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Our diverse and exciting BA (Hons) Graphic Communication with a Foundation Year is a must for anyone passionate about graphic design and looking to pursue a career in the industry.
Thanks to established links with major advertising groups, publishing houses and interactive design, the programme is structured to provide you with industry-quality skills in the fields of communication, branding and advertising design, both in print and online.
Lecturers are well placed to give commercially relevant guidance based on contemporary trends and historical contexts. We run an in-house agency that will prepare you for entering the world of design and your work experience will come from placements, studio visits and real life briefs.
This four year programme has been specifically designed to allow students who do not initially meet the entry requirements for a three year degree, to undertake additional level 3 study designed to ensure they are successful on their chosen degree programme.
After successful completion of your foundation year, you will have the flexibility to switch (should you wish to change direction) onto a number of related undergraduate degree programmes within Birmingham School of Art or the School of Visual Communication.
Foundation years are a great option if you have the talent, ambition and potential to thrive at Birmingham City University, but do not meet the entry requirements for your preferred course. It’s ideal if:
The Graphic Communication course expects you to stand out through your imaginative thinking, passion and commitment to new ideas and international perspectives. You will study a course that will test your design skills and help you identify the latest trends in design and communication on a world stage.
We need independent learners who are playful, full of passion and totally aware of the power they possess to facilitate changes, inform opinion and make their own mark in the creative industries.
In three years you will be engaged in all the practical and intellectual skills as leaders in an ever-changing commercial environment. Many graduates have gone on to become leaders in their field of specialism and they often return to the University to share this knowledge.
You will immerse yourself in our creative community, based at our City Centre Campus, where you will find screen-printing, letterpress facilities, Adobe software training rooms and studio facilities to enhance your design work.
You will engage with live project briefs with companies and partners. These range from local to international and include the following - Moonpig, NHS, Studio Bonito, McCann Erickson, The Times, Chapter, One Black Bear, Cogent Elliott, Leo Burnett London, Beattie McGuinness Bungay, Fluid, Z3, Boxer, Momentum, CBSO, Ikon, Birmingham Hippodrome, John Taylor Hospice, Hello Creatives, DMA, and Saatchi & Saatchi.
Your tutors are enthusiastic about their specialisms, which fosters an invaluable knowledge transfer within the programme.
"The B-Hive competition, and winning first place, was a huge opportunity for real-life work experience and a great addition to my CV. Also from this, Adobe produced a video about me and my project as part of their ‘Make –it’ campaign, which led to more exposure and opportunities." Laura Miele
Our next Open Day for this course will take place on Saturday 30 June 2018. Book your place to see our facilities and speak to our staff and students.
Our students have gone on to work with companies such as:
This course is in the final stages of design and is due to be reviewed and approved to meet our quality standards.
We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.
At the point of enrolment, you must have GCSE at Grade 4 or above in English Language. Equivalent qualifications can be considered in lieu as long as the required subject is covered.
80 UCAS tariff points.
Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma
International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
OCR Cambridge Technical Certificate
Must be offered along with either two A-levels or two BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diplomas of 80 tariff points. Cannot be offered as a standalone qualification.
Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma
Scottish Advanced Higher
Sorry, this course is not available to international students.
The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.
UK and EU students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college. You can apply until 30 June.
You are not required to submit a portfolio for this course.
As part of your course you will become a professional member of Design and Art Direction (D&AD). D&AD is a British educational charity, which exists to promote excellence in design and advertising. Your membership could culminate in you showcasing and exhibiting your work in London in your final year of study.
You will become a member of the Paper Library, a resource for designers, creatives and brands. The library features thousands of paper, boards, packaging materials, coverings and foils from the world’s leading mills and producers, as well as exemplary samples of print and packaging. This is a resource that will help you to become proficient at ordering and selecting the appropriate stock for your design work.
All students are provided with access to the online training site Lynda.com and Adobe accreditation is also available for all students.
