Level 6

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

Duration Age Group Study Start Cost Available Locations
£8000 per year * Southend Campus
Duration Age Group Study Start Cost Available Locations
£8000 per year * Southend Campus
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Course code: W210

The BA (Hons) Graphic Design & Illustration degree course 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.

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Why study this degree at University Centre South Essex?

Illustration by Joe Stevens
The Graphic Design and Illustration degree programme at University Centre South Essex has secured a prestigious membership with the Association of Illustrators. You can read the full story here.

Practical disciplines such as typography, creative image making and digital design will be explored, and these are underpinned with research activities that will help expand knowledge and experience of various disciplines and their social and political contexts.

The pathway choice in Year two will allow students to further specialise their practice by choosing to follow the Graphic Design or the Illustration pathways. These pathways have Units specifically designed to focus the student while expanding upon the skills and knowledge gained in Year 1 which will in turn inform the student’s ongoing practice.

Year three with its focus on the student cohort’s individual practice and theory, will allow students to build upon and expand the skills learnt in Years one and two allowing students to understand their identity and place within the world of Graphic Design and/or Illustration. Year three students choose industry competitions, a self-authored Subject-Realisation brief and a Dissertation linked to their own interpretations and interests based on their journey over the preceding years and their ambitions going forward.

The programme has a commitment to work-related learning in the form of work experience, live projects, competitions, vocational projects and placements within the specialist area of Graphic Design & Illustration. There also exists the opportunity to collaborate with other programmes within the University Centre, which will allow for learners to develop a range of generic skills ready for employment.

Entry Requirements

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

  • A Levels
  • T Levels
  • BTEC/UAL Extended Diploma
  • Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (Level 3 or 4)
  • Or equivalent EU/International qualifications, such as International Baccalaureate Diploma
  • And English GCSE passes at grade 4 or above (grade A*-C) 

This list is not exhaustive, other qualifications may be considered. Entry to this course will also be determined by the quality of your application, looking primarily at your portfolio/showreel of work,
personal statement and reference.

Course Structure

Year One units (Level 4)

  • Introduction to visual
  • communication
  • History of visual communication
  • Illustration
  • Digital design solutions
  • Typography
  • Alternative media & thinking

Pathway Choice 

In Year two students will be able to further specialise their practice by choosing to follow the Graphic Design or the Illustration pathways. During Year 1 students will have worked on Units specifically designed to emphasise the practices of both pathways to give students the academic background to make an informed choice. Supporting this process they will be given the opportunity for informal discussions throughout the year regarding their choice.

At the end of Year one students will have a formal exit interview where discussions will take place about their choice and they will have the summer to consider. The summer brief linked to AGD/Ai 206 Work Placement which will give students further opportunity to consider their choice.

At the beginning of Year two students will have a formal entrance interview where their choice will be finalised. The first Unit of Year 2: AGD 203 Graphic Design in 3D Contexts/Ai 203 Illustration in 3D Contexts is to some extent interchangeable, with aims written to be deliberately similar. Students will be set the same/or a similar brief and they will be able to approach this across the discipline. This would afford an opportunity for students who ‘wobble’ to switch back before the next Unit is a 30 credit Unit and is more indicative of the pathway discipline.

Year two units (Level 5)

Graphic Design Pathway

  • Graphic Design in Three Dimensional Contexts
  • Corporate ID & Branding
  • Cultural Contexts and Dissertation Proposal
  • Work Placement

Illustration Pathway

  • Illustration in Three Dimensional Contexts
  • Narrative Illustration
  • Self - Directed Project
  • Cultural Contexts & Dissertation Proposal
  • Work placement

Year three (Level 6: Graphic Design & Illustration (both pathways)

  • Dissertation
  • Industry-Led Brief
  • Subject Realisation
  • Professional Promotion

Assessment & Feedback

All assessment on the BA (Hons) Graphic Design & Illustration is via coursework; there are no exams.

Coursework is assessed in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes.

Students will be assessed on their knowledge base and understanding of key design concepts, theories and theoretical frameworks. Assessment may include, but are not limited to; essays, reports, case studies, classroom contributions, seminar discussions, an extended essay and presentations.

Practical design skills and coursework are assessed through individual and group work contributions, individual critical analyses, studio observation, portfolios, presentations and exhibition of final designs/products/digital solutions.

Effective communication of ideas and the ability to make autonomous decisions is an important criterion in assessing all areas of a students’ work, and regular feedback as well as the final mark reflects this.

