An interdisciplinary MFA for a world in flux

Welcome to Media Design Practices. We are dedicated to defining new practices in design. Our graduates are prepared for a lifetime of invention.

Our vision is to educate designers not for the world as it is, but as it is becoming, to think hard about what it means to use our agency as designers to make the world as we may want it to be.

To take this on, we offer two tracks: Lab and Field. Each track, in its own way, orients the designer toward the challenges of the future and the changing role of design.

In the Lab track, students work in a studio context, using design to pose questions through applied and speculative projects that engage with emerging communication technologies and cultural practices. We move beyond the problem-solving paradigm to position the designer as a researcher with a distinct point-of-view who uses design to understand and engage with the world. We are expressly preparing media designers to take high performing roles in domains that are future-oriented and whose effects are far-reaching: information and communication technology, foresight units, industry R&D, scientific research labs, communication media, knowledge production, infrastructure and policy-making, and entrepreneurial or independent practices.

In the Field track, run in collaboration with Designmatters, students work in a real-world context where social issues, media infrastructure, and communication technology intersect. With the Field track, we take on the ethics, politics, and practices of design in the realm of social change (including the rhetoric of “good”). Our students experience the power dynamics of high-, low-, and no-tech communications in a social context firsthand. We are preparing designers to take an active role in the creation of new models for international development and civic engagement through work in communities, institutions, governments, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Our graduates build viable lifelong design practices that engage directly with the human condition.


Both tracks share a commitment to inquiry through design, disciplinary and cultural hybridity, and a belief that critical reflection is at the core of an engaged design practice.

Students in both tracks share the same studio, workshops, facilities, and a weekly colloquium, all of which creates a healthy dialogue between the work that is created for two very different contexts. The juxtaposition of the tracks creates a unique situation among graduate programs, one that encourages vital issues to arise.

By necessity, we work incredibly hard. We believe it's not worth it unless there is a contribution to be made; we are not the least bit interested in replicating the status quo. If this sounds like the kind of design you'd like to be part of, we invite you to join us — as a student, a partner, or a guest.

— Anne Burdick, Chair

We support students from diverse backgrounds with an integrated "Development Year" that can precede either track.

Students apply for one of two options:

The 2-year option is for experienced designers who enroll directly into their chosen track.

The 3-year option is for burgeoning designers who have limited experience working with diverse communication media. 3-year students complete the Development Year prior to beginning in either track.

The Development Year
The Development Year is a two-term sequence (Fall-Spring) that includes graduate and undergraduate design courses that can be customized to the needs of each student. It allows established designers to "fill holes" and provides them with the full range of media and interaction design skills necessary to succeed in their chosen track. For students from a non-design background who show promise as media designers, the Development Year provides a condensed foundation in design that is created for the sophisticated student who brings valuable experience and education from other domains into the mix.

3-year students get the deepest engagement with the College and all it has to offer.

Our graduates push design in new directions within a context of cultural and technological change.

Our graduates have the agility and skills to bring design to diverse situations, from scientific research labs to futurist think tanks, from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits to leading corporations and design studios. Here are a few of the titles that our alumni currently hold:

  • Adjunct Professor, Interaction Design
  • Blogger and Author
  • Community Design Liaison
  • Creative Director
  • Creative Technologist
  • Design Analyst
  • Design Director
  • Digital Creative Director
  • Entrepreneur and Inventor
  • Founder and Creative Director
  • Human-centered Design Researcher
  • Interaction and Visual Designer
  • Interaction Designer/Magician (HTC Magic Lab)
  • Interactive Environments Lead
  • Media Artist
  • Non-traditional Creative
  • PhD Candidate
  • Professor, Multimedia Design
  • Senior Manager Brand Identity Strategy
  • Senior Researcher, User Experience
  • Senior UX Designer
  • UX Designer

Placement trends we have seen in the last four years*:

Communication technology research or innovation units: Samsung Research, Microsoft Research, Nokia Research, HTC Magic Lab, Google Creative Lab, T-Mobile Innovation Lab, Yahoo! Research, Intel Research

Non-conventional contexts: Jet Propulsion Lab/NASA, United Nations, UNICEF's Tech4Dev, Inkling, Synn Labs, Kaiser Innovation Center

Independent practices and start-ups: design studios, entrepreneurial ventures, app development, residencies, film festivals, conferences, media art exhibitions, galleries and performances

Academia: full-time and part-time teaching, second masters or PhDs.

Innovation groups within advertising and media companies: Chiat/Day, Wieden+Kennedy, Crispin Porter Bogusky, Yu+Co, Artefact, Troika Design Group, McCann

Design research, interaction, and UX design in major design firms: IDEO, Frog Design, Smart Design, Continuum, 8 Inc.

* This does not reflect the Field Track as the first Field Track cohort will graduate in Summer 2013.

Critical making in a studio context

Lab track students build a point-of-view and practice with emerging ideas from technology, science and culture. Visit the Lab Blog to get the latest.

Lab Track graduates are prepared for a career defined by exploration and transformation.

