• Lucille Tenazas

  • Lucille Tenazas

    Lucille Tenazas had scarcely arrived at Parsons before she was telling her students to “get lost.” For a class assignment she devised, students walk to a random point ten minutes from home, departing from their normal route. Their senses awakened by unfamiliar surroundings, they observe, navigate, and interpret the landscape keenly and freshly — developing abilities of value to designers, who encounter new terrain with each new client or project. What they notice during the exercise might show up in a book or a film or a series of posters expressing their experiences as newcomers.

    A participatory way of relating to new situations underlies Tenazas’ notion of the designer as “cultural nomad.” Her role is to help each student develop an authentic voice and a comfort with difference that adds range and nuance to that voice. “As a designer, you’re put in the position of having to respond to somebody else’s needs or problems,” Tenazas says. “If you’re aware of who you are, you can take on the identities and problems others may pose and not lose your own.”

    These are the insights of an individual who, equipped with a degree in fine arts and an interest in design, traveled from the Philippines to the United States in 1979 for advanced study, first at California College of the Arts (CCA) and then at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she earned an MFA in Design. Her experimentation with type led to an interest in the complexity of language and the interrelationships of meaning, form, and content. After working in New York for several years, she moved to San Francisco, where she opened her own firm and became the founding chair of the graduate program in design at CCA. In 1996, she became the first president of the AIGA to be based outside of New York.

    Tenazas is now developing a pathway within the MFA Design and Technology program emphasizing design, craft, and technology for students who are interested in multidisciplinary and hybrid design practices. The curriculum will help shape the next phase of communication design, in which students will use both analog and digital technologies to execute richly tactile designs, mix human intuition with artificial intelligence, and invent complex and poetic cross-platform means of visual expression.
  • Program Details

    Inspired by this work? Explore program features, curriculum, faculty, and more.

  • Related Work

  • Take The Next Step

Submit your application


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.