• Joel Towers / Executive Dean, Parsons School of Design

    Human imagination and endeavor are constantly remaking the world. As a species, we prod, bend, and transform the raw materials and energy flows of the planet into the objects, spaces, and places of everyday life. We are makers of cities, homes, buildings, and parks; cars, trains, planes, and bicycles. We develop technologies, tools, and networks that allow us to communicate across great distances and extend the capacity of our bodies to sense and comprehend the world around us. We are storytellers and explorers, by turns restless, rooted, innovative, cautious, and wildly creative. We define beauty, proportion, and aesthetics in ways that bring us together and drive us apart. Human beings are artists and designers capable of the most compassionate, farsighted, and joyful actions and of doing great harm. Design is not a neutral act.

    IMG - Joel Towers

    Design enables human action. It is purposeful and magnifies capacity. It reveals and conceals who we are. And while design has played a role in every epoch of human history, it has never been more important than now. Today, communities around the world are confronted with new material, strategic, and interconnected challenges: food systems, fresh water resources, poverty, health care, energy efficiency, transportation infrastructure, and humanitarian aid, to mention just a few. Design alone will not solve these challenges, but neither will they be adequately engaged without the creativity and strategic thinking of designers. We live in a designed world.

    Design is emergent. In many critical ways, public awareness of design has never been greater. Design thinking is becoming highly regarded among business leaders and policymakers and it is increasingly understood as adding significant value because it frames problems and envisions solutions from a different perspective. As design evolves, it is as often concerned with conceiving and arranging complex systems as it is with creating beautiful and useful objects. Design is a generative and a regenerative endeavor with immediate impact and long-term implications. And the challenges of our time require more than ever that artists and designers focus their talents not simply on how things appear but on how things fundamentally are and, more to the point, how they could be. Here a critical link between design, social science, and policy emerges, representing part of what distinguishes Parsons as a place to learn.

    Parsons is organized into five schools—Art, Media, and Technology; Fashion; Constructed Environments; Art and Design History and Theory; and Design Strategies. This structure facilitates specialization in a given field while enabling interdisciplinary and cross-school scholarship that affords designers the broad design perspective they need in today’s professional world. Additionally, Parsons students benefit greatly from our integration within a research and liberal arts university, The New School. Our students can complement their design education with first-rate courses in anthropology, political science, public policy, music and drama, and many other disciplines, acquiring the capacity to work collaboratively across a wide range of projects and contexts.

    The faculty and students at Parsons build critically engaged art and design practices. Whether they’re studying fine arts, fashion or photography, architecture, product or lighting design, illustration, interior or urban design, communication design or technology, integrated or transdisciplinary design, the design of business, the business of design, the core questions of the environment and sustainability, or design itself, Parsons students and faculty continuously seek to advance art and design and renew their relevance in the world.

    I strongly believe that it is an ideal time to study art and design and that Parsons provides a unique and deeply relevant context in which to do so. I hope you will join the talented, energetic, and creative students and faculty at Parsons. The future is always being designed. Come be part of it.


    Joel Towers
    Executive Dean, Parsons School of Design