Art & Design

Fulfil your creative potential

If you are ready to start your journey to a career in the creative industries and are passionate about Art and Design, South Essex College is the place for you.

Our Art & Design team are committed to providing you with top quality programmes that are taught by industry-trained professionals. Our staff will strongly encourage your individuality and creative flair, to equip you with the confidence and innovation to work independently after your course.

Our aim is to help develop your knowledge to enable you to pursue your chosen career, both within and outside the creative industry.

We offer a wide range of Art and Design qualifications from introductory programmes right up to degree-level courses, and there are opportunities for entry at all levels, with clear progression routes.

Spark your creativity in an environment that encourages and supports your talent development.

Career destinations
  • Craft artist
  • Self-employment
  • Arts administrator
  • Arts manager
  • Graphic designer
  • Visual merchandiser
  • Interior designer
  • Photographer
  • Fine artist
  • Textile producer
  • Illustrator
  • Art teacher
  • Fashion designer
  • Magazine stylist
  • Retail buyer
  • Fashion marketer

Success stories

Will Thatcher

Will Thatcher

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

My greatest achievement so far has been breaking into the industry of my choice at an agency where I am able to work with dream clients.

My name is Will Thatcher, I am 28 years old and I studied BA Graphic Design and Illustration at South Essex College until July 2023 after graduating with a first class, and this is my story.

I wasn’t a big fan of school when I was younger, so I did a Business Admin apprenticeship in London. I then stayed at that company for another four years working in IT but decided it wasn’t for me. I have always been passionate about art and design, so I came to South Essex college to pursue a more creative career. I first enrolled on the Access to HE Art & Design course for a year, which helped me solidify my choice of graphic design.

I have just finished a six-month internship as a Graphic Designer at West Ham United FC organised through the college. It was part-time, so I was lucky enough to be able to do this alongside my studies and continued this a few months after graduation. Working at a Premier League club was an unforgettable experience, and I learnt so much from it. I am very grateful to those involved, and I still can’t believe it happened.

I have just landed a job as a Graphic Designer at IMG | Seven League. They are a consultancy and digital marketing agency working with major sports brands such as the NFL, Premier League and NBA to increase fan engagement and attract new audiences.

My job involves working within the design team to come up with creative concepts for both client and internal briefs, such as social media campaigns, and producing exciting graphics to be used by the clients. Sport is super visual, and I get to work with different clients, each with unique identities, so no job is the same.

Having to give up my job to study full-time meant I knew I had to make myself as employable as possible. The great thing about Graphic design is that you can combine it with any passion. I am obsessed with sports, so this became the focus of most of my work, leading me to be selected for my West Ham internship. I also reached out to various football clubs for freelance work and developed passion projects. It was great for my portfolio and ultimately secured my current job. My advice to anyone studying for a creative degree is to push yourself and focus on a specific area/industry you would like to work in. It will make you stand out from the crowd.

I chose to study at South Essex because they offer a variety of courses on my doorstep. It allowed me to study while living at home, close to my family and friends. I also loved how diverse the college is, and I have made friends from all different backgrounds and ages. Enrolling on the Access to HE Art & Design course enabled me to try many mediums before making my choice.

Studying on my course allowed me to gain insights into the industry from my experienced lecturers and guest speakers. I learned design principles and essential skills such as Adobe Illustrator and printing methods.

The best thing about doing higher education was that I had the freedom, time, and space necessary to develop my knowledge and skills while under the guidance of my lecturers. It also gave me a lot of focus, which I may have struggled with if I had self-taught myself outside of my job.

I had no graphic design or media option at school, so everything was new, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I now consider myself skilled in them, but like everyone, I am still learning new things every day. We also learned how to present more effectively in crits to my peers and open myself up to feedback. Responding to feedback is a crucial skill in the creative industry, and the course provides a supportive and encouraging environment to help develop this.

The college provides access to Apple Macs with an Adobe Creative Cloud, which I previously had never used before. Although they are not absolutely necessary, it was good to learn how to use this industry-standard equipment and software. There are also brilliant printing facilities.

I would recommend South Essex College because it is a good option for anyone living locally who wants a supportive environment to learn at their own pace. A smaller number of students on each course also allows more interaction with your lecturer. You would rarely get this at larger institutions, and I don't think I would be at the same level I am elsewhere.