Materials and equipmentDuring your first year, you will be required to budget around £150 for initial design equipment and materials, while in your final year you will be expected to invest in a portfolio to present your final work for assessment (advice will be given on sourcing the most cost-effective suppliers).
Materials and equipment needed for the final year is varied and driven by the individual student needs - some students will spend very little as their practice is predominantly achieved through digital media or perhaps recycled materials. For the more expensive projects, students actively seek funding through various mechanisms including the Student Union's Eco Fund.
Trips and travelThere are a number of live projects which require field visits. A coach may be organised, or alternatively students make their own travel arrangements, dependent on the destination and the specifics of the visit. As part of the School, there are a number of optional educational trips organised that aim to add richness to your experience. Past trips have included Berlin (£320), Venice (£397) and New York (£639). Laptops and digital equipmentYou’ll require a laptop computer (PC or Mac OS), although you can also hire a laptop for up to six hours a day from the University. Alternatively, you can use one of our shared computer rooms. Apple also offer a discount on laptops for UK students - go to Apple for Education for more details.
Working in a lively and energetic environment you will be given the freedom to expand your knowledge in conceptual development, practical skills and creative exploration underpinned by broad critical understanding and emerging theoretical principles.
You will work individually and collaboratively to develop a stimulating visual portfolio of work that evidences your enthusiasm for further study within a specific subject area.
BA teaching staff from across both Birmingham School of Art and the School of Visual Communication will work with you throughout the course and you will have full access to all of the University facilities.
The two first semester modules will run in conjunction with each other to enable understanding of the relationship between developing work and potential contexts.
These modules will form the building blocks for future work and will focus on developing confidences with techniques, learning skills and productivity. The two final semester modules will run in conjunction with each other to enable a positive integration between Perspectives on Practice and Creative Realisation.
To reinforce your understanding of the creative industry in context you will be introduced to a number of opportunities across the city and will engage with event partners, such as Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery [BMAG], Ikon, Hippodrome, Eastside Galleries, Type-Talks and further afield.
Throughout this module you will be introduced to range of study techniques that build competencies with research and discussion, while analyzing appropriate contexts for your work.
You will be continually encouraged to question the relationship between Visual Arts and Communication and will begin to establish the direction of your work in context.
This module will give you the freedom to develop a strong visual language, and an understanding of relevant processes that will underpin your future creative studies.
You will work on projects that are written to explore multiple opportunities that focus on media experimentation, skills development and engagement with the University workshops.
While developing your ideas you will learn to establish key principles of documentation and research that integrate directly with your practical work.
New discoveries and invention will be the ethos for this module.
Indication of your development will be evidenced through sketchbooks, online platforms, one to one tutorials, group tutorials and presentations.
Building on your understanding from of the first two modules you will engage with a series of discussions that begin to challenge your perception of creative approaches within Visual Arts and Communication.
You will have the opportunity to meet BA Staff from across the School of Visual Communication and the School of Art who will present lectures and workshops to broaden your approach to practical development.
You will be encouraged to challenge opinions by applying a critical voice to the meaning, perspective and position of your own work.
You will be given guidance on critical and analytical writing as a starting point for developing your research skills.
Priority for this module will focus on expanding your visual vocabulary further through a project that develops your confidence and independence, providing you with recognisable skills that aid the smooth transition to Level 4 Undergraduate Study.
You will produce work that addresses context, creative production and innovation while identifying potential perspectives and connections to research.
Undergraduate Staff from both Schools will offer guidance on developing a constructive portfolio that affirms your potential for a rewarding creative future.
Successful completion of your Foundation year will guarantee progression to any of the accredited degree courses listed above.
Your first year of study will introduce you to the basic skills and critical framework within Graphic Communication. You will be taught through a series of modules, which provide you with the knowledge to further explore this ever-expanding discipline.
You will develop skills that encompass composition, line, form, narrative, type, imagery, colour, juxtaposition and ideation. From these fundamental principles, you can tailor the remainder of the course to areas of graphic communication that are of particular interest to you and your future career aims. Through your modules you will discover the application and use of colour, light, scale, composition, the typographic hierarchy, motion design, UI and interactive design.
