Course Information

Syllabus – Major Studio 1

Parsons The New School for Design

MFA in Design and Technology



Course Dates: August 28, 2013 to December 16, 2013


Course Meeting Times: Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:10pm to 2:50pm

Mondays and Wednesdays: 

Mondays, Room 1202, 6 East 16th St Building.
Wednesdays, Room 1205, 6 East 16th St Building.
Instructor: Jonah Brucker-Cohen

Email: jonah (at)

Class Blog:

Office Hours:  by appointment


Course Description:

This course is the primary introduction to the creation of work within a design and technology context and should be seen as the interface for MFADT core topics — Narrative, Computation, and Interactivity — as well as the tripartite of the program: design, technology, and society. The course is designed as a stepping-stone to a student’s own investigations and interests, as well as a space for exploration and experimentation with alternative design processes and methodologies. The course is run in a studio format, which means all students are expected to participate in the making, Discussion, and critique of work.


Learning Outcomes:

By the successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

Identify and propose a contribution to a defined area of creative practice or research.

Distinguish this contribution through creative production and written text.

Demonstrate the historical and critical significance of a contribution through creative production and written text.

Comparatively analyze and work related to an area of creative practice or research.

Think and speak critically about one’s creative practice or research.


Assessable Tasks and Grade Calculation:


Task Description %
Documentation of Process Regularly updated reports in the form of posts contributed to the class blog that contains essential information about each project 10
Class Participation Regular attendance on scheduled class meeting days. Participation in Discussion and critique, evidence of engagement with activities and exercises. 10
Organizationand Communication Ability to plan and execute production and testing of prototypes according to posted deadlines; consistent communication with instructors and peers. 10
Prototypes The Ability to build prototypes of projects and effectively communicate how they function, operate, and who their users would be. 20
Studio Critiques Weekly in-class presentations, including final  Critiques are assessed on presentation skills, clarity, organization, and evidence of analysis and critical thinking in relation to practice and research. 20
Deliverables Submission of final projects and paper documenting final projects. 30


Grading Standards



Failing grades are given for required work that is not submitted, for incomplete final projects or for examinations that are not taken (without prior notification and approval). Make-up work or completion of missed examinations may be permitted only with the approval of the instructor and the program director.



The final deliverable adheres to all of the general guidelines of formatting, page-length, and the minimum terms of the assignment.  Written work receiving a “D” grade may be a simple restatement of fact or commonly-held opinion.  These kinds of papers also will tend to put forward obviously contradictory or conflicting points of view.  “D” papers may also have serious organizational and grammatical errors in evidence, which may or may not impede the reader’s ability to understand the author’s point.



These are average projects and participation by students.  They will demonstrate some success in engaging with the assigned readings or material.  The paper will show that the student can identify and work with key terms and passages in a text/project and apply them to ideas and examples found in other texts/projects or other outside material.  Additionally, the paper will demonstrate effort in the areas of analysis and critical thinking by posing an interesting problem or question.  Typical of a “C/C+” project, however, is that the original problem or question, once asked, does not move the project forward.  Often, there is no real solution given, or there is a variety of possible solutions put forward without a clear sense of where the author’s commitment lies. “C/C+” papers may also have significant organizational, grammatical and/or editorial errors in evidence.  These errors may periodically impede the reader’s ability to understand the author’s point, or may lead to a paper that seems repetitive or circular.



These are very good projects and papers. The “B/B+” paper does everything a “C/C+” project does, but offers a sustained and meaningful structure to a critical endeavor that is more complex than a project at the “C/C+” level.  What also distinguishes a “B/B+” project is the author’s ability to offer a unique insight, to ask questions of primary or secondary source material, and/or to set up a debate between texts or points of view.  The author’s point of view is clear and an argument is sustained fairly consistently throughout the paper.  “B/B+” projects are logically organized, and also respond to the assignment in thoughtful and distinctive ways.  Although minor grammatical and editorial errors may be present, they are under control and do not impede meaning or clarity in the paper.



These are exceptionally good projects that go above and beyond the expectations and requirements set forth in the assignment.  They demonstrate substantial effort and achievement in the areas of critical thinking and scholarship. They also demonstrate considerable interpretive connections between concrete ideas or textual moments, a high level of analysis, and flexibility of argument.  The argument or point of view that is offered is consistent throughout the project, and governs the use and interpretation of all examples, and primary and/or secondary source material.  “A” papers are very well organized, and are free of grammatical and editorial errors.



A grade of I (Incomplete), signifying a temporary deferment of a regular grade, may be assigned when coursework has been delayed at the end of the semester for unavoidable and legitimate reasons. Incomplete grades are given only with the written approval of the instructor and the program director. The Request for an Incomplete Grade form must be filled out by the student and instructor prior to the end of the semester.


