Mass Critical

May 4, 2010

On Friday, April 30, the students and faculty of the MFA Design Criticism Department (aka, D-Crit) took to the stage of the SVA Theatre for the inaugural D-Crit Conference: Crossing the Line. The day-long event featured thesis presentation from the 15 members of the program’s graduating class of 2010, along with keynote addresses from Peter Hall and John Thackara.

The conference was moderated by faculty member Kurt Andersen, who is an award-winning author and host of Public Radio International’s Studio 360. “All of existence is on the agenda, which makes today exciting,” said Andersen in his opening remarks, and the presentations that followed ranged from Amelia Black’s Design Smells; Odorous Rhetoric for Embodied Experience and Angela Riechers’ Designing Grief: Personal Memorial Objects in the 21st Century to Katie Henderson’s Two Decades of Failure, Betrayal & Disaster: The Production Design of Wes Anderson’s Films as it Relates to the Family Dynamic. The wide-reaching approaches of the criticism on display at the conference were embodied in Hall’s keynote talk, The Uses of Failure, in which argued that in order to understand how design truly works, critics need to examine design failures, not only the new and the novel. The address began with Germany’s Red Dot Museum, whose annual awards highlight the best of design around the world, before making his way to an examination of catastrophic design failures, including New Coke from 1985 and Tropicana’s 2009 rebranding campaign.

For more information on the D-Crit class of 2010 and their thesis projects, visit the department’s Web site at

Image: Peter Hall and Kurt Andersen at the D-Crit Conference; photo by John Messinger.

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