Fundamental visual communication issues will be addressed through a series of core lectures and theory seminars. You will also have the opportunity to work with other students from across the School by selecting one of five in house options.
This module introduces the universal principles and theories of visual communication. The aim of the module is not only to introduce you to the principles within your own chosen subject area, but also to provide opportunities to take workshops in all subject areas, seek advice from experts in other disciplines and work collaboratively with students from all Visual Communication subject areas.
Typography and form provide the fundamental building blocks that support almost every aspect of Graphic Communication. We are surrounded by visual, written and digital forms of type and lettering on a daily basis. This module is designed to develop your creative thinking by raising awareness to the visual impact of type and messaging with emphasis on exploring new territories for communication.
The aim of this module is to emphasise the importance of research through an engagement with historical and contemporary concepts. The project will focus on aspects of typography, motion graphics, visualising, wayfinding, digital platforms, advertising and branding, and examine how you can communicate ideas in new and imaginative ways.
Building on the key principles articulated in the three modules in semester one, this complementary, contextual studies module will explore seminal design movements and practitioners of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It will provide you with a broad contextual framework that will underpin your design practice, both at university and in the future.
You will have the opportunity to select one of five option modules offered across the school: People and Identity, Sound and Movement, Space and Place, Text and Image, Time and Sequence. Thematic in their approach they are intended to offer you multiple approaches to the diverse practice of Visual Communication.
This module will focus on how graphic designers can play an active and creative role in society, looking at the way designers are bypassing traditional working models and developing their own voice as independent thinkers/creators. It will engage you in active learning towards producing a publication for a live exhibition or event.
Through a combination of theory and experiment, you will learn how to evaluate and apply principles to practice, and will receive opportunities for placement, field study, collaborative and interdisciplinary work. We shall help you to develop your own personal direction, focusing towards the establishment of a specialised and flexible area of practice.
You will learn how to effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in a variety of forms to specialist and non-specialist audiences. You will enhance your ability to work collaboratively within a working environment, demonstrating knowledge of the main methods of enquiry within the field.
You will develop your critical awareness, individual style and perspective and. You will formulate approaches to solving problems, helping you to further understand the creative role, opportunities and responsibility of the contemporary designer.
In this module you will interpret your own practice in the context of the professional world and consider communicating in a wide range of ways. The focus will be addressing the world of graphic communication in a professional context. Interrogation of studio practice with live briefs, competitions and the in-house agency will allow you to expand your knowledge through the two pathways, Graphic Design, and Advertising and Branding.
This flexible module allows you to identify direction within your own practice and future aspirations. You will undertake approaches that will help define their area of practice, which is personalised to your own interests. The structure of this module encourages the development of a more focused, in-depth and advanced study through the use of self-directed projects.
This module provides an opportunity for you to apply your knowledge and skills to an external, professional brief. The brief will be set by an external client / agency, and could be a ‘real life’ problem to be solved or a simulation. It is an opportunity for you to engage in a professional manner with an aspect of your subject area, which contributes to the development of employability skills.
Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the creative industries, and this module allows you to develop these skills, making use of University facilities with the support of academic staff. Within this module framework you are able to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines across the School and wider Faculty.
In your second year you will have the opportunity to replace 20 credits of study with the following module:
The purpose of this module is to enable you to develop professional attributes and subject skills through experience in the workplace and to critically reflect upon your learning in that context. You will normally be expected to arrange your own placement, with support from academic staff and BCU Careers.
During your final year of study you will be supported in establishing the confidence to acknowledge and assert your own distinctive work identity. You will be required to demonstrate within your work a particular view of what constitutes a design proposition.
You will enhance your communication skills, allowing you to develop confidence and understanding, allowing you to capably articulate your views and knowledge to others.
The final year of the programme is designed to help you demonstrate a systematic, extensive and advanced knowledge of contemporary Graphic Communication. You shall work autonomously or collaboratively to a professional standard on self-generated projects, with creativity and imagination.