Students will complete both formative, summative and diagnostic assessments in order to promote and aid future development.

Holistic and element assessment are categories used to describe whether a single grade, or more than one grade, is recorded for each unit. Where more than one grade is recorded for a unit the final unit grade is calculated based on the weighting of the elements:

Holistic: In holistic assessment students may be asked to submit one or more pieces of work, but tutors will look at all your work for the unit and make a single judgement about a student’s performance against the University’s Assessment

  • Criteria. Students will receive a single grade and a single feedback form. Students need to achieve a grade of D- or above to pass the unit.

Elemental: The assessment for the unit is weighted. In element-based assessment, students must achieve at least an E grade in each element (for example, an essay or presentation) and an aggregate grade of at least D- in the overall unit. Failure (F, or F-) or non-submission in any element defaults to Fail for the unit.

Assessment Briefs

For each assessment students will be provided with a detailed assessment brief which will explain assessment requirements including word count and layout required. These will be provided on Canvas.

Assessment Deadlines

Each assessment will have a deadline set at the beginning of the academic year. The Assessment Schedule below provides a summary of these deadlines. We endeavour not to change deadline dates once set, but should unforeseen circumstances arise you will be notified of changes by your Programme Leader. If you are unsure of a deadline date, please check with the department administrator. The University Centre uses Canvas for some assessment submissions and you will be provided with information about this during induction.

Deadlines must be adhered to at all times, and all work should be submitted by the method, date and time stated on the assessment schedule (included in this handbook).

Assessment Submission

All coursework must be submitted physically or via Canvas as appropriate. Please see BA (Hons) Graphic Design & Illustration Assessment Deadlines for details. Submitted work must be handed in with an Assignment Front Sheet (available on Canvas) and individual elements such as sketchbooks should be marked clearly with student ID Number and name. Programme Title, Unit Code, Unit Title and the elements of assessment being handed in.


Effective communication of ideas and the ability to make autonomous decisions is an important criterion in assessing all areas of a students’ work, and regular feedback as well as the final mark reflects this.

Course Cost

Adult, full_time: £8000 per year

Fees are per academic year for Home/UK students.

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

  • Guest speakers, visiting lecturers and industry focussed workshops will be included in your course over the three years.
  • Third Year students will have the opportunity to showcase their final year work at the end of their studies. This may be a local, national or online platform. Event/exhibition costs will be covered by the Faculty of HE. In the past this has included D&AD’s New Blood. Students will be responsible for any additional costs associated with the production of their personal project (ie: printing, materials).
  • As part of the Industry Led-Brief in year three, internationally recognised competition briefs, such as D&AD’s New Blood may be entered. The Faculty of HE covers any entry costs.
  • The Graphic Design & Illustration course has course membership of the AOI (Association of Illustrators)
  • Annual £40 of printing credit per year.

Additional course costs can be found here

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
  • MA Illustration – Camberwell College of Arts
  • MA Illustration and Visual Media London College of Communication

Graduate destinations

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

Success Stories...

Louis Alderman, Graphic Design graduate at University Centre South Essex shares his story

Louis Alderman, Graphic Design graduate at University Centre South Essex shares his story

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

I would recommend the University Centre, 100% compared to London, it felt a lot more like home and a lot more comfortable and it also felt more bespoke.

My name is Louis, I am 25 years old, I studied Graphic Design at University Centre South Essex 2016- 2018 and this is my story.

I left the University Centre with a 2:2 degree.

Before doing my degree I studied Graphic Design at the college and I had been doing it as a hobby since I was 11.

I spent my first year of university at the University Of East London, however I didn't enjoy anything about it besides the view. With three tutors I ironically had minimal attention from them, and the course felt a bit old school, it wasn't really for me. So I decided to move closer to home and attend the local university centre.

The course and my tutors were amazing and they offered support for my learning difficulties and I was able to be diagnosed with Dysgraphia with Traits of Dyspraxia which has always hindered my learning as it was too expensive to diagnose. The diagnosis didn’t help the problem but it allowed me to understand my issues and allowed me to get support.

Doing my degree was like another level of education, they would teach you how to learn, and how to evolve ideas using your best skill set to create better pieces of work. I think the greatest skill I gained l is how to approach a design with more than one idea, it taught me not to just go with my first initial instinct.

