Graphic Design BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years, 4 years with foundation year)





Explore visual language creatively and solve challenging design briefs using industry-standard technology by studying our full-time Graphic Design degree at Cambridge School of Art, ARU. Choose to study abroad for one semester, take part in field trips, enter design competitions, and get support to find work placements. Develop your understanding of effective graphic communication to prepare for a career as a professional graphic designer.

Full description


We work with employers to make sure you graduate with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need. They help us review what we teach and how we teach it – and they offer hands-on, practical opportunities to learn through work-based projects, internships or placements.

Find out more about our placements and work experience, or the faculty's employability support.

Our BA (Hons) Graphic Design will prepare you for a career as a graphic designer, as well as for design-related roles in digital graphics, online media, communications and marketing, publishing, and advertising.

Our previous students have gone on to work with design studios or media and communication companies, producing advertising, corporate identities and promotions, packaging and branding, informational design, editorial and book design, web designs and interactive media.

You’ll have many opportunities to generate a strong portfolio of graphic design projects that will help you secure a job in this rewarding, vibrant and growing industry. These include getting involved with regional design agencies and national design networks such as D&AD and YCN, engaging in ‘live’ projects or commercial briefs and building your industry contacts. All of these can lead to freelance projects, work experience and internships, which could result in offers of work before you even graduate.

Or you might decide to take a Masters course after graduation, like our MA Graphic Design & Typography, which can help you to enter the commercial world at a higher level.

Modules & assessment

Level 3 (foundation year)

  • Foundation in Art and Design
    This module will provide students with the necessary skills to begin studying at level 4 in art, design and related courses. Students will be introduced to the core skills necessary to succeed in higher education, including researching and referencing appropriately, demonstrating appropriate ICT skills, and communicating effectively verbally and in writing. Students will be introduced to practical art and design skills including developing skills of visual storytelling, image-making both in traditional and digital media, visual language and communication, formulating an independent creative response to a broad range of subject matter. Students will also be introduced to the fundamentals of design from a creative perspective, and to some of the key ideas/movements dominating art, design and culture, during the past few centuries. Students will work extensively in groups and collaboratively, with students from art and design, architecture and engineering pathways. The module is made up of the following eight constituent elements: Interactive Learning Skills and Communication (ILSC); Information Communication Technology (ICT); Composition and Style; Creative Workshops 1; Approach to Design; Critical and Contextual Studies; Creative Workshops 2; Specialist Project.

Year one, core modules

  • Design Process
    Design Process examines the creative decisions which determine the appearance of graphic design. Through a series of short projects involving primary visual research and secondary information gathering, you’ll develop a practical awareness of the design processes necessary for successful design solutions through use of type, colour and graphic form. Over the course of the module you’ll develop a competence in the use of industry-standard digital media, and apply this to increasingly complex design problems. You’ll attend practical presentations that address fundamental issues of form and design structure, and lectures that address type and graphic terminology and the dynamics of composition. In studio-based exercises we will explore issues of legibility, scale and visual dynamics. Your coursework will involve research into contemporary and historic uses of graphic and typographic communication. Through project briefs, we will address the application of graphic design within a range of contexts including information design, promotion, packaging, publishing, art-editorial design and conceptual or ambient media. In seminars and critiques we will analyse, evaluate and formatively assess your project work together, considering its emotive qualities, its functionality and its appropriateness for purpose. This module includes ongoing personal development planning via your PDP Progress File.
  • Graphic Design: Histories and Ideas
    This module will be delivered through a series of lectures designed to develop your critical literacy in the history and theory of graphic design, as well as small group seminars in which we will explore the relationships between design practice and the ideas that inform and support it. You’ll be introduced to a variety of key examples from graphic design history and the concepts and philosophies they represent, which you will then explore through visual analysis and test through visual design processes. A series of weekly tasks will combine design activities with descriptive and analytical writing, to explore the ideologies and working methods that have informed the evolution of graphic design through the 20th century to the present. During the course of the lecture series we will consider the emergence of ‘graphic design’ in the wider context of debates around its relationship to ideas of ‘art’ and ‘craft’, and the role of technology in the changing social relationships between design, production and consultancy. We will also critically examine the historiography of the graphic design ‘canon’, as a cultural construct dominated by Europe and the USA, in view of the changing perspectives of emerging design cultures and global design.
  • Introduction to Type Media
    This module will introduce you to typography and the informed use of professional typographic software. You’ll acquire the technical vocabulary necessary for the description and analysis of typographic material, and a working knowledge of industry-standard typographic tools. A brief outline of type history will give you an introduction to the classification of typefaces, the terminology used in the description of types and the specification of typeset material, identifying the key decisions that affect appearance and legibility. You'll explore the expressive scope of type in relation both to issues of functionality and aesthetic convention, and undertake a series of short projects designed to explore and demonstrate your understanding of typographic decision-making and the application of type in a range of design contexts, and present them as a portfolio for assessment.
  • Introduction to Web Design
    This module will introduce you to web design and the informed use of professional web design software. You’ll acquire the technical vocabulary necessary for the description and analysis of web material, and a working knowledge of industry-standard web design tools. You'll be introduced to introduces a variety of technologies, both code and non-code based., and undertake projects designed to explore and demonstrate your understanding of web design processes and media, presenting these in a portfolio for assessment at the end of the semester.

