Graphic Design with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)

Currently viewing course to start in 2025/26 Entry. Switch to 2024/25 Entry

This four-year degree course (incorporating a foundation year) has been specifically designed to allow you to undertake an additional year of study which will build stronger creative footings to ensure successful progression through their chosen degree course....

  • Level Foundation
  • Study mode Full Time
  • Location City Centre
  • School School of Visual Communication
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

This course is:

Open to International Students

Overview

The Foundation Year

This four-year degree course (incorporating a foundation year) has been specifically designed to allow you to undertake an additional year of study which will build stronger creative footings to ensure successful progression through their chosen degree course.

Working in a lively and energetic environment, you will be given the freedom to expand your knowledge of practical skills, creative exploration and conceptual development, underpinned by broad critical understanding, academic writing and emerging theoretical principles.

There will be a range of opportunities to work on collaborative and individual projects aimed to develop employability partnerships and to identify the role of developing practitioner. BA teaching staff from across both schools will work closely with you throughout the course to prepare you for progression.

After successful completion of the 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.

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

BA Graphic Design here at BCU is an exciting, engaging, and stimulating course that will equip you with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to enter the creative industries.

Our team of experienced and knowledgeable staff will support you on your journey, helping you to bring your creative ideas to life. You’ll develop a variety of design approaches and creative problem-solving techniques, giving you the resilience to succeed in your chosen career path.

As designers, we play an important role in society, and we have the ability to make meaningful change to our world. You will be encouraged to develop a critical eye through briefs that challenge you to go beyond the surface, providing sustainable & culturally-conscious solutions to real-world issues.

This four-year degree course (incorporating a foundation year) has been specifically designed to allow you to undertake an additional year of study which will build stronger creative footings to ensure successful progression through their chosen degree course.

Working in a lively and energetic environment, you will be given the freedom to expand your knowledge of practical skills, creative exploration and conceptual development, underpinned by broad critical understanding, academic writing and emerging theoretical principles.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

Our BA (Hons) Graphic Design course will enable you to stand out through your imaginative thinking, passion and commitment to new ideas and international perspectives. You will study a course that will enhance your design skills and challenge your creative thinking, helping you identify the latest directions in design communication on a world stage. We aim to attract independent learners who are creative, imaginative, playful, full of passion and aware of the power they possess to facilitate change, inform opinion and make their mark in industry. Many graduates have gone on to become leaders in their field of specialism and they often return to the University to share this knowledge.

During your time with us, you will develop the practical and intellectual skills required to succeed in a dynamic and ever-changing environment. Our modules are designed to provide you with exciting and engaging learning experiences which will prepare you for your onward journey. Our first year of study focuses on creative play and risk-taking, along with building up core skills and an understanding of design principles and areas of practice. In your second year, you will get the chance to work on live briefs and to gain real-world industry experience, along with advancing your creative and technical skills to a higher level. Our final year is all about developing autonomy within your practice, cultivating a deeper approach to critical thinking and readying yourself to enter the world of creative work.

On the course you’ll get the chance to explore a wide range of areas of practice within graphic design, including branding, packaging, motion design, editorial, typography, UX/UI, art direction, and advertising, as well as delving into emerging technologies such as VR/AR and 3D rendering. Rather than specialising in just one of these areas of practice, we encourage our students to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, making them desirable to employers and giving them the adaptability, they need to flourish in their creative futures. Collaboration is not only facilitated but actively encouraged on our course, and you’ll have the chance to work with students from other disciplines including illustration, photography, digital marketing and more.

You will immerse yourself in our vibrant studio culture and creative community, based at our City Centre Campus, where you will find traditional and digital print-making facilities, photographic studios, 3D printing, Adobe software training and large format print facilities to enhance your design work. You will also have the opportunity to study abroad for part of the course, or to go on trips to destinations such as New York, Berlin or Paris.

One of our main focuses is employability, and all students who study with us will receive targeted support with professional skills and will leave with an industry-ready portfolio. The course has excellent links to industry, both here in the West Midlands, and nationally too, with opportunities to get involved with live briefs and placements from some of the top design agencies in the country. Previous students have worked on live projects with Turner Duckworth, Superunion, Conran Design, Design Bridge, Man Vs Machine, Studio BLUP, Moonpig, Bulletproof, The Times and The Pratt Institute (New York). We are also fortunate to have great links with Birmingham Design Festival, an event which provides access to an inspiring line-up of internationally renowned designers and creatives. Many of our students have volunteered at the festival, building up their industry networks and confidence.

