In the Master Design you contribute your creativity to social transformation. You will challenge norms, envision new futures and develop entrepreneurial and research skills.

The Master Design:

  • encourages you to identify socially relevant design issues and work in interdisciplinary and diverse contexts.
  • introduces you to creative and scientific theories, methods and tools.
  • provides a framework for developing your design entrepreneurship and design research project, from the initial idea to the formulation of a business concept or a research proposal.
  • is unique in that it is project-based and offers an individualised curriculum on a full-time or part-time basis, a free choice of supervisors and personal exchange through small classes.
  • offers state-of-the-art bright studio space where you can work, socialise and relax.


  • Title/Degree Master of Arts (MA)
  • Specialisations Design Entrepreneurship
    Design Research
  • Mode of study Full-time (3 semesters)
    Part-time (5 semesters)
  • Start date Thu, 5.9.2024
  • Application deadline Mon, 15.4.2024
  • ECTS credits 90 ECTS credits
  • Teaching language English, German
  • Location Bern
  • School Bern Academy of the Arts

Structure + Content

The Master in Design focuses on the development of your project, from the initial idea to its implementation.


In a world that is becoming more complex and facing more diverse and interconnected challenges, designers with pluralistic approaches are needed: people who can think and act with an open mind, who are not afraid to change what already exists and to involve others in processes of transformation.

The Master Design is one of the first programs in Switzerland that understands design as an interdisciplinary, participatory approach to social transformation. This understanding of design is not primarily about creating solutions that are aesthetically pleasing and purely functional but about promoting sustainable development and social change. It is considered interdisciplinary because it brings together different disciplines and fields of expertise, combining approaches from design, social sciences, economics, technology, and other relevant fields. It aims to challenge existing traditions, paradigms, standards and systems and find new ways of tackling problems and developing alternative approaches. It encourages inclusive cooperation and empathetic dialogue between stakeholders to collectively understand the challenges and work out solutions.

With our expertise in research and evidence-based development in the areas of social design, healthcare design, design entrepreneurship, environmental communication design, knowledge visualisation, design and rhetoric and design history, we support you in grasping the complexity of socially relevant problems. Based on this, we accompany you in the development of business concepts (specialisation “Entrepreneurship”) or research projects (specialisation “Research”). We also encourage you to critically reflect on your position and practice as a designer in society, in building new collaborations, as well as in establishing an appropriate network. With their highly personalised profiles, our graduates take on responsibility in business, science, education and politics, thus opening new fields of work that go far beyond the design of communication, products and experiences.


Within the “Entrepreneurship” specialisation, you will develop a business concept with the ultimate goal of creating the framework for a successful and sustainable venture that provides value to customers and has a positive impact on society. Your thesis can be used to apply for design and start-up funding. For example, to BRIDGE Proof of Concept and First Ventures of the Gebert Rüf Stiftung.

Within the “Research” specialisation, you will develop a proposal for a research project to advance knowledge in a field or develop a new approach that has a positive impact on society. Your thesis can be used to apply for research funding and admission to a doctoral programme. For example, to the doctoral programme “Studies in the Arts” (SINTA) at the University of Bern and the HKB.

Curriculum + Modules

Master Design Courses (36 ECTS)

Courses in the Master Design are mainly organised as three or six-day workshops rather than traditional seminars and weekly classes. Our lecturers are motivated to create a dynamic, interactive learning environment where knowledge is constructed and shared together. Thus, the focus is on dialogue as a central element of the learning process. The diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of our students and faculty contribute to the diversity of the learning process. This encourages students’ active participation and allows lecturers to engage as learning partners and facilitators rather than simply passing on knowledge.

This workshop explores the social impact and implications of design. You will reflect and become more aware of the issues and complexities of working on social issues (in and with society), focusing on the complex relationships between people, social structures and the environment. You will learn and apply methods through practical work to help you develop a socially sustainable and impactful product, service or research project. The workshop will help you to explore the needs, habits and perspectives of different actors that are relevant to your project and thus contribute to the social impact of your project.

During this workshop, you will learn how to work using design methods, social business strategies, and entrepreneurial principles. These approaches will help you recognise, tackle, and resolve social or environmental challenges. The workshop aims to create business acumen to foster positive societal transformation by devising inventive and enduring answers to social and/or environmental issues, all to enhance the welfare of communities, individuals, and the environment.

Whether you are developing a new product or service, researching complex social design issues, advising clients or formulating your own profile, Design Research generates new knowledge. While “research for design” informs the design process and “research on design” provides new fundamental knowledge about design, “research by design” enables creative solutions to complex problems. In this course, you will deepen the basics and methods of the subject in seminar units and joint project work.

