Allan Chochinov A\J AlternativesJournal.ca

Allan Chochinov is the chair and co-founder of the groundbreaking new Master of Fine Arts in Products of Design at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The two-year degree program was launched this past September, and features classes at leading design firms IDEO and Material ConneXion. The curriculum’s emphasis on the life cycle, intent and value of products aims to create a new generation of designers that are more responsive to the dynamic needs of the 21st century. 

Chochinov has already been shaping discourse for nearly two decades as editor-in-chief of core77.com, an online hub for the industrial design community. The Winnipeg native also sits on the boards of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Designers Accord and Design Ignites Change, organizations working to entrench sustainability and social change.

What is this program all about?

It’s a progressive master’s degree that prepares new leaders for the changing terrain of design. It concerns itself with systems, scale, making and consequence.

Why launch it now?

We are at a moment of extraordinary opportunity and capability in design, and at the same time faced with some of the most daunting challenges in history. How can we create new goods and services and also fulfill our responsibilities as stewards of the environment? This is one of the fundamental questions of our age.

What does this program offer that design graduates could not find before?

The program is exceptionally balanced in terms of design thinking – the processes and methodologies around problem framing and problem solving – and design making – the hands-on prototyping of solutions and offerings. There’s also a huge emphasis on business structures, strategy and entrepreneurship. Students will be working on problems ranging from food systems to educational systems, and from interactive objects to branding and positioning. We consider all of these [to be] “products of design.”

What are the basic principles that make design sustainable?

For me, the first is Hippocratic: Do no harm. This is extraordinarily challenging, since creating anything new often necessitates some kind of material extraction and processing. A way around this is in moving around existing elements of the equation, and combining them in new ways.

What are your hopes for the future of design?

My hopes are simple: That designers consider the impact of what they create before the novelty of creating it. Designers think they’re in the artifact business, but they’re not; they’re in the consequence business.

Learn more about the Products of Design masters program.

Post-secondary students across Ontario interested in sustainable design have until April 3, 2013 to register for OCAD's Sustainable Design Awards, for which Allan Chochinov served as a juror last year. Submissions are due June 2, 2013. Get more info at the Sustainable Design Awards website.

Laura is a past A\J managing editor. She has an MA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University, is an organizing aficionado, lackadaisical gardener, and former musical theatre producer. @inhabitings

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