand Lecture Series: A History of Graphic Design
Fall semester: no credit
These lectures address various aspects of the history of graphic design over the past 150 years, including movements, pioneers and icons, as well as issues and events. Lectures focus on 19th-century premodern practice, early and mid-20th century orthodox modernism, and the late 20th-century postmodern. Themes include racism and design, symbolism and the swastika, type and culture, politics and propaganda, modernism and Art Deco, and avant-garde magazines of the 20th century. Students will engage in critical and analytical discussions that relate design history to current communication practices. 

Writing and Designing the Visual Book
Fall semester: 3 credits
This course combines design and literature to create integrated and meaningful expression. Students will develop their creative writing skills through a sequence of exercises in continuous writing, observational writing, titling objects and images, theatrical improvisation, storytelling, writing from different points of view, structuring a narrative and editing. Selected texts from exercises are then set into a variety of book formats, using any combination of book structures, typography, images and symbols. Emphasis is placed on discovering a visual form that emerges out of the meaning and shape of an original text. Historical and contemporary examples of “visual text” will be presented. 

Can Design Touch Someone’s Heart?
Fall semester: 3 credits
It is widely assumed that movies, literature and music get to our emotional core. It seems to be more difficult for design to achieve a similar affect. In this course students will explore how to achieve this with three individual assignments. 

Thesis Introduction
Spring semester: 3 credits
This course will introduce students to faculty thesis consultants who will assign exercises that are designed to initiate R&D and jumpstart the conceptual process for the thesis project. By the end of the course, students will have identified at least two areas of interest to be further explored for the final thesis. 

Design Technology Workshop I
Fall semester: no credit
This course is a deep dive into the technological tools of the design professional. Student will be exposed to principles of information technology as they relate to the designers. Topics will include computer optimization, networking in the studio environment, alternative workflows for new media, online resources for license-free media and digital cinema. 

Telling Stories
Fall semester: 3 credits
The power of design is its ability to communicate; the enchantment of design is its ability to tell us stories and connect with us emotionally in ways that are surprising and memorable. This course will explore the alchemy of design as a narrative device, in specific contexts and over time. Using any media known or unknown, we will adventure into the realm of enlightenment: in print, digital, video, monumental, or any other media. 

Type for Masters
Fall semester: 3 credits
This course will be dedicated to type and typography in order to help raise typographic fluency through classes and exercises. It will allow students to refine and refresh their skills and tool kit. In addition, the course will provide critiques of work for other first-semester classes. 

Embracing the Unknown
Spring semester: 3 credits
This course will introduce students to the design sprint process and how it can help designers quickly form hypotheses and test them. With an emphasis on iterative and collaborative design thinking we can use simple tools to get our best ideas into testable forms quickly with results that can deliver critical business insights. 

Design Decisions
Spring semester: 1.5 credits
Design Decisions is a course on design thinking and design making. It acknowledges that designers deal with scale and, as a result, are capable of creating powerful design gestures that multiply out into powerful design consequence. The course is hands-on; students will build prototypes and create sketches each week, exploring design through various design lenses and personal points of view. 

Interaction Aesthetics: Designing Digital Products for the 21st Century
Spring semester: 3 credits
User-centered interactive design is the focus of this course. It will examine how to put users at the heart of the experience, and explore the fundamental building blocks of all successful interactive products. Students will work on a semester-long project that will address the core phases of creating a successful digital product. All projects must consider how the product will adapt to specific platforms, including desktop, mobile, tablet, wearables, and the Internet of things. Guest speakers will share their insights of creating and working in the interactive realm. 

Design and Branding
Fall semester: 3 credits
In this course students will develop a comprehensive brand identity that reinforces the narrative of a chosen business or service. Our theoretical readings will be complemented with historical competitive audits to identify and leverage unique opportunities to develop the brand’s story. Critical thinking, iterative design methodology, and a synthesis of research, design production and presentation will be emphasized. 

Design Conception: Developing Your Venture
Spring semester: 3 credits
In this course students will build essential skills required for the conception and development of their thesis. This will be an intensive where students explore what is personally significant to them, examine industries and research social organizations toward the goal of developing thesis concepts. Throughout the course students will grow lateral thinking skills, generate ideas and test their assumptions. The goal is for each student to have a fundamentally sound concept to be further developed during the second year. 

Mapping the Customer Journey Wednesday
Spring semester: 1.5 credits
Customers increasingly experience brands, products and services through multiple channels and touchpoints. Students will participate in a facilitated workshop to map an end-to-end view of their customer’s journey, from discovery and first use through ongoing use of their product/service. With a focus on user needs and tasks, students will identify key moments to research and develop uniquely branded/ownable interactions, points of differentiation and increased value for their users. 

