Master's Programme in Visual Communication Design

In the Aalto VCD programme, communication design is seen as a material practice involved in multiple and diverse knowledge domains. Our education and research work has an investigative approach that works through the areas of graphic design, visual narratives, and information design. The master’s programme encourages you to situate your own practice within societal, cultural, political and environmental frameworks. The programme supports you in finding your own individual design approach, while fostering a sense of community, collaboration, and peer learning.  
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Master of Arts (Art and Design)

Application period:

2.12.2019 - 3.1.2020

Language of instruction:



2 years, full-time


Relevant Bachelor's degree

Field of study:

Art and Design


120 ECTS

Organising school:

School of Arts, Design and Architecture

Tuition fees:

For non-EU/EEA citizens, €15000/y (Master’s studies)

Application period not open yet

Application period will open on 2.12.2019
Scholarships and Tuition Fees

Study objectives

As a graduate of the VCD programme, you will deepen your understanding of graphic design and visual communication, and view themas a multiplicity of positions and practices, such as: 

A material practice: You gain a sense of authorship regarding both form and content, and a solid understanding of the tools, technologies, materials, and media you work with. 

A communicative practice: You know how to shape and organise information and narratives within various knowledge domains. You will consider how design relates to language and writing, and your design choices in multidisciplinary and/or multicultural settings.

A critical practice: You are able to deliberate on how design relates to meanings, values, representations, materialities, cultures, languages, and power structures. You are familiar with contemporary critical discourse, and applythat knowledge to explore new modes of action within design.

A research practice: You use research methodologies and academic writing in order to investigate practice-based or theoretical research questions related to communication design.

Project management: Youare able to manage collaborative and iterative design projects, and have courage to envision entrepreneurial and autonomous strategies for emerging design practices. 

Focus tracks

Upon entering the Visual Communication Design programme, you choose one out of two focus tracks: Information Design or Visual Narrative. The track offersyou an opportunity to focus and/or specialize on your chosen area. These tracks are not exclusive, however, which makes it also possible to choose courses from the other track to suit your own individual study path.

1. Visual Communication Design with a focus on Information Design  

The purpose of information design is to create insight and meaning out of complex data or information and create relatable and enjoyable information experiences. The Information Design track combines perspectives from various disciplines such as visual perception and multi sensorial perception, cognitive psychology, systems thinking, and human computer Interactions. Information Design is a good combination of art and science that generates effective and relatable information experiences. 
2. Visual Communication Design with a focus on Visual Narrative  

The Visual Narrative track looks into all the various ways narratives can be embedded in design practices. You will be introduced to various theoretical frameworks you can feed into your own practice. You are invited to create and publish narrative, editorial, and/or investigative design projects where you can strengthen your design skills and sense of authorship, as well as your sensitivity to critical, cultural and contextual issues. 

Career opportunities

As a graduate of the programme you will have the skills and knowledge to work as a design professional in visual communication design, either by developingyour own practice, or with an established design agency or organisation. You will be also be able to work as an art director, design lead, or in another managerial role.  

As a graduate with focus on Information Designyou can apply your skills in the field of information design, data visualisation, data journalism, map visualisation, interaction design, user experience design and service design. Possible positions of employment are Information Designer, Data Visualiser, Data Journalist, Interaction Designer, Information Service Designer, or Information Experience Designer. 

As a graduate with focuson Visual Narrative you are an original content creator, directoror author, with state-of-the-art tools of visual design. Typical positions of employment might be in publishing, journalism, branding, game or film production, animation, or illustration.Youwill alsobe equipped to launch self-initiated, collaborative, transdisciplinary projects projects in art, design, and/or research.

Post-graduate study options

A finished degree with a successful master’s thesis enables you to apply for doctoral studies in art and design, with the possibility of an academic career in the emerging field of practice as research.

Content of the studies

The purpose of the programme is to situate visual communication design within societal, cultural, political and environmental frameworks. Visual communication is seen as a material practice involved in multiple and diverse knowledge domains. The programme supports you in finding your own voice and strengthening your individual design approach, all the while fostering a sense of community, collaboration, and peer learning.  

You will be encouraged to master your skills in your chosen area, such as information design, visual narrative, or design that is investigative and critical in nature. You will acquire methodological skills in design research and develop a responsible view of the effects of visual communication while deepening and broadening your competencies. 

The master’s programme is intended to be completed in two years. You will be making a personal study plan that will build on your own background and interests, and which supports your upcoming master’s thesis. The degree structure provides you with an opportunity to pursue minor studies in the other schools of Aalto University or at other national or international universities.

