Level 6

Graphic Design BA (Hons)

Duration Age Group Study Year Cost Available Locations
£8000 per year * Southend Campus
Duration Age Group Study Year Cost Available Locations
£8000 per year * Southend Campus


Course code: W210

You will work with industry specialists on live briefs throughout this broad based Graphic Design course. The programme develops skills, creativity, problem solving and encourages risk taking allowing you to progress successfully in your chosen field.

Why study this degree at University Centre South Essex?

  • Good industry contacts
  • Our course is personalised in terms of how you use graphic design to allow you to connect interweaving lines of enquiries
  • You will have the opportunity to enter D&AD Awards (a number of past winners have studied at the University Centre)
  • You will use top-of the-range, industry-level software ( ‘Creative Suite’)
  • You will receive guest talks from industry professionals

Important: Please note that this course is undergoing revalidation. This is the process by which we ensure the course continues to provide a high quality academic experience. During revalidation there may be some changes to the course content displayed on this page. Please contact us if you have any questions about the course.

The BA (Hons) Graphic Design degree programme treats the various subject areas within design not as discrete disciplines but as interweaving lines of enquiry. It is for this reason we operate upon a unit structure, which encourages individual creativity.

Our strength is in our determination to provide a pro-active, creative atmosphere, which observes and responds to current and future working practices. We run a small tight-knit course of around twenty students in each year, this allows us to really get to know you as learners and you in turn to always have a tutor available to discuss your practice.

Year one

An emphasis on the core skills of graphic design you will need as a designer, coupled with an encouragement to take risks, make year one an exciting introduction to the course. When we say risks we mean risks, we’d much rather you fail spectacularly every now and again than produce safe-outcomes well within your comfort zone. We want you to shake things up.

Year two

Further exploration of the key concepts of visual communication will allow you to focus on collaborative, experimental and independent ways of working. We’ll continue setting you challenging briefs; just how do you produce a piece of packaging for a Knock, Knock joke? Or how do you design a map with a tea bag for inspiration?

You will also begin to explore the creative industries via a personal and professional development programme, while your own practice is enhanced through critically analysing the work of others.

Year three

The focus of this year encourages you to move towards a more self-directed programme of study. You will work on set and self-initiated projects, prestigious competition briefs and live industry projects, whilst establishing professional practice links and completing your dissertation. The third year is all about you re-inventing and challenging the world of graphics.

Entry Requirements

You will need a minimum of 64 UCAS points from one or more of the following:

  • At least two A-levels
  • BTEC/UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma/Diploma/Subsidiary Diploma/Certificate
  • BTEC National Award/Certificate/Diploma
  • Access to Higher Education Diploma (minimum 15 credits at merit or above)
  • International Baccalaureate
  • AQA Baccalaureate
  • Progression Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma

You will also need GCSE English at grade C (old specification) or Grade 4 (new specification) or above OR a Level 2 equivalent such as functional skills qualification.

You will also be required to undertake a portfolio-based interview. Portfolios should include examples of recent project work and may reference a variety of media.

Mature Entry

Applications from mature students who do not possess the entry requirements as listed above, but who possess related professional experience or professional qualifications are welcome to apply. You will need to demonstrate by interview, exceptional entry portfolio (this is likely to include evidence of paid or unpaid work experience) and/or written assessment that you are suitable for the course. In the first instance, we suggest you contact HEAdmissions@southessex.ac.uk to discuss your application.

Course Structure

Year one units

Introduction to Visual Communication

This unit will introduce you to the fundamental skills of Graphic Design. You will explore through practice and theory the use and application of different hand rendered, computer application media and the appropriate application of image and type in various graphic disciplines.

History of Visual Communication

This unit offers a broad introduction to contemporary cultural studies, and its link into more traditional art and design history. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive review of the subject but to introduce you to sufficient themes and discourse within this area of study for you to explore areas of personal interest which fall outside of the indicative unit content. The unit is designed to be viewed as a companion to the practical units concurrently undertaken by you, so that academic and visual research undertaken for this unit will also inform your own design production.


