What is Senior Thesis Anyway?

As a senior in any of the BFA programs at Parsons, your final year is allotted to experimenting, designing, and creating a thesis project. What’s a thesis project? It’s basically a display of the culmination of ones skills and style developed during their time at Parsons. For many, this project serves as a polished portfolio piece when going to find a job, or start ones own company after graduation. That being said, each department has it’s own curriculum and criteria for the senior year. Realizing I hadn’t heard much about projects  my friends in other departments at Parsons had been starting, I began to ask around. This is the inside scoop into Fall 14′ semester of Parsons BFA Undergrad Thesis.

Communication Design:


Designed by: Marie Mhina

“There aren’t very many requirements for communication design thesis other than your final product has to be design related. It could be anything from a publication (magazine/book), website, app, exhibition etc. You don’t actually work on the final product at all in the fall semester. You figure out your idea and do a bunch of mini projects that help you solidify the direction that you’re going. So far, I’ve made two books and am in the process of making a website. All of these things are focused on my thesis theme which is ‘restriction’. In the spring is super crunch time to make the final product. Fall is pretty relaxed in that it’s really thought and trial/error time. But definitely not relaxed in the workload. We have 3 weeks to do every project. And 3 weeks is not a lot of time to think of an idea, gather the content, and then make the thing.”Marie Mhina BFA Communication Design, Class of 2015




The parameters: “Create a cohesive body of work & write a 10 page thesis paper detailing the concept/process/approach of your work. You are reviewed each semester at what’s called ‘Oral Presentations ‘ by a group of three faculty panelists. A week before you give them a two page thesis abstract which basically details your project. Then you present your work to them, they critique you, and then you keep working.

For the actual thesis class-work it varies by teacher but you work all year on the project and spend most of your thesis class-time critiquing and talking about your ideas and approach, and we also have one on one tutorial meetings with our primary professor and a second professor that we only meet with one on one. (i.e. they aren’t present during the group class).There’s also a professional practices class that focuses on teaching business practices and professional protocol, like branding yourself, to prepare us for the real world.
At the end of the year we have a thesis exhibition show, which has traditionally been up for one month at a gallery in Chelsea (the last two years were at Milk Studios) and there’s an opening reception and it’s really awesome!!”

-Megan Paetzhold BFA Photography, Class of 2015



Designed by : Sutton Murray

Product Design:
“We don’t start thesis until second semester of senior year. Product Design majors complete a one semester thesis project. Fall semester of senior year we have a choice between a few different core studios. The Product Design Sections this semester are:

Ad-hawk, re-hawk: They try to find make shift solutions. Refine them, to make a product.
10x: You make 10 of the exact same product, and at the end you sell them at kikkerland
Design that lasts: Making a “luxury” item that will stand the test of time.
But those are all basic discriptions, not being in those sections, my description will be quite general.

In my studio section our topic is “privacy“. Throughout our daily lives there is an aspect of surveillance, whether it be CCTV, location tracking due to GPS, biometric data gathering, anything. My focus of interest is in the realm of facial recognition as it pertains to mobile interface like Google Glass and Facebook. My project is taking shape as a wearable garment that actively promotes the ability to remain unidentified. there is no technology or electronics that are blocking or preventing facial recognition in my garment, rather, through specifically placed and intrusive geometries, it throws off the software, creating an unidentifiable jumble of shadows and highlights. You remain anonymous.”

Do you think you’ll carry elements of this project into your thesis or is this Studio section it’s own semester long project?
“Stylistically? yes.” Sutton Murray BFA Product Design, Class of 2015

Fashion Design:


Designed by: Callie Jensen

Fashion thesis consists of designing, drafting, and physically making a collection on 5-8 fully finished looks. Like product design, there are different sections of fashion thesis: i.e. Women’s Ready-to-wear, Menswear, Childrens-wear, Knitwear, Accessories Design, Eveningwear and Textiles sections. Conceptual research and development for fashion thesis begins as early as the summer before senior year and continues to develop over both semesters alongside making a portfolio of ones work. The portfolio consists of 3-4 additional design projects complete with concept research, clothing (accessories) line-up, technical flats, as well as textiles, treatments and fabric manipulations to accompany the designs.

Although the thesis project is a major part of the senior year in fashion, it is to be equally balanced with the creation and completion of the portfolio element. The portfolio is reviewed at the end of the year by administration as well as external critics for feedback. By mid April everything concerning the thesis collection is to be completed, and panel reviews begin. Each student has 8 minutes to present their concept, process, and finished garments to a panel of industry professionals, and audience of faculty, and peers. A select few top students from the senior class are invited to show in an additional runway-style benefit show. Callie Jensen BFA Fashion Design, Class of 2015

One of my favorite things when I was an underclassmen, was walking around at the end of the year and looking at all of the project displays around campus. Due to the public exhibition spaces on campus, and the open-studio style presentations, there is always lots of opportunity to experience the works of our peers at Parsons. Finally, it’s our turn. If you have any additional questions or comments post them in the comments below. If you’de like to see more work from our seniors, check out their websites linked above. Stay tuned for a spring semester follow-up post in 2015!

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