It's about emergence

In the Lab Track, students work in a studio context where new practices, forms, and ideas unfold as they follow their curiosity, interrogate materials and processes, speculate and invent. Lab track students learn to create the conditions—the research questions, rule sets and stories—that can lead to surprising results. Students engage with issues that are on the cusp through topic studios, independent research, guest lectures, field trips, community participation, workshops and an eclectic mix of thesis advisors.

The result is work of incredible diversity from functioning Google hacks to provocative future fictions. Our students graduate prepared to set the agenda in any context dedicated to the next generation of communication, technology and culture.

It's about discovery

In Media Design Practices, we embrace the idea that the act of designing is a unique way of knowing about the world. In the process of making, we visualize, iterate, and critique, and we believe that it is through these activities that designers can gain unique insights. Through the art of prototyping designers get a feel for the potential consequences of new technologies and new ideas. The best work explores what it means to create the things—immaterial, material, symbolic, systemic, and artifactual—that give shape to everyday life.

Lab Track students learn to design in an open-ended way that can lead to discovery and innovation. With a grounding in design research, media theory and experimental design methods drawn from multiple fields, our students approach their work as researchers with the goal of generating new knowledge about themselves, about design, and about the world.

It's about hybridity

We are media designers, but that's not all. Our community is comprised of architects, filmmakers, artists, computer scientists, experimental musicians, interaction designers, anthropologists, linguists, historians, robotics specialists, cultural theorists, and more. Designers who have diverse interests have the ability to understand issues from multiple perspectives which makes them agile thinkers and makers—a valuable skill in a time of rapid change. While our roots are in communication, our students create work that is typically at the intersection of more than one domain.

Students work with collaborators and faculty advisors with expertise that aligns with each project. We encourage cross-disciplinary experimentation, but we are rigorous in our requirement that students are able to articulate their position, contextualize their work, and answer to a critique from all possible angles. This provides excellent preparation for work in interdisciplinary contexts.

Through a series of lab projects, research internships, and thesis work, students use design to pose questions through applied and speculative projects.

What follows is an overview. Students doing the 3-year option complete the Development Year prior to the coursework listed here.

Terms 1-2 / Fall-Spring: Lab Concept Year
Fall studio courses lay the foundation for the independent research that follows. Students are introduced to the challenges of working in multiple media, mixing disciplinary approaches, developing a critical perspective, anticipating and participating in technological change, and using design as a mode of inquiry. Students learn strategies for prototyping, people-knowing, computational literacy, networked and physical computing, and design fiction and speculation.

Each Spring students work on "Lab Inquiries": 2- to 5-week intensives that explore emerging ideas from science, technology, and culture. The inquiries expose students to contemporary issues and approaches to critical making. Sample course titles include: Community Sensing, Good Living in Mixed Reality, The New Ecology of Things, and The Ubiquitous Moving Image.

Term 3 / Summer: Lab X-Term
Over the summer, the program shifts gears, hosting research projects led by visiting researchers and faculty. Students take a 3-unit lite term and can apply to be an intern on a research project, do an off-campus internship, or take additional coursework in another domain.

On- and off-campus internships are carefully selected to expose students to new models of practice and tend to be research-oriented. Off-campus internships include places such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA, Nokia Research or the United Nations.

Terms 4-5 / Fall-Spring Lab Thesis Year
The thesis year is spent creating an individual thesis project. To support students in developing their own investigation and body of work, each student works with a lead thesis advisor, a writing advisor, and an interdisciplinary team of adjunct thesis advisors. The mix of expertise within a thesis committee reflects the mix of disciplines that intersect with each project. We've had projects that combine sound + mobile applications + urban planning, film + physical computing, or neuroscience + data visualization. The combinations are endless and the advisors are selected in response to students' interests.

Thesis Requirements
For all graduating students, the final deliverables include:

  • Thesis project: a single project or body of work that makes a contribution to the field
  • Thesis paper: sets the context for the project
  • Thesis publication: web-based documentation designed for knowledge-sharing with specific communities of practice on the internet
  • Thesis exhibition: a physical installation demonstrating the project and providing context, designed for public presentation and critique

Social action (formerly Media Design Matters)

Field track students work in a real-world context where social issues, media infrastructure, and communication technology intersect.

Field track graduates are prepared to impact the critical issues of our time. Visit the Field Blog to get the latest.

It’s about intersections

Where people meet the systems that determine access to information or the power to participate, MDP:Field students are there, learning firsthand. Our work is centered on communication and its relationship to design, technology, social justice, and civic life. Things concern us like: censorship; information in crisis situations; social media and the public sphere; privacy and personal data. Critical issues and platforms for connectivity are exciting for us. We thrive on the urgency of this work.

Outcomes take many forms depending on the specific context. Examples include: a geographic information system (GIS) to support an election, a hand-made radio to connect families in rural areas, or a community center designed for information-sharing. The focus is on relationships and resources, not consumers and artifacts. We believe this is the way to do design in the 21st century.

It’s hands-on

The Field track is built upon a unique student experience — the Field Practicum — involving a community, a partner institution, and a communication issue. Students travel wherever the Practicum takes them. In 2013-14 they will spend a minimum of ten weeks at UNICEF's Innovation Unit in Kampala, Uganda.

Students divide their time between projects in the studio, participation in a community, and managing the world of NGOs and non-profits.