This unit will introduce you to the fundamental skills of illustration, including narrative image making and the principles of image making applications. You will explore through practice and theory the use and application of different hand-rendered and computer application media within the confines of illustration.

Digital Design Solutions

This unit offers a broad exploration of the most frequently used digital design software applications and a critical examination of their scope and limitations for the creative designer. The unit aims to develop your digital design skills building upon hand rendered methods and the links between these two approaches which will be explored so that you will begin to be able to select design methods fit for purpose. You will be encouraged to demonstrate your knowledge and formulate independent and analytical approaches to working relating to the digital design process. You will explore the visual language and the structure of communication through digital design experimentation.


This unit will introduce you to the fundamental skills of typography. You will be required to develop your basic knowledge and practical skills in the use of typography, within a blended understanding of using type with appropriate imagery (illustrative, tactile, digital and/or photographic) being the overall goal. You will be encouraged to look at the subject of typography in terms of the argument of legibility versus illegibility, contextual use and application.

Alternative Media & Thinking

This unit will explore the use of visual language to communicate with a specified target audience. The creative and imaginative use of photographic, graphic and illustrative imagery in 2D and 3D will form the basis of your response – and allow you to explore how to represent effective meanings without necessarily showing the subject matter pictorially. Discussions about a variety of visual considerations including style, genre, signs, analogies and cultural symbolism appropriate to a specified context will be investigated.

Year two units

Experimental Design Solutions

You will examine the practical aspects of merging the best of traditional and new (digital etc) mediums to explore how these constraints positively affect aesthetic beauty, accessibility, balance, legibility, and ease-of-use for viewers of an intended visual message. This unit also contrasts key differences between meanings and messages which are intentionally designed with or without the use of other forms of visual imagery.

Corporate ID & Branding

This unit deals with corporate identity and the core values of branding. You will be expected to research the historical origins, philosophy, culture and contexts that have helped develop the concept of corporate identity. You will also consider and gain practical experience of creating effective design solutions that focus on branding.

Graphic Design in Three Dimensional Contexts

This unit will explore a variety of visual communication problems that relate to the application of graphic media techniques and technology in three dimensional contexts. These may include packaging, wayfinding systems, pop-up books, retail signage and materials (such as standees) and information graphics.

Self–directed Study

In preparation for your year three subject realisation you will be requested to author and deliver your own self-directed brief. This brief should have both the scope and breadth to reflect your on-going enquiry into your emerging graphic design practice.

Literature Review & Dissertation Proposal

This unit is all about thinking, about ideas, about theories and about applying research in the exploration of a topic chosen by you. This work will be a springboard for your third year dissertation, encouraging independent work prior to year three. You will be led through, via a series of lectures and one to one tutorials, research methods and methodologies; analysis tools and theories specific to your subject areas.

Work Placement

This unit will provide the opportunity to develop an understanding of the graphic designer in a commercial setting. The placement will give awareness to the business of and allow you to analyse the roles, responsibilities and the necessities of communication, teamwork and the development of your own personal skills within the graphic industry and should complete a minimum of 60 hours. The specific content of this unit is therefore defined primarily by you. If unsuccessful in obtaining a work placement, this unit will be linked to a live project brief to attain the credits required. The live project brief will require a similar time commitment to a placement and will run alongside other on-going projects.

Year three units


This unit allows for the opportunity to develop a critical awareness, in-depth research, and to form a sustainable argument for an area of investigation. You will negotiate with a supervisor a line of enquiry that is relevant to your chosen field of study and undertake an avenue of research that could, but is not limited to, Graphic Design.

Industry-led Brief

In this unit, you will be entering one of the major industry competition briefs such as the Penguin Design awards or the D&AD New Blood awards. These industry-led briefs are recognised industry-wide and can lead to significant opportunities for winners. You will be encouraged to develop your opinions and views about how live briefs should be approached. You will review key areas of industry principles which can assist your final year's progression regardless of any specialised or generalised interests.