Year two, core modules

  • Design Practice
    On this module you’ll look into the visual languages of graphic design, examining the social and cultural responsibilities of graphic communication, its relationship to contemporary communications and to popular culture, its effects upon society and its scope as a medium for addressing significant issues of communication. We’ll explore the design and production process, from conceptual proposition through design presentation, to the relevant production processes, providing a context for idea development in range of professional design applications. You’ll have the opportunity to focus upon specialist career paths through both specified and self-initiated projects including design for publication, packaging, brand development, advertising and promotion, informational graphics and new media design. Through seminars, group critiques and studio discourse you’ll analyse and evaluate each stage of the creative design process, reviewing functionality and communication within a given area of graphic design. This will include considerations of legibility, communication and audience response, social and cultural impact, in the context of current media and reprographic technologies. This module includes ongoing personal development planning via your PDP Progress File.
  • Graphic Design Media Specialisms
    In this module you’ll explore graphic communication across a variety of specialist contexts, addressing the use of new media and material processes in both practical and speculative projects ranging from interactive screen-based media to printmaking, motion, 3D and environmental design. You’ll explore type, symbol and image in relation to functionality and communication, in projects that examine both the technical and conceptual issues involved in web practice, motion graphics, information design and non-digital graphic production. The module applies visual analysis to graphic creativity on screen, in print and in urban environments. In seminars we’ll look at your project work in relation to current developments in the professional cultures of graphic design.
  • Professional Studies in Design
    In this module you’ll develop your understanding of career paths within the design professions, exploring different professional environments in which designers are employed, the business models within which they operate, and the patterns of career progression they can expect to achieve. The seminars also explore the impact of current developments in communications technology, and examine the role of the designer in a changing media environment. In workshops we’ll explore self-employment and entrepreneurship, investigating the practical considerations involved in setting up a studio or agency and the significance of small-scale enterprises within the design sector in the UK. Individual and group tutorials will address your personal aspirations and the reflective analysis of your individual qualities as a designer. You’ll then consider which sectors of the profession may offer the best recognition of your qualities, and the types of working environment most appropriate to you as an individual. You undertake two pieces of written work. The first is a case study in which you will critically examine the operating methods and ethos of an established design provider. To inform this study, you will arrange and negotiate your own primary research, which may include work placements, workplace visits, or interviews with design professionals. The second assignment is a reflective essay in which you identify and consider your professional aspirations, the career route you would like to pursue, and the steps you need to take to address the sector of the profession within which you wish to develop your career. Both of these written submissions are considered in the context of professional design writing and the development of the critical writing skills necessary to support and enhance your professional profile.