In the process they have to navigate cross-cultural communication and interdisciplinary teamwork. They have to operate in unfamiliar environments while working only with the materials at hand.

Students leave with a confidence that comes from confronting fears, connecting with people and cultivating friendships. Our students graduate ready to do design work of extraordinary complexity.

It’s about participation

The Field track is for designers who are willing to take risks in public as well as in the studio. It takes courage to allow new ideas to emerge in the process of engaging with people you don't know. Students may find that the change they create is their own.

Importantly, our approach to design research is informed by anthropology: cultural exchange and reflexive participation are at the core. At the same time, we encourage students to connect with people and conduct research building upon their skills as designers. Students make the most of their ability to see the world through different eyes, to think laterally, and to communicate through images, experiences, and metaphor.

It’s an outgrowth of success

We’re not new to this model of education, in fact, we’re proven innovators. We build upon a portfolio of successes from both Media Design Practices and Designmatters, Art Center's social impact department.

With a reputation for defining new practices, the Media Design Practices curriculum has long fostered innovative approaches to community engagement and design research. For seven years, students in our “Super Studio” curriculum worked on an interdisciplinary team on an applied project within the local community.

Working with Designmatters extends our reach to include the world of international development and projects that allow us to scale from a local to a global context. It allows us to create robust partnerships and provide support to students. But don't take our word for it: take a look at Designmatters' ten-year track record of concrete accomplishments in design for social impact.

In this unique MFA, (formerly known as Media Design Matters), field-based projects are followed by a thesis tailored to individual goals.

What follows is an overview. Students doing the 3-year option complete the Development Year prior to the coursework listed here.

Terms 1-2 / Fall–Spring: Field Practicum
The Field Practicum is at the heart of the MDP:Field curriculum. Each year, the Practicum includes a community, a project partner and an opportunity for design students to learn by engaging directly with real-world conditions. Our project partner for 2013-14 will be UNICEF and the context will be UNICEF's Innovation Unit in Kampala, Uganda.

During the Fall the students are challenged to consider: “what is the role and responsibility of the designer working toward social change?” Students learn issues, theories, histories, and methods drawn from anthropology, information and communication technology studies and design research. Students learn to design communication media for social participation.

The Practicum enables students to learn in a synthetic way by working with their classmates and faculty to navigate the complexities of field work, negotiate cross-cultural relationships with people and organizations, and deal with the specificity of local communication technology resources.

The faculty provide support by connecting the students’ experiences with higher level learning objectives and contextualizing the field work to allow students to understand how approaches can be applied across a range of situations. The Practicum gives students direct experience in designing with partners and people that they may not have access to independently.

Term 3 / Summer: Field X-Term
Over the summer, the program shifts gears, hosting research projects led by visiting researchers and faculty. Students take a 3-unit lite term and can apply to be an intern on a research project, do an off-campus internship, or take additional coursework in another domain.

On- and off-campus internships are carefully selected to expose students to new models of practice and tend to be research-oriented. Off-campus internships include places such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA, Nokia Research or the United Nations.

Terms 4-5 / Fall-Spring: Field Thesis
In the Fall term students identify a direction for their thesis work and develop their role in the Practicum context with an eye toward their own development. Students begin to identify a thesis topic and interdisciplinary advisory team.

In the final Spring Term, students create a thesis project whose only requirement is that it provide a unique contribution to the field, an outcome whose form is specific to the project and the student’s career goals. Potential outcomes include continued fieldwork, media interventions, social entrepreneurship, design anthropology, open source tech development, theoretical designing/writing, or interface design for social agency.

Thesis Requirements
For all graduating students, the final deliverables include:

  • Thesis project: a contribution to design and social change
  • Thesis publication: documentation designed for knowledge-sharing with specific communities of practice
  • Thesis presentation: a public presentation

    Founded in 2001, Art Center's Designmatters initiative has become a model for design education as a catalyst for social innovation.

    With its focus on art and design education with a social impact agenda, Designmatters is now a concentration at Art Center, embedded across the college’s many disciplines.

    In Designmatters projects, real world outcomes are implemented through a series of unique partnerships and alliances. Designmatters has worked with international development agencies, government, and leading industry and helped Art Center gain Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) affiliation with the United Nations.

    Activities are organized at 3 key levels:

    As an educational magnet and research division for the college, Designmatters conceives of projects for the curriculum, oversees the DM Concentration at the undergraduate level, and is a partner with Graduate Media Design on the Media Design Matters Track;

    As an agent for social impact educational projects, Designmatters is a guarantor for implementation and assessment of projects led by students, faculty and alumni;

    As an external relations center for strategic partnership building, Designmatters leverages art and design education as a tool for positive change in the world.

    Use design to investigate and impact the world

    Choose a track, choose a duration (2- or 3-year), check the deadlines here. Please note: each track operates on a different calendar.

    What follows is simply an overview. Visit Art Center's website for complete application instructions, forms and tools, including the Media Design Practices Supplemental Application Form.

    Deadlines and Calendars
    Applications are due on the deadlines listed below for priority placement and scholarship consideration. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until each class is full. Art Center runs year-round on a trimester system. Each track operates on a different calendar.