Subject Realisation

The aim of this unit is to identify a subject of personal significance and a working process that has the potential for sustained investigation. You will review and examine work produced in year two of the programme and address you choice of media and working process through discussion and exploration of alternative practices and media. By establishing a critical statement of intent, you will form an intellectual and creative foundation for your final major project.

Professional Promotion

By this stage of the degree you will be considering the next steps of your career, be it for example working for a company, setting up as a freelance designer, or further study. This unit will give you the opportunity to consider the options available to you, and to prepare appropriate promotional materials. In addition it will tie in with the Subject Realisation, so that you will have the opportunity to produce self-promotional materials as advertising for your end of year show, and for distribution to prospective clients and employers who will visit the show.

Work placements

Work placements are encouraged throughout the duration of the course. However, there is particular emphasis on this aspect during year two in relation to the Work Placement unit. In this unit you will work towards securing a work placement either locally or nationally* for 60 hours over the year. Some students take this in one block others over a number of weeks, both in term time and during the holiday period; this is usually negotiated with the placement provider. You will be assisted in gaining a placement, however the emphasis is on you to secure it as part of this unit. Should you not be able to secure a placement a suitable live or competition brief may be taken on to fulfil the requirements of the unit. This live brief will be negotiated with your Unit Leader.
* Usually locally.


Timetables are normally available one month before registration, though we endeavour to let you know an outline as soon as possible. Please note that while we make every effort to ensure that timetables are as student-friendly as possible, scheduled teaching can take place on any day of the week. Typically year groups are expected to attend for 13 hours a week spread over two and a half days. We expect students to build on this learning through Independent Study for at least a similar period. For this time, we usually have space available within the campus or at the Forum in Southend.

Industry links

With staff practicing in various areas of design, strong and progressive links with industry are also integrated within the course structure.

Live projects and briefs have been set by leading practitioners, companies and publications in recent years, including leading advertising agency Oglivy Mathers, Kew Gardens and Universal Studios.

You will be encouraged to visit design studios and speak with employers about your work prior to graduation. The course periodically invites industry leaders to attend portfolio reviews to select students for placement.


Visibility is essential and you are strongly encouraged to organise, host and promote your work through static exhibitions (locally and nationally), digital platforms (websites, blogs) and end of year shows.

You will be encouraged to visit design studios and speak with employers about your work prior to graduation. Previously, the course has invited industry leaders to attend portfolio reviews to select students for placement.

Field trips

There are several fields trips to support your learning including:

  • Design agencies in London
  • Design Museum
  • Victoria and Albert Museum

Meet the course leader

John Chandler, Course Leader BA (Hons) Graphic Design

As course leader John brings a wealth of experience in education having worked for a number of establishments both in the UK and the USA. John has been course leader since 2012 having worked on the course since 2003.

John’s main creative career has been as a Freelance Illustrator. He has undertaken many commissions including the illustration of several books amongst which are the Gary Rhodes Cook Pack by Van Der Meer, Body Language by Alan Pease and The Mighty Book of Boosh by the Mighty Boosh. John has also been a regular contributor to The Independent on Sunday, DIVA Magazine and The London Magazine.

As well as illustration John has also worked on many other projects including artist in residencies with The RSPB and c2c Rail and exhibited at the Millennium Dome, now the 02.

John is a published author and has written and illustrated a number of books the last one being Picking up the Threads published by Pitch which looks at why football teams wear the colours they do, it was described by 4-4-2 magazine as ‘a great book to read on the bog’.

Outside of the creative sphere John is a big West Ham fan, avid reader, is married, has a daughter and two cats, Popcorn and Wheelbarrow.

Teaching & Learning


You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and workshops, which enable you to discuss and develop your understanding of the discipline of Graphic Design.

You use industry-standard Macs and the Creative Suite programs and have access to various facilities including the 3D, Fashion, Printmaking & Photography studio. You also have access to hardware such as the laser & vinyl cutters, 3D Printer and scanners.

