The MA Design Programme at the Iceland Academy of The Arts concerns itself with reality and realities.
The Icelandic Academy of the Arts invites people from all fields, design, art, science and the humanities to participate on a unique journey. In dialogue with a hands-on and experimental studio culture, the MA Design Programme is engaged with the value and the topic of Imagination, and the contemporary need to design alternative realities and futures.
The MA Design Programme at the IAA was launched in 2012 and fall 2017 will see it develop in new directions. Thomas Pausz and Garðar Eyjólfsson direct the programme as of August 2017 and asked about the value of completing the MA design in Iceland they say:
“Our design studies focus on the specificity of Iceland as a means to understand the wider world. Iceland has unique natural resources and geological compositions. Its recent industrial culture has a huge potential for sustainable development. We have access to renewable energy, the ocean as a resource still to explore, a dynamic new forestry, a complex network of rivers and natural water.”
Iceland counts around 330.000 inhabitants with an increasing flow of international visitors and art festivals. This creates certain proximity and allows direct access to essential resources: scientists, labs, institutions, workshops, industry, academics, cultural actors, media.
Garðar and Thomas add: “The MA Design Studio communicates and interacts intensively with the surrounding society, offering students a unique opportunity and accessible channels to accelerate their research – a quality that many programmes in bigger cities and countries may have a harder time offering, due to heavier infrastructures and more complex social structures.”
“In our experience,” Thomas and Garðar point out, “students, researching themes in the local context of Iceland can deepen their understanding with this first-hand knowledge. Interestingly, good ‘local’ work ends up having a powerful voice globally, as shown by the increasing mediatisation/broadcasting of recent projects from The Iceland Academy of the Arts.”
We are also interested in developing a culture of hosting international designers, artists and thinkers in our MA programme and studio. They can contribute to the programme’s labs and seminars, and conduct projects here to expose the students to their working methods. We have previously worked with Studio Formafantasma, The M.I.T Arts, Culture and Technology Lab and will continue these collaborations. We have planned workshops with Nogoland Projects (FR), and Phillipe Quesnes (FR) for the Autumn 2017.
Emphasis on narratives and a viable studio culture
The programme will be focused on narratives and in dialogue with a hands-on and experimental studio culture, the MA Design programme is engaged with the value and the topic of Imagination, and the contemporary need to design alternative realities and futures. An emphasis is put on design as storytelling through the use and study of media as an integral part of contemporary design culture. Julia Lockhart from Goldsmiths (UK) is a regular contributor to this side of the programme – and we are inviting guests from speculative design practices such as Thomas Thwaites (UK).
The culture of the programme is considered integral to individual and collective development and participants will actively shape this culture and reflect on the role of design in the contemporary context. Students are encouraged to explore innovative ways to display and translate knowledge, to work beyond the self and extend the boundaries of the design studio – investigating various media and formats.
The MA Design Programme welcomes applications from students of all fields who are willing to enhance their research skills through a unique mix of theory, dialogue, debate, field research in the Icelandic landscape, interdisciplinary network generation, system mapping and hands on material experimentations with the aim to create a library of possibilities.
Useful information about the application process and the programmeme can be found online at
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