• Art and Design History and Theory

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  • Parsons Paris offers a comprehensive array of art and design history and theory (ADHT) courses in design studies, fashion studies, visual culture studies, art and design history and criticism, the humanities, writing, and research methods. Although ADHT is not a distinct degree program, some of these courses form a core curriculum for all first-year students, while others are core classes for specific majors. Additionally, some of these courses are offered as electives.

    These courses are intended to educate Parsons Paris students in visual literacy, research methods, writing skills, and critical analysis and provide them with a systematic understanding of how art, design, and visual culture operate in various contexts. The goal is to help students develop the intellectual rigor they need to become the next generation of art and design leaders. Students learn how to frame questions about the meaning, function, and new possibilities of art and design and to consider problems from multiple perspectives.

    Although the courses address a broad range of art and design concepts from around the world, they also take into account the local context in which they are taught. Paris’ rich cultural and visual heritage becomes an object of study in its own right.

  • Program Highlights

    Paris Connections

    Courses draw on the city’s rich history in art, design, architecture, and fashion as well as Parsons Paris’ strong connections to major fashion houses and luxury brands. Some of these partnerships lead to project collaborations and internships.

    French Language Learning

    You are encouraged to register for courses to learn French as a second language. In addition, a number of courses on fashion, cinéma and other topics are taught in French.

    Learn from Leaders

    Parsons Paris instructors either are art, design, and research practitioners themselves or work in a related field. Our faculty maintain strong ties to the worlds of art, design, fashion, and luxury in Europe and beyond.

    Choice of Classes

    You can enroll in ADHT courses at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels, although undergraduates need to make a request to register for some graduate-level courses.

  • Curriculum 

    The curriculum includes required liberal arts courses for all Parsons Paris students (requirements depend on the degree program). Students take these courses from their first year to their senior year or as part of their graduate program. The curriculum also offers a range of electives that cover a variety of subjects. Students can pursue their subject-area interests through their choice of elective courses.

    Required Courses 

    Parsons Paris offers a core curriculum of art and design history and theory (ADHT) courses for undergraduate students, which they can take throughout their four years of study. 

    First-Year Requirements

    First-year students are required to take three three-credit ADHT courses: Objects as History, Integrative Seminar 1, and Integrative Seminar 2. 

    The integrative seminars equip students with a range of tools and methods with which to respond to the world critically, teaching them to connect text and visual elements, investigate ways cultural values can be transmitted through art and design, and communicate their discoveries and opinions clearly in writing. 

    Each seminar is paired with a studio course with a common theme. The connections between seminar and studio enable students to investigate writing as a form of making and making as a form of thinking. Objects as History traces world history through an exploration of the social, cultural, technological, and religious functions of objects—from periods ranging from prehistory to the Industrial Revolution—that can be viewed in museum collections throughout Paris.

    Upper-Level Requirements

    After completing the first-year requirements, students are expected to take three additional ADHT courses. The required courses focus either on the history of an art and design discipline or on methodology related to a specific field of study. In the fall semester of their sophomore year, students take a history-focused course, and in the spring, they take an introductory design studies or theory course. Each program has its own course requirements, which are outlined in the program curriculum.

    In their junior or senior year, depending on their major, students are required to take Advanced Research Seminar, one of the three required courses. This course is a conceptual and practical inquiry into research that prepares students for the capstone or thesis experience.

    Complete List of Required Liberal Arts classes

    APDS 2013 Intro to Design Studies
    APFY 1072 Objects as History 
    APVS 2001 History of Art, Media, and Technology
    APVS 2013 Intro to Visual Culture
    APFY 1010 Integrative Seminar 1
    APFS 2001 History of Fashion: Lecture
    APFS 2002 History of Fashion: Recitation
    APFY 1011 Integrative Seminar 2
    APFS 2011 Intro to Fashion Studies: Lecture
    APFS 2012 Intro to Fashion Studies: Recitation
    APFS 4500 Advanced Research Seminar
    APMT 2950 Quantitative Reasoning 2
    APDS 2001 History of Design: Lecture
    APDS 2002 History of Design: Recitation
    APUL 2230 Intro to Political Economy
    APUL 2231 Intro to Political Economy
    APMT 1950 Quantitative Reasoning 1

    Elective Courses 

    In their first year, with permission, students can take liberal arts electives that focus on an aspect of the rich visual and material culture of Paris past and present. Beginning in their sophomore year, students choose elective courses, either delving deep into a specific subject area or exploring a range of subject areas on the basis of their interests.

    Electives include courses on a range of subjects, including sustainability, gender and sexuality, film, the history of Paris, jewelry and culture, and career preparation. For examples, please see the list below. Students may also register for liberal arts courses offered online by The New School, with assistance from their advisor.

    Sample Courses

    APDT 3104 Agents for Social Change
    APHT 4102 Digital Fashion and Media
    APHT 4108 Silent Film Worlds
    APHT 2104 - Gender, Sexuality,, and Social Justice
    APHT 2100 History of Modern Art
    APHT 3109 Cultures of Jewelry
    APHT 3101 The Making of Paris
    APFR 2505 Chic, Mode, et Esthétique
    APFR 2503 Parlons Français
    APTD 3105 Building Career Confidence
  • Faculty

    Parsons Paris ADHT faculty offer wide-ranging expertise and are leading practitioners and scholars in their fields, which include art and design history and theory, aesthetics, criticism, curatorial studies, and visual and material culture.

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To apply to any of our undergraduate programs (except the Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students and Parsons Associate of Applied Science programs) complete and submit the Common App online.

Undergraduate Adult Learners

To apply to any of our Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students and Parsons Associate of Applied Science programs, complete and submit the New School Online Application.


To apply to any of our Master's, Doctoral, Professional Studies Diploma, and Graduate Certificate programs, complete and submit the New School Online Application.