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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 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 interests and concerns of the student at the centre of studies—through the making of a body of work which considers their relationship to form, content, production, and the distribution of information. While this will identify itself differently for each student, what they will share in common is a form of practice which is self-reflective, process oriented, collaborative, 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, work collectively with each other, practice new ways of expressing form, and contribute to the contemporary development of the discipline.
The curriculum is structured to provide students the time, space, resources, and conversations in producing a body of work which frames their practice. 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 which 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 discuss their progress at the end of each semester, and outline their intentions for how to continue into the next academic term. Parallel to this will include topic specific courses which change each year, investigating and responding to contemporary issues, methods and ideas in graphic design.
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 and projects intended to encourage critical investigation, hands-on making, and iterative working. The core course components are:
- Studio - 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.
- Theory - 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.
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) which support this work, while the fourth and final semester is dedicated entirely to completing the thesis submission and graduation exhibition.
- Thesis - 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.
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. Those who have studied a discipline outside of graphic design are encouraged to apply, but are expected to have an aptitude for critical inquiry and the ability to engage with design ideas at a high level. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree.
Application deadline: 1 March 2021
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.
— 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
— 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 projects from within other fields (where relevant)
— 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
Ott Kagovere, Else Lagerspetz, Sandra Nuut, Ivar Sakk, Indrek Sirkel, Sean Yendrys (Head of MA Curriculum)
Rosen Eveleigh, Sara Kaaman, Lieven Lahaye, Laura Pappa, Manuel Raeder
Visiting teachers 2020–2021
Bart de Baets, Stuart Bertolotti-Bailey, James Langdon, Hanna Nilsson & Rasmus Svensson, Julia Novitch
Invited critics 2020–2021
Johannes Breyer, Siddhartha Lokanandi, Santiago da Silva
Collaborative project exchange with
Systemdesign class of Prof. Maureen Mooren and Malin Gewinner at Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig
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, ceramics, 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 from Contemporary Art and Curating, Art History and Visual Culture, Architecture and Urban Studies, and Interaction, Digital and Product Design, among others.