The Master in Design is a project-based programme for socially relevant design and design research projects. As a full- or part-time student, you can choose between specializations in Entrepreneurship or Research.

This degree programme:

  • Enables you to develop design and design research projects – from the initial idea to its implementation;
  • shows you how to identify socially relevant design issues;
  • introduces you to creative and scientific theories, methods and tools to gain new knowledge and develop innovative solutions;
  • enables you to formulate a business plan or a research proposal;
  • is unique in offering small class sizes, free choice of supervisors and an individualized curriculum. 


  • 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, 7.9.2023
  • Application deadline Fri, 14.4.2023
  • 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.


Design has established itself as an interdisciplinary approach to solving social problems. Nowadays, designers take on responsibility in business, science and politics, thus opening up new areas of work that go beyond the design of communication, products and experiences. 

We convey design as an interdisciplinary and socially responsible practice. In this way, we prepare you to perceive your role as a designer within society and to actively help shape it. We support you to grasp the complexity of socially relevant problems and to develop appropriate solutions (specialisation «Entrepreneurship») or to ask socially relevant research questions and to answer them (specialisation «Research»).

Our expertise are research and evidence-based development in the areas of social design, health care design, environmental communication design, knowledge visualization, design and rhetoric, design history and design-driven innovation. Furthermore, we support you in exploring other fields and building up a corresponding network. 


Within the «Entrepreneurship» specialisation, you will create a business plan for a design-based product or service, which will provide the basis for your subsequent career. You may use your final project to found your own company and apply for design and start-up funding.

Within the «Research» specialisation, you will plan a design research project that you will pursue in your career following graduation. You may use your final project 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

MAD courses (36 ECTS)

This workshop deals with the social influence of design. You sensitize yourself to the work in and with society and focus on the complex relationship between man and object, or man and environment. You will get to know and apply methods that support you in developing a design-based product, a service or a research project and with which the needs of user and population groups can be determined. This is how you specify the "social impact" of your projects.

As a design entrepreneur, but also when founding and managing a design studio or research project, financial planning, positioning in the environment, marketing, sales, accounting, etc. are everyday tasks. This requires designers to have a basic understanding of business. In this workshop you will get to know current entrepreneurial discourses, methods and attitudes and how to apply them to your own project.

Whether for the development of a new product or a new service, for researching a complex order, for advising customers or for formulating your own profile: Design research delivers new knowledge. While research for design informs the development of innovative solutions and research on design provides new basic knowledge, research for design enables creative solutions to complex problems.

In this workshop you will become familiar with the possibilities of creating products, services, strategies, processes and convincing messages. The focus of this approach is always the user and the needs of the user, without neglecting technological and business aspects.

You will acquire additional skills in courses such as Organising the Guest Lecture Festival, Design and Power, Design Ethics, Designing Advertising, Fundraising and Writing Applications in Entrepreneurship/Research, Show Your Work and Present your Projects.

In six half-day workshops, led by internal and external experts, you will receive an introduction to design and design research relevant methods and thus further develop an individual methodological framework for your project.

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

As part of the MA Design, you will undertake an excursion abroad. You will be able to visit various hotspots, such as companies, cultural institutions or universities, which will be selected according to your project topics. 

You plan, organize and host a guest lecture (including a discussion) relating to your project. With our assistance you will invite a person, who can support you in the development and implementation of your project idea, and develop a concept for the event. This will allow you to establish contacts to gatekeepers and key players in your respective field.

Individual Courses (10 ECTS)

In order to acquire project-specific theories, methods and competencies, you will also attend courses offered by the Faculty of Design and Art, other courses offered by the HKB, the Berne University of Applied Sciences BFH or partner institutions such as the University of Berne. 

Project Development (incl. master thesis, 44 ECTS)

You will sit in on a seclusion with the Head of Degree Programme, assistant and fellow students in order to get to know us, your fellow students, their projects and the philosophy of the MA Design. 

You will develop your project in close collaboration with one or two supervisors. A fixed number of working hours are made available to you for this purpose. These can be agreed upon individually with the supervisor/s. The supervisor/s can be changed at the beginning of the semester.

You will regularly present an update of your project to a committee, as well as to your fellow students. Your project idea will then be discussed in plenary. The commission supports you in the development of your project, the compilation of your individual study plan, and defines the formal requirements for your thesis in the colloquium.

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 protocol;
  • a thesis defence consisting of a public presentation of the business concept or research plan, a handout and subsequent follow-up questions from the examination board. 

Optional Courses (0–20 ECTS)

The public event series Research Wednesday in the field of design is organized by the Institute of Design research and the Master in Design. More on this will follow.

The aim of Pre-Opening is for you to present your projects to the public. For this purpose, you will realize the exhibition that was conceived as part of the MAD course “Show your Projects”. It also offers an attractive framework for establishing contacts with partners, funding institutions and investors.

Partners + Exchanges

The HKB is connected to numerous partner universities within and outside of Switzerland, and collaborates on many projects with international partners. It is also a member of various international networks.

In the study area of Design, we cooperate with various Swiss players in public and private design promotion as well as study programmes in Switzerland and abroad, for example: 


The Berner Designinitiative understands entrepreneurship as an interdisciplinary creative approach that should lead to the development of new entrepreneurial ideas. It launches and disseminates entrepreneurship in the capital region of Berne and beyond. With targeted partnerships, relevant players in the area of action are brought into the efforts of the initiative. The committee consists of the Bern Design Foundation, the Creative Hub, the HKB / MA Design and the Impact Hub Bern.

The Junior Research Conference serves as an annual exchange between all Swiss Master’s programmes in Design. MA Design students have the opportunity to participate through lectures and workshops.

The constant evolution in societal, cultural, social, technological and aesthetic contexts are having an impact on design more than ever; the boundaries of traditional disciplines are increasingly being crossed. The Master’s programme in Integrated Design in Bremen understands creative research and practice as integrated thinking and acting in interdisciplinary contexts.

HKB students have the opportunity to complete part of their studies or an internship abroad. Interested persons from abroad can also apply to study at the HKB or spend part of their studies here. 

Degree + Prospects


Master of Arts (MA) in «Design»

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Research

Career Prospects

With its future-oriented focus, the Master in Design program appeals primarily to designers 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.

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 Corinne Badertscher (Tel. +41 (0)31 848 33 01, 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, 7.9.2023
Application deadline: Fri, 14.4.2023
Aptitude assessment: Wed, 12.–Thu, 13.4.2023

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.