In two shows held at DESIGN 21, Parsons graduating design students showed that they were all style and substance as they presented thesis projects celebrating social design. The two exhibitions, titled A Good Life and Urban Interludes, were on view in May at the Felissimo Townhouse in New York. A Good Life showcased product design projects developed in collaboration with non-profit organizations, while Urban Interludes featured integrated design projects that offer in-depth, design-based explorations of urban conditions in New York.
A Good Life is the fourth annual exhibition of product design thesis work developed in partnership with nonprofit organizations.
“Each year, students define a broad range of topics, causes or areas of need and are encouraged to get invested in something that matters to them,” says Tony Whitfield, chair of Product Design at Parsons. “It was a big gamble, but it has paid off remarkably well. Pedagogically, it has shifted the learning dynamic. With the perspectives of the nonprofit organization, the focus is placed on effective solutions to real-world problems. Students are opened up to new dimensions of research, and challenged to represent themselves as emerging professionals.”
This year, A Good Life surpassed the 125-projects mark. Among the projects featured in the exhibition was Nara Almeida’s Recycle Life, a do-it-yourself recycling kit for creating a variety of accessories and clothing from everyday waste, such as Tetra Pak containers and old t-shirts. The kit was designed in partnership with Rainforest Relief, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the destruction of the world's tropical and temperate rainforests, and is expected to launch with a project to create costumes for Carnaval.
Tom O’Hare created a series of open-source, model-making templates that educate high school students in underserved communities about the basics of engineering and science. Working in partnership with the nonprofit Vision Education, the templates are accessible to anyone with an Internet connection and printer. Will Steinkraus’ Haru Haru, developed for Korean-American adoptees such as himself, is a system for support and community building and includes customizable toys, a passport with stamps for exchanging with friends, and an online blog.
Urban Interludes showcased thesis work by students in Parsons Integrated Design Curriculum, a self-directed interdisciplinary degree program for students with a desire to integrate studies in the various areas of art & design practice at Parsons.
“The projects featured in Urban Interludes explicitly address the condition of living in a complex, dynamic and highly mobile urban environment such as New York City,” says IDC Chair Gwynne Keathley. “These projects attempt to introduce tactical urban gestures to uncover the intricate patterns of daily life in the City.”
Among the featured projects were Robyn Hasty’s Red Hook: An Exploration of Identities, a site-specific installation that explores the history and events that have impacted the communal identities in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Caroline Johns’ Transit(ions) presented multimedia work that incorporates video and the design of clothing to reflect the transient nature and experience of the New York City subway system. And Stephanie Chao modeled her Modular Wrist System, a fashion-forward grip system designed for people with mobility and joint-related impairments to help them negotiate the transit system.
Located in the heart of New York City, Parsons The New School for Design is one of the most prestigious and comprehensive degree-granting colleges of art and design in the nation, with students from all 50 states and approximately 60 countries. Parsons has been a forerunner in the field of art and design since its founding in 1896. By locating visual beauty in the ordinary things of middle-class American life, Parsons virtually invented the modern concept of design in America. Parsons’ rigorous programs and distinguished faculty embrace curricular innovation, pioneer new uses of technology, and instill in students a global perspective in design.
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Pictured: Hideaki Matsui’s Clean Up from 2006, a set of soap products shaped like landmines that were developed in partnership with Adopt-A-Landmine in order to raise awareness about the eradication of landmines.