All of the abode software at South Essex College and University Centre South Essex is very useful when you go into industry and one that I rely on to achieve my goals.
Since completing my course I have worked a few freelance jobs but mainly I spent time working at a garden centre as a marketing assistant and I recently lost my job in a designer role at a local design agency due to complications surrounding COVID.

Currently I’m involved in running an online marketing business with two of my best friends.

We came together to start business and it has become the best suited position for my skill set and responsibilities.

As the creative director I take lead with any design aspect of our client’s needs, liaising with them to ensure its the design they want. We are looking to hire a web developer so I will be working with them to produce websites for our clients, based on my original design.

My favourite memory of the university was spending time with classmates outside of class, with it being so close to the Highstreet it made it very easy to “pop to the pub after”.

I would recommend the University Centre, 100% compared to London, it felt a lot more like home and a lot more comfortable and it also felt more bespoke if that makes sense.

My greatest achievement has been running this business and being able to pay ourselves a wage at the end of the month feels pretty good.

In the future I want to be able to relax, and be able to just enjoy life? I think if you’re going to be working for the rest of your life, try your best to do something you love and if you can't, then make it for yourself.

To learn more about the university centre, visit: www.southessex.ac.uk/he/ucse-courses 

Access to Higher Education Journey: William Thatcher's Story

Access to Higher Education Journey: William Thatcher's Story

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

Whatever your situation I encourage those people thinking of returning to education to make a plan of action and if not this year, maybe the next? Don’t let the past define your future.

My name is Will Thatcher, I’m 26 and a mature student currently in first year of my Graphic Design and Illustration course at University Centre South Essex.

Returning to education was something that I thought about for a long time. I never really enjoyed school and mentally I was in a bad place. By Sixth Form, I felt like I was the only person that had no idea what they wanted to do and the pressure of it all lead me to drop out. I still don’t regret that decision, but I think everyone deserves a second chance to find the right path. Since then, I’ve worked a few jobs including a comfortable position in IT, but I didn’t find it very fulfilling, it was time for a fresh and exciting new challenge.

I have always enjoyed the creative arts and I was interested in doing something in that area for a career. I lacked the qualifications to go straight on to university but by looking at local colleges online, I came across the Access to Higher Education Art & Design course and it was exactly what I wanted. It covers such a great range of areas including photography, graphics and fine art so not only did I have a year of easing back into education, I also had a very clear idea of what degree I wanted to go on to study. 

Access to HE changed my life because I learnt so much and met so many amazing like-minded people from all different backgrounds and ages. I was nervous at first but to come back to education and to be treated like an adult was really refreshing, it gave me a new perspective and made me excited to be learning again. During the course, I was introduced to John Chandler who is the course leader for BA Graphic Design & Illustration, he gave me a great insight into what it was all about so I could be confident in my decision. Obviously, the Access course has suited my needs very well, but I would recommend it to anyone, even if they didn’t want to study at degree level.

Enrolling onto BA Graphic Design & Illustration has been the best decision I have made. One of the things I love about it is the enthusiasm from my lecturers, they are very passionate about their subject and know exactly how to get you excited about things you never even thought about before. I am lucky in the sense that graphic design & illustration is very broad topic that can be about anything really so the sense of freedom you are given is fantastic. I also love seeing the sheer diversity of the work my peers produce during each unit, it is very inspiring to be surrounded by all these people.

In second year, we will have to decide if we want to go down the graphic design or the illustration route. I think I will be leaning towards graphics, so to work as a graphic designer either as a freelancer or for a studio would be ideal for me. I’m particularly interested in logos & branding and I hope one day I will have some involvement in professional sports. Designing the next Olympics or FIFA World Cup logo would be the dream job for me, those are images that are remembered forever.

Initially, it was hard to get used to working from home and some days I found it was difficult to focus as there are lots of distractions at home, but this quickly changed as the college and our lecturers were very informative about what’s going on. We also had very good IT resources which is very useful. I also found it beneficial to keep in contact with the people on my course. We have a WhatsApp group that’s very active and we’re always helping each other out in case anyone has missed anything or needs some help. We are now back one day a week which still isn’t ideal, but I’m glad University Centre South Essex is handling the situation as best and as sensibly as possible.

It’s an important decision to make when taking the journey back into higher education. I had to give up a full-time job to return to education though I was fortunate enough to be able to move back home. I recognise that there are many people out there with a lot more constraints and for them it will be a lot tougher, but I have met plenty of people on the courses that are carers, have families & mortgages etc. that are proving it can be done. All I would say is whatever your situation I encourage those people to make a plan of action and if not this year, maybe the next? Don’t let the past define your future.

