Otis MFA GD is a Los Angeles-based, global-facing research collective of students, faculty, and in-residency designers investigating the issues of our day. We blend design exploration, critical inquiry, and applied projects to interrogate and better our world.
During the course of studies, students learn to work across media platforms through a series of studio projects, visiting workshops, courses in design theory and history, and round table discussions.
The coursework engages research, discourse, and the iterative process, with the goal of discovering many possible design outcomes. In so doing, the program supports students in taking on the challenges and opportunities in contemporary graphic design practice.
STUDENTS Use the curriculum to explore visual culture and critical thinking and making.
FACULTY develop curriculum in response to the students and current state of design and/in the world.
The Otis MFA GD curriculum is unique in structure, and runs for 14 months, over four consecutive semesters: Summer, Fall, Spring, Summer, book-ended by two fast-paced 8-week intensive summer sessions, combined with a more traditional 15-week Fall and Spring semesters.
SEMINAR STUDIO & ROUND TABLE (week 1+2) Theme-based project, research think- tank, discussion, lecture, and readings. WORKSHOP (week 3+4) Workshops lead by Visiting Artists. DESIGN WEEKS (week 5+6) Socially relevant themed Workshops. GRADUATE STUDIO (MFA1) (week 7+8) Studio focusing on iterative process and methods of making. FINAL STUDIO (MFA2) (week 7+8) Framing future practice through a series of projects.
SEMINAR STUDIO I/II/III/IV - 3 credits
Students work in a collaborative learning environment on theme-based projects, focusing on inquiry, research, and discourse. This four term course encourages a wide range of opinions, with course outcomes exploring media literacy and critical form-making. Faculty will provide the opportunity for in-depth discussion and critique, as well as to connect research to conceptual and formal investiga- tion. Together students and faculty work collectively and individually to produce publishable outcomes that will con- tribute to design scholarship.
SEMINAR ROUND TABLE - 3 credits
Students discuss issues pertaining to being an active de- signer in the world. Led by guests invited from various disci- plines, students look at design from philosophic, historical, and theoretical positions. The course provides an opportu- nity to speak at length about the value of inquiry, research, and engagement in issues and disciplines outside graphic design. On occasion students will have the opportunity to engage with Visiting Artists in special events or meetings.
WORKSHOP - 3 credits
Invited design practitioners will host theme-based work- shops. Students are introduced to a variety of working methodologies and approaches to contemporary design thinking and making. This course will always be conceptual with a commitment to experimental form-making. Out- comes will vary in media and no two semesters will be alike, allowing students to take the course more than once.
VISITING DESIGNER WORKSHOPS - 3 credits
Visiting artists from around the United States and abroad lead a group of students through short-term, socially relevant themed projects. Outcomes fall somewhere between speculation and real world design solutions, with an aim to inspire all parties to apply design thinking in an innovative way.
GRADUATE STUDIO - 3 credits
Graduate Studio focuses on critical iterative process. During the course students cultivate working methodolo- gies to discover varied outcomes through working fluidly across media. With guidance and mentorship from the faculty, students begin to develop a body of work reflecting their interests, agendas, and values.
FINAL STUDIO - 6 credits
Unlike a traditional thesis project, our department recog- nizes the value of finishing the degree with a series of wide ranging artifacts. Based on the work and research generat- ed in the previous 3 semesters, students frame a position and a future practice that moves seamlessly through time and space.
This course assists students in researching the perfect in- ternship. Using a mentorship principle, faculty is available throughout the internship to answer questions, trouble- shoot, and ensure a quality experience in the professional world.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP - 3 credits
This course is designed for graduate students that are interested in starting their own studio or a freelance busi- ness. Students will be introduced to all facets of running a business, such as writing a business plan, promotion, devel- oping a client base, pricing, legal and financial aspects, as well as ethical standards. Students will be exposed to guest lectures from a variety of areas and studios.
FIELD INTERNSHIP - 3 credits
Over the course of their study at Otis, students will attend conferences, participate in workshops with design profes- sionals and studios, and create projects in collaboration with partner design institutions, internationally or domesti- cally. Students will reflect on learning and share outcomes via presentations and discussions in a seminar setting.
CONTEMPORARY GRAPHIC DESIGN ISSUES - 3 credits
This course is total immersion into the field of graphic design. Current and critically important figures will be covered, students will be given tools to use in their practice to ensure that they are informed on the discipline on a global scale. In addition, students will begin to engage visiting artists in dialogue during lectures.
THEORY AND CRITICISM - 3 credits
A diversity of critical approaches to twentieth and twenty-first century design are situated historically while intro- ducing current themes and debates in contemporary design practice and related disciplines.
MODELS OF PRACTICE - 3 credits
In this course students will work to contextualize their future practice through close examination of their own body of work, research, and on and off-site visits with contemporary design practitioners. The course will provide opportunities to experience the many roles that designers can play today focusing on the way practice models continue to evolve in response to technological, cultural, economic, and political conditions.
DIRECTED STUDY - 3 credits (on or off-site)
Students work with faculty in a one-on-one capacity to propose and develop a project that helps them focus their interests as a designer. This is the first course in the final studio trajectory where students establish a body of work that contributes to contemporary design discourse. During an off-site Study, students attend conferences, participate in workshops, and create projects in collaboration with partner design institutions, internationally or domestically.
A note on the typography:
typefaces used: Anthony by Sun Young Oh and Karrik by Jean-Baptiste Morizot, both published by Velvetyne libre and open source foundry, and Art and Language by Jonathan Maghen, published by Primary Foundry