Structure of the studies

Of the 120 credits needed to graduate from the MA in Visual Communication Design programme,  

  • 11 credits are obtained through compulsory studies in the Department of Media 
  • 22 credits through compulsory studies in Visual Communication Design 
  • 27 credits through elective studieswithin thefocus tracks of Visual Communication Design  
  • 30 credits through completing the Master’s Thesis, and 
  • 30 credits through freely chosen elective studies (for exampleproject studies, minor studies, exchange studies, internship, or other programmes in Aalto University) 

You can find the Study guide and more information about the studies on Into


The Master’s thesis is a significant part of your studies and the second year of the two-year degree is mainly dedicated to thesis work. You will develop your thesis with the help and guidance of the MA Thesis Seminar, the supervising professor, and your thesis advisor(s). The thesis can either be a design project based on practice, or alternativelyapply further research methods and theory, but it always includes a written part with references to literature. Your thesis project will be an opportunity to both strengthen and demonstrateyour design skills and/or theoretical knowledge in a specialised area, and to position yourpractice within a specific domain or framework. 


You will take part in an international and diverse  learning community with students and staff from all over the world. The programme regularly invites international guests to give lectures or courses, or to conduct workshops. As a part of your individual study plan, you will have the possibility to spend a semester abroad as an exchange student in one of the university’s numerous partner universities, or to include an internship abroad. 


A significant amount of credits can be obtained through project studies with external collaborators. The study programme collaborates with stakeholders in diverse domains. We maintain relations with other universities, corporations, the public sector, as well as NGOs,seeking partnerships and projects which are open and experimental in nature. Naturally, the programme maintains close collaboration with the fields of graphic design and visual communication locally and beyond.Together, these partnerships and activities offer a multiplicity of opportunities for you to engage in challenging projects in different scale.

Programme-specific Admission Procedure and Evaluation Criteria

What we look for in an applicant?

The VCD programme seeks students with a background in graphic and communication design and neighbouring fields. Applicants with strong professional practice in other backgrounds, eager to redefine their practice towards communication design, are also considered. We expect prospective students to be interested in connecting their practice to wider societal and cultural frameworks. The programme appreciates applicants with an interest in developing and repositioning their practice, setting their skills and knowledge in conceptual and theoretical frameworks via practice-based research. We look for candidates who are self motivated, open to learning with an exploratory approach, committed to deepening and/or broadening their design skills in an international community, and motivated to participate in academic discourse on visual communication.

Evaluation criteria

The criteria we use to evaluate the applications in the first stage are

  • Portfolio
  • Preliminary assignment
  • CV
  • Motivation letter

In addition to these, in the second stage the evaluation criteria also includes

  • Interview

First stage and required application documents

In the first stage of the evaluation the selection committee evaluates the applications based on the application documents. Study Option’s requirements for the application documents are listed below. Please also note requirements for the application documents presented in the general application instructions. Attach each application document to the electronic application form in PDF form.


For your portfolio, you are asked to choose a selection of projects and explorations that best reflects your present knowledge, skills and experience. We appreciate careful curation, so do also consider how your portfolio can communicate the direction you would like to take your practice or research. We also appreciate annotated portfolios that show the background of projects and methods used to arrive at solutions/visual outcomes. If the work is done in collaboration, you should clearly describe your role.

We only accept digital work samples/portfolios. A good collection of work might include, for example, some of these:

  • 5 projects/20 images or less of visual work.
  • 10 minutes or less of video, or interactive time-based work, and hyperlink of online websites, blogs or apps.
  • Writing sample no longer than 3 pages.
  • Theoretical / research work preferably with visualization outcomes.

Your portfolio must include:

  • The preliminary assignment mentioned below.

Preliminary Assignment

As a preliminary assignment, create a visualization that tells a narrative about yourself. The assignment must be included in the work samples/portfolio PDF.

The assignment is a chance to show your visual communication and conceptual skills, and to let us know who you are. Narrative can be understood loosely so it can be anything, fact or fiction: for example an autobiography, a journey in the field of communication design, or a collection or collage of anecdotes made for this purpose.

Whether your narrative is expressive or data-based is up to you and a part of your challenge, and this also makes it an opportunity to indicate where you want to take your work next. This assignment can also be a showcase of your design skills, so use professional techniques in the production of the final work.

The format is up to you, but the end result should be digital: a PDF or a link to a URL. No existing work can be used: please complete original work for this assignment.


In your CV, please list your education, work experience, and skills, together with possible exhibitions, publications, awards, grants, and study trips relevant to your practice.

Motivation letter

In your letter, please describe your practice and your current position, and your specific interests and aspirations within the field. Let us know where you would want your studies to take you, and why. Your letter should also state how you expect a master’s degree in Aalto ARTS to help you accomplish your goals.

As the central task in the MA programme is the thesis project, we appreciate learning about your tentative topics of interest and exploration that might ultimately lead to thesis work – please note these plans will not bind you in any way.

Language of application documents

The application documents must be submitted in English.

Second stage

Part of the applicants are invited to the second stage. The invitation to the second stage is sent to the applicants at latest 7 days in advance.

The second stage is an interview, where we want to hear more about your motivations, hopes, and dreams. In addition to your personal plans, we are also interested in what your world of references and inspirations consists of, and what you see yourself bringing to the student community.

Applying to master’s programmes

Application period not open yet

Application period will open on 2.12.2019
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