Critical Practice provides the opportunity to adopt an increasingly autonomous commitment to your individually chosen direction. These directions are established with guidance through individual tutorials, guest professionals, workshops, group discussion and peer participation. It creates an environment where passion and dedication to creative activity can flourish. In this, the qualities of imagination and invention carry a high premium.
The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project. It is a culmination of your three years of study and should be a personal inquiry of a professional standard and a celebration of you as a work ready practitioner.
The number of contact hours with lecturers varies depending on the type of activity, the module and the year group. The figures below show a weekly average but these will fluctuate throughout the year.
Scheduled Contact Hours:
These studio contact sessions usually consist of lectures, tutorials, workshops, seminars and group activities in numerous combinations. Additional to these scheduled hours you will be expected to undertake guided independent learning. You will use the facilities within the Faculty and beyond to further develop your individual projects.
The school offers a suite of optional technical workshops including printmaking, studio lighting and a wide range of software packages.
Images: Ben Lupton / Joshua Sallon
Images: Amritpal Sembhi / Tom Armstrong
MoonpigStudents across different disciplines have collaborated on a joint project to create a mood board, which has generated dialogue and narrative for further investigation. The final outcome has culminated in designs being taken from conception to production and have allowed students to undertake pitches, studio visits and see their work being produced and sold in the UK card industry. Look bookStudents successfully collaborated with photography and fashion staff and students to create a look book. This substantial editorial was professionally designed and printed. The student’s involvement included design, art direction, typographic hierarchy, editing, production and setting up the editorial for print.
Our final-year students engage with briefs which have social benefits as well as experimentation and commercial outcomes.
The following students work are exemplars of these aspects:
View examples of student work...
Watch one of our first year Visual Communication students learn to draw and design in a 3D space. See how Virtual Reality can become a source of creative inspiration.
The School has great associations with many industry bodies and professional associations. We are members of the Association of Courses in Theatre Design, Association of Photographers, Association of Illustrators, D&AD (the professional association of designers and advertising), The Society of British Theatre Designers, The Association of Photographers in Higher Education, and the Royal Society of Arts.
We are accredited with Adobe and Creative Skillset. Both these accreditations were hard-earned and demonstrate the standing we hold in industry.
The Creative Skillset Tick is the quality mark for excellence in training courses and education in the Creative Industries. It identifies the UK’s most industry-focused courses and apprenticeships enabling universities, colleges and employers to recruit the brightest talent.
Our Creative Skillset accreditation shows that we will provide you with industry-relevant skills and good links with companies and potential employers.
The accreditation also assures employers that students graduating from our course have the levels of knowledge and skills they need.
As graduating students you will follow your own career path, which may mean going straight into industry. However, many students look at the opportunities we offer for postgraduate study at the University.
The School runs a one-year MA Visual Communication course as a natural progression from its undergraduate courses. You will be encouraged to continue your journey with us and develop your practice further.
While you study the course you will be offered opportunities to go on group excursions both in the UK and abroad. There are usually three overseas trips a year, which we offer both at subject level, as well as School level, to Venice, New York and Berlin.
Locations do alter each year to allow for students to experience a range of cities. We always put on UK study trips to places such as London, Manchester, Oxford and Liverpool. Where possible, UK trips are free or heavily subsidised.
As a Visual Communication student, you’ll be encouraged to take advantage of these trips as we see them as adding extra value to your course and they do offer additional research opportunities.
Our students are required to achieve all of the learning outcomes set by the Graphic Communication course and pursue excellence by engaging with competition and live briefs, achieving Adobe accreditation.
Practice-led, knowledge-applied education is facilitated by you engaging and participating in workshops, lectures and seminars. The curriculum, live briefs and the agency will sharpen and improve your employability skills and prospects.
Internationalisation of the student cohort, links with Erasmus+ and Birmingham City University’s strong links with China, Malaysia and Thailand offer you a varied global curriculum.
