Transdisciplinary Design (MFA)

School Magazine

Highlights

The complex problems that confront a networked 24/7 global culture call for broad design approaches. Parsons created the MFA in Transdisciplinary Design (TransDesign) for a new generation of designers who want to address pressing social issues using new ideas, tools, and methods. Students work in cross-disciplinary teams, consider issues from multiple perspectives, gain insight from industry leaders, and emerge with a portfolio of projects showcasing design as a process for transforming the way we live in the 21st century.

A New Kind of
Design Thinking

TransDesign is a two-year, 60-credit program focusing on project-based design work that incorporates a profound understanding of the ways design transforms social relations.

Project teams represent multiple disciplines and points of view, reframing the possibilities of design for the larger community. Transdisciplinary Design students who serve as adjunct faculty and teaching assistants are expected to inject a similar dynamism into the undergraduate setting.

Graduates of the MFA TransDesign program will possess a unique set of skills and capacities that will distinguish them professionally. Students learn to practice:

  • Reflective collaboration – working flexibly in multidisciplinary teams to solve highly complex problems
  • Complexity modeling – visually modeling complex systems and social structures to yield new insights
  • Critical reframing – examining problems and turning them into design opportunities
  • Design-led research – articulating a research problem and exploring it through a design process
  • Fitness prototyping – discovering an appropriate resolution of a problem that belongs to no single design field.

While graduates may work in conventional design consultancies, they will also be qualified to apply their skills in areas outside of traditional design realms. Graduates may work in careers that involve structuring health care policy; rebuilding infrastructure; and rethinking public education, microbusinesses, and nongovernmental organizations.

Flexible Pathways

Transdisciplinary design is a highly connective practice. Designers forge links to students, faculty, and professionals in and outside of the field of design.

To lend focus and depth to the educational experience, the TransDesign program offers four flexible pathways:

  • Systems: Students examine how we can better integrate ecological, economic, technological, and social systems so that they work toward common ends.
  • Sustainability: Students consider how to shift attitudes toward sustainable practices. For example, how does something regarded as an inconvenience become an afterthought?
  • The Social: Using the idea that design helps shape the social imaginary, students consider how to use design to prototype new kinds of behavior and new forms of community.
  • Urban: Students question how designers can transform the everyday experiences and worldviews of urban dwellers to make them both profoundly local and dynamically global.

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