Q&A with Molly Heintz, New Co-Chair of MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism

December 11, 2015

Molly Heintz, an alumnus of MFA Design Criticism (2011), was appointed co-chair of MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism this semester. She is the co-founder of Superscript, a consultancy firm that works with strategy, writing, editing and programming and did her PhD research focusing on narratives attached to design objects from Harvard University. Heintz tells SVA Close Up about the semester so far and her plans for the future.

molly200How has having been a student of the same program that you are now the co-chair of influencing your decisions?
It’s very gratifying because I can appreciate both sides of the equation. Having been a student here, I can empathize with the demands and challenges that the program places on its students and I can have a student-oriented perspective while fulfilling my leadership role. Our curriculum, for instance, is a set of polished, vital courses related to design, research and writing. And one of the tweaks that we are now implementing is a writing plus editing process that mimics the professional, real-world writing experience.

A new initiative in the pipeline is a cross-pollination between graduate departments. We are launching a forum on curating design on January 21 2016 with MA Curatorial Practice and hope that it will become an annual event. Another thing we are hoping to set up is an alumni incubator. Since it’s a one-year program, there is no overlap of students and we think it’s important for graduates of the department to be part of a community. The alumni incubator will help establish a network and should hopefully be in place by next summer.

What about the classes you teach?
Alice Twemlow, who is the founding chair of the program, and I are acting as thesis advisors. In spring, I’m going to co-teach a course on exhibition development. It will focus on how to make the written thesis live in the real world. It includes providing the students with a public platform to make a verbal presentation of their research and some kind of visual representation as well. Last year when I was involved as an instructor, we developed an exhibition called “Exploding Footnotes,” where the idea was to celebrate the footnote and research trails. The studio space was converted into a gallery for this and the exhibition added an extra layer to the students’ verbal presentations. The final form will be decided by the students.

Now that your first semester is coming to a close, how’s it going?
It has been good. Several of my former instructors and mentors are now my colleagues. Those pre-established relationships have made my transition comfortable. We had a sad event early in the semester, though. Our colleague Phil Patton passed away. It allowed us to reflect on Phil’s work and we are involved in a memorial service that Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is hosting on March 24, 2016, to honor him. Other than that the students have been very engaged. The idea behind turning the program into a one-year MA was to be more accessible to mid-career professionals. Because of the dynamic and diverse people who come into the program, the conversations are rich. I’m looking forward to their thesis work.

How is your work in MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism influencing your work outside?
I would say it is two-way street. I founded Superscript with three other students from the program. So Superscript was established very much in the spirit of the program. It is coming full circle in some ways. We have hired several alumni for Superscript’s projects and my colleagues and I here being active professionals gives the students access to a bigger network. It’s a complementary relationship.

For more information about MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism, click here.


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