• Decennial
    Ten years ago, we celebrated our first graduating class of the MDes Basel, our International Master of Design UIC/HGK program. Revisiting the tradition of the Basel School of Design, this opportunity invites designers from around the world to hone their skills and further develop their approach to visual communication. With an emphasis on the design process, each project goes through countless iterations, is printed and rendered and discussed one on one, in pursuit of a relevant and meaningful solution. As we moved to our new campus in 2014, joining nine creative institutes that form the HGK (Academy of Art and Design FHNW), state-of-the-art workshops in metal, wood, and rapid prototyping have, in addition to our familiar silkscreen and bookbinding facilities, shaped how our students realize their own visual language. By providing each student with a fixed desk within a 24-hour accessible studio space, ideas can be developed and explored in a creative atmosphere. Participating in our summer workshops in practice-led research, typography, algorithmic, and poster design, each student's network and knowledge are further expanded as international designers join our four intensive one-week sessions. Our annual student trip to other cities, studios, and museums, offer first-hand experiences from which to glean new inspirations. Since our first graduating class of 2009, our alumni have been called on to teach at universities all over the world, establish their own studios and assume diverse roles in the international field of design. We look forward to continuing this tradition and welcome you to join its growing history.

  • The International Master of Design UIC/HGK (MDes Basel) is a collaboration of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and The Basel School of Design, Institute Digital Communication Environments HGK FHNW. It focuses on graphic designers, visual communication designers and media designers, with a bachelor's degree and professional design experience.

  • The MDes Basel addresses students who want to be part of an international program influenced by the tradition of Swiss Graphic Design and our current academic perspective and standards. Unique to this program, is the opportunity to graduate with an internationally accredited Master of Design (MDes) from UIC and the Swiss equivalent, MAS in Graphic Design I, Iconicism and Graphic Design II, Mediality from the HGK. Students are matriculated and registered at UIC with classes being held at the HGK FHNW Institute Digital Communication Environments in Basel. This is a 4 Semester, 120 ECTS (60 US Credits), full-time program.
  • Application deadline: March 28th, 2022
  • Semester begins: September 19th, 2022
  • Course language: English

  • Candidates
    Students entering the MDes program with a BA or BFA degree in Graphic Design, Visual Communication, Communication Design or Media Design wish to deepen their design skills through a process-led approach to solving visual problems. Gaining the ability to conduct a reflective and goal oriented design process and develop an individual vocabulary applicable in the design practice.
    • Program
      Continuing to build upon the influential Swiss design tradition set by The Basel School of Design, an emphasis is placed on process throughout the elements which form visual communication. We break these modules into imagery, typography, medium and theory. Process-oriented projects in imagery seek to extend the visual vocabulary of the students. Medium (new media), introduces creative coding as a strategy generate compositions and images through programming. This is combined with an understanding in the volatility of digital media and the visual artifacts found in their failure. Letterform design and typography deal with the formulation, organization and structure of character sets in order to convey information. With the rise of pictorial messages, a product of digitization, our practice-led research aims to address the discrepincy in studies on the impact of images relative to that of language.
    • Structure
      Balancing theory and practice, the first two semester’s consist of core classes (design theory, design practice, new media) and elective tools (photography, typography, graphic form, video, research). The third semester continues this trajectory, while a mini-thesis begins the investigation into a topic of choice which one will have dedicated themselves to in the fourth semester.
    • Travel
      First-hand experience’s are important. In our program, class excursions to exhibitions and studio visits play as important a role as discussions and critiques in the classroom. Every other year we visit UIC in Chicago for a week of student exchanges and cultural visits. In between those years a trip within Europe is planned by students to gain insight of that cities design culture. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, our travel plans shifted to one-week stays throughout Switzerland, including the regions of Graubünden and Ticino. There students explored the tastes, culture and nature Switzerland has to offer while forming closer bonds as a group.
    • Professional Field
      The acquisition of such design related practical expertise, with a theoretical basis, opens the gates to a range of employment opportunities in internationally oriented design offices, corporate design agencies, new media agencies, publishing houses, bureaus for exhibition design, architectural firms or starting ones own design studio. Our MDes program is well suited as a preparation for teaching design at a university level. Apart from the specific professional qualifications in the fields of graphic design and design research, the acquisition of soft skills is an explicit part of the learning outcome. These include writing and verbal expression skills, research methodology, presentational skills, and social and trans-cultural competence.