You will develop complementary skills and competencies in the courses “Design Processes and Story Frameworks”, ”Organising the MAD Festival”, “Design Criticism”, “Design Ethics”, “Postcolonial Critique and Practice”, “Operational Planning and Fundraising in Entrepreneurship/Research”, “Show Your Work”, “Present your Projects” and “Visual Storytelling”.

The Master Design Festival is designed, organised and supervised jointly by you and your fellow students. You will develop your group work skills and learn the basics of event management. Held every autumn, the Master Design Festival allows you to invite and network with practitioners, luminaries and business leaders.

The Junior Design Research Conference serves as an annual exchange between all Master students in Design in Switzerland – across institutional boundaries. You will have the opportunity to participate in the conference through lectures and workshops.

As part of the Master Design, you will undertake an excursion to a city abroad. Over four days, you will visit different hotspots, such as companies, exhibitions, cultural institutions or universities. In addition, we will observe, discuss and reflect on current discourses and urban changes in the context of the city we visit.

Individual Courses (10 ECTS)

To acquire project-specific theories, methods and competencies, you can attend courses offered by the Department of Design and Fine Arts, the Y Institute, the Berne University of Applied Sciences BFH or partner institutions such as the University of Bern.

Project Development (incl. master thesis, 44 ECTS)

You will participate in a retreat with your peers, a senior student, as well as the head and assistant of the programme in order to get to know each other, your projects, and the Master Design philosophy.

You will develop your project in close collaboration with one or two supervisors of your choice. These can be HKB staff but also experts from outside the institution. Within the framework of your curriculum, you have a certain number of working hours at your disposal, which you can arrange individually with your supervisor/s. The supervisor/s can be changed at the beginning of each semester.

You will regularly present your project development to a committee of experts and your fellow students. Your project idea will then be discussed in the plenary. The committee will support you in the development of your project.

The project development results in the master’s thesis, which you will submit at the end of your studies. It consists of the following three parts:

  • a) in the specialisation “Entrepreneurship”: a business concept based on a design-based product or service
  • b) in the specialisation “Research”: a scientific research plan for a design research project
  • a documentation of the project development in the form of an annotated progress report;
  • an examination, consisting of a public presentation of the business concept or research plan (max. 20 minutes), a handout and follow-up questions from the exam committee (max. 25 minutes).

Optional Courses (0–20 ECTS)

In this introduction, you will learn about all the possibilities of the labs and workshops of the Department of Design and Fine Arts. You will also get to know the staff, who are happy to give you advice on technical issues and help you realise your project ideas wherever possible. Attending the introduction will entitle you to use the workshops and labs independently during your studies at the HKB.

The reading list contains literature recommendations from the Master Design. You will read twelve freely selectable titles from this list during your studies. The list is regularly evaluated by the students, lecturers and the Master Design management team. It reflects relevant design topics as well as standard works in the fields of design research and entrepreneurship.

The Forschungs-Mittwoch offers insights into the research activities of the HKB. The event series presents research work and puts it up for discussion. In some cases, ongoing or completed HKB projects are presented, in other cases, national and international guests are invited. The Forschungs-Mittwoch in the field of design is organised by the Institute of Design Research and the Master Design.

Partners + Exchanges

The HKB is linked to numerous partner universities in Switzerland and abroad and collaborates on many projects with international partners. It is also a member of various international networks.

The Master Design cooperates with various Swiss players in the field of public and private design promotion as well as with study programmes in Switzerland and abroad, for example: 


The Institute of Design Research (IDR) is one of four research institutes at the Bern Academy of the Arts HKB. Interdisciplinary teams investigate the various forms of designed communication in the research fields Knowledge Visualisation, Social Design, Environmental Communication Design, Design and Rhetoric, Design History, the project field Entrepreneurship and Creative Economies and the research group Health Care Communication Design. Projects are carried out in collaboration with partners from academia, within the public and private sectors in Switzerland and abroad. Some of the projects include dissertation projects within the doctoral programme “Studies in the Arts” (SINTA), which is run in collaboration with the University of Bern. The IDR and the Master Design collaborate closely in various ways: Researchers at the Institute contribute their approaches and findings as lecturers in the Master Design. Students of the Master Design develop research projects, which they realise as researchers at the institute. The team meetings in the research fields, as well as the research day of the IDR, are open to the students of the Master Design. Additionally, the IDR jointly organises the public lecture series Forschungs-Mittwoch with the Master Design.

Entrepreneurial thinking and action are key objectives of our educational and research mission. The Business Lab at the HKB motivates and empowers students, alums, and staff in our areas of expertise to develop art and design into sustainable and competitive business models. The Master Design is in regular exchange with the Business Lab. It supports Master Design students and alums in the development of entrepreneurial projects by advising them in start-up funding, networking and operational planning.

