Master in Graphic Design


Program Description

The Master of Arts (MA) in Graphic Design at the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) is a new two-year, English language program intended to develop a student’s independent practice and define their position as a graphic designer. The program takes an expanded view of graphic design, seeing it as a form of knowledge production whose role can be understood as a way of ‘making things public.’ This idea is supported by providing opportunities for students to work through both traditional models of graphic design—books, websites, posters, typefaces, videos—but also to publish texts, organize exhibitions, host lectures, teach workshops, and create other contexts for exchange during their studies.

The program places the individual interests and concerns of the student at the center of their studies, with the making of a body of work that considers their own relationship to form, content, production, and the distribution of information. While this will identify itself differently for each student, what they will share is a form of practice which is self-reflective, process-oriented, rigorous, and intentional and one which consistently holds an honest position in response to the fluctuating conditions of work as a graphic designer. Students will actively question the medium as a whole, consider its ability to engage meaningfully in social and cultural contexts, practice new ways of making work and expressing form, and contribute to the contemporary development of the discipline.


Each student is given a dedicated workspace located in the MA studio of the Graphic Design department at EKA. The studio is equipped with an A3 black & white laser printer, A3 risograph printer, and high-speed internet. Students are expected to have their own personal computer. Access is given to EKA workshops, including screen printing, letterpress, 3D printing, prototyping lab, and a woodshop. The studio and workshops are part of the newly completed (in 2018) Estonian Academy of Arts building, which additionally includes a library and contemporary art gallery. Students have the opportunity to attend public lectures and events organized by other departments and programs in EKA, including Contemporary Art and Curating, Art History and Visual Culture, Architecture and Urban Studies, and Interaction, Digital, and Product Design, among others.


The curriculum is structured to provide students the time, space, resources, and conversation towards the development of their practice and the making of a body of work. This work is always supported by a teaching staff of actively practicing designers, and invited guests who give workshops, lectures, and critiques. The first year of the Graphic Design MA is facilitated by prompts that engage students to question and reflect upon their work. The second-year asks that students come to define their work and practices as a whole. Students are expected to articulate and defend their work at the end of each semester and should be able to outline their intentions for how to continue into the next academic term.

First Year

In the first year, each student is asked to question their practice, interests, and intentions as a designer through the active process of making new work. This is facilitated by prompts intended to encourage critical investigation, hands-on making, and iterative working.


The program is organized around a studio model wherein practice is developed through formal investigations and applied projects. These can start from a combination of either prompts by the teachers, commissioned projects, or self-initiated work from the students. Regardless of the starting point, the work must be iterative, critical, and contribute towards the forming of a body of work. All work is supervised by weekly meetings either with the staff or visiting critics.

Berlin Studio

During the second semester for seven weeks, the program will relocate to Berlin, Germany, supported by a teaching staff of local designers. The Erasmus mobility program has approved a stipend for all students to cover travel and accommodation costs.


The theory course will support all practical studio work. Throughout the semester, students will meet with a theory teacher who will assign readings, lead discussions, organize lectures, and host screenings. The role of the theory teacher is to help students contextualize their work, position themselves in the contemporary world, and facilitate research that may eventually lead to their thesis. As the first year progresses, these course components fold into one another, so that no work is done without the integration and support of the other. The work produced in the first year is intended to be reflected on, and students will be asked to find connections between their projects to serve as a starting point for defining their work in the second year.

Second Year

In the second year, students will begin to define their own projects and research towards a final thesis, with the ongoing support of a thesis advisor. In the third semester, students are required to choose electives (from the faculties of Architecture, Design, Fine Arts, and Art & Culture) that support this work, while the fourth and final semester is dedicated entirely to completing the thesis submission and graduation exhibition.


The thesis is understood as a cohesive body of work, organized from a collection of projects developed over the two years of study. It will present what your work is about and how you position yourself as a graphic designer. The final submission will take the form of a book, which must include a formal written thesis and the body of work that supports it. 

Upon successful completion of the two years of study and submission of a final thesis, students will graduate with a Master of Arts in Graphic Design.


Application candidates for the MA in Graphic Design program are expected to be self-motivated, able to work independently, question and further develop their practice, and show concern for issues and ideas which engage social, cultural, and political contexts. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree. Those who apply from a discipline outside of graphic design are expected to have an aptitude for critical inquiry and the ability to engage with design at a high level.

Applications will be reviewed in early March, and selected candidates will be invited for an interview with the staff of the Graphic Design department. Interviews will take place on 15–26 March 2021, where applicants will be expected to come with their physical work and have a discussion about their intentions for the two years of study. A Skype interview can be arranged for those who cannot come for an in-person interview. Each year, 8–10 students will be admitted.

General requirements

  • Must hold a bachelor’s degree
  • Be proficient in both spoken and written English: TOEFL ITP 543 points, TOEFL iBT 72 points, IELTS 5,5 points, and other tests

Application Requirements


  • Digital-PDF format, maximum 60 Mb
  • Include 10–15 projects, with each project supported by a selection of 4–6 images and a 50-word description
  • This can include a mix of professional commissions, self-initiated work, BA projects, unrealized and in-progress work, or anything which might be relevant for consideration
  • If including video work, use still-frames for the PDF, with an external link to the video

Letter of Motivation

  • 500 words
  • Include background, interests, influences, and the current direction of your work
  • Identify the reasons for pursuing an MA in Graphic Design, expectations of the program, and intended use of the two years of study


  • Maximum 2 pages in length


Last updated Nov 2020

About the School

The Estonian Academy of Arts, founded in 1914, is the only public university in Estonia offering higher education in fine arts, design, architecture, media, visual studies, art culture, cultural herit ... Read More

The Estonian Academy of Arts, founded in 1914, is the only public university in Estonia offering higher education in fine arts, design, architecture, media, visual studies, art culture, cultural heritage and conservation. Located in the capital city, Tallinn, it is an active study and research institution and the leading national centre of innovation in visual culture. Studies take place in our new building with an innovative and inspiring environment. Read less