  • Browse our thesis project archive.
  • (in process)
    • 2021
    • 2020
    • 2019
    • 2018
    • 2017
    • 2016
    • 2015
    • 2014
    • 2013
    • 2012
    • 2011
    • 2010
    • 2009

  • Fall Workshop
    Recently, we've kicked off the year with invited faculty and students from another country. This has included, Taipei University, PaTI (Paju Typography Institute) and State Academy of Fine Arts of Armenia. Here visual and culinary cultures mix between both groups as the invited faculty organize a variety of workshops.
  • Fasnacht Workshop
    Every spring during Basel's carnival week, MDes candidates participate in a one week workshop given by an invited designer to match the intensity of music in the streets. Previous workshops have been given by: Pouya Ahmadi, Ludovic Balland, Ronnie Füglister, Hamish Muir, Alex Rich, Just van Rossum, David Schwarz, Emily Verba Fischer, Hahn+Zimmermann.
  • Winter Workshops
    The Winter Workshops of the Institute Digital Communication Environments consist of a sequence of five one-week workshops with a thematic focus on digital and time-based media. The workshops are aimed at professionals in the field of communication / marketing / design and art, as well as students in these fields of practice. They offer the opportunity for efficient further training in specific areas of competence.
  • Summer Workshops
    MDes candidates are invited to participate in our international Summer Workshop series following their first year, an event their fellow master students from UIC also participate in. Developing a network with these students is key, as every other year the students of Basel travel to Chicago to further enrich this collaboration. Summer workshops include weekend field-trips to local design highlights within and across the German and French borders, including: Vitra Design Museum (G), the Isenheimer Alter (F) or Ronchamp (F). In Basel the Fondation Beyeler, Tinguely Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Schaulager and the Museum of Contemporary Art are world renown.

Since 2014, we're located at a new campus in the Dreispitz areal of Basel. With the move, we join forces with our fellow institutes of the Academy of Arts HGK, expanding the shared pool of resources available to each student.

Ted Davis

Philipp Stamm
Adrian Frutiger – Typefaces. The Complete Works

Ted Davis

Mischa Leiner
Frank Gehry On Line
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton NJ

Ted Davis

Kambiz Shafei

Ted Davis

Jonas Schaffter

Ted Davis

Michael Renner

Ted Davis

Jiri Oplatek
Doing Fashion Show Plakate 11

Ted Davis

Gregory Vines
Gewerbemuseum Basel/Museum für Gestaltung

Ted Davis

Leander Eisenmann
Other Side, me+them

Ted Davis

Ted Davis
OscillDraw_NotRecognized, 2017

  • Arts and Design
    Home to one of the richest cultural centers for the arts within Europe, Basel with only 37 square kilometers, hosts nearly forty museums. This includes the Vitra Design Museum, 60,000+ collection of original posters in the Basel Plakatsammlung (Poster Archive) and the Museum of Design Zürich located an hour away by train. At the beginning of each summer, the world's premier international art show for modern and contemporary works, Art Basel, takes the city by surprise. In addition to housing the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel is both the home base and playground for a handful of world-renowned architects.
  • Cultural Events
    Spring is met with a surprising side of the Swiss as they fit themselves with costumes, masks and instruments for 72 hours of Carnival, known as Fasnacht. The largest of its type in Switzerland, the festivities begin when all of the city lights are turned off at precisely 4:00am on the monday following Ash Wednesday. In summer the Rhine River, which flows directly through the center of the city, is filled with orange fish (dry bags) and their owners who float to cool off. In the fall and winter one can look forward to Herbstmesse / Weihnachtsmarkt (Autumn Fair/Christmas Market) for traditional foods and crafts spread across the city. Throughout the year, one can also find a wide range of specialty art, film and especially music festivals.
  • Travel
    Centrally located, Switzerland connects both northern and southern parts of Western Europe through its mountainous Alp region. Situated in the north-west of Switzerland, Basel borders both Germany and France, providing ample opportunity for diverse short-distance travel. By bike one can easily peddle between all three countries in less than an half-hour. Distant travel is made easy with train stations going directly into neighboring countries as well as a local airport offering flights to 60+ destinations. Together with an extensive Swiss Railway system, offering many discounts based on age and location, ones study in Basel will benefit greatly from the wide range of culture found throughout its many surroundings.


Ju Hyun Kang
Experiments of Writing with Experience

Yann Patrick Matrins

Elham Namvar
The Library – Alternative Ways of Organizing Knowledge


Promphan Suksumek + Elham Namvar
Plotting Lyrics


Zeynep Basay
Interpreting Reality By Drawing

Yann Patrick Matrins

Rasha Dakkak
The Prayer Mat: Re-interpreting Ritual Aesthetics
Photo: Yann Patrick Martins

Hala Al-Ani

Hala Al-Ani
Voluntary Traces
Photo: Hala Al-Ani


Scott Vander Zee
Untitled (2013–2014)

Our alumni's impact is found across the globe.
A selection of profiles since our first graduate class of 2009:

