BA (Hons) Graphic Design - University of Portsmouth
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BA (Hons)

Graphic Design

UCAS codeW210

full time3yrs

placement option1yr

For independent, culturally aware, creative, employable graphic designers

Course Overview

Why take this course?

This course offers you the opportunity to explore graphic design through a range of digital and traditional media. The curriculum is based around thematic teaching with a strong emphasis on research informed design practice.

It will empower you with creative problem solving skills and technical knowledge that will enable you to join and contribute to the exciting, dynamic and constantly evolving world of media and design.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Enter national and international awards and competitions such as the iSTD, RSA and YCN
  • Interact with our visiting speakers, from established professionals to our own successful alumni
  • Use the latest creative software and equipment to enable your design work to have a professional finish
  • Visit our course blog to find out more

What opportunities might it lead to?

On this course you will develop strong creative and technical abilities in graphic design, as well as engage with current debates and developments in today's media design profession. You will develop skills that will enable you to find employment within the exciting world of the creative industries.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

  • magazine design publishing
  • branding and design agencies
  • art direction and advertising
  • website design
  • work in the television and film industries
  • founding their own design studio
  • further study and research


Jenna Smith, BA (Hons) Graphic Design student

The lecturers are a mix of academics and successful professionals within the graphic design field. It enables us to have a taste for what life as a graphic designer would be like when we graduate.

Jenna Smith, BA (Hons) Graphic Design student


Graphic Design

Find out what our students say about studying at Portsmouth, including:

  • The creative atmosphere that encourages students to explore their own interests and ideas
  • The excellent facilities which you will have access to
  • Exhibiting, curating and promoting your work, preparing you for future employment

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Structure & Teaching

Year one

In your first year you will be introduced to a range of theories and perspectives for analysing the visual world. You’ll also begin to develop the computer and other design skills you will need throughout the course.

Core units in this year include:

  • Introduction to Graphic Design
  • Fundamentals of Design Practice
  • Information Design
  • Screen Design – Motion Graphics
  • Research-Informed Design Thinking
  • Introduction to Visual Culture

Year two

As the course progresses, you will develop a more in-depth knowledge of particular design skills. You will also become more confident in your experimentation with media, techniques and approaches.

Core units in this year include:

  • Developing Design Practice
  • Screen Design – Interactive
  • Ethical Design
  • Professional Practice – Identity and Branding

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Professional Practice – Live Design Briefs
  • Professional Experience
  • Student Enterprise
  • Visual Culture: Visions of the Body
  • Visual Culture: Cult Films and Postmodernism
  • Visual Culture: Design, Style and Identity
  • Visual Culture: Issues of Representation
  • Visual Culture: Technology and the Image

Year three*

The focus of this year is developing independent learning and production of high quality work that will contribute to your professional portfolio of work.

Core units in this year include:

  • Graphic Design Major Project – Research, Development and Resolution
  • Professional Practice – Design Briefs and Competitions
  • Professional Practice – Promotion and Employability
  • Professional Practice - Design Studio Practice

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Visual Culture: Dissertation
  • Visual Culture: Research Project
  • Visual Culture: Research Paper
  • Visual Culture: Research Extended Project

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.

*This course is also available as a 4-year sandwich (work placement).

Placement year

Between the second and third years of study you will have the option to undertake a work placement year. There are two exciting options for the placement year:

We offer a range of salaried professional placements as part of your degree.  You can gain invaluable work experience to help you prepare for your graduate employment.  The University can provide you with advice on how to secure a work placement that matches both the needs of your degree and your future career plans, as well as giving you useful links and contacts.

Interested in running your own business instead? We also offer students the chance to start-up and run their own company for a year as an alternative to the traditional work-based placement. Students who choose this option often start-up their companies with fellow, like-minded students, working together, as a bona fide operation, in an attempt to build a successful venture. The Faculty and University provide mentoring and support throughout the year.

To find out more visit our Employability and Enterprise page.