You are required to develop strong networks, identifying opportunities and work placements appropriate to your practice. Visits to companies, interviews and live projects are an excellent way to introduce you and to develop these links. More formal placements have included opportunities with IE Design, Green Room and Fluid, along with various graphic design opportunities including editorial design, branding and art direction.
Summer placements with high-profile companies Z3, TDL and most recently White October have been offered as rewards for live project initiatives. These prestigious opportunities allow students to gain a real insight into the creative approaches used by these organisations.
Our partnerships with industry include the following: day briefs, live briefs, competitions, pitches, curriculum development and awards ceremonies. Live project partnerships include NHS, Moonpig, Beehive, Studio Bonito, McCann Erickson, The Times Newspaper Group, Chapter, One Black Bear, Cogent Elliott, Leo Burnett London and more.
OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.
It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.
The School of Visual Communication offers a broad education as well as the very specific subject skills. We see many graduates working in the creative industries, but also in a variety of employment from management, education, tourism, marketing and freelance business.
Industry demands are constantly changing, so it’s important that we prepare you for all eventualities. The internationalisation components mean you are made aware of global expectations and the possibilities of work outside the UK. All modules have transferable skills built into the teaching, meaning you are able to apply your knowledge to a variety of tasks and challenges.
Graphic Communication graduates work in a range of careers including:
Our visual communication degrees are housed in the state of the art £62 million Parkside Building, part of our City Centre Campus.
We offer extensive studio and workshop space and cutting-edge equipment such as Vicon 3D (an external tracking motion capture facility) and Gypsy (an exoskeleton-based motion capture system). Both of these systems extend the possibility for production of 3D animation and films.
You will enjoy access to our Hollywood standard MILO unit. We were the first School of Visual Communication in Europe to offer MILO motion capture technology, now one of only two owned by Universities in Europe.
We offer cutting-edge provision such as digital print centres and Sonny Ross became the first student on the Visual Communication course to master the art of the RISO machine. He has since used this to produce many successful RISO publications including “Rojo & Baxter” which has been a success at various zine and book fairs across the country.
We have fantastic letterpress and screen printing facilities and typographic archives as part of our facilities. We offer book-binding and printing techniques as part of the course. Students also have access to 3D printing and wood workshop facilities within the building.
Students from Graphic Communication also have the opportunity to use letterpress and printing in the Winterbourne Press with lecturer Rebecca Howson.
All staff are practitioners in their field and are currently designing or researching in the following areas: typography, wayfinding, interactive design, motion graphics, brand and UI, packaging, print making and letterpress.
Our staff have professional profiles which include designing at agencies such as: Pentagram, Nucleus Design, Luxon Carra, Williams & Phoa, Sony, NHS, Stocks Taylor Benson, Wyatt International, Currentstate, Keanebrands, Purelm, Green Room and Fish in a Bottle.
Visiting tutors include Rebecca Foster and Brian Sheppard who have strong industry profiles and current practices in branding and advertising respectively.
Tracy is particularly interested in the integration of professional briefs from the creative industry, partnerships between industry and education and creating new synergies and ways of working in this fast moving area of design. Tracy is an experienced external examiner, visiting tutor, guest speaker and external consultant for online module development at institutions across the UK; appointments have been made at the University of Hertfordshire, University of Bolton, Nottingham Trent University, Surrey Institute of Art & Design, Central St Martins, West Hertfordshire College of Art & Design and Norwich School of Art. Tracy is also a member of the International Society of Typographic Design. Design Posts: Pentagram. Nucleus Design. Luxon Carra, Pentagram, London, Futurebrand, Nucleus Design, Boots, Nottingham.
Freelance Design: Coley Porter Bell, Still Waters Run Deep, Erga Design, Marks & Spencer, Wickens Tutt Southgate, Hill Watson, Luxon Carra, Nucleus Design, Davies Baron, Diefenbach Elkins.
Clients include: Co-op, Hogg Robinson, Thomas Cook, British Airways, Worten (Electrical Store, Portugal), Sock Shop Caura, Santa Cruz Operation, Eureka! Children's Museum, The British Library, Royal National Theatre, Mazda Xedos, Edinburgh Park, Ciba Geigy.
