Encouraging distinctive voices in communication practice.
Visual Communication MA at the RCA provides the opportunity to challenge, transform and situate one’s creative practice in relevance to global audiences. It expands the contribution of visual communication through an approach that values agency, experimentation and critical making. The MA programme has a long history of critically examining the place and importance of visual communication in relation to culture and society within an interdisciplinary environment.
As noted by our students, 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 the designer and artist’s skill set is transferable beyond the sole confines of the visual and also includes sound, code, text, space, event and experience.
Situating practice within a global context is a guiding principle of our programme across the three pathways of Experimental Communication, Graphic Design and Illustration. We expect our students to draw upon a wide range of material from the fields of art and design culture to support, develop and advance their practice.
These include the histories and theories of art and design, artists’ and designers’ writings, cultural, literary and social theory, film, literature, philosophy, politics and technology.
When applying for this programme, you select one of these specialist pathways.
Extending and disrupting the tools, intent and role of graphic design.
Exploring contemporary Illustration practice within an interdisciplinary context.
Experimental Communication forges a fresh connection between concept, criticality and making.
The School of Communication is located in White City, London’s newest research and creative quarter.
Our mixed-discipline studios encourage cross-disciplinary thought, awareness and action. Studio workspace is provided for each student. In addition, you have access to craft and technical workshop areas and excellent technical support in the College. These include well-equipped computer studios for print and digital moving-image production, sound editing, a letterpress and book-binding workshop.
Our alumni form an international network of creative individuals who have shaped and continue to shape the world.
- A Practice For Everyday Life
- Brave New Alps
- Emma Löfström
- Le Gun
- Maria Ines Gul
- Mm Paris
- Regular Practice
- Salvatore Rubbino
- Studio Frith (Frith Kerr)
More details on what you'll study.
Find out what you'll cover in this programme.
When applying for this programme, you select one of these specialist pathways.
This pathway explores expanded notions of graphic design practice within the interdisciplinary field of Visual Communication, acknowledging current industry, social and educational contexts.
Establishing critical perspectives on the nature of graphic design practice is central to the work that we do. With the increasing interoperability of communication – an audience now receives and transmits information through multiple devices and sources – a communication designer must be able to understand, navigate and create ‘experiences’ to bring meaning, clarity and understanding.
Within this landscape, it is critical that we challenge both the definitions and the role of the graphic designer. 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.
Graphic Agency seeks to test and deploy those tools to explore the relationship between graphic design, spatial environments and emerging territories outside of the discipline itself. The pathway is supported by a series of critical making workshops shared with the Experimental Communication and Illustration pathways.
The Illustration pathway opens up conversations with anthropology, sociology, performance and beyond. Fundamental to this approach is an understanding of the context of our work and how ideas can be framed, transmitted and received by our intended audiences.
Finding a critical way into image making is integral to what we do. The fabrication of the image encourages an exploration of diverse ranges of technique and technology, medium and material, creating a platform for interaction with the world.
There are two main subject clusters within the pathway. Narrative Contexts focuses on the way we gather information to understand, share or speculate on our lives. Situated Illustration explores the relationship between illustrative practices and spatial practice.
The Pathway is supported by critical making workshops shared with the Experimental Communication and Graphic Design pathways.
History tells us that the connections between intense personal investigation, collaboration and collective group activity on a local before global level bear fruit. Experimental Communication offers a framework for self-discovery as a conduit towards challenging and creating new initiatives in art and design practice.
Experimental Communication is not medium-specific. In previous years), we have seen graphic designers work with ideas embedded in psychotherapy, illustrators moving towards Land Art and field recording, digital programming converging with sculpture and performance.
In all regards these movements have been unforeseen and not premeditated; it is the process of the pathway to give such situations form and future function.
Hence the term ‘experimental’ is given new value and returned to functionality in a climate that struggles to take risks out of fear of failure. We embrace mistakes and believe that complexity can be an opportunity and not a barrier.