We offer a variety of engaging teaching methods from workshops, lectures, group critique and seminars, to individual tutorials. There is also emphasis on hands-on practical sessions which contributes towards the strong studio culture that has developed within the subject area.

The time you spend in teaching activities may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year typically spent their time as follows:

  • Year one students: 23% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 77% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year two students: 23% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 77% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 12% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 88% studying independently and 0% on work placement


There are no exams on this course as your work is assessed primarily by coursework. Here’s how we assess your work:

  • project presentations
  • research and developmental work
  • design portfolios
  • written essays or reports

The way you’re assessed may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • Year one students: 0% by written exams, 0% by practical exams and 100% by coursework
  • Year two students: 0% by written exams, 0% by practical exams and 100% by coursework
  • Year three students: 0% by written exams, 17% by practical exams and 83% by coursework

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Facilities & Features

Specialist Workshops

Take advantage of our many workshops, which include excellent facilities with specific areas for – screenprinting, letterpress, laser cutting, dye sublimation printing and digital fabric printing.

We also have a variety of digital studios with Macs and PCs running industry-standard software, our design facilities can cater to whatever project you are working on. In addition you will have access to our range of digital printing facilities, including large format, photographic and sheet fed printers.

Design Studios

As well as offering a dynamic and creative studio space with excellent access to the Eldon campus facilities, we foster a friendly and welcoming environment where you are encouraged to interact with both tutors and your peers.

Guest Speakers

We organise a lively programme of visiting speakers from the design world and encourage a vibrant culture of debate and industry contact. Many of our successful alumni also return on a regular basis to teach as guest lecturers on the course.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Budgeting for your studies

There are extra costs associated with studying, which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Recommended texts:
If you wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow from the University Library, the average price is £50-£60. You may be studying up to 6 units a year, each with a standard recommended text.

General costs:
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for costs of photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.

Final year project:
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose to develop.

Other costs to consider


You will incur extra printing costs on portfolio work of around £100 - £600. Material and production costs vary from around £100 - £500 per year.

Any study trips are optional and you will be expected to pay full cost. Optional study trips abroad will cost in the region of £200 - £800. UK trips, where offered, will be £50 - £150.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

Once you have completed this degree you could find yourself working across a range of media including design for print or web, interactive design, motion graphics and specialist typographic design. Graduates from this course have gone on to win BAFTAs, art direct magazines, create identities for worldwide brands for high profile clients such as Beyoncé, Coca Cola Zero and Nike Air Jordan and have overseen on-set graphics for big blockbuster films such as Casino Royale and the London Grand Prix simulation.

Graduates from this course have been successful in finding work with these design studios:

  • Precedent
  • Why Not Associates
  • I Love Dust
  • Aardman Digital
  • The Light Surgeons
  • Fitch
  • 4IV
  • Rubrik
  • FHM Magazine

Many of our graduates have also succeeded in setting up their own businesses – examples include Territory Studio, Bright Agency, Debut Art, Strong Island, MWM Creative, Lethal Creative Studio and I Love Dust.

Work experience

Work experience
Employment boosting opportunities

Here at the CCI’s Creative Careers Centre we are committed to improving your employability. Whether it’s placements, self-employed placements, internships, short-term work experiences, freelancing opportunities and volunteering, we will help you find valuable and relevant work experience to complement your degree. The experienced team is always on hand to offer advice on everything from producing high-quality applications through to preparation for a company assessment day.

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

Video Description

Sam Barclay graduated in Graphic Design in 2013 and now works as freelance graphic designer. Attracting Kickstarter funding, Sam has designed a book that shows people what it’s like to be dyslexic. Find out more about Sam’s achievements, his views on the course and working in the graphic design industry.

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Apply now or visit us

Apply for 2018 entry

To apply, you'll need this course's UCAS code, which is at the top of this page, and the University of Portsmouth institution code – P80.

Apply now

After you apply, we'll invite you to an Applicant Experience Day where you’ll get to speak to lecturers and meet your future classmates.

Open Days for courses starting in 2019

Come to an Open Day and explore our course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

Book your Open Day

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

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