Coming here has massively helped me with my confidence. Before I came here, I wasn’t sure where life was going, but I realised it was the best decision I've made. Like anyone, I still have days of self-doubt, but these are much rarer now due to the strides I'm making and the encouragement of others.

My greatest achievement so far has been breaking into the industry of my choice at an agency where I am able to work with dream clients. I always knew I wanted to work for major brands. I still have to pinch myself.

I want to continue working in sports and have ambitions to be a creative director one day, as I enjoy motivating others and hearing other perspectives and ideas.

Sophie Wade My Story

Sophie Wade My Story

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

The best thing about completing a higher education course is the sense of accomplishment

My name is Sophie Wade, I am 24 years old, I studied BA (Hons) Graphic Design and Illustration at South Essex University from 2020 until 2023, and this is my story.

After finishing my A-Levels in 2017, I spent three years working in Local Government Administration roles. I wasn’t finding the work enjoyable or fulfilling, so in 2020 I decided that I would return to education and embark on a new creative career path.  

I liked the idea of studying local and being able to commute to and from the University every day. When I first expressed an interest in joining the course, I met with John, who was the course leader at the time, and he reassured me that despite not having any previous creative experience, with my proactive and conscientious approach, I would be able to succeed on the course. Having a tutor who believed in me from the get-go was amazing and just from these few conversations I had with John prior to joining and the amount of support and encouragement he provided, I knew that enrolling would be the right decision for me.

There were around twelve students in my class in total, which meant that I received a huge amount of one-to-one support, something which is not always possible at larger universities. The tutors were very responsive and were always there for me whenever I needed them, both in person and via Teams. I loved working with them as they are just as passionate about Graphic Design as I am! The overall environment is also very welcoming and inclusive.

The best thing about completing a higher education course is the sense of accomplishment which you feel when a hand-in day finally arrives, and you submit everything you’ve spent so much time working on. My tutors knew how much I wanted to do well and pushed me every step of the way to ensure that I achieved my goals.

My greatest achievement so far is being given the opportunity to work in partnership with the RSPB on my final major projects for both my second and my third year. It has been a pleasure to work with the Community Engagement Team and the young people who volunteer at Rainham Marshes, and I will be forever grateful to my tutors for facilitating this collaboration.

As a HE student I have been able to undertake extracurricular opportunities which alongside my degree programme itself, have significantly boosted my confidence. I was a HE Peer Mentor during both my second and third year, and throughout my final year, I have been part of the college’s board of governors. Being at the university provides you with so many amazing opportunities to grow, thrive, and develop both professionally and personally

Since completing my course in May, I have been busy job seeking, and I have also been preparing for the D&AD New Blood Festival – our final degree show. I am on track to receive a First-Class Honours degree which has been my goal since starting the course, so I feel immensely proud of the fact that my hard work and determination has paid off.

Within the next few months, I am hoping to secure a London-based role as a Junior Graphic Designer, where I can work on creating both print-based and digital solutions. From here, I would love to gradually progress into the position of Senior Designer, and eventually, I would love to work my way up to Management level and oversee my own team of creatives. In the future, I would love to set up my own.

Ellise Collins

Ellise Collins

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

My time at South Essex College gave me invaluable experience within the field.

My name is Ellise Collins I am 27 years old, I studied BA (Hons) Graphic Design at South Essex College from 2014 – 2017 and this is my story.

I left school in 2012 and attended South Essex College of Further and Higher Education from 2012 - 2014 on the UAL Level 3 Ext Diploma course in Art & Design. I had always enjoyed art at school, so I thought a BTEC in that subject was the right path for me.

Once I completed my BTEC, I was then a little stuck with where to go next. I applied for lots of unis, but it was Lee who struck up a meeting with John Chandler to apply for the Graphic Design degree. I didn’t know which direction to take, fine art, graphic design or interior design. 
I chose to study at South Essex College because I initially felt that the lecturers were so understanding and approachable that it made me feel like it was the right decision to trust them. The graphic design courses sounded so diverse too. It ranged to lessons in fine art, to design, to animation, printmaking and photography so I thought by trying it all I’d hope to find one area that I would gravitate towards.

