• Background
    The UIC/HGK Basel International Master of Design (MDes Basel) is a collaboration between two preeminent design schools housed in leading public research institutions: The Institute Digital Communication Environments of the Basel Academy of Art and Design FHNW, Switzerland (HGK Basel) and the School of Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Our MDes Basel program offers advanced design students’ opportunities to amplify their creative abilities as they engage in the world-class cultural offerings of two vibrant cities.

  • Basel Academy of Art and Design FHNW has influenced the international graphic design community since the 1960s. UIC is a young, progressive, and distinguished public research university. Based on the tradition of Swiss Design pedagogy, the aim of our collaborative graduate program is to advance the profession’s expanding directions and range of impact by balancing deep disciplinary engagement with proactive critical intent. In this context, students are encouraged to connect the meaning and purpose of their work to global, cultural, political, technological, and socio-economic issues.

  • MDes Basel students participate in project-oriented activities that strengthen process-oriented skills as applied to image- and form-making, typographic forms and systems, documentation and publication design, and digital media innovation. Curriculum additionally fosters analytical competence in research and writing, as well as in design history and theory. A highlight of the program is the master’s thesis, an independent research, writing, design, and exhibition project, that offers students the opportunity to identify and explore a topic of inquiry with the potential to contribute to broader disciplinary knowledge.

  • Coordinated programs of exchange offer possibilities for all MDes students to experience the rich international history of Basel and to access the diverse forms of design practice in Chicago. Every other year, Basel-based students make a field trip to Chicago. Activities and excursions during this exchange balance campus-based collaborative workshops with interdisciplinary cultural experiences. Between the first and second year of the program, Chicago-based MDes students participate in the Basel Summer Workshops.

  • Nearly 15 years ago, we celebrated our first graduating class of the MDes Basel. Since that time, alumni have established independent studios at the forefront of design practice; been recruited to teach at design schools and universities worldwide; taken part in academic and exhibition programs such as Dubai, Eindhoven, Mexico City, New York, and Seoul; and assumed diverse leadership roles in the international field of design. We look forward to continuing this tradition of influence and welcome your application for fall 2024.

  • 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 Basel. Students are matriculated and registered at UIC with classes being held at the HGK Basel. This is a 4 Semester, 120 ECTS (60 US Credits), full-time program.
  • Application deadline: March 31st, 2024
  • Semester begins: September 16th, 2024
  • Course language: English

  • Late applications welcome until spots are filled.
  • Contact us for details.

  • » View our MDes Basel Teaser

  • 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 a given city's design culture. Occasionally this has also been planned as a one-week stays within 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)
    • 2022
    • 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, Bérénice Serra, David Schwarz, Emily Verba Fischer, Hahn+Zimmermann.
  • Winter Workshops
    The Winter Workshops of the Institute Digital Communication Environments consist of a sequence of six one-week workshops with a thematic focus on digital, time-based media and typography. 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.
    See Continuing Education for details.
  • 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 HGK Basel, expanding the shared pool of resources available to each student.

Ted Davis

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

Ted Davis

Philipp Stamm
Adrian Frutiger – Typefaces. The Complete Works

Ted Davis

Leander Eisenmann
Other Side, me+them

Ted Davis

Gregory Vines
Gewerbemuseum Basel/Museum für Gestaltung

Ted Davis

Jonas Schaffter

Ted Davis

Kambiz Shafei

Ted Davis

Michael Renner

Ted Davis

Jiri Oplatek
Doing Fashion Show Plakate 11

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.


Scott Vander Zee
Untitled (2013–2014)


Promphan Suksumek + Elham Namvar
Plotting Lyrics

Yann Patrick Matrins

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


Ju Hyun Kang
Experiments of Writing with Experience

Hala Al-Ani

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

Yann Patrick Matrins

Elham Namvar
The Library – Alternative Ways of Organizing Knowledge


Zeynep Basay
Interpreting Reality By Drawing

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

Pouya Ahmadi, Iran
Associate Professor RISD

Mano Ahn, South Korea
Creative Director, Ahn Graphics

Zeynep Basay, Turkey
Founder, Pata Studio

Pegah Ahmadi, Iran
Lead Product Designer | Design System, Front

Pablo Berger, Mexico
Founder, berger + co

Emily Verba, USA
Associate Professor, DAAP

Sungwon Chang, South Korea
Senior Designer, Microsoft

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
Faculty Lead, BS Computer Science + Design, UIC

Aubrey Pohl, USA
Visiting Assistant Professor, MSU

Anahat Kaur, India
Brand Designer, ResearchGate

Sent by e-mail:

Theodore Davis
Subject: MDes Basel - 2024 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 URL 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. There's a grace period of 14 days for these letters to be submitted.

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 31st, 2024
Notification for interviews: April 8th, 2024
Confirmation of participation: May 31st, 2024

Late applications welcome until spots are filled.
Contact us for details.

» MDes Info Session, February 7th, 4:30pm CET, Zoom

  • 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 design practice and is composed of a very international group of students. Recent students have come from: Brazil, Canada, Egypt, India, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States of America. Candidates of the MA program receive a Master of Arts degree from HGK Basel, 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 HGK Basel.
  • 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 Basel 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.

For additional questions, please feel free to contact us.

The International Master of Design Program UIC/HGK Basel is a collaboration of University of Illinois at Chicago and Basel Academy of Art and Design FHNW.

Ted Davis, Program Coordinator
+41 61 228 41 24

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

IDCE Student Administration
+41 61 228 41 11

MDes Info Session, March 12th 2024, 18:00h CET, Zoom

Stay informed for Fall 2025

Design, Code
Kambiz Shafei, Ted Davis