Design for Social Impact

Master of Arts in Design for Social Impact

Do you want to contribute to societal change? Do you see issues around you that you think could be improved or solved? Are you creative and entrepreneurial? Are you looking to work with like-minded people?

Paris College of Art joins forces with MakeSense in this one-year Master’s program (MA) in Design for Social Impact that equips citizen designers with the critical thinking (ethics, research methods), practical (design thinking, entrepreneurship, prototyping), and soft (governance, leadership, networking) skills to successfully develop and lead design projects that will bring positive societal changes. The guiding question for this program is:

How can design change the world?

Students work with faculty and partner organizations to research and design a solution to a societal problem that they have identified. Each student develops an individual project to research and prototype a solution for. Students have worked on issues as varied as plastic recycling in the home, refugee integration through sports, promoting ethical consumer choices, reducing food waste, designing inclusive clothing, promoting slow fashion, or developing curricula to raise awareness of mental health.

In the first semester, students develop problem-solving skills (design thinking, social entrepreneurship, ethical reasoning, leadership, prototyping) and research the issue that they have identified, and in the second semester, they will develop a design solution that can be tested and implemented.

The MA in Design for Social Impact draws from the expertise of international faculty members and the network of the MakeSense community of social entrepreneurs.

 

About MakeSense

MakeSense is an international organization bringing together 2,000 social entrepreneurs with 30,000 volunteers from over 100 cities in 70 countries. By putting together volunteers’ skills and ideas, MakeSense’s aim is to help social entrepreneurs create and develop their businesses and solve the most pressing issues faced by society in such areas as education, health, environment, food, etc. SenseCampus is the educational arm of MakeSense, offering dedicated pedagogical programs to get students to achieve the 17 sustainable development goals defined by the UN. Founded in 2012, it counts over 4,000 alumni and 20 academic partners, including the highest ranked business schools in France.

 

Faculty

Linda Jarvin copy

Linda Jarvin

Chief Academic Officer
Klaus Fruchtnis

Klaus Fruchtnis

Associate Dean of Graduate Studies
Naomi Asato

Naomi Asato

Adjunct Faculty
brunel-lafargue-karen

Karen Brunel-Lafargue

Adjunct Faculty
Simon Droaurd

Simon Drouard

Adjunct Faculty
Lisa Salamandra

Lisa Salamandra

Adjunct Faculty
Victor Senave

Victor Senave

Adjunct Faculty
serena_maurizio

Maurizio Serena

Adjunct Faculty
Miyo Van Stenis

Miyö Van Stenis

Adjunct Faculty
Stephanie Zeller

Stéphanie Zeller

Adjunct Faculty

MA Curriculum

Credits

One-Year Program

fall

Prototyping

Code
MDES 0500
Description

This course will introduce students to digital design and fabrication techniques within the context of contemporary art and design. The hands-on course will assist students in nurturing the ability to efficiently translate ideas and concepts into digitally produced physical objects. Students will be given the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to maintain, calibrate and troubleshoot equipment in a fabrication lab as well as learn what it takes to keep a lab in operation. Students will be given the opportunity to create objects utilizing industrial laser cutters, 3D digital modeling, 3D digital scanning, and 3D printing. We will consider digital fabrication and its role in the localization and production of global goods and explore its impact on the commodification of the art object. At such early stages of digital fabrication, students can take on great roles in fostering the development of alternative materials, the creation of more efficient digital production as well as the abstraction and deconstruction of the many digital fabrication processes. The class will include three assignments to create projects using the three machines (laser, 3D) and the opportunity to work on a final project.

Introduction to Research & Methodology

Description

The course provides introductory-to-advanced-level research and methodology instruction, covering topics from art and design theory to the use of technology. This course focuses in depth on various research methods currently used to inform the design process. It builds on knowledge and skills acquired in the first semester to introduce students to specific research methods for designers and artists. The course will cover research in physical human factors; human cognitive factors; cultural human factors; and ethnographic fieldwork. Students will learn how to apply these methods to the design process through hands-on projects requiring a multidisciplinary approach.

In this section, students will be introduced to the basic tenets of research in order to support their reasoning with respect to the design process. Foremost, they will learn to formulate a design research problematic; engage in data gathering and analysis; differentiate between primary and secondary research sources; carry out quantitative and qualitative research.

Design Thinking

Code
MDES 0505
Description

This course will combine review and discussion of the principles of Design Thinking with practical hands-on applications. One of the applications will be a two-day challenge with SenseSchool and other academic partners for an Innovation Game. SenseSchool regularly organizes the Innovation Game to business schools as an inter-campus competition for sustainable innovation. Students are split into teams and tasked to design innovative and concrete solutions to 20 challenges faced by real social entrepreneurs. At the end solutions are pitched by the students to a panel and the best ideas are rewarded.

