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BA (Hons) - Graphic Design (with integrated foundation year)

Have alternative qualifications or don't quite meet our entry criteria? No problem.

If you’re looking for a graphic design foundation course that will develop your skills and confidence in a supportive, dynamic environment, look no further.

Your introductory year will give you the technical expertise and knowledge to progress to our highly respected undergraduate degree in graphic design.


Course Overview

To break into the competitive but rewarding graphic design industry, you’ll need an exciting portfolio, excellent subject knowledge, the skills to use the latest professional equipment and technology – and your own unique flair in creatively solving communication problems.

So, if you’re looking for a graphic design foundation course that enables you to learn graphic design from industry experts and develop the skills and confidence needed to kick-start your graphic design career, look no further. Your introductory year will give you the technical expertise and knowledge to progress to our highly respected BA (Hons) Graphic Design course.

Following your foundation year, our hands-on course is designed to take you to your creative limits and graduate with the confidence, experience and skills that are so sought after by employers in this highly selective but exciting industry.

On this course you will...

  • Develop an appreciation of the key theories and contexts that influence graphic design today.
  • Develop a portfolio of graphic design work that demonstrates your understanding, visual skills and critical judgement.
  • Work on industry-led briefs enabling you to develop autonomy, creativity and professionalism.
  • Develop a range of industry-standard skills: idea generation, design development, typography, layout, 3D graphics, motion graphics, digital artwork, presentation skills, etc.
  • Undertake group projects which simulate the workflow of a professional studio.

Course Structure

What you will learn

You will work closely with illustrators exploring the fundamental principles of visual communication and many of the core principles and considerations are shared between the two disciplines,

As well as visual communication skills, you will also develop the personal management, interpersonal and team working skills that will help you to deal with the challenges of the exciting, fast-changing industry that you’re a part of during and after life as a student. From Semester 2 onwards your learning will become ever more specialised and industry-focused. This enables you to develop specialist skills and understanding in such diverse areas as typography, editorial and book design, branding and identity, packaging, motion graphics, exhibition design, etc.

Year one

The year is all about gaining experience and confidence that will act as a springboard onto your main degree. When you join us you’ll become a valued member of a wide creative community and from the outset, you’ll be encouraged to share your ideas, experiences and work with staff, fellow students and, eventually, the wider world.

You will have the same access to facilities as any other student in the Institute of the Arts, but with the added advantage of working very closely alondgside illustration, fine art and photography IFY students, seeing how different disciplines approach visual enquiry and problem-solving. Gaining practical experience of collaboration at this early stage is a unique feature of the course that mirrors industry practice. Design is rarely a solo occupation!

  • Making Images
    An introduction to a wide range of conventional and unconventional image-making processes.
  • Making Objects
    Examine a wide range of 3D processes in relation to a specific project brief.
  • Visual Enquiry
    Develop your knowledge and understanding to enhance your research methods, contextual awareness, and an evaluative ability.
  • Environment
    Explore your local environment using a range of inter-disciplinary practices such as graphic processes, drawing, 3D, photography, moving image, and collage/montage.
  • Portfolio and Progression
    Produce a professional and substantial portfolio of work.
Year two

In this year, you’ll gain fundamental knowledge and practical experience of visual communication, the building blocks of visual language and professional attitudes and practices.

  • Introducing Visual Communication
    Develop effective working practices and habits.
  • Cultural Contexts
    An introduction to the cultural, historical, and social contexts in which creative work from a range of disciplines.
  • Multi-Dimensional Graphic Design
    Explore multiple forms and formats, from traditional print to the latest digital platforms, simple symbols to complex information and ideas, ephemeral to iconic.
  • Collaborative Practice
    Work with other students to explore and practice the skills involved in creative collaboration.
Year three

This year is focused on applying the knowledge and skills you’ve gained to a series of design challenges. Testing and refining your design and personal management skills in a number of scenarios will give you confidence in your ability to tackle unfamiliar challenges. As your confidence grows through experience you’ll begin to develop your own, personal stands of interest or specialism.

  • The Designer's Toolkit
    Explore the structural elements that are essential when creating any piece of graphic design - alignment, hierarchy, contrast, repetition, proximity, balance, colour, and space.
  • Type & Typography
    Explore letterforms and how they can be manipulated and arranged to inform, entice, and communicate lies.
  • Graphic Design Projects
    Develop conceptual skills and an individual approach to graphic design problem-solving, providing the springboard to your final year of study.
  • The Critical Designer
    Explore key contextual debates which impact production and the reading of graphic design texts. Consider design as a form of social practice.
Year four

Flexibility is most evident in this final year where all of the skills, knowledge and confidence you have developed so far is brought together to produce a portfolio of design work that showcases your talents. With your career aspirations or personal research interests in mind, you’ll have a high degree of freedom in choosing what type of work you want to develop.

  • Advanced Design Projects
    An opportunity to work within a design brief and explore a particular area of interest.
  • Independent Research Paper
    Develop specialised and focused knowledge and understanding of a subject of your own choice.
  • Graphic Design Showcase
    An opportunity to show-off the skills, knowledge, and professionalism developed throughout the course to potential employers and the wider world.

Attend an Open Day at Cumbria

An Open Day is your opportunity to explore one of 5 campuses, meet your lecturers, and find out how the University of Cumbria could become your new home.

Take the next step towards achieving your dreams.
A student stands in front of a wall splattered with paint.