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Anthro & Design

The New School and New York are ideal places to think anthropology and design together — not only because students and faculty from across these fields have lots of opportunities to meet and collaborate in the classroom and around campus, but also because they’re both honored as creative and intellectual practices that have much to learn from each other. Anthropology offers critical concepts and methods that are extremely valuable for the politically- and ethically-informed practice and analysis of design. Design, likewise, empowers anthropologists to think more expansively about the subjects, methods, and modes of their practice — attuning them to the material and aesthetic qualities of objects, spaces, landscapes, and systems they might encounter in the field; and inviting them to manifest their research in creatively mediated forms.

More Information

Read more about the Anthropology and Design curriculum on our Department Website, or reach out to faculty member Shannon Mattern.

You can also check courses within the subject area and local resources below.


Anthropology & Design: Objects Sites, and Systems is the foundational course for the track. In this class, we explore the various ways the two fields can inform one another: anthropology of design, ethnography for design, ethnography as design, and so forth. We then examine a variety of conceptual case studies, taking up various anthropological concepts and concerns and observing how they’re designed — made material, experiential, affective; given form — through a range of design practices, and how anthropological concepts and methods inform those practices. We host guest lectures, take field trips, and invite students to apply our course material in a final research/design projects. Past students have written research papers and exhibition reviews, produced podcasts and videos, created zines and design methods kits.

You can read more about Spring 2020 Data Artifacts, Infrastructures, and Landscapes class on the course website.

You’ll find a list of dozens of related electives, both within the Department of Anthropology and across the university, here


Students can take advantage of courses, faculty, facilities, and programming at the Parsons School of Design, as well as events at other nearby institutions, including the Cooper Union, Pratt, and NYU. The New School’s Graduate Institute for Design Ethnography, and Social Thought; the Urban Systems Lab; the Healthy Materials Lab; the Tishman Environment and Design Center; and the Making Center, which features a wide array of workshops and fabrication facilities, are among the many local resources available to you.

Design is always on display at the city’s museums and galleries and exhibition halls, and it’s always under discussion in its professional associations (from the American Institute of Graphic Artists, to the Architectural League and the Urban Design Forum), cultural organizations, activist collectives, and community groups. Each of these resources could serve as a repository of research material, as well as a potential site for fieldwork.

Students in Anthropology & Design frequently engage with these local resources through field trips, guest speakers, and other programmed events.