The Berner Design Stiftung promotes and communicates contemporary design from the canton of Bern and is responsible for the cantonal collection of applied art. The Master Design is in regular contact with the foundation. Master Design students can apply for the different funding schemes, provided they meet the relevant application requirements.

The Master Design programme sees the field of healthcare design as a promising and important field for future practitioners. Therefore, it has maintained a close relationship with the Swiss Center for Design and Health – the competence centre of national importance in Switzerland. Through joint events and personal exchanges between the institutions, opportunities are created, including the possibility of doing your master’s thesis on the premises of the SCDH.

The Master Design programs at WdkA and HKB share many similarities. Students in both programs learn to explore their design inquiries through various methods such as making, research, and storytelling. Through their design research, students contribute to new practices. The curriculum includes workshops, lectures, and coaching sessions. The programs’ similarities have led to a partnership focused on mutual development and exchange. Master Design students can apply to spend a semester or take individual courses at the WdKA through the International Office of the HKB.

Degree + Prospects


Master of Arts (MA) in «Design»

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Research

Career Prospects

Do you wish to contribute your creativity to social transformation? Are you inclined to challenge existing standards, norms, and systems and have a penchant for envisioning new futures? Do you enjoy pushing boundaries? Do you want to challenge and develop yourself personally and professionally? Do you have an idea for your own design entrepreneurship or design research project but are not sure how to make it happen?

With its future-oriented focus, the Master in Design program is primarily aimed at trained designers with professional experience who are not satisfied with their role as service providers and who want to use their skills to assume social responsibility and to initiate and lead corresponding projects.

The Master Design prepares graduates for various professions that deal with the design of change and innovation in different fields. Their competence profile enables them to initiate, contribute and advise transformation processes in various roles in companies and organisations. Due to their flexible way of thinking and working, our graduates are able to engage in different fields of activity. This opens up a wide range of professional opportunities. Typical areas of work include:

  • Public administration and services 
  • Research 
  • Education 
  • Non-governmental organisations 
  • Banking and Insurance 
  • Finance and management 
  • Healthcare sector 
  • Transportation 
  • Media 
  • Industry 
  • Start-ups in the areas mentioned above

Prerequisites + Admission

The number of study places is limited (Numerus Clausus). The suitability of an applicant is determined via an examination process. You may apply with an idea for a project, a service or a research project.

Entry requirements

School requirements

The prerequisite for admission to the aptitude test is a Bachelor’s degree, a FH diploma or an equivalent degree.

Professional requirements

You have some work experience, in teaching or in research, at least in the form of an internship.

Knowledge + Skills

Amongst other things, you have:

  • the ability to recognize and formulate a socially relevant problem;
  • the ability to think and act conceptually, creatively and relationally (design, analysis, reflection)
  • the motivation to work entrepreneurially (Entrepreneurship) or scientifically (Research).

Language Skills

You are fluent in spoken and written German or English and have basic knowledge of the other language. 

Foreign applicants

Foreign nationals require a valid travel document recognised by Switzerland, and also a visa is often required. In addition, international students must apply for a residence permit immediately after acceptance of their place of study and be able to produce a financial guarantee. They must also organise health insurance before commencing their studies. Please inform yourself in detail about your specific entry requirements.

Further Information

Practicalities + Application

Please take note of the dates and deadlines, as well as the information regarding the required documents and information.

For questions about scholarships and loans, please contact Olivia Bauer

At Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH, we promote balance between study, work and family.

A limited number of nursery places are available to BFH staff and students. If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, the relevant documents can be found on the BFH Intranet. The fees are income-based and in line with the cantonal rates described in the Verordnung über die Angebote der sozialen Integration (Decree on Social Integration Offer ASIV) issued by the Canton of Bern. You can apply for a nursery place using the online form on the BFH Intranet. If you’re a new student or member of staff and don’t have access to the Intranet, please contact Sarah Gross. There is no legal entitlement to a nursery place.

Swiss students have to complete compulsory service while studying too. Make sure you start planning and coordinating your studies and compulsory service early.

We strongly encourage you to complete basic military training and your first block of civilian service before starting your studies. If you complete these activities during your studies, you may miss classes. As a result, the duration of your programme may increase.


You can get help with coordinating your studies and your compulsory service from our team of advisers.

Commencement of studies: Thu, 5.9.2024
Application deadline: Mon, 15.4.2024
Aptitude assessment: Tue, 9.4. and Thu, 11.4.2024

So, you have decided to study at the Bern University of the Arts? Then do not hesitate and apply right now! By applying online, you will be kept up-to-date at every stage of the process. 

