Arts & Culture: Design Cultures

The critical study of design and fashion in a broad diverse cultural context
Programme ofKunst- en Cultuurwetenschappen / Arts & Culture
TitleMA Kunst- en Cultuurwetenschappen / Arts & Culture

 

In today’s culture design  is a dynamic concept which continues to grow in importance.  As a field of academic study, however, design cultures were long neglected by the Arts and Humanities. This, however, has changed. Since September 2010 the Faculty of Arts of VU Amsterdam, offers the accredited and internationally-oriented Master’s programme Design Cultures.

Design has developed into a vibrant and important cultural and economic sector in recent decades. Product design, graphic design and fashion design are burgeoning as a service industry, as street culture and as art. Design is an integral part of our daily lives. In the Netherlands design has gained international recognition with past and present designers who are active in graphic design, product design, artistic design, environments and fashion.

The MA programme Design Cultures offers theoretical perspectives on different forms of design in a broad diverse cultural and historical context. The focus is on the designer as ‘author’ as well as on the complex chain of production, sale, consumption and criticism in which design operates and from which it derives its many different meanings. Design Cultures embeds design as the core object of academic interest within the cultural and material context in which it acquires meaning for present and future challenges in our society. The programme combines a generalist, comparative approach to design with a clear focus on history and theory.

SEMESTER 1

SEMESTER 2

Period 1 (sept-okt)
Period 2 (nov-dec)
Period 4 (feb-march)
Period 5 (apr-may)
Design, History and Culture (6 EC)
Lecture Series (6 EC)The Arts and Crafts "Dutch" Design (6 EC)

Methods of Design Analysis The Meanings of Design (9 EC)

Design in Words: Critisism, Writing and Theory (6 EC)
Elective/ Internship (12 EC)  
Thesis (18 EC)

Master's Arts & Culture
Design Cultures is a programme of the Master’s Arts & Culture. We also run a programme that specializes in the cross-overs between art and media, called Comparative Arts and Media Studies. The MA is part of the Graduate School of Humanities at the VU Amsterdam.  

The programme Design Cultures is a one-year, full-time, English-taught study which is worth 60 credits. Though the programme is built around a core set of obligatory courses, students will have ample opportunity to define their own individual tracks by means of electives, internships and, of course, the Master’s thesis. 

Core courses (30 EC) 
The programme is built around four main courses: Design, History and Culture; Methods of Design Analysis: The Meanings of Design; The Arts and Crafts of “Dutch” Design; Design in Words: Criticism, Writing & Theory.

Individual scope (12 EC) 
You can customize your study by selecting subjects from a range of interdisciplinary electives (see below for a list of options). Internships offer you opportunities to prepare for your professional career.

Thesis (18 EC) 
The programme culminates in the Master’s thesis, which gives you a chance to demonstrate your research skills, your competence as a critic, and your ability to systematically gather, select and interpret information and to argue a case in an independent, objective and responsible manner. Students are offered opportunities for practice-based research accompanied by written reports.

Click here for an overview of how the year is structured.


The Design Cultures course is taught in English. It is an internationally oriented course which has close ties with real-life practice. Besides studying the theoretical and historical background of design, students get a chance to do their graduation project in association with key players in the design world. Students of Design Cultures can look forward to careers in cultural institutions (editor, project manager), museums (researcher, curator), media, (author, critic, producer), government (administrator, advisor), design agencies (researcher, consultant) and educational and research institutes (teacher, researcher).


The job market or academe?
A Master’s degree in Arts & Culture qualifies you to carry out independent scholarly research. Students who have performed exceptionally during their Master’s studies may wish to do the Research Master’s in Visual Arts, Media and Architecture.


Amsterdam

Studying in the city of Amsterdam is a unique experience. The urban setting and the multicultural mind-set of the people of Amsterdam, combined with the presence of a thriving cultural city life give your education a special dimension. 

Cultural collaboration
The opportunities for collaboration between the design sector and cultural institutions in Amsterdam are endless. In our wide-ranging academic courses you can test and explore the dimensions of these contexts and combine them in unique and exciting ways. 

Alternative approaches
Our programme is very broad, but you will still have plenty of opportunities to develop your own personal interests in, for example, fashion, industrial or graphic design. A Master’s degree in Arts & Culture, with the programme Design Cultures, will deepen your insight into 20th- and 21st-century developments in design as a practice, a product, a discourse and a cultural environment. You will learn to identify and analyse crossovers within and between product, fashion, and graphic design in a wider social context. You will also learn to put theory into practice, as a writer and researcher and, during your internship, as a member of a cultural institution. 

Staff networks
Our staff is actively involved in numerous local, national and international networks. Their knowledge and expertise stretch across the entire spectrum, from the theory and history of design and fashion, art and architecture, culture and media, and material studies to film and television, digital media and a host of crossovers along the way.

  

Dutch Profiles: Claudy Jongstra

Cyril Tjahja

Design Cultures graduate, PhD candidate

"Many of the theories and skills that were taught during the course I still apply or refer to quite often in my research"

Enya Moore

Design Cultures graduate, design editor

"I learned that the subject of design is made up of layers of complexities, which makes for rewarding academic research and analysis"

Overview Arts & Culture: Design Cultures

Language of instruction

English

Duration

1 year

Tuition fee

Application deadline

1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.

Start date

1 September

Study type

Full-time

Admission requirements

Admission Requirements

Field of Interest

Art, Culture and History

Dutch Profiles: Gerard Unger

Internships offer you opportunities to prepare for your professional career. As a master student of Design Cultures, internships are possible at a wide range of organizations for design, media, art and culture located in and around Amsterdam. You will be encouraged to find an appropriate internship according to your own interests.

Note that a valid internship for this program should be focused on research; that means its main scope should be to answer a research question relevant for the organization with which you are working. Finding a research internship is your own responsibility and we cannot guarantee you will find a place. You can find more information on the internship procedure and contract with the Internship information for current students. The process of finding an internship takes time; therefore students are encouraged to start developing proposals for particular organizations before the beginning of the first semester.

Some of the institutions where students did their internships were:


Kunstlicht, the magazine
Kunstlicht is a journal for the visual arts, visual culture and architecture from antiquity to today. The magazine is associated with the Department for Art and Culture. Since 1980 it has provided a platform for academic publications about art in all its facets. Students and art historians, as well as authors from other disciplines, publish the results of their research in Kunstlicht.

Kunstlicht 2The editorial board of Kunstlicht consists entirely of students and recent graduates. To keep the threshold for publication as low as possible while still achieving a high level of quality, a member of the editorial staff closely supervises every contributor during the writing process. Students who are interested in publishing an article in Kunstlicht should contact the editorial board. Students in the Department of Art and Culture who are proficient in Dutch may also join the editorial board of Kunstlicht and gain valuable editorial experience.

A subscription to Kunstlicht costs just € 17.50- for the first year. For more information visit www.tijdschriftkunstlicht.nl. Contact: redactie@tijdschriftkunstlicht.nl

Kliché, the student association
Studievereniging Kitsch Since 1984 student association Kliché organises activities to widen en deepen students' study experience and strengthen bonds between students, teachers and alumni. On all study-related excursions students are accompanied by experts or teachers of the Arts and Culture department. 

Other Kliché activities are a monthly movie night and a trip abroad in the second semester. In addition to the study related excursions there are more socially activities such as opera, ballet and social drinks. Another great help for you study is the discount Kliché offers you on your study literature.

More information about Kliché (Dutch).

The Master's programme Design Cultures takes part in national and international research programmes. 

Core membersInternship CoordinatorPHD studentsAssociate Faculty

Find more information about our staff and guest lecturers on our blog.

The master programme Design Cultures is part of the Graduate School of Humanities of the VU Amsterdam.
 

 
  • What happens after registration on Studielink? 
    You will receive a letter from the VU with information about the registration procedure. It may take several weeks before you receive this letter.
     
  • Can I apply directly for the master or do I have to follow the pre-master?
    Look under Admission Requirements.   
     
  • The administration of the VU says that I am not permitted to study, but I think I am a perfect candidate!
    Please send your resume, motivation letter, diplomas and course descriptions, bibliographies and thesis/essays/publications to toelating.fgw@vu.nl . They will be assessed by the Examination Committee.
     
  • What does the admission procedure imply?
    Look under Admission Requirements.
     
  • When are the Information Days?
    Check the dates here.
    If you have any further questions, please contact the study advisor: studievoorlichting.fgw@vu.nl
  • I have a foreign diploma, what should I do?
    Look under Admission Requirements.

  • What are the job prospects?
    Look under Career Prospects.

  • Is there room in the programme to combine a thesis with a project?
    The programme is open for individual additions in consultation with our professors.

  • Is it possible to attend a lesson, just to see if the study fits my interest and background?
    Yes, please contact studievoorlichting.fgw@vu.nl or look under Meeloopdagen (Dutch).

  • Is it possible to follow (parts of) the programme in other forms like:
    1.       Part-time
              No, part-time education is not possible.
    2.       Evening courses
             
    No, evening courses are not possible.  
    3.       Starting the course in February
              
    No, starting the MA in February is not possible.
    4.       Join a course as a student from another university in the Netherlands
              Please visit the site for Bijvakstudenten 
  •     
    5.       Non-examination student (Contract onderwijs/toehoorderschap) 
              Please visit the site for Contract-onderwijs            

Dutch students


Admission to the MA Arts & Culture, programme Design Cultures is possible with an academic BA degree in MKDA, art history, art, industrial design, graphic design, architectural design and fashion. Students holding an academic BA in history, (visual) cultural studies, anthropology or sociology, are required to have followed a minimum of 30 credits in courses related to the history and theory of the decorative arts, dress, design or fashion. The MA programme starts in September and takes one year. It is not possible to do the MA part time. Students with an interest in history and theory are particularly welcome.  

Those with an applied MA (HBO-MA) in art, industrial design, graphic design, architectural design and fashion have to submit their application to the Examination Board for assessment.

Students, who have successfully completed an applied BA (HBO) in design, can take a Design Cultures pre-Master of 48 ECTS. Beware that the pre-Master’s will be in Dutch and is not accessible for students who don't speak the language.


Dutch students and international candidates with a Dutch degree can apply via Studielink before the 1 June for the master programme Design Cultures under the label Kunst – en cultuurwetenschappen (Arts & Culture).

All lectures are in English. Therefore all prospective students must be proficient in English. The VU courses Academic English: Grammar and Academic English: Writing (or similar courses at another university) are strongly recommended in your bachelor programme.

VU Amsterdam makes use of its own VU Portal (http://vunet.vu.nl), which is linked to Studielink and allows you to complete you application.  After you have applied for the master in Studielink, the university will retrieve your application details from Studielink and prepare your VU Portal account and e-mail you the login details. Please note that this may take a couple of days. The e-mail will contain instructions on how to access your account and fill in the application. Don’t forget to fill in your specialization on VUnet: Design Cultures.

Next to this, you'll need to provide all the documents containing the information we need to decide whether you are admissible. The following required documents should be send to toelating.fgw@vu.nl:  

  • application form (Dutch)
  • transcript of records (scan of original)
  • motivation letter
  • curriculum vitae
  • English language test results

The curriculum vitae should include your personal details and list your previous education and relevant work experience.

Your application will be reviewed by the Faculty of Arts. The final decision on admission is made by the Examination Board of the Master's programme within 6 weeks.

A formal statement regarding admission will be sent to you by e-mail and/or by post. The statement will specify whether you have been admitted unconditionally, admitted subject to certain conditions or not admitted.

For more information on admission requirements and procedures, click here if you are a VU student, here if you have a BA from another Dutch university.

Timeline
Click here for an overview (Dutch) of the entire admission procedure.

HBO students
There is no possibility to do a premaster. 

You have now been able to form a general impression of the MA programme in Design Cultures. Some of the questions you started out with may have been answered, but perhaps you have come up with a few new ones in the meantime. Should you have any questions, we advise you to:   

1. Attend one of our information days 
The VU Amsterdam organizes information days for prospective Master’s students on a semi-annual basis. The specific dates are available on the general informational activities page as well as on each faculty page. Open days are designed to provide prospective students with detailed information about the MA programmes and with the opportunity to meet staff members and current students, as well as to get answers to specific questions.  

Master's evening: 6 December

2. Get a taste of the programme
Are you interested in sitting in on a seminar to get a better idea of whether the programme is something for you? Contact the faculty information officer, e-mail: studiekeuze.fgw@vu.nl

3. Get in touch with the Programme Coordinator for specific questions regarding the content of the study
Perhaps you want to know more about the subjects you would be taking as part of the MA programme, or about electives and the actual course load. For these and other questions please get in touch with the programme coordinator Javier Gimeno-Martínez, designcultures.fgw@vu.nl    
   
4. Questions regarding practical matters
For practical questions regarding your application, contact the Student Service Desk, call +31(0) 20 5982683, or E-mail: balie.fgw@vu.nl.  
If you are non-Dutch you can contact Mr Stipo Jeleč, International Student Advisor, admissionsfa@vu.nl, t +31 (20) 59 889 20.

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International students

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. 

Specific admission requirements for the Master’s programme Arts & Culture, specialization in Design Cultures

The Master’s Arts & Culture is designed for students with an academic Bachelor’s in either design, fashion, art or (visual) cultural studies. You may also be accepted if you have an academic Bachelor’s in other disciplines of the Humanities (history, journalism, communication studies) or in anthropology or sociology, with a major or specialization in design, fashion, art or visual culture (equal to a minimum of 30 ECTS). Students with a historical and theoretical interest in the broad field of design are particularly welcome.

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a full high school/International Baccalaureate in English or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can already apply online without having the test results. In case you haven’t taken a test yet we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the English taught programmes at the Faculty of Humanities:

TOEFL score (score 600 paper based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250 computer based or score 100 internet based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests). IELTS score of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5).
Cambridge English : Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C.

Please refer to the language requirement page for the general requirements regarding the English language test.

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. If you have read the admission criteria below and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required. 

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcript of records
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!


Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information about;
Accommodation
Visa
Tuition fees


As an international student planning to study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, you can apply for a variety of grants and bursaries.
Detailed information about scholarships and deadlines can be found on www.vu.nl/scholarships or www.grantfinder.nl

You have now been able to form a general impression of the MA programme in Design Cultures. Some of the questions you started out with may have been answered, but perhaps you have come up with a few new ones in the meantime. Should you have any questions, we advise you to:   

1. Attend one of our information days 
The VU Amsterdam organizes information days for prospective Master’s students on a semi-annual basis. The specific dates are available on the general informational activities page as well as on each faculty page. Open days are designed to provide prospective students with detailed information about the MA programmes and with the opportunity to meet staff members and current students, as well as to get answers to specific questions.  

2. Get a taste of the programme
Are you interested in sitting in on a seminar to get a better idea of whether the programme is something for you? Contact the faculty information officer, e-mail: studiekeuze.fgw@vu.nl

3. Get in touch with the Programme Coordinator for specific questions regarding the content of the study
Perhaps you want to know more about the subjects you would be taking as part of the MA programme, or about electives and the actual course load. For these and other questions please get in touch with the programme coordinator Javier Gimeno-Martínez, designcultures.fgw@vu.nl    
   
4. Questions regarding practical matters
For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office:
Irena Bunic
Tel +31 (20) 59 85252
E admissionsfh@vu.nl

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