The Professional Field
Visual Communication, Graphic Design, Communication Design and Media Design exist today in a global market and information-oriented society, operating through digital networks that span different cultures with regional roots. Visual messages for communication provide a common basis of understanding for highly specialized areas of knowledge and content.
As producers of visual messages, designers are among the main contributors to the flood of images unleashed by digitization. This development requires more practical experience in the generation of visual messages through a reflected design process. To achieve this goal the program provides, next to the development of an individual visual vocabulary, more contextual and theoretical knowledge in the area of imagery and greater technical, social, cultural and trans-cultural expertise.
The Masters Program in Visual Communication imparts in-depth knowledge without neglecting the actual making of images, and it qualifies students to contribute to the production of visual messages that shape and reflect our world.
The acquisition of such design related practical expertise, with a theoretical basis, opens the way to a range of employment opportunities in internationally oriented design offices, corporate design agencies, new media agencies, publishing houses, bureaus for exhibition design, architectural firms or starting ones own design studio. Design offices are engaged either in general conception and design of communication products or specialize in the conception and design of publications (newspapers, magazines and books), visual identities (corporate design), exhibition design, advertising media for consumer goods, informational and educational communication products, or communication products using new media (film, video and interactive media). The work in such agencies includes responsibilities in the area of concept development and project management, which require a high degree of theoretical expertise, as well as practical tasks relating directly to the design and formulation of visual messages.
The MFA program offers a practice- and project-oriented education with a high level of reflective competences. It prepares students for a career in international design agencies and for an individual further development in the field of design research and iconic research, with a practical methodology of inquiry through design.
The MFA program is also well suited as a preparation for teaching design at a university level. Apart from the specific professional qualifications in the fields of graphic design and design research, the acquisition of soft skills is an explicit part of the learning outcome. These include writing and verbal expression skills, research methodology, presentational skills, and social and trans-cultural competence.
Students who enter the MFA program with a BA or BFA degree in Graphic Design, Visual Communication, Communication Design or Media Design will primarily be deepening their design skills through a process-led approach to solving visual problems in a complex context. This leads to the ability to conduct a reflected and goal oriented design process and to develop an individual vocabulary applicable in the design practice. The students extend their knowledge not only in design experience, but in the areas of image and design theory, research methodology, communication theory and the planning and analysis of visual products as well.
Given the high-level of the work to be performed, the expectation is that a qualified graduate student will make a contribution to the discourse in the area of Visual Communication through her/his Masters Thesis. The thesis project should be of a visual and scholarly quality to the extent that it is qualified for publication or exhibition and made accessible for the international design community.
Concentration Areas of the MFA Program
The recent discussion of image theory is based on the fact that digitization has brought a sharp rise in the number of messages formulated in pictorial ways. Contrary to this prevailing shift of emphasis, the study of language aspects has progressed to a more advanced stage than the study of the impact of images. It is this discrepancy that iconic research seeks to address through a transdisciplinary approach. This research field is of direct significance for a future-oriented development of Visual Communication. Close collaboration between eikones, the National Center of Competence in Iconic Criticism at the University of Basel and the MFA program will guarantee a high level of scientific inquiry.
Closely related to the theoretical exposition, the methodology of practical inquiry through design aims at acquiring knowledge about the perception and creation of images. Process-oriented projects in this field seek to extend the visual vocabulary of the students and to impart knowledge about the factors influencing the design process. Practical projects with this focus are encouraged.
Interaction and Media Design
The creation of imagery for communication in today’s context involves a conscious approach to the medium in which it is produced and disseminated. The study of new media and their influence on imagery is a key issue. Moving images on screen and in digital videos, the relationship between images and the interaction with the viewer, as well as digitization in general, are key issues of this practical field of design.
The notation of language by means of alphabetical characters and ideograms is one of the outstanding cultural achievements of mankind. Letterform design and typography deal with the formulation, organization and structure of character sets in order to convey information. The Basel School of Design is continuing to build upon its influential tradition in this field.
The four-semester MFA program consists of four modules with a strong emphasis on project-based work. The students earn 120 ECTS points (60 US Credits) in four semesters to complete the MFA program.
First and Second Semester Module
Theory I In the first two semesters, a weekly lecture followed by a seminar addresses diverse aspects of image theory, media theory and the methodology of research work. A second weekly lecture followed by a seminar focuses on the practice of design, design history and current developments in the design field.
Design Practice I In this module, the students work on practical design projects in collaboration with a team of faculty advisers. A given project in the first semester covers research, a typical design process and a realization phase. In the second semester, students have the opportunity to define their own work project. Besides studio classes with members of the faculty, there is a series of guest lectures addressing issues directly related to the students' own work.
Third and Fourth Semester Module
Theory II This module continues in the second year of study with a lecture and a seminar on specific aspects of image theory. The topic of design reflection focuses on aspects of communication, marketing and management.
Design Practice II This module is a direct preparation for the Masters Thesis. It focuses on the subject of practical image research and involves all the theoretical and practical aspects addressed in the first two semesters. Besides the studio classes with mentors, there is a series of guest lectures addressing issues directly related to the practical projects.
In the final semester students formulate and propose a relevant topic in the field of Graphic Design, Visual Communication or Image Research. A committee of professors evaluates the proposals for their relevance and feasibility. After approval by the committee, the students begin their thesis project, which consists of both a written and practical component and is accompanied by a mentor or mentors.