Feb 6, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Design is integrated into everything we see and do. It directly influences our perceptions of the world around us and how we interact with it. Working behind the scenes to provider the most compelling experiences? Design graduates. From working with your hands to unleashing your creativity, there are many reasons to go into this exhilarating field.

But all design degrees aren’t created equal. One of the most exciting places to pursue your design degree dreams? The Netherlands. Here’s a closer look at the benefits of studying design in the Netherlands, along with a cutting-edge program that distinguishes itself from the rest.

Where Design is a Way of Life

You have many choices when it comes to choosing a destination for you design studies. So why the Netherlands?

For starters, the country boasts a rich history of design. In decreeing the Netherlands as the place to visit for design lovers, Vogue proposes, “The Netherlands has always had a place on art lovers’ must-visit lists. There’s the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and works by the Dutch masters are sprinkled throughout the country. Yet there’s another art movement that’s just as important but often gets overlooked in the presence of so many other masterpieces. De Stijl (meaning “the style” in Dutch) is the minimalistic art movement that emerged in the 20th century when a pioneering group of Dutch artists and designers employed only the essentials in their work: vertical and horizontal lines and black, white, and primary colors.”

Indeed, the country’s culture is steeped in a belief in the power of design. Continues Vogue of the guiding force behind the Netherland’s path to becoming a design powerhouse, “The artists’ ultimate goal was to create a new society through additional work in interior design, furniture, and architecture.”

Today, the Dutch creative industry continues to build on the country’s international reputation in the field of design, laying claim to famous designers such as Marcel Wanders, Tord Boontje, Jurgen Bey and Hella Jongerius with a multitude of emerging artists poised to join them. To what can the country attribute its status as a “hotbed of innovation, creativity and design,” according to Study in Holland? A strong education system for designers -- with cutting-edge masters degree programs as an integral part of it.

Explains Robin Punt, who heads up the bachelor’s of Fine Art degree program, as well as the Frank Mohr Institute, which houses Fine Art and Design MA degree programs in Painting and MADtech (Media, Art, Design & Technology) at the Minerva Art Academy in Groningen, “The diversity of the Dutch master-level programmes is a distinctive aspect of higher art education in the Netherlands. This gives ample room to the situation that artistic practices, and the domain of the arts in the Netherlands are characterized by a number of core values: creativity as a goal unto itself, critical thinking, social engagement, freedom and tolerance.”

Factor in English-taught programs, internationally recognized degrees, a multicultural environment, affordable study costs, and the Netherland’s “gateway to Europe” location, and the allures of the Netherlands continue to grow.

Minerva Art Academy: An Environment of Design Innovation

One of the seventeen schools within Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Minerva Art Academy comprises Fine Arts and Design, the Frank Mohr Institute and Minerva Academy of Pop Culture.  Together, they provide a dynamic, international environment in vibrant Groningen where a diverse collective of students come together to learn, collaborate, create and share.

Continues Punt, “Working for two years within a community consisting of artists, designers and performers from a range of countries all over the world, and at the same time being located in a relatively peripheral area of the Netherlands, provides the participants of the programme in Groningen with a unique situation. A constant awareness of global connections and developments, an intense intercultural exchange, embedded in an environment that invites and supports concentration and focus, form a special mixture for intense studying.”

In both the Painting and MADtech degree programs, students are encouraged to develop their own artistic identity and motivations within the context of today’s techno-centric society. Says Punt, “This makes it possible to work on personal and professional development, act in public and find an audience for the research and work. It is both about taking responsibility for the own practice, identifying and creating opportunities and alliances, as about operating from a free and autonomous position.”

They are also actively encouraged to share through Platform Minerva, a public platform for art, design, performing arts and research presentations. Combined with various workshops and facilities for theatre, plaster and ceramics, photography, digital media, plastics, wood, metal, graphics, drawing and painting, and unstable media and electronics; exhibition and project rooms where students and lecturers can experiment with scale and site; spaces for collaboration and documentation of works; and a large number of professional guest lecturers, and the opportunities for deepening, developing and innovating one’s artistic practices and perspectives are near-endless.

Concludes Punt, “The importance, impact or role of art and design in Dutch culture and society is relatively well accepted and appreciated. That’s the reason why I encourage our students to work and think open minded, generous, experimental and collaborative with an autonomous, critical, entrepreneurial and conceptual attitude. In this way, as an artist, you open up possibilities and create unexpected combinations.” We can think of no better place to do so than through the pursuit of a Fine Art and Design master’s degree at Minerva Art Academy.


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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