In their first year, students can choose an ADHT liberal arts elective that focuses on an aspect of New York City. Beginning in their sophomore year, students choose elective courses organized into pathways that reflect the fields of knowledge particular to the School of Art and Design History and Theory. Students can choose to focus on one of the pathways or explore them on the basis of their interests.
Design Studies establishes a discourse of design from multiple perspectives, viewing it as practice, process, and profession and, through its products, as part of the material or "artificial" environment. The faculty in the School of Art and Design History and Theory are leaders in this field who employ dynamic teaching methods that help designers and nondesigners alike engage with the world people have made.
Fashion Studies is an emerging international academic field in which the school is playing a crucial role at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels. Fashion Studies addresses the cultural significance of fashion with reference to self-fashioning, embodiment, and modernity and globalization through the study of visual and material culture and written texts. Interpretation of fashion as visual and material culture enables students to gain a broad understanding and critical awareness of its meanings as material objects, images, and cultural practices that position people in time and space.
Visual Culture Studies: Images as well as texts are central to the way people represent and understand the world and themselves. Some argue that images—or visual culture—have replaced texts as the dominant form of representation and communication. The Visual Culture Studies pathway examines the relationship between visual culture and the subjects who look at and create it as well as the social, cultural, and historical significance of this exchange. This pathway familiarizes students with the key terms and debates of visual culture studies and establishes their historical relevance to cultural practices. Students examine practices of looking that are often taken for granted.
Spatial Design Studies focuses on the theoretical and historical understanding of space. Space is considered as both a product to be designed and a framework of human operation and interaction within which social and cultural activities occur. These courses draw on a range of fields and methodologies to investigate the production, consumption, perception, and appropriation of space.
The Art and Design History pathway includes both basic and advanced courses on the history of art, from the earliest times through the present. Comprising both broad surveys and specialized courses focusing on periods, movements, and cultures, the pathway emphasizes the importance of art history as a context for art practice and as a crucial part of history as a whole.
In the Art and Design Criticism and Writing pathway, students explore key theories and forms of critical engagement with art and design that have emerged since the mid-19th century. They critically examine art and design processes, practices, and products through various forms of writing. Students learn about subjects like writing on art and design for newspapers and magazines, researching and reporting for stories, using reporting techniques to produce criticism and engage in advocacy, and the role of blogs.