Head of Programme Welcome

Dr Rathna Ramanathan, Visual Communication

Visual Communication as a discipline is undergoing a major shift in both its vocational positioning and intellectual relevance. At the Royal College of Art, the programme has a long history that has radically examined the place of visual communication in relation to culture and society, while championing the importance of an interdisciplinary approach. The programme offers three pathways of study: Experimental Communication, Graphic Design and Illustration.

The pathways are interrelated and structured around the discipline of visual communication to facilitate well-informed risk-taking and experimentation from a grounded position of subject knowledge and understanding. Pathways are delivered in subject clusters (critical thinking) supported by shared workshops (critical making) and delivered by staff who are either advanced practitioners, or active researchers engaged in both the core and margins of communication practice.

As noted by our students, the necessary critical discourse around what it means to be a ‘visual communicator’ today opens up possibilities about the process and contexts of communication; and in doing so shows that our skillset is transferable beyond the confines of the purely visual. The programme provides an environment within which students aim to expand and explore new notions of traditional subjects – graphic design and illustration – and question existing practice, while doing so from a position of being well informed.

We recognise that ensuring that our graduates are at the forefront of our subject means considering new technologies alongside traditional ones, understanding the changing relationship between the creative practitioner and society, and balancing critical and strategic thinking with making. 

Areas of staff practice and research range from, and beyond, archeoacoustics, cultural practices, design criticism, design for society, design history, design writing, drawing, education design, feminism, free/associate discussion, graphic design, graphic information design, group learning, expanded cinema, independent publishing, intercultural communication, illustration, memory, moving image, narrative, participatory practice, sound, structural film, non-Latin and Latin typography, visible language, visual identity and visual research.

Noted strengths of the programme as viewed by graduates, students, commentators and critics are its interdisciplinary nature, quality of advanced and specialist practice, exposure to alternative modes of practice, opportunities for collaboration, cross-subject studio culture, peer-learning and the opportunity to experiment while supported by access to College technical resources.

The programme has a network of successful practitioners including a long list of notable alumni who have gone onto transform communication praxis and include Åbäke, Brave New Alps, Daniel Eatock, FUEL, Graphic Thought Facility, James Goggin, James Jarvis, JULIA, Le Gun, Tom Gauld, Sara Fanelli, Troika, Jonathan Barnbrook, Phil Baines, Morag Myerscough and Why Not Associates.

The programme has a long-standing reputation for providing students with the foundation and thinking in order to initiate, reframe, expand and advance their individual practice. We welcome applicants from different and diverse contexts and backgrounds; this enriches and enlivens our community. We genuinely believe and evidence that it is the people that make a place.

"The programme has a long-standing reputation for providing students with the foundation and thinking in order to initiate, reframe, expand and advance their individual practice."
Dr Rathna Ramanathan
Dr Rathna Ramanathan