Designing Change: How a MFA Program in Design is Leading Innovation

by Marta Zmoira
May 1, 2015 5:00 PM ET
Campaign: CSR Blogs


Cheryl Heller is not naive. She knows that real social or environmental change will not happen overnight, nor will it be easy or perfect. As founding chair of the School of Visual Art’s Master of Fine Arts program in Design for Social Innovation, the only MFA of its kind in the United States, she does believe that the real work of creating innovation starts by redefining entrenched ways of seeing and thinking about the issues. 

Social innovation is the creation of new models or ideas to strengthen society and the environment. Design for Social innovation (DSI) applies design processes to help solve those issues. Can design change the world? Heller thinks so. Communications design relies on all design disciplines, not just the visual, to communicate in ways that clarify an issue and drive individuals to become involved. Creative people are usually taught tools, but not what to do with these tools in context. That’s where this pioneering interdisciplinary program comes in.

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Marta Zmoira writes about all things New York City, from urban food gardens to meditation in the workplace. With a decidedly international perspective (having received her Master’s in International Relations in Geneva), her journalistic pursuits include innovation in business, spirituality, lifestyle and sustainability.