MA Programme Description

Visual Communication

Visual Communication is about an expanded and interdisciplinary approach to the traditional subjects of graphic design, illustration and moving image with the aim of transforming existing communication practice. The pathways Experimental Communication, Graphic Design, Illustration are foregrounded in critical thinking and making whilst radically examining the place, importance and potential of visual communication in relation to culture and society. 

The three pathways offered by the Visual Communication programme – which students select as part of their application – are interrelated and structured around the core discipline of visual communication and are taught by our excellent team of advanced practitioners and researchers.

Experimental Communication provides a fluid, exploratory and open-minded working environment for those wishing to locate innovative and unconventional communication practices within the context of both real and speculative situations. We imagine work taking place together and being applied, for example, as publishing-as-practice, abstract and non-narrative communication forms, and relational, site-specific and socially engaged practices – but in acute awareness that these positions themselves are already open to challenge and debate. 

Graphic Design seeks to evolve expanded notions of graphic design practice that acknowledge current industry and educational contexts, while revisiting, expanding and disrupting the tools, intent, context and role of graphic design disciplines with renewed purpose. There are two main subject clusters within the pathway. Visible Language focuses on expanding and challenging primary and fundamental subject thinking – and making – specific to graphic designers while Situational Design explores the possibilities and the relationship between graphic design and spatial environments.

Illustration explores an expanded approach to the practice of illustration as a discipline. Fundamental to the work we do in communication, is an understanding of the context of our work and in how ideas can be framed, transmitted and received by our intended audiences. There are two main subject clusters within the pathway. Narrative Contexts focuses on fundamental subject thinking and making that is relevant to illustration and image- making within the communication context. Situated Illustration explores the relationship between illustrative practices and spatial practice.

Critical & Historical Studies

The RCA provides a unique environment for postgraduate art and design students to reflect upon their own practice, and to engage with students from their own and other disciplines. The role of Critical & Historical Studies (CHS) is to support the studio programmes in enabling these critical engagements to take place. The courses offered by CHS to first year studio-based MA students propose an intellectual framework within which they can begin to establish a coherent relationship between theory and practice.

In the autumn and spring terms there are a series of College-wide seminars and lectures. The autumn term series will relate to your particular discipline (though it is possible to elect to join a series being offered to students on other programmes) whereas the spring term series will be more broad-based and cross-disciplinary in nature.

In the spring and summer terms, a CHS tutor will give you individual tutorials to support the development of a dissertation which is submitted *at the end of the Summer Term.* The dissertation should be between 6,000–10,000 words in length – this is a major piece of work and you will be not be able to submit for the Final Examination until you have passed this assessment.


240 credits
Two-year programme

Visual Communication Studio
Visual Communication Studio
Photographer: Richard Haughton