    Lab track
    Application deadline: February 1
    The Lab track begins each Fall and runs for 20 months total. Students enter in September and graduate in April, enrolled in the following sequence of terms:

    Fall | Spring | Summer (half-time) | Fall | Spring

    Field track (w/Designmatters)
    Application deadline: February 1
    The Field track begins each Fall and runs for 20 months total. Students enter in September and graduate in April, enrolled in the following sequence of terms:

    Fall | Spring | Summer (half-time) | Fall | Spring

    Choose 2- or 3-year Option
    Applicants for each track select either a 2-year or 3-year course of study. 2-year students enter directly into their chosen track. 3-year students enroll first in the Development Year. The Development Year begins each September and runs for two terms:

    Fall | Spring

    Read more about the options.

    Students are placed by the application review committee into one of the two options based upon their resume, design portfolio, personal statement and stated preferences on the Media Design Practices Supplemental Application Form.

    Wanted: risk-takers with varied interests who pursue design and critical inquiry with depth, intelligence, empathy, and passion.

    We are particularly interested in people who want to synthesize theory and practice and engage directly with the world in the hope of creating their own unique contributions as a designer.

    For the 2-year path, we look for applicants with exceptional training and experience in the visual, spatial, interactive and graphic design fields who can realize high-level concepts with skill in visual communication and interactive design.

    For the 3-year path, we accept both accomplished and burgeoning designers from a broad range of backgrounds. Applicants with degrees in fields such as philosophy, computer science, or biology—to name just a few—bring valuable perspectives to the practice of design. We welcome applicants from all domains.

    Boundary-pushers and disciplinary misfits

    The faculty leadership mixes their expertise to create the conditions for discovery and the challenges for growth. They approach education as a creative, critical practice.

    The Chair provides a vision for the department as a whole while each degree track is headed by three core faculty members who work together to define the curriculum and mentor students.

    Department Chair

    Anne Burdick is a regular participant in the international dialogue regarding the future of graduate education and research in design. She designs experimental text projects in diverse media and participates in the nascent field of the Digital Humanities. BFA, MFA, graphic design, California Institute of the Arts.

    Lab Track Core Faculty

    Tim Durfee's interdisciplinary architecture studio is based in Los Angeles. He has won awards for architecture, exhibitions, media design, installation, furniture, and poetry. Current projects include a large suspended artwork for the Los Angeles Police Department, the forthcoming book Made Up: Design's Fictions, and a computer game / urban simulation with Ben Hooker examining a world with drones, self-driving cars, and moving houses. MArch, Yale University; BA, Literature, History, University of Rochester

    Ben Hooker collaborates with architects, industrial designers and computer scientists working in the field of human-computer interaction and has a background in screen-based multimedia design. Hooker was formerly visiting faculty at Intel Research in Berkeley and taught at Central Saint Martins College and the Royal College of Art, London. MA, computer-related design, Royal College of Art; BS, electronic imaging and media communications, University of Bradford.,

    Phil van Allen is an interaction designer, educator, researcher and technologist with 30 years experience at the intersection of technology and the creative arts. He is the creator of the NET Lab Toolkit, free software designed for project sketching and production that enables novices and experts to integrate hardware, media and interactive behaviors for products, installations, and research. BA, experimental psychology, UC Santa Cruz.,

    Field Track Core Faculty

    Elizabeth Chin is an anthropologist whose research interests include children and childhood; consumption; dance; race; urban geography; Haiti. She approaches these from an ecumenical theoretical perspective, grounded in political economy, critical theory and a good dose of literary, artistic and post modern influences. PhD, Anthropology, City University of New York; BFA, Drama and Anthropology, NYU.

    Sean Donahue is principal of Research-Centered Design, a Los Angeles-based design practice that explores how design can be utilized to make significant contributions to society. MFA, Media Design, Art Center College of Design; BA, Graphic Design, Indiana University of

    Drawn from Southern California's exciting cultural and scientific communities, our adjunct faculty bring a range of perspectives to bear on student work.

    Thesis Advisors

    CamLab is a collaboration between Jemima Wyman and Anna Mayer begun at the California Institute of the Arts in 2005. CamLab believes that a contemporary politics of pleasure must acknowledge the contiguity of language and body in facilitating a spectrum of experience that includes alterity, intimacy, and humor. This philosophy materializes in CamLab's process, in particular the duo's social practice work and relational object-making. Solo shows include Sea and Space Explorations (LA), 40000 (Chicago), and Dan Graham (LA). Group exhibitions include Torrance Museum of Art (LA), Fellows of Contemporary Art (LA), Track 16 (LA), and Galerie Califia (CZ). CamLab has performed in Los Angeles at the Hammer Museum, The Lounge at REDCAT, Wildness at the Silver Platter, and Summercamp Project Project. Recently CamLab's 'Whip What Stat' and 'Houndstooth Cameltoe' videos were screened as part of the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum's ArtLab+ program. In 2012 CamLab staged three event-based works at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

    Elise Co is a media artist and founding partner of Aeolab, a design and technology consulting firm in Los Angeles. Co holds an M.S. in media arts and sciences and a B.S. in architecture from MIT. Previously, she taught courses in interaction design and physical computing at the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst in Basel, Switzerland. Her work has been shown internationally, including at MoMA, SIGGRAPH and IMRF Tokyo.

