Sarah Owens has been selected as chair of graduate communications design in the School of Design. She began the role on July 1, 2021.
Owens joins Pratt with a breadth of experience in teaching, research, and leadership. She most recently served as professor for visual communication and visual cultures at Zurich University of the Arts in Switzerland, where she directed the graduate program and research unit, and oversaw all educational and research activities within the area of visual communication.
“We are very pleased to welcome Sarah Owens to the Pratt community,” said School of Design Dean Anita Cooney. “Her multifaceted academic and research experience and her deep commitment to supporting a plurality of design voices, perspectives, and forms of knowledge will be a tremendous asset to our students.”
As chair of graduate communications design, Owens will oversee the MFA in Communications Design and the MS in Packaging, Identities and Systems Design programs, leading a department that includes approximately 175 students and 50 faculty.
“Pratt’s collaborative culture and its emphasis on promoting the personal development, critical thinking, and experiential learning of students dovetail strongly with my own approach to working and teaching,” said Owens. “I look forward to working together with the department’s students, faculty, and staff to build on the strengths of its existing programs and to further enhance its community.”
Owens has been working as an educator in design programs since 2006, and has taught at all levels from undergraduate programs to doctoral research. Her approach to teaching focuses on fostering dialogue and the mutual exchange of ideas, and is based on students’ own knowledge and experiences. Her main research focus is on social and anthropological aspects of the history, production, and circulation of visual artifacts. In particular, Owens is interested in marginalized epistemologies and practices, in issues of perception and representation, and in educating for uncertain times.
She has chaired several international symposia and conferences (most recently Design as Common Good, 2021), has led and worked on third-party-funded research projects inquiring into design practice, design education, and hybrid publishing, and has edited and contributed to several volumes on design history and theory, including Design Culture: Objects and Approaches (Bloomsbury, 2019) and the forthcoming Swiss Graphic Design Histories (University of Chicago Press, 2021). Her discursive practice as a speaker, panelist, and organizer of cultural events aims to initiate conversations within and outside academia.
Owens holds a PhD in Typography and Graphic Communication from the University of Reading, a MA (RCA) in History of Design from the Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and a graduate diploma in Communications Design from the University of Applied Sciences Augsburg.
Prior to her MA degree, Owens worked for several years as a corporate and editorial designer in various publishing houses and design studios in Germany, including Strichpunkt Design, Surface Gesellschaft für Gestaltung, and Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin. In 2009, she was awarded a fellowship and artist residency at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany.