Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Design Cultures, M.A.

  • Application Deadline
  • 12 months
  • Tuition
    Tuition (Year)
    Tuition (Year)
  • English
The MA programme Design Cultures from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is all about the study of product design, graphic design and fashion in a broad diverse cultural context. The focus is on both the designer as ‘author’ and the complex chain of production, sale, consumption and criticism in which design operates and derives its many different meanings.
  • Overview
  • Programme outline
  • Key facts
  • Admission requirements
  • Fees and funding


We live in a design culture which continues to grow in importance. However, design was long neglected by the Arts and Humanities as a field of academic study. But this has changed. Since 1 September 2010, the Faculty of Arts of VU Amsterdam, offers the first fully accredited, 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. Especially in the Netherlands design has built up an excellent international reputation with past and present talent in graphic design, product design, artistic design and fashion. We can boast many famous names including Piet Zwart, Maarten Baas, Thonik and Irma Boom, Artifort, Hella Jongerius, Jurgen Bey, and Viktor & Rolf and many others.

The MA programme Design Cultures from VU Amsterdam is all about the study of product design, graphic design and fashion in a broad diverse cultural context. The focus is on both the designer as ‘author’ and the complex chain of production, sale, consumption and criticism in which design operates and derives its many different meanings. Design Cultures restores design as the core object of academic interest without detracting from the cultural and material context in which it operates. The programme combines a generalist, comparative approach to design with a clear focus on history and theory.

Career Prospects

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).


Accredited by: NVAO in: Netherlands

Programme Structure

Main courses

The first semester consists of two introductory courses on the history and theory of design. In the second semester students get acquainted with "Dutch" Design and learn to write critical appraisals.

  • Design, History and Culture paints a thematic and chronological overview of the history of design. It traces the main international movements and historical debates on the basis of case studies that place past developments in a modern perspective.
  • Methods of Design Analysis: The Meanings of Design considers design from differentmethodological angles – design as a process of production, distribution, representation and consumption – with specific attention to the complexities of meaning and interpretation in an economic, social and technological context.
  • The Arts and Crafts of “Dutch” Design deals with the origins and development of Dutch Design, a worldfamous name, synonymous with graphic, fashion, product and interior design in the Netherlands. The course casts a critical eye on the role of “being Dutch” as invented by designers, labels, critics and the government.
  • Design in Words: Criticism, Writing & Theory trains you to look critically at primary and secondary discourses on design and to write critical appraisals. At the end of this course you will be able to evaluate design and write and assess critiques.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Full-time duration 12 months
  • Study intensity Full-time
  • Credits
    60 ECTS
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode
    On Campus
  • More information Go To The Course Website
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Academic Requirements

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

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.

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

Tuition Fee Per Year

  • EUR 13400 International
  • EUR 1984 EU/EEA



  • VU Fellowship Programme
    A highly-selective programme for students who have excellent study results and who are strongly motivated.
  • Fulbright scholarship
    For highly motivated students with excellent study results.
  • Direct Loan Programme (US students)
    Study in the Netherlands with a US student loan.
  • Netherlands Fellowship Programme
    Grants intended to enable people who are currently employed in developing countries to obtain a Master's or PhD degree in the Netherlands.
  • STUNED Scholarship Programme
    A programme for professionals from Indonesia who have completed a Bachelor's study (S1).
  • Other scholarship possibilities

StudyPortals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

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