Master's Programme in Visual Communication Design

The Visual Communication Design programme (VCD) is an international learning community committed to investigating new modes of action within visual communication. As a critical response to the contemporary conditions, the studies enable you to reconsider the established notions of graphic design. The programme supports you in rethinking and redefining your own design practice, in order to situate it in wider societal and environmental frameworks. By providing the competence areas of information design, visual narratives, and type & written language, the curriculum encourages you to turn your design practice towards the public and the sustainable, and towards multiple and diverse knowledge domains.
Visual Communication Design


Taiteen maisteri


2.12.2019 – 3.1.2020




2 vuotta, täysipäiväinen


Soveltuva alempi korkeakoulututkinto


Taiteiden ala


120 opintopistettä


Taiteiden ja suunnittelun korkeakoulu


EU/ETA-alueen ulkopuoliset kansalaiset, €15000/v (maisteriopinnot)

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Please note! 19 December 2019, Content of this website have been updated.
No changes have been made to Programme-specific Admission Procedure and Evaluation Criteria.

Learning Outcomes

As learning outcomes from the programme, you will be able to:

Create and manage design projects with a renewed sensibility to both tangible and digital materiality, and experiment with data and computational elements in design projects where needed

Solve complex issues of different media, aesthetic, context, expression, and convention, when communicating in modes like data, narratives, and/or written language

Articulate and critically evaluate the traditions, references, and motivations behind your design choices and processes

Consider issues of representation, diversity, and sustainability in visual communication

Distinguish your professional role from your consumer role in digital and online environments

Recognize good policies and your rights as a creative professional, and consider your responsibilities of care towards yourself, your colleagues, the public, and the environment

Consider and imagine alternative modes of design practice and work

Keep discussing, evaluating, and redefining the societal role and the shifting parameters of the contemporary Visual Communication Design profession

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 developing your 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.

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 VCD programme provides you time and space to redefine your individual design approach, with continuous backup from community, collaboration, and peer learning. The studies support you in this with a combination of theory and practice.

Engaging with diverse literature, writing, and discussion encourages you to evaluate the role of visual communication in the society and the environment, and the discursive and material properties that converge in your design practice. Critical perspectives shed light on urgent political issues, such as representation, diversity, and social and environmental justice. Intensive courses introduce you to necessary tools and skills to accomplish contemporary design projects, whether you are into data, visual storytelling, or typographic expression.

In the form of extensive studio courses, the programme particularly supports three competence areas crucial for a visual communication designer: information design, visual narratives, and type & written language. Specified in your personal study plan, selections within these competence areas enable you to either deepen or broaden your skills and knowledge. Special attention is also given to the notion of publishing, which plays a central role in pursuing a self-organized practice, and in keeping communication design close to the public.

The core of your studies consists of the overarching practice seminars, where you stop to think and share your learning with others. In the first year Design Practice Seminar, you reflect on your own design work and build a framework of references by assembling your individual Designer’s Archive. In the second year Research Practice Seminar, you work on the development of your own research project that leads to your master’s thesis. The studies enable you to update your skills and knowledge whether you aim for a professional design practice in an applied or self-organized context, or to continue to doctoral studies.


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 alternatively apply 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 demonstrate your 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.

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.

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