I’m a big fan of the Designer as Author MFA program at School of Visual Arts. Co-founded and co-chaired by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico (also co-authors of the book The Design Entrepreneur: Turning Graphic Design Into Goods That Sell), the program was one of the first in the country to re-examine the role of the designer in a fundamental way—and is still one of the only programs to do so with roots in communication design (as opposed to product design or architecture, from which most of the innovation in design education seems to be emerging). The Designer as Author faculty—while mostly from the New York crowd—is a roster of design luminaries, featuring Milton Glaser, Brian Collins, Paola Antonelli, and Stefan Sagmeister.

The SVA website is loaded with free resources, including an excellent video podcast series which catalogs student projects and lectures by visiting designers. I recently caught the podcast of a presentation by Robert Fabricant, executive creative director at Frog Design. I had the pleasure of working with Robert at the Aspen Design Summit last fall where he was serving as facilitator for our “Healthy Aging” working group. His vast skills in navigating a diverse group through a complex and challenging design process became apparent to me through that experience, and this podcast gave me the chance to learn more about his background as a designer.

Robert also spends much of the presentation delivering his vision for how the role of designers is evolving into that of an interpreter, participant, and catalyst (among others). He has a passionate belief in the power of research to support the design process and he lays out some very intriguing ideas and examples of design-driven social impact projects, including (he also gives a generous nod to HealthSimple).