Master of Arts in Visual Communication Design

Aalto University

Program Description

Master of Arts in Visual Communication Design

Aalto University

Visual Communication is changing rapidly. Design thinking now includes new forms such as story-telling, experiences, and data visualization. Our programme represents an expanded trans-media discipline of communication and expression. When it comes to stories, many creatives have them: Graphic Designers, Authors, Animators, Graphic Novelists, and Children’s Book Illustrators. Be an explorer that uses visuals to create compelling original content in our concentration in Visual Narrative. Likewise, the demand for well-designed infographics is expanding. Our concentration in Information Design has applications far beyond the traditional design professions. Apply to make data-driven messages that sing.

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 the 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 offers you 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 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)

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

Thesis

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.

Internationalisation

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.

Co-operation

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.

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.

Work samples/Portfolio

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, websites 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.

Technical Guidelines:

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.

Preliminary Assignment

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 an 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 collecting 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

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.

This school offers programs in:
  • English


Last updated November 16, 2018
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2019
Duration
Duration
2 years
Full time
Price
Price
15,000 EUR
€15,000 per academic year for non-EU/EEA citizens.
Information
Deadline
Jan. 11, 2019
The application period for studies starting in autumn 2019 runs from 3 December 2018 to 11 January 2019.
Locations
Finland - Espoo
Start date : Sept. 2019
Application deadline Jan. 11, 2019
The application period for studies starting in autumn 2019 runs from 3 December 2018 to 11 January 2019.
End date June 30, 2021
Dates
Sept. 2019
Finland - Espoo
Application deadline Jan. 11, 2019
The application period for studies starting in autumn 2019 runs from 3 December 2018 to 11 January 2019.
End date June 30, 2021