Creating a New Economy: Parsons Cited in Urban Economic Study

Splash House, a partnership between the Parsons Design Workshop and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, is an example of the university-city relationships advocated in a new report by the Center for an Urban Future.

It’s something The New School has known for decades: Design is key to the city’s future. And new data backs it up. The Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a New York’based think tank, recently released Designing New York’s Future,, a report detailing how design schools serve as engines for the city’s innovation economy.

New York design universities have been critical catalysts for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth,, reads the report, available at www.nycfuture.org. Their graduates have produced dozens of start-up companies that set up locally, something that has eluded most of the city’s scientific research institutions.,

The trend has certainly been noticed at Parsons The New School for Design. In addition to alumni, like Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, who have established personal brand empires, recent graduates and students have established thriving businesses. Among them are fashion labels Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu, and Derek Lam; industrial design firm Built; online design retailer Fab.com; game design studio Large Animal Games; and interactive design studio Hyperakt. Programs whose graduates are particularly likely to become entrepreneurs include Design and Technology, Fashion Design, Illustration, and Product Design.

The relationship between design schools and the city is a true give-and-take, notes Parsons executive dean Joel Towers. Parsons is very much a part of the creative economy here in New York,, he says. New York City is a laboratory for our students, who participate in collaborative projects with partners ranging from city agencies and nonprofits to some of the world’s leading companies. Beyond the classroom, our alumni and faculty make valuable contributions to the art and design industries in the city, including interior and product design, fashion design, graphic design, architecture, and the fine arts.,

The report argues that the city could benefit economically from drawing more on design schools. Parsons is one of a handful of schools that are already working with city agencies and nonprofit organizations on local projects. Through the Design Workshop, its signature design-build program, Parsons has embarked on a five-year partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to rehabilitate and improve local facilities, which began last summer at Highbridge Park in Washington Heights.

Parsons is currently working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) on two initiatives, Fashion Draft NYC and Fashion Campus NYC, which help college students establish careers in the city’s fashion industry. They are part of an effort by the NYCEDC to plan for the industry’s long-term growth. Parsons has also partnered on projects with the Department of Education and is now collaborating on a project with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

While the report found that most of the schools have not integrated programs that teach students basic business and entrepreneurial skills,, Parsons is a notable exception. In addition to its longstanding BBA program in Design and Management, Parsons is also launching an MS in Strategic Design and Management this fall.

The report also recognized the creative funding platform Kickstarter, on which Parsons recently launched a curated page. One of Kickstarter’s great success stories is a project by Parsons MFA Design and Technology alumnus Dan Provost. Provost’s design for an iPad stylus called Cosmonaut raised more than $100,000 through the service. (Check out Cosmonaut and other innovative faculty and student projects by visiting the Parsons Kickstarter page.)

With nearly 90 percent of Parsons graduates remaining in the New York City area after graduation and new partnerships with city agencies and city-based businesses in the works, Parsons is sure to play a key role in designing the city’s future for years to come.

To read the full report, Designing New York’s Future,, visit www.nycfuture.org.