To learn more about our courses, visit: www.southessex.ac.uk/he/ucse-courses 


Success Stories -  Siobhan Best

Success Stories - Siobhan Best

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

I love the course so far. Everyone on the course is so friendly and supportive. The classes at University Centre South Essex are very small so there’s always support and equipment available.

My name is Siobhan Best, I am 34 years old, studying BA Graphic Design & Illustration at University Centre South Essex and this is my story.

I worked in mental health care for ten years before having my daughter, Effie and when my daughter started school, I thought it would be fun to do a course to keep me busy.

I chose Access to Art and Design as I loved crafts and drawing in my spare time.  The Access course was amazing and changed my life. It was hard work but I loved every minute, learning new skills and discovering artists. It sounds cheesy but it made me see the world through a new set of eyes! 

I had very few qualifications and had never done well in education until the access course, the tutors encouraged me to apply for a degree and I decided to go for BA Graphic Design and Illustration. 

A friend recommended the course so I looked at the website and met Cherry, one of the tutors, who discussed the course in more detail and inspired me to learn more.

I love the course so far. Everyone on the course is so friendly and supportive. The classes at University Centre South Essex are very small so there’s always support and equipment available. 

After university, I am really interested in printmaking and illustration - I would love to write and illustrate a children’s book. I am also interested in becoming an art teacher.

The difficulties during lockdown have been mainly trying to home-school my daughter whilst doing my coursework and it has certainly been a bit of a balancing act.

I would say to anybody who is looking to start their journey to higher education is to visit the open days and go for it. 

If you would like to learn more about the next virtual open day visit: www.southessex.ac.uk/events 

Success Stories -  Kerry Thomas

Success Stories - Kerry Thomas

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

My name is Kerry Thomas, I am 35 years old, I studied graphic design at University Centre South Essex from September 2013 until June 2016 and this is my story.

My name is Kerry Thomas, I am 35 years old, I studied graphic design at University Centre South Essex from September 2013 until June 2016 and this is my story.

I left school in 2002 just after my GCSEs and worked up from a receptionist role to accounts payables assistant roles in various jobs until 2007. I then had my son and stayed at home and started a little cupcake company which didn’t really take off. In 2010 I went back to work again in an accounts assistant role until I fell pregnant with my daughter in 2011. After she was born I realised I didn’t want to work in accounts and I wanted to do something creative. I wanted a career so that I could change my family’s future and I wanted my children to know it’s never too late to chase a dream. So I enrolled with the college and did the Access to Art and Design course in 2012. I actually wanted to do interior design however, as I learnt more about graphic design I began to fall in love.

After graduating in October 2016, I landed my first role in a publishing/events company called Media10 and worked across a variety of magazines designing layouts for different publications. After a year I moved on to a creative agency called Powwow Creative. Here I learnt so much, there was such a variety of work from creating social and advertising campaigns to brand development. I was involved in the projects from start to completion and really grew as a designer here. Unfortunately in January 2019 I was made redundant. 

In February 2019 I lined up several interviews including one at Formula One, which was an amazing experience however, I was offered an amazing position at out of home media agency JCDecaux. 

I have been there for the past two years and I absolutely love it. I work in the department called one world which means that I work with all the large and global brands. I help creative solutions come up with new out of home advertising ideas and I create realistic mock-ups so that they can pitch to clients the concepts. I also support the sales team with their PowerPoint decks and any sales and marketing material.

Because I had children and obviously my family life I couldn’t go to a university that was too far away and luckily for me University Centre South Essex was more or less on my doorstep as I lived in Shoeburyness at the time. However that being said, I probably would have still chosen to go there even if I did have the option of going to another university. 

I think because I’d already had experience in the workplace I don’t know if it really helped me prepare for the work blows, it definitely helped me prepare for the type of roles that I would be doing once I had my degree. I can see and I do know the university has helped younger people who may not have had that experience to experience what work the workplace might be like.
The best thing about higher education, from my point of view, is the friendships you make and the inspiration you get from your tutors. There is support and guidance from other people and the pride in receiving recognition for learning about your passion.
One of the biggest skills university gave me was confidence. Confidence in my ability and the confidence to trust myself. It also gave me a firm understanding about the subject in which I was about to embark on a career in.

