Jean Brennan is an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Communications Design Department at Pratt Institute with teaching appointments in Cross-Disciplinary Studio, Transformation Design, Emerging Practices, Technology, Sustainability & Design, Thesis, and Design Research. With her students, she investigates making as a form of research, community engagement, and horizontal structures for learning and collaboration.

Cross-Disciplinary Studio:
Symbiotic Futures
A required MFA studio that invites students to connect with the living and breathing world in order to explore non-human ways of being and knowing and to be inspired. We ask: how might looking at color through the eyes of trout fish, collectivity amongst honey bees, communication between trees, resiliency in sagebrush plants, memory in slime mold (and the list goes on) expand our understanding of these concepts? Such an endeavor, seeks to dismantle the binary of nature-culture and to center other life forms in our making as a way of knowing differently. Students take a new media approach crafting design fictions and speculative imaginaries in response to the theme of symbiotic futures to queer notions of identity, human exceptionalism, and modes of communication. Some eco philosophy methods we examine include: listening, embodiment, reciprocity, sympoiesis, entanglement, ontology, and ritual design. These are paired with design form factors and prompts to document, visualize, and share the discoveries and relationships we foster. 2022, 2023, 2024

Sustainability and Design Studio

This course explores the contemporary role of sustainable practices as a necessary competency for emerging designers. There is a need for design solutions that balance creativity with social, environmental and economic factors. Through an examination of current best practices involving circular economy, sustainable material management, and life-cycle analysis tools, students research, analyze and synthesize core principles of sustainability within a wide array of communication design scenarios. Spring 2022, we participated in the Biodesign Challenge and experimented with making biomaterials to redirect local waste streams.

Sustainability and Design Studio Webpage
Healthy Material’s Lab Role Model Grand Prize Winner
2021 Student Project Example 1
2021 Student Project Example 2
2021 Student Project Example 3

Transformation Design Studio
This studio focuses on strategies to utilize design as a means for transformation. With an emphasis on a human-centered, holistic, and empathic approach, students apply “design thinking” methodologies in an attempt to transform human behavior in desirable and sustainable ways, while creating meaningful experiences and interactions with communications media, artifacts, environments, organizations, services, systems, and each other. The course investigates experimental, research and ideation methodologies from numerous disciplines within both contemporary and historical contexts, and seeks to identify the emerging responsibilities of design practitioners.

2020 Student Project TDA Example
2020 Student Project TDB Example

Emerging Practices:
Governance, Design Objects & Visual Language
Flags, currency, stamps are a kind of pattern language that mark a region, group, or set of relationships. Drawing from examples of adaptation or appropriation by artists and designers, students employ systems thinking to design a set of symbols and procedures for exchange, communication, or representation, applied across multiple platforms to represent a community, entity, body politic, etc. of their choosing considering intercultural contexts beyond the nation state. We consider how designerly means can be used to construct a public.

2021 Student Project Example
2020 Student Project Example

Working under the advisement of a thesis committee, students undertake independent research through self-directed projects that represent a coherent voice and makes a meaningful contribution to the field of design. The thesis is not a single project, but rather a body of work consisting of multiple projects/ visual explorations based on a single topic/subject area sharing a common methodology. Students develop their thesis with multiple advisors over a three-semester arc: Thesis Research, Seminar B, Thesis 1 & 2. 
Protest in Jesusland, 2021
Wind: Transmission, Vitalization, and Liberation, 2021
Democracy by Design, 2018

Design for Mindful Interaction Studio
This studio investigates how designers introduce self or group reflection into a design experience—either in the design process as a form of intention on the part of the designer, or between multiple users of a designed object, experience, or service. In the class, we consider function, and how to disrupt expectation or perception, and therefore behavior or interaction, in a social setting, placing agency in the hands of the user. Students will employ experimental and iterative design processes and methods to prototype networked objects, as well as physical forms—activated through ritual, performance or installation—considering the social/cultural implications of both remote and local site-based experiences.
Design For Mindful Interaction Tumblr (Archive)

Public Project, 2011-2014

Public Project operates as a collective of faculty and students engaged in the topic of design for social impact and what it means to have a social practice. The initiative lives in the Graduate Communications Design department at Pratt, but its offerings are open to the Institute at large.

Public Project Facebook Page (Archive)


A portfolio of student projects provided upon request. Please email me at