Parsons Paris

Parsons Paris.

Design Studies (MA)

School Magazine

A New Generation of Design Thinkers

Responding to the way that design has become central to the emerging artificial world, the MA in Design Studies challenges students to reframe current ideas and expectations concerning design. This unique 42-credit graduate program can be completed full-time (in two years) or part-time. Focusing on developing capacities for high-level critical analysis, research, and presentation, graduates of the program emerge capable of articulating design as a process for strategically transforming the way we live in the twenty-first century.

Design Studies offers an academic pathway for students who want to pursue careers in fields related to design research, writing, curating, and criticism; for those who wish to incorporate design research into their design practice; and for those who want to go on to advanced graduate study (PhD).


Through a combination of required and cross-disciplinary courses, students are able to build customized programs of study based on their interests and the four main study pathways that the degree offers:

  • Design thinking, design-led innovation, new design methods: Students critically examine "design thinking" and explore the dimensions of methods and innovation in design including emerging areas of design practice such as critical design, design for social innovation, and speculative futures.
  • Global design futures and design as agency: Students explore design as a strategic capability in changing and qualitatively transforming the world. Linking international, developmental, and urban perspectives, this is also the exploration of design for political, economic, and ecological transition.
  • The social and the cultural: Students explore the way design helps shape the social and cultural imaginary. Working in relation to the social sciences and media, students consider the ethical, political, and psychological/subjective dimensions of the role of design in configuring and orienting the artificial world.
  • Critical understanding and critical practice: Working and writing in the public realm and through various media, students examine in depth how we can articulate design in its successes and failures and in the dimensions of its work, both historically and in the present.


Housed in Parsons'  School of Art and Design History and Theory, the program draws on the wide range of skills and academic expertise of its faculty—most notably in design theory, methodology, and philosophy; design history; design criticism and writing; material culture studies; fashion studies; and architecture theory, urban studies, and spatial studies.

The program also provides students with access to Parsons' design studio resources and to the professional and academic strengths of  The New School in fields such as history, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, sociology, politics, economics, international affairs, urban studies, digital and media studies, environmental studies, and business management and innovation.

Connections in New York City and the World

The program draws on the vast cultural and design resources of New York City to help provide students with opportunities to undertake design internships, the production of exhibitions and publications, and projects and grant writing. Positions as teaching assistants and research assistants within the university are available (based on application) and encouraged. Students can also study in complementary programs overseas.