    Garnet Hertz is a contemporary artist and Fulbright Scholar whose work explores themes of technological progress, creativity, innovation and interdisciplinarity. Hertz is an Artist in Residence in the Laboratory for Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction at UC Irvine. He has shown his work internationally, including Ars Electronica, DEAF and SIGGRAPH and was awarded the prestigious 2008 Oscar Signorini Award in robotic art. He is founder and director of Dorkbot SoCal, a monthly Los Angeles-based DIY lecture series on electronic art and design.

    Wendy Hsu is Mellon Digital Scholarship Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center of Digital Learning + Research at Occidental College. She received her PhD in the Critical and Comparative Studies in Music program in the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia. Her research interests lie at the intersection of popular music performance and the transnational contacts between Asia and America, focusing on issues related to race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, and migration. She has published on Taqwacore, Asian American independent rock music, Yoko Ono, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Bollywood film music. Her teaching areas include music in Asian America, transnational popular musics, and race & gender in popular music. Since 2007, she has designed and taught four undergraduate courses in the Music Department and the Studies of Women and Gender Department at UVa and at Occidental College.

    Norman Klein is a cultural critic, media historian and novelist. He is the author of The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects; The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory; and The Imaginary Twentieth Century, a science-fiction database novel and exhibition which ran at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany. Klein is a professor at CalArts, has taught as adjunct faculty at Art Center since 1982 and is now also a thesis advisor for the Media Design Program.

    Jennifer Krasinski writes on the subject of art, film, and video for numerous publications such as Frieze, Modern Painters, Art In America, Spike Art Quarterly, Bidoun, East of Borneo and N+1 Film Review. Her fiction has appeared in journals such as Punk Planet, Joyland, Frozen Tears, and MYTHM. She is also the author of Prop Tragedies (Wrath of Dynasty Press, 2010). In addition to being a thesis advisor in the Media Design program, she is an adjunct faculty member Graduate Fine Art department. She is a graduate of Vassar College, The Courtauld Institute of Art, and Art Center College of Design.

    Mike Milley recently joined the BMW Group's Designworks studio as a Director in their Creative Consulting practice. He is focusing on Research and Strategy programs as a place to advocate for organizational & process innovation. Prior to that, Mike founded Samsung's Global Lifestyle Research Lab, a forward-looking think tank and insight incubator. He's also worked on advanced design teams at Nike and Philips. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Parsons School of Design.

    Tim Schwartz grew up in St. Louis, MO. He received a BA in Physics from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego. In January 2010, he developed technology to help reunited missing people affected by the earthquake in Haiti and now organizes a group dealing with family reunification. In 2010, Schwartz spent four months traveling the country in a mobile research laboratory investigating what is lost as archives become digital.

    Mimi Zeiger is editor and publisher of loud paper, a zine and blog dedicated to increasing the volume of architectural discourse. She is a founding member of #lgnlgn, a think tank on architecture and publishing. The group's work has been shown at Urban Design Week, the New Museum, Storefront for Art and Architecture, pinkcomma gallery, and the AA School. She holds a Master of Architecture degree from SCI-Arc and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University.

    Rosten Woo is a designer, writer, and educator living in Los Angeles. He is co-founder and former executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), a New York Based non-profit organization dedicated to using art and design to foster civic participation. His work has been exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial, the Venice Architecture Biennale, Netherlands Architectural Institute, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and various piers, public housing developments, tugboats, shopping malls, and parks in New York  City. He has written on design, politics, and music for such publications as the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, City Limits, and Metropolis Magazine. His first book, "Street Value," was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010. He has served on the boards of NYC non-profits Place in History and the Groundswell Community Mural Project. He received his BA in Government from Cornell University.


    Writing Advisors

    Shannon Herbert recently completed her Ph.D. in English Literature at The University of Chicago. Her dissertation describes a new genre of contemporary fiction, which she calls curatorial novels, which resemble detective fiction but abandon the detective, staging a drama where information never attains the status of knowledge. The genre thus registers the tensions of a broader epistemological landscape: an excess of data but no stable ground of objectivity, a longing for certainty without the means of attaining it. She also teaches literature and writing courses at Santa Monica College.

    Jane McFadden is an art historian of modern and contemporary art whose work focuses on the interdisciplinary practices of the 1960s. She is currently working on a book, There and Not There: Walter de Maria, forthcoming from UC Press. Her work has aldo been published in Grey Room, Art Journal, Modern Painters and X-tra. She is author of recent essay for Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA, 1945-1980 (Getty) and Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 (MOCA).

    Thea Petchler is Art Center’s Director of Writing. She teaches courses on postwar U.S. history, creative nonfiction and visual studies and her research focuses on the democratization and professionalization of creativity in American business and education. Petchler has served as a visiting scholar at Princeton University’s Center for Arts and Cultural Policy and as a program officer at the Center for Arts and Culture in Washington, D.C. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa.