Pouya Ahmadi, Iran
Assistant Professor UIC

Mano Ahn, South Korea
Art Director, 17717

Zeynep Basay, Turkey
Founder, Pata Studio

Pegah Ahmadi, Iran
Systems Designer, Grubhub

Pablo Berger, Mexico
Founder, berger + co

Emily Verba, USA
Associate Professor, DAAP

Sungwon Chang, South Korea
Product Designer, Facebook

Riem Ibrahim, Dubai
Assistant Professor, American University of Sharjah
Co-Founder, Mobius Design Studio

Engy Aly, Egypt
Assistant Professor, American University in Cairo

Jude Kang, South Korea
Adjunct Professor, Konkuk University

María Marín de Buen, Mexico
Book Designer, Estudio María Marín de Buen

Hala Al-Ani, Dubai
Assistant Professor, American University of Sharjah
Co-Founder, Mobius Design Studio

Pedro Neves, Portugal
Visiting Assistant Professor, UIC

Aubrey Pohl, USA
Visiting Professor, MSU

Sent by e-mail:

Theodore Davis
Subject: MDes Basel - 2022 Application

  • Step 2
    Portfolio, letter of intent, resume/cv, recommendation letters.
    Submitted by Slideroom, do not send by e-mail.

The portfolio should consist of up to 20 examples, we strongly encourage process work alongside final outcomes. Limit image sizes to 1280px, 72dpi and keep PDF file size under 10Mb. A second PDF may be uploaded if necessary. For media and interactive works, please provide screenshots and links for online viewing.

Place letter of intent and resume at the beginning of a multipage PDF, followed by your portfolio work.

Two letters of recommendation, requested from teachers or professional contacts, are organized in Slideroom.
Note: Slideroom deadline is longer, incase of extension.

If accepted by HGK Basel, you‘ll proceed with an online application for registration with UIC.
This requires official university transcripts (translated if necessary) and TOEFL/IELTS proficiency tests in English.

Deadline: March 28th, 2022
Notification for interviews: April 4th, 2022
Confirmation of participation: May 30th, 2022

  • Tuition + Fees
    25,000.– CHF per year for all students.
    Payable in yearly, semesterly or quarterly installments.
    Anticipate up to 1,000.– CHF per year for materials.
  • Scholarships and Grants
    Self organized by applicants. Your local government may have international study financing. You may qualify for an art school scholarship from the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists. Additionally the Hirschmann grants is an option specific to students attending Swiss universities of applied sciences.
  • Work parallel to study
    After 6 months, a student may apply for a work permit for up to 15 hours per week. Some students continue to pursue freelance work, but keep in mind that this is a two year full-time intensive program.
  • Non-design background
    While a bachelors degree is required, it may vary in background. Candidates should have either working experience in the field or come from an arts and design background.
  • English TOEFL/IELTS requirements
    TOEFL/IELTS proficiency tests in English are required by UIC depending on your country of residence. This process can be waived on a case by case basis, but it's ideal if completed.
  • Difference between MDes and MA
    Our MDes program is limited to a smaller group size for more direct contact (max 7 per year vs. 20). It places an emphasis on international design practice and is composed of a very international group of students. Recent students have come from: Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States of America. Candidates of the MA program receive a Master of Arts degree from The Basel School of Design, whereas our MDes program is dual-degree, with candidates receiving an internationally recognized Master of Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and a Master of Advanced Studies from The Basel School of Design (HGK).
  • German Language
    We encourage students to take an evening German course, covered by your tuition. Nevertheless, it's very easy to get by using English as Basel is an international city, bordering both Germany and France. Within the institute and campus one will find a very friendly atmosphere where students between all programs and levels interact frequently. The city and university offers many clubs and sports, where one can quickly find a group of common interests.
  • Involvement with UIC in Chicago
    Each summer both 1st year MDes groups meet and partake in the Summer Workshops held in Basel. Every other year, a class trip is organized to visit Chicago for a combination of presentations, workshop, cultural and studio visits. In the alternating year, a UIC/HGK faculty exchange workshop takes place along with a study trip within Europe. The location and activities of this trip are decided and organized by the MDes students.
  • Covid-19 Pandemic
    Like many universities, in Spring 2020 had to switch to remote teaching. In Fall 2021 we began the year with physical teaching before again having to return to hybrid and remote courses. Throughout that time, our campus and workshops remained available for students, while travel trips within Switzerland continued. Since fall 2021, we've returned to in-person physical teaching, which we foresee continuing through the future thanks to the progress of vaccines and safety measures.

For additional questions, please feel free to contact us.

The International Master of Design Program UIC/HGK is a collaboration of University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland.

Brigida Brunetti, Administration
+41 61 228 43 47

Ted Davis, Program Coordinator
+41 61 228 41 24

Prof. Michael Renner, Head of Institute
+41 61 228 40 85

Stay informed for Fall 2023

Design, Code
Kambiz Shafei, Ted Davis