At Level 4 you typically have around 13 hours contact time per week, typically consisting of:

  • Four hours of lectures/seminars
  • Six hours of workshops (including dedicated one-to-one tutorials when necessary)
  • Two hours of Contextual Studies (either lecture or one-to-one tutorial)
  • One hour group tutorials

Units are delivered through a variety of methods of teaching and learning. These will include:

  • Technical demonstrations - designed to provide essential inductions to print and graphics resources and to support the acquisition of essential skills
  • Small group teaching - studio based group sessions which are led by a tutor
  • Group critiques - will usually occur towards the end of a unit before assessment
  • Individual tutorials - The tutor will ask key questions regarding your project and offer advice and suggestions regarding future development
  • Independent research and studio practice - during the unit students are expected to follow up on suggested directions regarding project direction

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars and workshops or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking research in the library, preparing coursework assignments and presentations. A range of excellent facilities, including the library, the Learning Resource Centre and the Forum, supports your independent learning.

Assessment & Feedback

Coursework is assessed in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including portfolio and sketchbook submissions, group presentations, written essays and research folders. There are no examinations.


You will receive formative feedback as part of your one-to-one sessions with your unit teachers. You will also receive summative feedback on all formal assessments undertaken by coursework. Feedback is intended to help you learn and you are encouraged to discuss it with your unit leader tutor. Feedback can be given in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including group critiques, recorded verbal feedback and written feedback.

We aim to provide you with feedback within 20 working days of hand-in (for all formal studio based coursework assessment). For the third year Dissertation Unit you will receive feedback and grades at the same time as your Final Creative Output Unit.

Course Cost

Adult, full time: £8000 per year

Fees are per academic year for home and EU students.

The following course-related costs are included in the fees:

  • As this course may incur more than the normal printing costs, the University currently gives BA Graphics students double the yearly amount of free printing at time of writing this is £40.00 per year
  • Third Year students will show their work at an industry event such as New Blood, this will be covered by the Faculty of HE but may incur additional costs (ie: printing) depending on the work you produce
  • D&AD, YCN and ISTD competition briefs are entered in Y3 as part of the Unit AGD 302 Industry Led-Brief. The Faculty of HE covers any entry costs

Additional costs

You may need to purchase art materials for your course which will vary according to your solution to particular briefs. For example the quality of paper will vary in price. Some costs you should factor in include:

Second year students should own a good quality portfolio case to assist when applying for work placements or attending job interviews, this will cost approximately £50. Third Year students will show their work at an industry event such as New Blood, this will be covered by the University but may incur additional costs depending on the work you produce.

Additional costs for larger purchases will again vary according to the requirements of individuals (for example some may wish to purchase a digital SLR camera, but most wouldn’t). All students will have access to the University and Forum outside of University hours but many choose to purchase a Mac to assist their studies. Students wishing to do this will get an HE discount and the cost of this (dependent on the model you choose) is approximately £1200. You will also qualify for a discounted sign-up to Apple’s Creative Suite which will give you access to Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, etc for £16.24 per month (at time of writing).

Please note that as this course may incur more than the normal printing costs, the University currently gives BA Graphics students double the yearly amount of free printing at time of writing this is £40.50 per year.

What Next...

Many of our graduates find employment with design studios or set up as freelance designers for design studios, advertising agencies, publishing houses, printing firms or web and digital design studios. Others choose to further their studies through postgraduate education. The positive atmosphere on the programme often results in some of our graduates starting their own graphic design studios; one example of this is award-winning local design studio, Six Red Squares.

You can also progress to further study with universities such as University of the Arts London, including:

  • MA Graphic Design Communication
  • MA Graphic Media Design
  • MA Communication Design
  • MA Graphic Branding and Identity

Graduate destinations

Employers of our graduates have recently included:

  • Jaguar Design
  • Black Square Litho Printing
  • BBB Midi magazine publishers
  • Roamers Caterers
  • Compass Creative
  • Financial Times
  • Six Red Squares