    Molly Wright Steenson is a design strategist and architectural historian who researches how technology and interactivity fit into our cities, buildings and everyday lives. Molly was a resident professor and director of the Connected Communities group at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate in architecture at Princeton University, where her dissertation focuses on computing and interactivity in architecture and urbanism in the 60s and 70s. She holds a Master’s of Environmental Design (M.E.D.) in architectural history from Yale University. At Art Center, she is a thesis advisor and teaches in the knowledge-sharing workshop.

    Adjunct Faculty

    David Leonard is a media artist who shares a love of technology, science, cinema and journalism through an artistic lens. Leonard combines all aspects of media to present content that challenges audiences to engage in participatory relationships to social issues. Leonard began his career following his father’s, Gary Leonard, footsteps into photojournalism. Throughout his youth in Los Angeles he documented and wrote about the Los Angeles Riots, OJ Simpson trial and other stories for local papers. Eventually Leonard would find himself on the other side of the camera as a local television reporter. His stories have appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN and the Colbert Report.

    Christopher Morabito is a Los Angeles designer who enjoys writing bios of himself in the third person. After a ten year run making big websites for big companies, Chris now focuses on graphic design and typography for creative and cultural clients. His work has been recognized by Communication Arts, the Webby's, and has appeared in New York Times Magazine. In 2009 he became the art director of Black Clock, a fancy literary journal edited by Steve Erickson. Chris sometimes laments the time and money he spent earning a B.A. in Philosophy (from UCLA) and an M.F.A. in Graphic Design (from CalArts), but at least hopes you'll be impressed by his academic prowess. He believes deeply that you're never fully dressed without a smile.

    Jennifer Rider focuses on the design of print and screen-based media for the arts and cultural sector. Her recent collaborations include exhibition catalogues and web sites for several Pacific Standard Time exhibitions, The Edible Schoolyard Project, LACMA and MoCA. Jennifer holds an MFA in Graphic Design from California Institute of the Arts and a Bachelor’s in Art from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her work has received multiple awards and has been recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).

    Holly Willis is an Associate Director at USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy. She is also the editor of The New Ecology of Things and the author of New Digital Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image. The former editor of RES magazine, Willis has written extensively on experimental media practices for a variety of publications. She holds a Ph.D. in critical studies in cinema- television from USC.

    Richard Wheeler is an artist, designer, and technologist. He has written on technology, security, and privacy for "The Daily Beast" and "Wired." And as a consultant he is a product adviser for early-stage investment technology companies, work ranges in scope from strategic guidance to founders and C-level management, to operational guidance on specific product development efforts, to hands-on development. He previously worked as a consultant to the Department of Defense and as an analyst with the United States Army. Prior to his work in defense Wheeler worked for over a decade in design, working in museums, publishing, and finally as a fashion designer for companies such as Ann Taylor and Calvin Klein. Wheeler holds an M.F.A. in Design Media Arts from UCLA, an M.A. in Security Studies from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and a B.A. in Fine Art and History from Hunter College, CUNY. Surprisingly, he is not 80 years old.

    Industry hotshots, academic overachievers, scrappy entrepreneurs, and mad geniuses join us as residents, lecturers, guest critics and project partners.

    Visiting Provocateurs 2000-present

    75B, Design Collective, Rotterdam
    Mark Allen, Machine Project
    Rebecca Allen, Visionary Artist
    Stuart Bailey, Dexter Sinister and Dot Dot Dot Magazine
    Dustin Beatty, Anthem Magazine
    Julian Bleecker, Near Future Laboratory
    Tim Blum, Blum & Poe
    Lauren Bon, Artist/Activist
    Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, MOCA at the PDC
    John Seely Brown, former Xerox PARC, Annenberg Center USC
    Benjamin Bratton, Sociologist and Design Strategist
    Kenyatta Cheese,
    Matthew Coolidge, Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI)
    Ben Conrad, Logan
    Nikolai Cornell, George P. Johnson
    Jordan Crandall, Visual Artist
    Denise Gonzales Crisp, Designer, Writer
    Zoe Crosher, Artist
    Sharon Daniel, Digital Arts and New Media, UCSC
    Jenna Didier, Materials + Applications
    Sean Dockray, Telic
    Paul Dourish, Department of Informatics, UC Irvine
    David Erdman, servo
    Marc Fornes, theverymany
    Tracy Fullerton, Game Designer, USC
    Jens Gehlhaar, Creative Director, Brand New School
    Mieke Gerritzen, Visionary-in-Residence
    Alexandra Grant, Artist
    April Greiman, Made in Space
    Justin Hall,
    Marcus Hauer, Schoenerwissen/OfCD
    Oliver Hess, Materials + Applications, TED Fellow
    Perry Hoberman, Media Artist, NYC/LA/Singapore
    Adriene Jenik, UCSD
    Natalie Jerimijenko, UCSD
    Michael Joyce, Author
    Ned Kahn, MacArthur Genius
    Geoff Kaplan, General Working Group
    Somi Kim, Brand Integration Group, Ogilvy & Mather
    Max Kisman, Holland Fonts
    kozyndan, Los Angeles
    George Legrady, UCSB
    LIARS, musicians
    Greg Lynn, Form
    Willem Henri Lucas, WILLEM AUGUSTUS
    Gaston Nogues, Ball-Nogues Studio
    Geoff Manaugh, BLDGBLOG
    Lev Manovich, Visual Arts, UCSD
    Tom Marble, Architect, Author
    Geoff McFetridge, Champion Graphics
    Jane McGonigal, Avantgame
    Mark Stephen Meadows, pighed
    Julia Meltzer, Los Angeles
    Sally Menke, A.C.E.
    Michael Meredith/MOS, Architect, Filmmaker
    Mike Mills, director, Los Angeles
    Keith Mitnick, Architect, Author
    Lize Mogel, interdisciplinary artist and independent curator
    Motion Theory
    The Museum of Jurassic Technology
    Michael Naimark, Media Artist
    Eric Nakamura, Giant Robot
    Adriana Parcero, Nokia
    Anne Pascual, Schoenerwissen/OfCD
    Celia Pearce, game designer + author
    Fiona Raby, Dunne + Raby
    Casey Reas,
    Kate Rich, Feral Trade
    Alexis Rochas, I/O
    Brian Roettinger, Hand Held Heart
    Ian Sands, former Director of Envisioning for Microsoft Office Labs
    Janet Sarbanes, Author
    Dmitri Siegel, designer and writer
    Stephanie Smith, Ecoshack
    Jennifer Steinkamp, Artist
    Bruce Sterling, Author
    Eddo Stern, artist
    Super Happy Bunny
    Gail Swanlund, StripeLA
    Koert van Mensvoort, MDP Visionaries-in- Residence
    Linda Taalman / Alan Koch,Taalman Koch Architecture
    Jason Tester, Institute for the Future
    Alexei Tylevich, Logan
    Martin Venezky, Appetite Engineers
    Rick Vermeulen, Graphic Designer
    Jonathan Wells, RES
    Davey Whitcraft, WILLEM AUGUSTUS
    Fiona Whitton, Telic