What you'll cover
Unit 1: Expanded Practice, 40 credits
Unit 2A & 2B: School Elective I & II, 40 credits
Unit 3: Critical and Historical Studies [CHS], 40 credits
Unit 4: Situated Practice, 60 credits
Unit 5: Critical Practice [Independent Research Project], 60 credits
The core curriculum is delivered through projects, workshops, lectures and individual and group tutorials. ISchool-wide electives form the foundation of teaching in the first year and often inspire final year independent projects. Electives run for two terms and are open to students across the School. Alongside this, you’ll undertake projects situated within the programme or pathway specialism. Visual Communication has offered a mix of six electives in the past year. The Bright Labyrinth lecture series informs the practice investigations of the first year. In the third term, you’ll focus on completing your dissertation.
Your second year will be largely self-directed, with teaching delivered primarily via personal tutorials or group tutorials. Prior to the Work-in-progress Show (WIP), you’ll choose one of a series of project frameworks which will enable you to situate your practice within a pathway. Further to the WIP and after discussion with your personal tutor, you’ll submit a plan for an independent research project. There are interdisciplinary activities such as Critical Forum, which support critical making across all the pathways.
Additionally, we offer cross-year workshops. These are situated in each pathway: Graphic Design (type design and letterpress); Illustration (publishing and book-binding); and Experimental Communication (digital aesthetics, processing and experimental film).
Critical & Historical Studies (CHS)
All studio-based MA students follow a weekly schedule of Critical & Historical Studies (CHS), a College-wide initiative that provides you with the intellectual framework to build a coherent relationship between theory and practice.
CHS delivers exciting, thought-provoking and inspiring lectures by experts within the programme and high-profile visiting lecturers. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the theoretical background and aspects of your chosen discipline through a tutored dissertation process, as well as receiving individual tutorial support from our team of expert tutors.
What you need to know before you apply
Candidates are selected entirely on merit and applications are welcomed from all over the world. The selection process will consider creativity, imagination and innovation as demonstrated in your portfolio, as well as your potential to benefit from the programme and to achieve high MA standards overall.
You will normally have a BA, or an equivalent overseas qualification or sufficient work experience to demonstrate the appropriate intellectual, creative and personal qualities to engage with the demands of the programme.
Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds. While the majority still come directly from first-degree programmes in graphic design, interaction design, illustration, moving image and sound, students have also joined the programme from backgrounds as diverse as computer science, economics, fine art, history, journalism, literature, architecture, product and textiles.
What's needed from you
Your portfolio is a showcase of your work as an artist or designer and can be made up of images, videos or writing examples. Your portfolio helps us to better understand your application and allows you to show evidence of your ability and motivation to undertake a given programme.
Generally, we’re looking for you to demonstrate your:
- Creativity, imagination and innovation
- Ability to articulate the intentions of the work
- Intellectual engagement in areas relevant to the work
- Technical skills appropriate to the work
- Potential to benefit from the programme
If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic score of 6.5 with a 6.0 in the Test of Written English (TWE). Students achieving a grade of at least 6.0, with a grade of 5.5 in the Test of Written English, may be eligible to take the College’s English for Academic Purposes course to enable them to reach the required standard.
You are exempt from this requirement if you have received a 2.1 degree or above from a university in a majority English-speaking nation within the last two years.
If you need a Tier 4 visa to study at the RCA, you will also need to meet the Home Office’s minimum requirements for entry clearance.
For this programme
Fees for new students
Below are indicative fees for 2021 entry, which may be subject to an inflationary increase, and will be confirmed in December 2020. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.
Channel Islands and Isle of Man
Overseas and EU
New entrants to the College for MA, MRes, MPhil and PhD degrees will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to secure their place. This will be offset against the tuition fees for the first year of study.
Overseas and EU
* Total cost is based on the assumption that the programme is completed in the timeframe stated in the programme details. Additional study time may incur additional charges.
Scholarships are awarded for a specific programme and entry point and cannot be deferred without consent from the academic Programme and scholarships panel.
There are many funding sources, with some students securing scholarships and others saving money from working. It is impossible to list all the potential funding sources; however, the following information could be useful.
Change your life and be here in 2021
The Royal College of Art welcomes applicants from all over the world.