Design Studies (MA)

  • The MA in Design Studies draws on both analytical and practical modes of inquiry, recognizing the increasing importance of design in the 21st century. Design studies courses enable you to consider design as a fundamentally cross-disciplinary endeavor, drawing on the unique range of fields available throughout Parsons and other colleges within The New School. Together students and faculty explore design's capacity to transform everyday experience and examine means of effecting social change through design processes. Explore the MA Design Studies community to see what students, faculty, and alumni are doing in NYC and around the world at

    Parsons is not currently admitting new students to this master’s degree program. Parsons is now offering a Graduate Minor in Design Studies that is designed to complement the MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies and other graduate programs across the university in design, liberal arts, and social research.

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    A New Way of Design Thinking

    This two-year, 42-credit degree connects MA Design Studies students with peers in related academic and studio programs, including the MA in History of Design and Curatorial Studies and the MFA programs in Transdisciplinary Design and Industrial Design. The program welcomes both designers and those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of design. Students are encouraged to make use of the full array of courses taught at Parsons as well as courses offered throughout the university, such as in the School of Media Studies and at The New School for Social Research. 

    Program faculty work individually with students to create pathways tailored to their interests (which can be completed full-time or part-time) in areas including—

    • Design as social action and innovation and the creation of alternative design futures
    • Design and social media in the public realm 
    • Design and the social sciences
    • The spatiality of design and the role of design in the urban realm
    • The history, theory, criticism, and curation of design

    A Foundation for a Variety of Outcomes

    Students emerge with the concepts and skills they need to become informed design researchers, consultants, advisors, scholars, activists, and strategic and reflective designers. They work with design thinkers, practitioners, and researchers from a range of industries to explore design as a phenomenon whose analysis, insights, and history offer tools for addressing the human-made world.

    Future Opportunities

    Graduates are prepared to work in design-led entrepreneurial creative industries, applying their knowledge to support strategic product development; help guide the work of media and consulting firms, think tanks, and technology start-ups; lead new approaches to curating and criticism; and work in policy development for NGOs and foundations. The program also provides a foundation for those who want to pursue doctoral studies and an academic career in design.

  • Curriculum

    The Master of Arts in Design Studies is awarded for completion of 42 credits of coursework, including a master's thesis, oral exam, or capstone project. A maximum of six credits of graduate-level coursework may be transferred from another institution. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.

    In addition, as the student has completed or is in the process of completing a minimum of 33 credits, the student determines whether to petition to write an academic thesis, write a capstone paper and undertake a project/proposition, or take the MA oral examination. Students should consult the program guidelines provided at Orientation for specific requirements and a process outline.

    First Year / Fall
    PGDS 5005 Discourses in Design 3
    PGTE 5600 Design for This Century: Lecture 0
    PGTE 5601 Design for This Century: Recitation 3
    Electives (2)
    First Year / Spring
    PGDS 5010 Writing for the Public Realm 3
    PGDS 5006 Discourses 2: Research and Methods 3
    Elective: Design Studies
    Second Year / Fall
    PGDS 5200 Capstone 1
    Electives (2)
    Second Year / Spring
    PGDS 5210 Capstone 2 6
    Total Credits 42


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    Student Research and Projects

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    Student Career Paths

    The first cohort of students entered the program in 2012. Thus far we have graduated four classes, and even in this brief time, our students have begun to establish themselves in various areas of work. Here are some stories of our former students' careers so far. There are ten of them, split across various cohorts. Their stories are inspiring; they show that creative and critical intelligence can go a long way.

    Download Design Studies Student Career Paths to read them.

    Admission Requirements

    Parsons is not currently accepting applications to this master’s degree program. Students interested in this area of study should consider applying to the MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies, which enables students who declare the Graduate Minor in Design Studies to pursue their capstone with a design studies orientation.

    Program News

    Learn more about what Parsons students, faculty, and alumni are doing throughout the city and around the world.
    Explore the Design Studies Community