Her work spans across the following areas of design: typography, packaging, exhibition design, retail, branding, literature, corporate identity and wayfinding.
David has specialist knowledge in brand experience and advertising design. David has a rich background engaging with industry and a passion for typography. David is currently investigating the sans serif in Britain, and typography as an index to cultural values through his PhD research. In addition to this, David represents the University through the EyeCandy festival and is a member of the Printing Historical Society.
Previous work has included: Chair of Birmingham Artists and founder of the Periscope Gallery, Company Secretary of Vivid, and academic consultant for the Plus+ International Design Festival. David was also an Innovation Mentor for Service by Design and Chair of the digital brand panel for Hello Business.
Read David's full profile
Phil draws upon his extensive experience in advertising as an art director and copywriter. With a decade of experience and knowledge running his own design studio, as well as ongoing experience in education, Phil brings a wealth of knowledge to the School. Phil is well-placed to understand the fundamental nature of the visual arts in a commercial context, where ideas and creative risk-taking are the most valuable currency.
Read Phil's full profile
Colette is a full-time lecturer in Graphic Communication and a part-time PhD researcher. Before joining Birmingham City University in 2009, she worked for 15 years as a wayfinding consultant, inclusive design director and information designer. She researched and co-wrote the NHS official guidance on wayfinding in hospitals, published in 1999 and has had research papers and articles published on wayfinding in hospitals and other complex environments. As project director and inclusive design director at Applied, a specialist wayfinding and information design consultancy based in London, she carried out user-focused research and developed map and sign solutions for legible city projects in Brighton and Leeds. As wayfinding design director at The Brand Union and Information Design Unit she designed wayfinding systems for over 50 sites, including 20 NHS hospitals, the Natural History Museum London, Tower Bridge, Wembley Arena, Heathrow Airport and shopping centres in Dublin and Dubai.
Colette has recently begun a PhD study exploring how people get disorientated inside buildings and what they do when they are spatially disorientated. She will compare her observational findings with data collected from professionals who design complex environments and develop wayfinding strategies to identify correlation or disparity.
Read Colette's full profile
A graduate of the University James has over 15 years of experience working within the digital sector. As a digital creative, James has worked on a wealth of agency-side and commercial projects for a range of clients including: Cancer Research UK, Silver Cross, Random House, ITV, VTech, Harper Collins, Sport England, E.On, Seven Trent and Zurich.
As Creative Director at BPI Agency, James has worked on a mixture of business to customers and large corporate websites, apps, micro sites, e-commerce, games, digital marketing campaigns, and digital strategy.
Read James' full profile
A video and motion graphic designer, director, and company owner, Jonathan has over 15 years of creative and digital agency experience. He has worked for national and international creative studios and brands. Within two years his company received direct commission from clients such as PayPal, Town Hall Symphony Hall and London’s Footpatrol store (part of JD sports). Jonathan has provided motion content in many shapes and forms to creative agencies and production companies, such as Butlins, Haven, Nokia and Kering.
Read Jonathan's full profile
Andrew Kulman has worked as an illustrator and Graphic Artist since leaving the RCA in 1987. His work has been exhibited both nationally and Internationally, winning numerous Industry awards. He has had several illustrated books published and has appeared in magazines and publications both in the UK and abroad.
His recent research interests is centered around the mechanised image and recently he has been involved in the areas of transdisciplinary practice, namely the areas where Design and Fine Arts cross over.
Read Andrew's full profile
Jane is an experienced designer, typographer and illustrator with over 18 years’ industry experience in brand and visual identity, illustration, design for print and photography. Jane has worked with some well-known brands to start-up enterprises – producing engaging graphic design work that is driven by solid creative direction. Her illustrations have been featured in a number of publications such as Wallpaper, Computer Arts, Frieze, The Guardian, The Festival Annual, Amelia's Magazine and Design Week, as well as being exhibited and sold worldwide.
Read Jane's full profile
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