    The team that enables our studio to thrive, our staff are creative practitioners and educators as well as administrators and MacGyvers.

    Kevin Wingate, Director, MDP, MDP/Lab
    An artist and educator, Kevin Wingate cares about cultural fetishes, geometric abstractions and the physical limits of materials. He exhibited his paintings at Acuna-Hansen Gallery in Los Angeles. While exhibiting nationally, he has been a part of Pillow Lavås, a collaborative group that intersects lifestyle, culture and social interaction. In 2004, the group was part of the Class: C gallery for the Orange County Biennial of Art. MFA, Art, UC San Diego; MA, BFA, Art, Webster University.

    Casey Anderson, Digital Tech Coordinator
    Casey Anderson is an artist working in a number of media, including composition, improvisation, electronic music, saxophone, text, and installations. In addition to the Grad Media Design Program, Casey also works with Machine Project. MFA, Music Composition, California Institute of the Arts; BM, Music Composition, Philosophy, University of Wisconsin

    Pharidah Ddamulira, Research Associate, MDP/Field, Uganda
    Pharidah Ddamulira is a Research, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and Child Development Specialist, examining practicalities and trends of best practice in programming for both development and humanitarian interventions in Eastern Africa with national and international agencies. She has trained more than 700 individuals in Child protection and Development, Research Methodologies, Monitoring and Evaluation, Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Congo, and Zimbabwe. BA, Social Sciences Focusing on Social administration, Psychology, Sociology, Public Relations, Anthropolgy and Cross Cultural Development, Makerere University, Diploma, Child Studies and Gender Mainstreaming, HREA; Diploma, Tourism and Travel, ABE-Uk.

    Where science fiction meets science fact

    A 14,000 sq. ft. former supersonic jet testing facility at Art Center’s South Campus in Pasadena, CA. Our humble abode.

    Once affiliated with the area's aerospace innovations—Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are our neighbors—it's a place where science fiction became science fact.

    A dramatic setting conducive to inspiration and experimentation, this space is dedicated exclusively to Grad Media Design and contains student studios, classrooms, modular meeting spaces, a small kitchen, administrative offices, a faculty studio, dedicated research space and the Making Lab which includes an electronics workshop, lasercutter, photo studio, editing bays, plotters and printers.

    The 50 ft. high ceilings make the Wind Tunnel Gallery a unique space for class critiques, thesis shows, art and design exhibitions, lecture series, multimedia performances, and other public events.

    A stunning example of adaptive reuse, the South Campus was redesigned by architect Kevin Daly and opened in 2004. Among the first buildings in Pasadena to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, this award-winning structure also houses Art Center's Graduate Art program, Public Programs, and the Archetype Press, a one-of-a-kind letterpress printing facility. Our students also have access to the extensive resources available at the College's Hillside Campus, located just five miles away above the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

    Learn to create. Influence change. 14 majors, 1600 students, and a new emphasis on graduate education.

    For more than 80 years, we’ve achieved an international reputation for our rigorous, transdisciplinary curriculum, faculty of professionals, strong ties to industry and a commitment to socially responsible design. At Art Center, we prepare artists and designers to be make a positive impact in their chosen fields—as well as the world at large.

    Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, Art Center College of Design has long been at the forefront of cultivating leaders in the fields of art and design. From its seminal role in the founding of the first advanced-design concept studio for the automotive industry in the 1950s, to being the first design school to receive the United Nations non-governmental organization (NGO) status, to its commitment to expanding the role of art and design in addressing key sustainability issues, Art Center has a history of anticipating societal changes and trends.

    Los Angeles (the megalopolis) and California (the state of mind) have a profound effect on how we think about the future of design.

    Birthplace of the internet, the Black Panthers and the Mars Rover. Home to John Cage, Steve Jobs, César Chávez and Charles and Ray Eames. California is where invention and radical change are a way of life. It is the first state with no majority race.

    Los Angeles, more a region than a city, helps power the global circulation of goods and symbols, for it is both the main U.S. port of entry for Chinese manufacturing and also the major exporter of popular culture worldwide. 92 languages are spoken by the children in our schools. It is diffuse, layered, defiant, and maddeningly sunny.

    Difficult to pin down, it is an experience whose impact is not easily defined. Here are a few who have tried:

    Michael Maltzan, architect:
    The city presented itself to me as a series of colliding events and interactions. Multiple cultures and landscapes emerged through the light of the overexposed horizon in flashes of contradiction: fertile and arid, dark and blinding, restrictive and generous — spaces ripe with inconsistency. Slowly, the city’s form revealed itself around me, incomplete and genuine. I knew at that first moment that Los Angeles condensed all of the challenges and all of the possibilities of the contemporary city and resembled the future of what was to come.

    Los Angeles has been compared to a laboratory — an urban ground for experiments both prescribed and accidental. Laboratory is a perfect word. Enveloping, chaotic and mutable, Los Angeles is a nocturnal workshop where the constant experiments leave no time to tidy up and reset the data in order to start fresh in the morning.

    Robert Gottlieb, Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI):
    Los Angeles has also become the home of a new kind of labor movement, of a community-oriented environmentalism, and of a multi-ethnic coalition politics. It has been and continues to be a place where reformers, radicals, and visionaries help shape the future…

    Norman Klein, cultural historian and author:
    L.A. is the constantly shifting metropolis constructed entirely for mass consumption by fantastical and fevered minds with nary a glance at the rich complexity roiling beneath its shimmering skin. From gritty downtown cop dramas to technicolor Hollywood fantasies, it has been omnipresent in American celluloid, but rarely truly captured. It is, in short, the most filmed yet least understood megalopolis in modern American history.

    Jean Baudrillard, cultural critic and author:
    There is nothing to match flying over Los Angeles by night. A sort of luminous, geometric, incandescent immensity, stretching as far as the eye can see, bursting out from the cracks in the clouds… The muted fluorescence of all the diagonals: Wilshire, Lincoln, Sunset, Santa Monica. Already flying over San Fernando Valley, you come upon the horizontal infinite in every direction. But once you are beyond the mountain, a city ten times larger hits you. You will never have encountered anything that stretches as far as this before. Even the sea cannot match it, since it is not divided up geometrically.

    John Lazar as Ronny (Z-Man) Barzell in Russ Meyers' Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:
    This is my Happening and it freaks me out.

    Just the facts

    2000, MFA, 42-55, 7, 10, 8, 26+, 64, 94, 66, 98, 68, 48

    Year established: 2000

    Degree offered: Master of Fine Arts

    Students: 42–55
    Core Faculty: 7
    Adjunct Thesis Advisors: 10
    Adjunct Faculty: 8

    Guest lecturers per year: 26+

    Total Units Required:

    Field track, 2-year: 64
    Field track, 3-year: 94

    Lab track, 2-year: 66
    Lab track, 3-year: 96

    January Average High Temperature:
    68º F / 20º C

    January Average Low Temperature:
    48º F / 9º C

    Write, call, join, like, subscribe, browse, stop by.

    General inquiries about MDP/Lab+Field track questions:
    Kevin Wingate, Director
    +1 626 396-2469
    kevin.wingate at

    Join our mailing lists:
    Media Design Practices: mdp at
    Art Center Admissions

    Find us online (and be our friend):

    Stop by:
    The Wind Tunnel
    Art Center College of Design
    South Campus
    950 S. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105

    To make is to know

    In the MDP, we believe that the act of designing is a unique way of knowing about the world.

    As designers, we create objects and communications that inform, influence, and alter everyday life. In the process of making, we visualize, iterate, and critique, and we believe that it is through these activities that designers can gain unique insights and generate new ideas and artifacts. This approach is built into both the curriculum and faculty research activities.

    Design led by inquiry is another way to think about designing as research. We believe that design-driven investigations can generate new ways of thinking about design, new insights into people and their daily practices, and new approaches or methods for invention. At the same time we value applied research that brings new knowledge to life. The output of our research activities takes the form of not only conference papers and publications, but also new design practices, new technologies, new communication formats and uses, new models and methods for collaboration, and new products and services.

    We collaborate with industry leaders, mad scientists, community organizations, international development agencies, foundations, inventors, independent artists, and more.

    For the latest partners working with the Field track, visit the Field Blog.

    Updates on partners to come.

    Students and faculty work side-by-side to formulate provocative questions in the classroom, the field, the studio, and the lab.