• Elective Courses

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    Program Contact
    Rory O'Dea, Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art and Design

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  • In their first year, students can choose a liberal arts elective in Art and Design History and Theory that focuses on an aspect of the rich visual and material culture of New York City past and present. Beginning in their sophomore year, students choose elective courses from subject areas that reflect the fields of knowledge particular to the School of Art and Design History and Theory. Students can delve deeply into one of the subject areas or explore a range of subject areas on the basis of their interests.

  • Subject Areas

    Art and Design History includes both basic and advanced courses on the history of art and design, from the earliest times through the present. Including both broad surveys and specialized courses focusing on diverse periods, movements, cultures, and themes, the subject area emphasizes the importance of art and design history as a context for contemporary creative practice and as an essential framework for understanding history as a whole.

    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 of constructed environment. By investigating the complex relationship of design to society, Design Studies deepens students’ awareness of the social, political, and ethical facets of design, and provides them with a critical framework for understanding design in terms of objects, sites, and systems.  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 non-designers 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.

    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.

    Visual Culture Studies explores how 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 subject area 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. Students are familiarized with the key terms and debates of visual culture studies and establish their historical relevance to cultural practices.

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To apply to any of our undergraduate programs (except the Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students and Parsons Associate of Applied Science programs) complete and submit the Common App online.

Undergraduate Adult Learners

To apply to any of our Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students and Parsons Associate of Applied Science programs, complete and submit the New School Online Application.


To apply to any of our Master's, Doctoral, Professional Studies Diploma, and Graduate Certificate programs, complete and submit the New School Online Application.