Prototyping Utopia


Oscar Wilde reminds us that “a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing… Progress is the realization of Utopias.”

In 1774, Mother Ann Lee and eight “Shaking Quakers” landed in New York Harbor and embarked on one of America’s greatest social experiments. Over the next two centuries, the spiritual utopian communities founded by the Shakers made way for secular successors including the Fouriers, Oneidans, Drop City, Rajneeshpuram, among many others. Regardless of underlying ideology, each American utopia was founded in direct response to particular social, political, and economic stressors of the times: the spiritual prosecution of the 18th century; the industrial revolution in the 19th century; and the international conflicts, civil unrest, and culture of consumption that took hold in the 20th century. The prototype nature of each new visionary project captured the American imagination, speculating that small, planned communities might be the ideal mechanisms with which to remake the world. With today’s unprecedented wealth gap, a looming climate crisis, and a increasing disconnect between our physical lives and the expectations of digital culture, now seems a time ripe for new utopian prototypes. Students will spend 15 weeks investigating the ideal of utopia through critical theory, hands-on making, and a weekend design/build residency at the Hancock Shaker Village Museum (Pittsfield, MA). Students will have unique access to Shaker artifacts and archival materials and will use these primary sources alongside works of art, literature, and social history to examine the history of utopias and the ways in which ideologies take shape in designed objects, spaces, and social systems. Students will then turn a designer’s eye to today’s social, technological, environmental, economic, and political landscape to design and propose speculative objects, spaces, and systems for a future utopia.

FA19 Syllabus

The New School / Parsons School of Design / School of Art, Media and Technology

Theory of the Object


Informed by a wide range of thinkers, students examine culture as a set of practices realized in and through various types of objects and quasi-objects; map productive, perhaps unexpected exchanges between art, craft, design, architecture, media, and technology; and develop criteria for thinking about emerging applications that reconfigure these domains. Throughout, we will be interested in exploring contemporary relations between hand and mind, human and machine, making and thinking, objects and systems, materiality and abstraction, and the ramifications of their interaction for perception, sensibility, and intelligence.

SP18 Syllabus
SP18 Exhibition: Boxing Practice (May 3, 2018 - Apr 6, 2019)

Pacific Northwest College of Art / Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies / MFA Applied Craft + Design

Integrative Research and Development


This course builds upon the Research and Development Methods course by offering students the opportunity to experiment with various approaches to the integration of design and research methodologies. In a semester-long project that spans planning, research, implementation and testing, students will experience the unfolding of the design process, with special attention given to the use of iteration and prototyping as a means to generate knowledge and/or innovative solutions. Students gain a theoretical as well as a practical understanding of how to organize and optimize the design process as well as the critical skills to reflect on the design process and its outcomes.

FA18 Syllabus

The New School / Parsons School of Design / School of Design Strategies / BBA Strategic Design and Management

Research and Development Methods


This course is an introduction to the nature of design research, where students gain practical experience in the various research and design methodologies. Students work in teams to apply the different techniques, through a series of mini-projects and applications, conducting research outside the classroom and engaging users and experts to share their perspectives on research and design. Students also learn how to map out their research findings and to envision and articulate design driven interventions.

FA17 Syllabus
FA18 Syllabus
SP19 Syllabus
SP19 Publication: Notes for Future Anthropologists

The New School / Parsons School of Design / School of Design Strategies / BBA Strategic Design and Management



With students’ individual spaces located in a workshop environment, this Program embraces an approach to design rooted in the culture of making, and emphasizes learning from materials to ground concepts. A central feature of the studio experience is the one-on-one interaction with a mentor selected by the student and Program Chair. The mentor-student relationship is personal and unique, and is at the heart of the MFA in Applied Craft + Design Program. The mentor acts as advocate, critic, resource, and colleague for the student, providing a supportive setting to pursue self-designed, independent investigation and experimentation. The mentor meets with the student for approximately 1.5 hours per week, guiding the student in his/her/their explorations, discussing the student’s goals, and fostering an awareness of social, environmental and ethical concerns and responsibilities in the student’s creative practice. Mentors are selected from a group of accomplished artists, designers, makers, and faculty.

Mentee: Gina Rios Knox

Pacific Northwest College of Art / Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies / MFA Applied Craft + Design

The Art of the Interview

Through a combination of lecture, critique, and hands-on learning, students will gain an understanding of what it takes to make an interview a successful one. Students will be exposed to advanced work and engage in critical discussions about what makes interviews effective, and how they can be used for powerful storytelling. The course will provide students with a foundation in identifying interviewees, researching and preparing questions for the interview, sensitive listening, and follow-up questions. Lessons included “Identifying the Story,” “Listening for the Why,” and “How to Ask the Right Questions,” among others.

NW Documentary

Documentary Explorers Camp

Kids, cameras, science, and fun! We learn about nature by going out in nature. From the high deserts of Oregon to the Redwood Forests, we explore tide pools and abandoned homesteads, canoe estuaries, and hunt for thunder eggs. Along the way, we learn from the people who live and work in these remote regions, such as forest fire fighters, naturalists, and Native Americans. Films created in our camps have won the coveted Student Production Awards presented at the Northwest Regional Emmy® Awards.

Summer 2011 Films
Summer 2012 Films
Summer 2013 Films

NW Documentary

Recording Resilience

In Recording Resilience, we work with teenagers who have recently suffered the tragic loss of a loved one. In partnership with the Dougy Center, we create a supportive, healing opportunity for the participants to create their own personal film under the direct guidance of professional filmmakers.

The workshop results in the teens each creating a personal documentary about their loss, and then sharing the film at a public screening, online, in NW Documentary’s library, and within larger support groups at The Dougy Center.

Summer 2011 Films
Summer 2012 Films

NW Documentary