Intellectual Property and the Law
Fall semester: 1.5 credits
The general concepts of law and intellectual property law as they apply to the practice of design will be examined, including basic legal issues of contract and property law, within the creative context. Among the topics explored will be the work-for-hire agreement, the consignment agreement and the agency agreement. The law of copyright, trademark and patents will also be explored. Issues such as registering a copyright, copyright infringement, registering a trademark and trade dress infringement and patents (in particular, design patents) will be examined from the perspective of the professional designer. In addition, design and information issues presented by new technology, such as the web, will be included throughout the course. 

DSG-6050 through DSG-6055
Seminars I and II
Fall and spring semesters: 1 credit per seminar section
To enliven the program and bring students into contact with a significant number of working professionals, a series of workshops will be scheduled each semester. Seminar topics will change from year to year based on student interest and shifts in the overall field. 

Thesis Matrix
Fall semester: 1.5 credits
This course is the starting point for thesis preparation and development, offering an overview of the thesis process. Guidelines for the form of each student’s original idea will be given. The various components of the thesis process will be addressed. 

Thesis Consultation (preparation)
Fall semester: 3 credits
This course will prepare students to identify a product suitable for full-scale development for the audience they aim to target. It will help students identify concepts that matter to them, and then expand those concepts into design. The semester is divided into four sections: developing a market research survey, writing a comprehensive business plan, e-commerce and e-ideas. In addition, there will be seminars on the theory and practice of design and fabrication. Throughout the semester students will learn how to produce viable thesis projects with marketable potential. 

Thesis Consultation (research and writing)
Fall semester: 3 credits
Building upon the skills acquired in the first year, this course will assist students in the preparatory market and audience research needed to identify a product suitable for long-term development. The semester is divided into three sections: proposal writing and editing, material research and development, design and media exploration. Students will apply their design, planning, writing and presentation skills to the concept that drives their theses. The outcome is a written, edited and designed proposal and pitch book. 

Thesis Consultation (production)
Spring semester: 3 credits
In this, the third semester of thesis classes, students will complete the development of their viable thesis project resulting in a well designed, fabricated product prototype ready to be marketed. With the input of thesis advisors, students will also demonstrate viability, market research and business capability. A final presentation to the Thesis Review Committee is required. The MFA degree will not be conferred without approval by the Committee. 

Thesis Consultation (pitch and presentation)
Spring semester: 3 credits
In this intensive course, students will develop a viable and professional pitch book and video to use as a tool to bring their thesis product to potential producers, investors and the market. In addition, they will be given tutorials on how to deliver a verbal pitch to potential backers and clients. 

Thesis Video and Media Launch
Spring semester: 3 credits
The video created in this course will define the essential need for the product, what it does, and how it will be viable. The resulting spot (30 seconds to two minutes) will become a cornerstone of each student’s marketing and fundraising plans. This course is divided into conception and production sections. Students will develop narratives through storyboards and scripts. Shooting, lighting, sound, editing and authoring skills and software programs will be covered. In addition, collaborative class projects are dedicated to concept, design and production of branding and packaging for the Thesis Forum. 

Designing Value
Fall semester: 3 credits
Successful ventures are technically feasible, financially viable and desirable on a personable level. But—who is doing the desiring? What do they want? And how will they trust that they are getting it? This course will guide thesis projects through the desirability lens using design research methodology, and arrive at insights that inform the design principles, value proposition and business model of each venture. 

Design Technology Workshop II
Spring semester: no credit
This course is a continuation of DSG-5310, Design Technology Workshop I, and will focus on the world beyond the design studio. Topics will include mobile applications for designers, social media and blogging, online security and DRM (digital rights management), digital publishing tools, networking on the web and file sharing. 

Design to Context
Spring semester: 3 credits
This course supports the culmination of the MFA Design thesis. We will examine the core product/service and ancillaries of each student’s venture as contextually experienced by audiences in order to maximize relevance, resonance and remarkability. Expect to build focused yet immersive storyworlds that guide audiences from a state of ambivalence to action, deliver on ambitious yet achievable goals within scope/schedule and engage in rigorous peer/guest reviews. 

Thesis Extension
One semester: 3 credits
This course is designed for students who have not met the unanimous approval of the Thesis Committee, or who need an additional semester to complete their projects. Students will have full access to all facilities, participate in an appropriate critique course and continue to work with their thesis advisor. 

One semester: 3 studio credits
Students can gain valuable experience and broaden their professional network through an internship with an employer. Internships-for-credit are available to juniors and seniors who have earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 or better. To receive credit, students must apply online during the designated application period, be approved by the Career Development Office, and registered for the internship by their academic advisor. Students need to work 150 hours during the semester (usually 10 to 15 hours per week), participate in a weekly online course with other SVA interns, and complete midterm and final self-evaluations. Elective studio credit is awarded for the successful completion of an internship. For more information go to sva.edu/career.

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