I was a fine artist at heart, but it was both Lee and John that suggested I give it a go, as they could see potential in me to go that way. I then studied on the BA (Hons) Graphic Design degree course from 2014-2017 where I learnt many skills sets and honed my craft as a graphic designer, but also printmaker. Looking back, I am so incredibly grateful of the three lecturers on that course because they all supported me and gave me the confidence as an aspiring graphic designer, Dave Welsh, John Chandler and Hannah Miller. You three are my shining stars. I received a first-class honours in graphic design.

My time at South Essex College gave me invaluable experience within the field. Having industry-led briefs in the third year gave me an understanding of what sort of work would be required of me and time frames. Deadlines! That was something that I thought was so difficult at university because I just wanted to spend my time learning, researching and creating and having a deadline was so difficult. Little did I know deadlines would be so much shorter in working life.
The best thing about doing further and higher education is learning your craft and honing your skillset. Exploring the endless opportunities that’s on offer. Spending hours on end researching and producing work that you then bounce ideas of other students and lecturers and push your ideas to the fullest. Also, the amount of time you have to try new techniques to know what you feel is most enjoyable.

During the Graphic Design degree we used software that I still use day-to-day now. Adobe Creative Suite is invaluable as a designer, that’s our go-tos. I learnt pure basics and university on Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and it enabled me to take these fundamental skills into the industry and progress.

Since graduation, I have been fortunate enough to have worked consistently. Beginning as a junior designer at start-up companies, to print production companies to local agencies. Through doing this, I’ve gained so much valuable experience which has enabled me to where I am today. 
Also, in my spare time, I do freelance graphic design work and run my own Etsy shop selling my linocut prints. I also do signwriting and lettering jobs where I can and have exhibited my work in places such as Brick Lane’s Truman Brewery and Beecroft Art Gallery. I’ve attended local art fairs and pop-up shops around Essex selling my work too, which has been great networking with likeminded artistic local talent.

I’m currently working as a creative designer at Swan Creative, Leigh on Sea.
I am working on concept work for international theme parks such as Merlin Entertainment and Parques Reunidos. Designing concepts and Point of Sale for restaurants within their parks in Germany, USA and the UK. Every day is different at Swan, no day is the same. My work ranges from creating logos, to producing full-fledged brands and working with the team to create solid brand guidelines and marketing suites. Lots of print related work comes through Swan too and aiding the marketing team in producing social media graphics and email banners. I also help the Swan team produce work internally, so I work on producing mock-ups for our website and creating eye catching animations to go across our social platforms.
Through working at many different companies, I have gained experience to be the creative designer I am today. 

Before I would say I was primarily a fine art inspired graphic designer, but I create such diverse work now that blurs the lines of graphic design. From an animator, digital designer, interior designer, photographer, copywriting, social media creator and beyond. It’s being an all-rounded designer that matters.

My favourite memory of being at the college is for our final major project in year three of the degree, we needed to fundraise money to pay for our exhibition at DA&D New Blood in Truman Brewery Brick Lane. As a team, we decided to reach out to all our favourite artists, designers, illustrators, typographers that we admired and see if they would provide us with pieces of work that we could auction. It was honestly a long shot but as a year group we all worked together to compile a list. Incredibly, so many replied and helped support us. From the likes of Printmakers such as Alan Kitchener and Anthony Burrill to Illustrators Oliver Jeffers and Chris Riddell and the ultimate graphic design god to us, David Carson. I suppose our story resonated with each of them as being students, starting off in the world and trying to get out work out there.

They each sent us their work and we were able to auction off the artwork at an event  held in the 1st floor gallery of the college The money gained from this enabled us to put on our end of year show. It was great teamwork and the local newspaper also got involved.

I love working within this industry, yes every job has its ups and downs. But at the end of the day, I work every day to create. When people ask me what my job is and I say, ‘graphic designer’, most say ‘what’s that?’ and that’s true, what even is it? It’s purely whatever you want it to be. The work is so diverse, and I feel like I work on so many different projects and switch my hat to so many different job roles and it’s all under the bracket of being a graphic designer and that’s exciting to me.

So, I’d hope to continue working in agencies and working freelance on the side, doing my printmaking and hand lettering work that I enjoy. Perhaps in the future, I’d love to teach and become a lecturer to inspire students the way that John, Dave and Hannah did for me on the course, that would be perfect. I could only hope I could do half as good as what they did for me.