Social Entrepreneurship Project

Code
MDES 0502
Description

This course is supervised by PCA faculty in collaboration with MakeSense’s SenseAcademy. Students (alone or in small teams) are paired up with a social start-up in France – or remotely with a start-up in one of the SenseCampus incubators in Belgium, Mexico and Senegal. The course combines fieldwork with the start-up and guided instruction by SenseAcademy faculty. All the students in the course meet for half a day every two weeks and receive individual coaching and tutoring in-between as needed. The outcome is a written or filmed account of this semester-long service learning experience highlighting (1) the outcomes of the project, and (2) the skills and competencies gained by the student through this service learning project. One example of such a SenseAcademy project brought together 8 students to develop better suited exercise tools for senior citizens to help them maintain their mobility and physical well-being (SDG # 3) and can be watched here. Evaluation of students is done by PCA faculty.

Designer's Social and Ethical Responsibility

Code
MDES 0508
Description

The consequences of design on human behavior, on the fabric of society and on the planet as a whole make it fundamental for designers to consider the ethical implications of their activity. This course will examine how designers can analyse their practice and the greater framework within which they operate in order to encourage ethically conscious choices.

Personal Leadership Skills Development

Code
MDES 0507
Description

This course will be offered with faculty from SenseCampus and will be organized as a series of workshops on different topics. Typical MakeSense activities include Hold-Ups, MakeSense Rooms (MKS Rooms), and meet-ups. The leadership skills to be developed include communication skills (listening, clarity, persuasion), public speaking, team management, event organization, increased knowledge of legal matters, conflict resolution, and providing effective feedback. Hold-Ups are creativity sessions facilitated by a trained professional in which participants have to design a concrete solution to a social entrepreneur’s problem in a set amount of time. Students will develop communication skills. MKS Rooms are recorded events blending live performance and talks connecting art and social entrepreneurship. By using music and culture, the mission is to promote social business and make it accessible to everyone. Students will be involved in organizing MKS Rooms, learning team management, event organization, and public speaking. Meet-ups brings together people to focus on a topic, such as the different legal structures suited for social start-ups or constructive conflict resolution in small teams, or providing structured feedback to volunteers.

Masters Electives

Description

You may select an elective from the many course offerings in your department or in other departments with the approval of your department chair.

  • French
  • Drawing Technology and Perception
  • Advanced Printmaking*
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Concept Development Storytelling
  • Photography as Installation*
  • Photography in the Expanded Field*
  • History of New Media*
  • Designer’s Ethical and Social Responsibility
  • Educational Principles
  • Alternative Processes Image-Making*
  • Digital Fabrication Design
  • The Art of Code I & II
  • 4D Studio I & II*
  • The Fashion Editorial
  • Design Thinking
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Project Management*

* Undergraduate level courses

 

spring

Design Studio

Code
MDES 0503
Description

The first semester of Design Studio was devoted to acquiring digital tools, the second semester is dedicated to analog tools and skills required to take a design to market. The course is divided into 3 parts:
(1) SPROUT – a design-driven innovation methodology
(2) Business tools: business models, business plans, pitching & marketing
(3) Design Fiction: A design thinking methodology to imagine and address future issues. These sessions are offered during Workshop Week as an intensive 4-day program

Organizational Governance

Code
MDES 0506
Description

In a globalized world of information, goods and people, cities seek tools for governance in economies characterized both by deregulation and new rules. In this context, the consequences on social fragmentation, climate change, and economic uncertainties of our urbanized world create and renew governance through new behaviors: agility, responsiveness, resilience, collaboration, civic representation. Political mobilizations, collective interests, and social concerns question this need for a revisited way of deciding and choosing what needs to be done in cities. This course covers theories and practices both in emerging countries and post industrialized economies in this new urban context : E-governance, participatory and social innovations, mobilization in decision making, urban empowerment, city co-production, development or design.

Professional Networking Series

Code
MINT 0511
Description

Professionals from the Parisian art and design world will come in to introduce students to their professional practice and engage them in practical exercises preparing them for the job market. Instructors will be drawn from a broad range of fields: photographers and videographers; designer and architects; galleries, museums, auction houses and private collections; art fairs and international exhibitions; art dealers; curators; historians; journalists and iconographers; artists; magazine editors; I.P. and licensing lawyers, etc. This class brings together students from all the graduate programs.