Year three, core modules

  • Graphic Design: Final Projects
    This module will prepare you for professional practice and employment, through a combination of self-initiated projects, participation in national competitions, and the development of your professional writing skills. Design projects may include the design for publication and print, 3D promotional and packaging material, architectural or environmental graphics, information design or new media applications. You will solve challenging design problems using an enhanced awareness of contemporary design practice within a modern informational culture. Briefs may include individually commissioned work, live set briefs, and national competitions. We’ll also look at the practicalities of work presentation and the application of self-promotion within the design industry in preparation for employment. Lectures, presentations, studio discourse and seminars will examine creative innovation, design solutions, graphic communication and audience response. You’ll submit your finished project work for assessment to an industry standard in a format appropriate to the brief's requirements and/or for commercial reproduction, to schedule design work and meet all production deadlines. The written project will help you develop and demonstrate the ‘design writing’ skills you will need to promote yourself and for professional practice as a designer. This informs your employability in developing a professional profile and online presence, to enhance your profile through professional writing to the editorial standards of high-quality design and communication journals and websites. You may take a summer placement in partial fulfilment of this component of the module.


NB Modules are subject to change and availability

Our modules allow you to demonstrate your progress by producing coursework to set projects, design tasks and formal briefs. At the end of each semester you’ll submit design work for practice-based modules, and a written document for contextual/theoretical modules. These will then be graded and you’ll receive written feedback.

You’ll also receive ongoing feedback on your design project concepts and develop your learning in taught sessions, one-to-one discussions, project reviews and group critiques.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

At Cambridge School of Art, we combine the traditions of our past with the possibilities afforded by the latest technologies.

Using our expertise and connections in Cambridge and beyond, we nurture creativity through experimentation and risk-taking to empower the makers and creators of the future.

Our academics excel at both practice and theory, making a real impact in their chosen fields, whether they are curating exhibitions, designing book covers or photographing communities in Africa. They are also regularly published in catalogues, books, journals and conference papers, their research classed as being of ‘international standing’, with some elements ‘world-leading’, in the most recent Research Excellence Framework.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Study abroad

You can apply to study abroad for one semester, and get funding to help you cover the cost

Specialist facilities

You’ll have access to our on-campus digital facilities and design studios, and get a real understanding of digital design processes by working on industry-standard Adobe design software on Apple Macintosh technology. But we also have dedicated facilities for traditional letterpress and printmaking for the more ‘hands-on’ designer, and you can get full training in any of our other facilities too.

Find out more about Cambridge School of Art's facilities

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students starting 2020/21 (per year)


International students starting 2020/21 (per year)


Fee information

For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

Additional costs

Estimated costs of materials over three years £950.

Optional field trip £200.

How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

UK and EU students can take out a tuition fee loan, which you won’t need to start repaying until after your graduate. Or alternatively, there's the option to pay your fees upfront.

Loans and fee payments

International students

You can pay your tuition fees upfront, in full or in two instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit of £4,000 or a sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees


We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Some of these cover all or part of your tuition fees.

Explore ARU scholarships

Funding for UK & EU students

Most new undergraduate students can apply for government funding to support their studies and university life. This includes Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans. There are additional grants available for specific groups of students, such as those with disabilities or dependants.

We also offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Funding for international students

We offer a number of scholarships, as well as an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

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Portfolio review

It is essential that you send us a digital portfolio for review.

For full information on how to prepare and submit your portfolio please visit our Cambridge School of Art portfolios page.

Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

We don't accept AS level qualifications on their own for entry to our undergraduate degree courses. However for some degree courses a small number of tariff points from AS levels are accepted as long as they're combined with tariff points from A levels or other equivalent level 3 qualifications in other subjects.

International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

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UK and EU students

Apply through UCAS

UCAScode: W200

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International students

Applicants from outside the UK and EU, apply to ARU

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01245 68 68 68

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International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

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