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Master of Arts 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.
As a graduate of the VCD programme, you will deepen your understanding of the graphic design and visual communication, and view them as 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 apply that knowledge to explore new modes of action within the 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: You are able to manage collaborative and iterative design projects, and have the 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 offers you an opportunity to focus and/or specialise in 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 a 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 developing your own practice or with an established design agency or organisation. You will also be able to work as an art director, design lead, or in another managerial role.
As a graduate with a focus on Information Design you 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 a focus on Visual Narrative, you are an original content creator, director or 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. You will also be equipped to launch self-initiated, collaborative, transdisciplinary 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 studies within the focus tracks of Visual Communication Design
- 30 credits through completing the Master’s Thesis, and
- 30 credits through freely chosen elective studies (for example project studies, minor studies, exchange studies, internship, or other programmes in Aalto University)
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 your practice 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 a different scale.Last updated Nov 2019
About the School
At Aalto University, we believe in curiosity and we encourage our students to explore the unknown and do things in a totally new way. We offer the highest level of education in business, art and design.
Visual Communication Design Masters Degree Programs
A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Communication Design is a terminal degree in creative fields, meaning graduates are qualified to teach at the university level. Students develop work in both physically interactive communication – like urban graphics, icon systems or bookforms – and virtually interactive communication, like websites, interactive media or motion graphics. Design studio work is usually an important part of the curriculum.
Prerequisites for these programs typically include a bachelor’s degree, GRE scores, college transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a design portfolio.
Master’s Degree in Visual Communication Design
The first year of this master’s program is usually made up of core curriculum, educating students in different techniques in a seminar setting. Students also critique each other’s work, usually in a workshop setting. Students develop original research projects, and the degree culminates in a thesis. Theses for these programs can either be a written document, multimedia presentation, a designed artifact or a combination of the three.
Students can expect to spend a lot of time in design studios throughout the degree. Courses often combine visual communication design theory with workshops, studio time and thesis hours. Possible visual communications design courses include:
- Design methods
- Critical theory in design
- Design and society
- Advanced motion graphics
Popular Career Options
Those who graduate with this degree usually take one of two career paths: graphic designer or post-secondary educator. It should be noted that while this degree qualifies graduates to teach college design courses, most professors are accomplished designers. Here are examples of some specific jobs graduates might have:
- Graphic designer
- Art director
- Lead designer
- Design manager
MFA programs in visual communications are composed of hands-on training in design studios as well as instruction in design methodology and theory. Graduates of these programs often enter careers in graphic design or post-secondary teaching.Next: View SchoolsLink to this page
General Visual Communications Design Guide
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