Final Individual Project

Code
MDES 0511
Description

The final project can be either an individual project or a team project (with each team member receiving an individual grade), and it can be either a project that starts in the second semester or the continuation of the social entrepreneurship project started in the fall. It is our expectation, based on SenseSchool alumni, that about 1/4th of students will become social entrepreneurs, and that the final MA project will eventually lead to a social start-up. Students will meet as a group every two weeks to share ideas, submit challenges for peer review and feedback, and they will have access to PCA and SenseSchool faculty for individual tutoring and problem-solving every week throughout the semester. The project is evaluated by a jury composed of PCA faculty members.

MA Thesis

Description

Students will document the research they conduct on the theme of their final project, as well as the research they have done on the cost and means of production of their project. One of the criteria for evaluating the thesis is the extent to which the student’s work is situated in an art-historic and cultural context, requiring students to conduct research using written documentation, artefacts, and the learning resources available to them in Paris (see section devoted to libraries and other learning resources).

Masters Electives

Description

You may select an elective from the many course offerings in your department or in other departments with the approval of your department chair.

  • French
  • Drawing Technology and Perception
  • Advanced Printmaking*
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Concept Development Storytelling
  • Photography as Installation*
  • Photography in the Expanded Field*
  • History of New Media*
  • Designer’s Ethical and Social Responsibility
  • Educational Principles
  • Alternative Processes Image-Making*
  • Digital Fabrication Design
  • The Art of Code I & II
  • 4D Studio I & II*
  • The Fashion Editorial
  • Design Thinking
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Project Management*

* Undergraduate level courses

 

Overall Credits Total
30

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know that this program is right for you?

  • You care for the well being of others and future generations and have an entrepreneurial spirit;
  • You want a career shift and to work on projects that make sense;
  • You have a passion for solving social and environmental challenges through design;
  • You wish to connect with like-minded people to accelerate or incubate a social design project;

How cutting edge is this program in comparison to similar programs?

  • The program is uniquely co-designed with MakeSense, a global community that connects engages citizens, passionate entrepreneurs, and forward-looking organizations to solve social issues and create positive impact;
  • The program is NASAD accredited and you will receive the highest standard of art and design education;
  • The program is practice-based: you will be working on real challenges;

What are the prerequisites?

  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent;
  • Anyone with the drive to solve real social and environmental challenges is welcome to join the program;
  • Design, Design management, and business/entrepreneurship backgrounds are always a plus;
  • An experience in social entrepreneurship, humanitarian relief and volunteering is greatly appreciated;

What can I do with a MA in Design for Social Impact?

  • Change the world! Make it a better place!
  • Get support to launch your own social enterprise;
  • Join a Corporate Social Responsibility team;
  • Prioritize working on projects that matter;

Are there other graduate students at PCA?

PCA offers several graduate programs, and all graduate students share elective courses, so there is an opportunity for interaction across disciplines both inside and outside the classroom.

Why are academic writing samples an essential element to join the program?

Writing is an essential academic skill across all our graduate programs; one of our requirements for graduation is to write a thesis that shows that students can work independently according to a scholarly method. Submission of writing samples as part of the application for admission allows us to evaluate the candidate’s research, writing, and analytical skills, as well as the capacity to undertake the development of the written thesis project.

What are some of the past thesis research topics students have chosen to explore?

A selection of past topics include:

  • A universal basic income through participatory design fiction;
  • Moral Imagination: Designing an Ethical Blockchain;
  • A space-based integration program for asylum seekers and refugees: Designing a Social Business model;
  • Plastics in takeaway, packaging, consumer behaviors, and eco-packaging possibilities.
  • The Clothing Ceremony: how enhancing our relationship to clothes can tackle fast fashion;
  • Evoking Empathy through Space: An Analysis of Contemporary Art Installation With Emotional Impact;
  • A Comparative Study of the Evolution of Women in Computing in North America and Malaysia;
  • Make it a Habit: Designing Habit Formation Apps to Assist Consumers with Ethical Purchase Making;
  • Understanding the Refugee’s Language-Acquisition Experience to Improve Linguistic Integration;
  • Transforming Plastic Waste into New Products at Home to Increase Household Recycling;
  • Anti-Gaspillage: Turning food waste into a social business;
  • Artisans of Exile: Traditional Craftsmanship as a Tool for Refugee Integration;
  • Building Stronger Brands: The Value Of Branding And Visual Communications In Contemporary Nonprofit Organizations In Caracas;
  • Adaptive Clothing and the Fashion Mass Market How Mainstream Clothing Could Cater for Disabled Consumers.
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