The equipment is all up-to-date when I was doing my degree and I then went into my first job because I was so used to using the equipment at the university centre I found it really easy to just carry on.

At the end of my first year on the graphic design degree I was feeling a little bit like, is this for me? Am I too old to be learning this? Most of the people on my course were under the age of 22 and had done a Graphic Design BTEC so they were already aware of things that I wasn’t and I was feeling a little deflated. Then we did the final major project and I will never forget that I looked at my final major project and I looked at my tutor John and I just felt in that moment so proud of how far I had come because when I started I knew nothing and looking at that final major project I thought, that's progress, this is where I’m finally getting it and I think my course tutor agreed.

There are a ton of universities that all claim to have the best courses the best people and I’m sure that they do but I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for the tutors, support and the guidance I received whilst at University Centre South Essex.
The best way I think to look at it is if a 27 year old mother of two children who has never had any experience in the career that she wants to do is able to go back to school and not only graduate but to also then embark on that career and be established as a designer then I think that shows exactly why you’d be mad not to consider University centre South Essex.
My greatest achievement apart from my beautiful children and getting a degree is working for one of the biggest media advertising agencies in the world (JCDecaux).

I do a lot of freelance work as well and in the future I would like to own my own agency in five to ten years

University Centre South Essex gave me confidence and also never will I be afraid again to chase my dreams because now I know for sure that if you shoot for the moon and you miss, that's okay, you’re still among the stars.

Also can I add in a thank you to Cherry Sandover (Access Course Leader) for taking me under her wing and allowing me to express myself and to John for giving me the chance. He knew I had no prior knowledge of Graphic Design but I promised him I would work hard and he gave me a shot. I want all the tutors to know I kept my promise and I’m still working hard but I will forever appreciate you taking a chance on me and changing my life.

Success story: Gemma Rose

Success story: Gemma Rose

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

I would recommend University Centre South Essex as I feel you have more time with your tutors compared to others I know who went to universities elsewhere.

My name is Gemma Rose, I am 25-years-old, I studied Graphic Design BA (Hons) at University Centre South Essex from 2015 to 2018 and this is my story.

I finished secondary school and attended South Essex college to study Fine Art. I’ve always been into illustration and felt this was the next step for me. I knew I wanted to go to university, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I then completed a Level 4 Foundation course in photography as photography was something I also had interest in. Here I experimented with mixing photography and illustration.

My photography tutor at the time suggested I check out the Graphic Design course, one thing led to another and I found myself on the BA Graphic Design course. In total I was at the college and university for six years.

Since completing the course I’ve met and worked with some great people. I’ve worked with rapper Slowthai to produce album merchandise, illustrated a series of children’s books, produced hundreds of illustrations to be used alongside school learning resources and had a lot of fun.

I’m currently working as a freelance illustrator and designer at a co-working space just outside of Southend with other creatives. It’s a big studio with other creatives doing their own thing. Freelancing can get a bit lonely, so it’s nice to be around other creatives.

That’s one of the great things about being a freelancer, you can really be doing dramatically different projects every time. One week you might be designing a logo for a small company, the next you’re working with Slowthai’s design team. At the moment, I’m currently designing and illustrating a series of books for a client, which is something I thoroughly enjoy. It’s all about bringing people’s ideas to life.

I was a remote-working design lead for a company producing school resources for nearly three years, then COVID-19 happened and I ended up losing my job. But one door closes and another opens. I found other projects to keep me busy and embraced working as a freelance illustrator and designer.
University Centre South Essex was such a good experience and every tutor I had was passionate about what they taught and really wanted you to succeed. It was also convenient location with great travel links to London and cheaper tuition fees.

I learnt a lot of new skills from the course and my peers which definitely helped shape me into the creative I am now. I found that the course helped me think more conceptually and ‘out of the box’ when approaching projects and clients. It’s also helped boost my confidence when presenting work and ideas.

What I enjoyed most was the amount of freedom you have and the good feeling of progressing towards your future aims and goals. Also I enjoyed meeting new people, getting new perspectives and bouncing off ideas and knowledge to each other.

When you’re a freelancer you have to supply your own equipment unfortunately, but I took full advantage of using the equipment available at the university, whether that be the full access to the Adobe software or raiding the cupboards for ink and paint brushes. You’d often find me in the screen-printing room or being experimental with new and unusual materials. 