Divisional, Program and Class Policies 



Students are responsible for all assignments, even if they are absent.  Late papers, failure to complete the readings assigned for class Discussion, and lack of preparedness for in-class Discussions and presentations will jeopardize your successful completion of this course.



Class participation is an essential part of class and includes: keeping up with reading, contributing meaningfully to class Discussions, active participation in group work, and coming to class regularly and on time.



Faculty members may fail any student who is absent for a significant portion of class time. A significant portion of class time is defined as three absences for classes that meet once per week and four absences for classes that meet two or more times per week. During intensive summer sessions a significant portion of class time is defined as two absences. Lateness or early departure from class may also translate into one full absence.



In rare instances, I may be delayed arriving to class.  If I have not arrived by the time class is scheduled to start, you must wait a minimum of thirty minutes for my arrival.  In the event that I will miss class entirely, a sign will be posted at the classroom indicating your assignment for the next class meeting.

Academic Integrity

This is the university’s Statement on Academic Integrity: “Plagiarism and cheating of any kind in the course of academic work will not be tolerated.  Academic honesty includes accurate use of quotations, as well as appropriate and explicit citation of sources in instances of paraphrasing and describing ideas, or reporting on research findings or any aspect of the work of others (including that of instructors and other students).  These standards of academic honesty and citation of sources apply to all forms of academic work (examinations, essays, projects, computer work, art and design work, oral presentations, and other projects).”

It is the responsibility of students to learn the procedures specific to their discipline for correctly and appropriately differentiating their own work from that of others.  Compromising your academic integrity may lead to serious consequences, including (but not limited to) one or more of the following: failure of the assignment, failure of the course, academic warning, disciplinary probation, suspension from the university, or dismissal from the university.

Every student at Parsons signs an Academic Integrity Statement as a part of the registration process.  Thus, you are held responsible for being familiar with, understanding, adhering to and upholding the spirit and standards of academic integrity as set forth by the Parsons Student Handbook.

Guidelines for Written Assignments

Plagiarism is the use of another person’s words or ideas in any academic work using books, journals, internet postings, or other student papers without proper acknowledgment. For further information on proper acknowledgment and plagiarism, including expectations for paraphrasing source material and proper forms of citation in research and writing, students should consult the Chicago Manual of Style (cf. Turabian, 6th edition). The University Writing Center                also provides useful on-line resources to help students understand and avoid plagiarism. See

Students must receive prior permission from instructors to submit the same or substantially overlapping material for two different assignments.  Submission of the same work for two assignments without the prior permission of instructors is plagiarism.


Guidelines for Studio Assignments

Work from other visual sources may be imitated or incorporated into studio work if the fact of imitation or incorporation and the identity of the original source are properly acknowledged. There must be no intent to deceive; the work must make clear that it emulates or comments on the source as a source. Referencing a style or concept in otherwise original work does not constitute plagiarism. The originality of studio work that presents itself as “in the manner of” or as playing with “variations on” a particular source should be evaluated by the individual faculty member in the context of a critique.


Incorporating ready-made materials into studio work as in a collage, synthesized photograph or paste-up is not plagiarism in the educational context. In the commercial world, however, such appropriation is prohibited by copyright laws and may result in legal consequences.


Student Disability Services

In keeping with the University’s policy of providing equal access for students with disabilities, any student with a disability who needs academic accommodations is welcome to meet with me privately.  All conversations will be kept confidential.  Students requesting any accommodations will also need to meet with Jason Luchs in the office of Student Disability Services, who will conduct an intake, and if appropriate, provide an academic accommodation notification letter to you to bring to me.  At that point I will review the letter with you and Discuss these accommodations in relation to this course.  Mr. Luchs’ office is located in 79 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor. His direct line is (212) 229-5626 x3135.  You may also access more information through the University’s web site at


Three Primary Assignments:


  1. Weekly projects (mini projects): introduction to design research methods; translating research into a series of roughly prototyped designed artifacts that feature a specific point of view. Objective of the assignment: reflective and analytical thinking (how did they make the choices they made?), research methods, contextualization of work, user scenarios and user testing.


  1. Instruction Sets for Strangers – 4 weeks: collaborative interfacing with communities in urban space. Objective of the assignment: creating user scenarios, working in teams and participants in the iterative design process.


  1. Individual project – 6 weeks: research, the flow of concept to design, production, testing and application. Objective of the assignment: articulating a project; actualizing and externalizing the project idea in a project; analyzing and evaluating the project’s success; written documentation


Weekly Assignments:

Each week students will also work on smaller, targeted in-class assignments designed to support work on the primary assignment. We encourage writing as an integral part of design thinking. Weekly projects may be done individually or in groups, at the faculty’s discretion. Additional Reading may be assigned throughout the semester. All reading should have a one paragraph minimum reaction posted to the class blog.

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