1. Contact us

The Head of Degree Programme will be happy to answer your questions about your registration, or advise you on the development of your project idea. Contact us via e-mail and arrange a consultation – in person, by phone or via Skype.

2. Apply

Please have the following documents ready in electronic form according to your academic history (passport photo: JPG / remaining documents: PDF). The maximum size per document is 1 MB.

  • ID card or passport

  • Passport photo

  • A diploma qualifying you for university studies (for example, A-Levels, Matura from a Gymnasium, Berufsmaturität, Fachmaturität, Abitur)

  • A CV in tabular form

  • A motivation letter expressing which field of study (“Entrepreneurship” or “Research” of the Master in Design at the HKB) you would like to undertake, and why. Max. 500 words. 

For international students, the following documents are also required:

  • A residence permit (if available)

If you were already enrolled at another university:

  • Confirmation of exmatriculation
  • Diploma and Transcript of previous academic history

In case you do not have the above listed documents, please mention this in the comments section. 

3. Upload your portfolio

As part of your online application, please upload your portfolio as one coherent PDF file under «weitere Unterlagen». Links to websites are also possible.

If you would like to attach other file formats, insert hyperlinks into the PDF file. This way you can add links to web pages, large images, audio and video files – stored on Dropbox or similar cloud storage systems. 

Please name the file as follows: «Portfolio MA Design_[Name]_[First Name]_Bewerbung 20xx»

Based on your portfolio, we will decide if you are eligible for an interview.

The portfolio can contain the following elements:

  • selected projects (results and documentations) from your bachelor studies
  • selected projects (results and documentations) from assignments (developed during self-employment or while employed)
  • selected research projects (results and documentations)
  • information about the development of the projects
  • comments relating to the projects

4. Present your project idea to us

In you are accepted for an interview, you will receive an invitation letter. You will have 20 minutes to present your project idea to us. Afterwards, we will ask you questions regarding your project for 10 minutes. The aptitude assessment committee consists of the Head of Degree Programme (Chair), at least two lecturers, and one assistant. Please note that a failed interview cannot be repeated, but you can apply a total of two times.  

5. Be patient

We will inform you no later than May whether you can commence your studies in the Master of Arts in Design. In addition to direct admission, we will create a waiting list. If you are accepted on the waiting list, we will inform you in June whether you can commence your studies. We look forward to receiving your application and are keeping our fingers crossed!


We cannot conduct any correspondence or provide any information via telephone about the aptitude assessment. The HBK cannot assume any liability for submitted portfolios.

Transferring from another university

In case you are enrolled at a university and would like to transfer to the MA Design programme at the HKB, contact the Head of Degree Programme and note under «Bemerkungen», that you would like to change universities and possibly enter a higher semester.

ERASMUS- and visiting students

If you are enrolled in another university and wish to complete part of your studies with the MA Design programme, please contact the Head of Degree Programme.

Consulting + Location

An open mind and a family atmosphere await you at the HKB. Please come and visit us.


We are happy to answer your questions regarding the registration process or advise you on the development of your project idea. Contact us by email and arrange a consultation – in person, by phone or online.

Werkstatt / Workshop

The workshop promotes the sensitisation of the perception of materials and their processing according to creative-artistic aspects. The team conducts learning opportunities and accompanies projects by students and lecturers. Assistance and support in the realisation of works and ideas as well as advice on the purchase of materials are offered. A professional and generous infrastructure including wood, metal, plastics, ceramics and textiles is available. The range is supplemented by the material pool, an extensive collection of samples of various materials and processing methods, which is part of the Material-Archive network.


The MediaLab is the competence centre of the HKB for audiovisual design and photography. Its staff hold courses, offer photography and AV training and advise students and lecturers at the HKB on content and technical issues. The workplaces and studios are equipped with an extensive production infrastructure and are available around the clock. Students at the HKB have the opportunity to use equipment outside of the MediaLab for the implementation and presentation of audiovisual and photographic projects.

Printing studio

In the printing studio you will find the HKB expertise for manual printing techniques. Its staff not only offer various courses in screen printing, gravure printing and letterpress printing, but also support students in their projects, if required. After attending an introductory course and after consultation with the responsible lecturers, students can also work independently in the printing studio outside opening hours.

Media library

The Media Library is the library of the departments of Design and Art, Conservation and Restoration, the Y Institute (Institute for Transdisciplinarity) and Research. It is open to members of the HKB as well as external users. 35,000 media are directly available in the open access library, including approximately 300 periodicals. As a member of the NEBIS network (Network of Libraries and Information Centres in Switzerland), it provides access to more than seven million titles in more than 300 libraries. These titles can be accessed online.