Master's Programme in Visual Communication Design
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Field of study:
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.
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.
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.
Admission procedure and programme-specific requirements
Prospective students of the Master’s Programme in Visual Communication Design (VCD) apply to the programme in the master’s degree admissions process for the field of art and design.
The Visual Communication Design programme offers specialized courses on two focus tracks: Information Design and Visual Narrative. Applicants are invited to indicate their choice of track, however in the programme they will be able to plan their studies combining courses from these domains according to their individual study path.
The VCD programme seeks students with a background in graphic and communication design and adjacent fields. Also applicants with other backgrounds, motivated to redefine their practice towards communication design, information design, and visual narrative, are considered. VCD expects prospective students to be open to learning with an exploratory approach, to commit to deepening and broadening their design skills in an international community, and to be motivated in participating an academic discourse in communication design. The programme appreciates applicants with a motivation to develop and reposition their practice, and to set their skills and knowledge in conceptual and theoretical frameworks in practice-based research.
For the Visual Narrative track, VCD welcomes backgrounds or interest in graphic design, critical and speculative practices, writing, comics, animation and games. In Information Design we welcome design backgrounds as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines – hands-on experience of programming or processing is appreciated but not necessary.
The admission is based on a two-stage entrance examination, where qualified students are selected to continue after each stage. The first stage is based on the application documents: a set of work samples/portfolio containing a short assignment, a letter of intent, and CV. Based on those, a selection of applicants is invited for an interview.
CV (curriculum vitae)
Applications must include the applicant’s CV indicating personal data, education and work experience, with possible exhibitions, publications, awards and grants, and study trips. Applicants should upload their CV to the application system in a single PDF file before submitting the application.
The work samples/portfolio is an opportunity to present your accomplishments. It should be an expression of artistic and/or academic pursuits and skills. Applicants are asked to include a diverse selection of previous work, be it design, information design/graphics, writing, data visualization, comics, web sites or apps, typography, stories, programming samples, data analytics, motion graphics or video. Process pieces that show the origins of work and the techniques used to arrive at solutions are also welcome.
We currently only accept digital work samples/portfolios. Your work samples/portfolio should be a single PDF of your best work. A good collection of work might include, for example, some of these:
- 20 images or less of visual work.
- 20 minutes or less of interactive, web, apps, video or time-based work.
- Writing sample no longer than 5 pages.
- Theoretical / research work with visualization outcomes.
And must include:
- The preliminary assignment mentioned below.
Please do not send physical works: the work samples/portfolios will not be returned to you. If there are protected links make sure that passwords are included. If the work is done in collaboration, you should clearly describe your role.
Create a visualization that tells a narrative about yourself. The assignment must be included in the work samples/portfolio PDF.
The visualization assignment is a chance to show your visual communication and conceptual skills, and to let us know who you are. The format is up to you, but the end result should be digital, a PDF or link to interactive site. No previous work: please complete original work for this assignment.
The narrative can be anything, for example an autobiography or personal background, a journey or aspirations in the field of communication design, or a fictional anecdote made for this purpose. How your narrative is expressed in a visualization is part of your challenge, but it will likely involve collected and displaying data or information of some sort. This work could also be a showcase of design skills, so use professional techniques in the production of the final work.
The assignment will be evaluated on originality of thought and use of visual language and/or data.
Letter of Interest
Write a short (no more than 4000 characters) letter in English about why you would be a good candidate for the Master’s Programme in Visual Communication Design. Address your particular interests and aspirations within the field. You should indicate which of our tracks, Visual Narrative or Information Design, you are interested in, and why. We appreciate hearing about your tentative topics of interest and exploration, possibly leading to your master’s thesis. Your essay should also state on how you expect a master’s degree in Aalto ARTS to help you accomplish your goals.
Letter of interest is part of the online application form.
Interviews will be conducted at the invitation of the department.
Language of application documents
The language of the programme is English and all application materials should be submitted in English.