I would recommend University Centre South Essex as I feel you have more time with your tutors compared to others I know who went to universities elsewhere. It’s also a nice environment, the people are friendly and the tutors and staff will help you in any way that they can.
My ambitions would be to revisit one of my old projects, a book I wrote and illustrated as part of a final project during my Graphic Design course. I’d love to redo it and get it published.

University definitely helped me build my confidence when presenting my project outcomes in front of a group and made me confident in my own abilities. 

For more information on the Graphic Design programme, visit: www.southessex.ac.uk/course/graphic-design-ba-hons

Success story: Phil Steed

Success story: Phil Steed

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

It was a privilege to go back to university and now realise at 17 I just wasn’t ready to truly apply myself. Going back as a mature student I absolutely loved being back in education and using the grey matter.

My name is Phil Steed, I am 54-years-old and I studied a degree at University Centre South Essex in Graphic Design BA Hons from/until 2010-2013 and this is my story.

I had worked in the design industry for a number of years but wanted to attain my degree. I have continued to work in industry, but have also now been involved every year working with the second year degree students, including crits and portfolio clinics.

I have just left the Sequel Group as head of creative (which I did three days a week) to go back to being an entirely self-employed design consultant.
I currently run a number of corporate accounts, working closely with a self-employed communications consultant, as well as design, where I cover the full project management for all requirements.

I have been in industry since approximately 1990 and worked my way up the ladder in a number of internal comms agencies before going self-employed.
Primarily I chose University Centre South Essex due to the location. I have a young family so not having a long commute to university was high on the agenda. I also liked the facilities and had a friend who had recently completed the course. Their final show was superb – largely due to the huge diversity of medium used. It was really attractive to be on a course that was not restrictive.

It was a privilege to go back to university and now realise at 17 I just wasn’t ready to truly apply myself. Going back as a mature student I absolutely loved being back in education and using the grey matter. I enjoyed the essays and especially the dissertation (which wasn’t universally loved by the younger participants) and trying different skills – the 3D studio was such a great environment to work with a variety of interesting materials.

My favourite memories was the comradery with my fellow students and teachers. I was blessed with a cracking group of classmates, and the staff across the course were knowledgeable and really fun to work with. 

I don’t have any experience of other universities, but I felt the quality of the centre, and what we produced, would sit up there with any in the country. The building is modern, the facilities are great, and who wouldn’t want to study by the seaside.

I had been self-employed for 10 years before going on the course but what it did was highlight the importance of collaboration. I also undertook for one of the briefs a willow sculpturing course – something I’d like to further pursue. 

In the future, it would be great to have further opportunities to work with the students – even ideally as a part time associate. I am also looking at various MA courses.

I do want to highlight that not only going back, but getting a first, was a huge achievement. For years it had played on my mind that I didn’t get my degree so to complete it.

To learn more about the Graphic Design provision, visit: www.southessex.ac.uk/course/graphic-design-ba-hons

Celebrating Success 2022: Sophie Wade

Celebrating Success 2022: Sophie Wade

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

The university centre has given me plenty of opportunities to speak with the tutors and seek feedback and support on a one-to-one basis and there is a real community feeling

Sophie Wade, from Stanford-le-Hope, is in her second year of the Graphic Design BA (Hons) course at University Centre South Essex.

She was nominated for the award for her professional manner and her proactive attitude to work. 

Sophie has many notable achievements at the university centre so far such as securing a web design work placement based in London, working at a Leigh-On-Sea based marketing agency and collaborating with the RSPB on her final second year project.

Her tutor said: “Sophie has approached her work placement unit in a professional manner since day one and her proactive manner has meant that she secured many work placement opportunities, including working with the RSPB on her own self-directed project. 

Sophie has been a really great peer mentor throughout the academic year and all her interactions with employers have helped prepare her for the professional world when she completes the course next year.”

Sophie returned to education after three years of working in local authority administration roles to embark on a new creative career path and was very nervous about starting her degree studies in 2020, but said the staff at the university could not have been more accommodating and helpful.

She said: “I feel privileged to have been selected to receive this award and I am extremely grateful to the staff across the UAL creative portfolio who have selected me as the winner.

The university centre has given me plenty of opportunities to speak with the tutors and seek feedback and support on a one-to-one basis and there is a real community feeling. I could not think of a better way to conclude my second year of study here at the university centre.”

Sophie’s ambition for the future is to embark on a career where she can combine her love for graphic design and digital technology and create solutions which make a positive difference to people's lives.

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.

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.

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.