About the studio


Course Description + Methods

How might design serve to support our systems of care in ways that embrace the fact that most of us will encounter serious illness, and all of us will eventually die, and that these trajectories will most likely take form around scenarios unplanned and beyond most modes of typical preparedness? This studio considers and explores design interventions for individuals and institutions to shift the perspectives and practices that reflect our relationships with illness and mortality. A particular emphasis of the studio is placed on considerations for how we might think and act regarding good health care “as not a matter of making well-argued individual choices but as something that grows out of collaborative and continuing attempts to attune knowledge and technologies to diseased bodies and complex lives.” We will explore the relationship of systems and services in the realms of health care and hospice to the experiences that participants in those systems have. How does reorienting our understanding of the objectives of a service and creating new forms of communication and mitigation allow for experiences that today may seem impossible? How do we align the objectives and interests of stakeholders in a system to create a more symbiotic delivery of care?

Through this studio course, students will learn to engage empathic design within complex systems not from the role of “problem solver”, but as “experience strategists.” By developing and then engaging a set of design principles and tactics drawn from a reframing of the opportunity space, students will set a stage for re-envisioning the experience of disease and dying as we know it today. See an example of a scenario workshop created in the studio here.

Design for Living and Dying is a project studio course that has been offered since 2016 through the Transdisciplinary Design Program at Parsons in New York City. The course is led by a number of faculty from the School of Design Strategies, including, Patty Beirne, John Bruce, and Eduardo Staszowski.


Patty Beirne

At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Patty Beirne leads a team of design strategists to transform the experience and delivery of cancer care for patients, families and staff through the design of services, environments, and digital tools. Building upon and expanding that practice as an Assistant Professor of Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons School of Design, Patty co-teaches Design for Living and Dying for graduate and continuing education students that explores how systems-oriented design can be used to understand and transform expectations and behaviors around the profoundly human experiences of disease and dying in order to inform a more expansive vision of care throughout our lives.


John Bruce

John Bruce is a filmmaker, designer, researcher, and educator. He directed and produced, with Pawel Wojtasik, the feature documentary End of Life, as well as many short films and installations. (See a panel discussion about End of Life here.) His work has been exhibited internationally, including: New York Film Festival, Cinéma du Réel, Doclisboa, RIDM (Montreal), Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, Chicago Film Festival, PBS, Showtime, VICE, MTV, VH1, Julliard School, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Museum of the Moving Image, Equitable Vitrines (LA), among others. He served as production manager and art director for a number of feature films, and platform producer for several transmedia projects addressing social issues. He is Assistant Professor of Design Strategy at Parsons, where he co-leads the studio Design for Living and Dying in the Transdisciplinary Design MFA program. John recently served as the President of the Board of Trustees for the Flaherty Film Seminar. He earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, and an MBA in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot (Presidio). He was a 2015/16 Fellow at the Graduate Institute for Design Ethnography and Social Thought at The New School.


Eduardo Staszowski

Eduardo Staszowski is an Associate Professor of Design Strategies at Parsons School of Design. Staszowski is also the co-founder and Director of the Parsons DESIS Lab, an action-research laboratory created at The New School to advance the practice and discourse of design-led social innovation to foster more equitable and sustainable cities and practices. Eduardo's research interests center on the intersection of design, social innovation, and public policy, which has as its core the development of experimental yet practical approaches to enhancing participation in policy development and public service design. He is founding editor of Designing in Dark Times, a book series that investigates design’s capacity to offer critical and transformative perspectives on our contemporary condition. Exploring the interaction of design with social research and presenting both modes of thought and courses of action, books in this series engage polemically with the opportunities now presented to rethink what acting and designing can be.

Care Reconsidered

ENDWELL Conference 2017

Design researchers and innovators Patricia Beirne and John Bruce investigate the day-to-day lived experience of caregiving and getting, both within institutions and at home. Through their work, they've come to expand their definition of caregiving and begin considering how transforming our relationship with the end of life might impact our priorities of care throughout life.