Your tutors are enthusiastic about their areas of practice, which fosters an invaluable knowledge transfer within the course. We have exceptional levels of external engagement, with visiting lectures given by nationally and internationally-recognised practitioners such as David Carson, Jonathan Barnbrook, Neville Brody, Morag Myerscough, Jim Sutherland, Adult Art Club, Gail Anderson, Adrian Shaughnessy, Becky Smith and Patrick Thomas. As well as having numerous links with industry, you will engage in workshops, seminars, masterclasses, careers advice, portfolio reviews, mentorships and placements.

The learning environment we are in has really helped me to develop my creative thinking. We’re able to collaborate with students across different courses which will be a useful skill when going into the world of work, as the majority of creative jobs involve working in a team and collaborating across different areas.

Josh Johnson

Why Choose Us?

  • Your Foundation Year gives you the chance to explore Graphic Design, Illustration, Photography, Fine Art and Art and Design. 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.
  • The School of Visual Communication prides itself on a long-established national and international reputation. It consists of a range of courses that celebrate innovation and allow you to realise your creative ambitions.
  • Live project partnerships include NHS, Moonpig, Beehive, Studio Bonito, McCann Erickson, The Times Newspaper Group, Chapter, One Black Bear, Cogent, Leo Burnett London and more.
  • Graphic Design has developed a series of professional public-facing lecture programmes entitled  ‘Type Talks’. Design luminaries are invited to debate current design issues with eminent practitioners, such as Neville Brody, Jonathan Barnbrook and Adrian Shaughnessy, presenting their work to students and staff.
  • This course has exciting trips to provide stimuli for your creative briefs. Cultural trips are planned for London, Berlin and New York, and these excursions will include visits to exhibitions, museums and studios visits.
  • Our end-of-year awards are sponsored and presented by high-profile names, with most award winners offered placements which have led to permanent employment.

Graphic Communication Foundation overview

Open Days

Join us for an on-campus Open Day where you'll be able to learn about this course in detail, chat to students, explore our campus and tour accommodation. In the week before the event, we’ll post you an event programme to plan your day and find your way.

Next Open Day: 29 June 2024

Book Now

Entry Requirements

These entry requirements apply for entry in 2025/26.

All required qualifications/grades must have been achieved and evidenced at the earliest opportunity after accepting an offer to help confirm admission and allow for on-time enrolment. This can also include other requirements, like a fee status form and relevant documents. Applicants can track their application and outstanding information requests through their BCU mySRS account.

Essential requirements

80 UCAS tariff points

If you have a qualification that is not listed, please contact us.

Fees & How to Apply

Please select your student status to view fees and apply
  • UK Student
  • International Student

UK students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2025

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

International students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2025

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Project materials (mandatory)

This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the materials selected.

Clothing and safety equipment (mandatory)

This course requires the purchase of safety equipment in order to use the workshop facilities, at an estimated cost of £50 for safety boots.

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Field trips (optional)

This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.

Memberships (optional)

You may wish to join a union or professional body related to this course.

Personal equipment (optional)

Whilst not essential is it adviced you own a computer or laptop capable of design and video editing.

Gallery visits (optional)

It is advisable for all Creative Arts students to visit exhibitions, galleries and other creative and cultural institutions and events depending on your own individual area of interest. Travel and entry costs may be associated with this.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

Guidance for UK students

UK 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.

Applying through UCAS

  1. Register with UCAS
  2. Login to UCAS and complete your details
  3. Select your course and write a personal statement
  4. Get a reference
  5. Pay your application fee and submit your application

You are not required to submit a portfolio for this course.

Course in Depth

Foundation year

Throughout the year you will be challenged with projects that question your current creative experiences and explore a breadth of experimentation to broaden your technical and critical understanding.

You will be encouraged to analyse methods and materials appropriate for creative development and to question your position in relation to historical, contemporary and future world scenarios. Both practical and written research tasks will be supported by one to one tutorials and small discussion groups to help you constructively build academic and social confidence.

The two first semester modules will form the building blocks for future work and will explore core principles of creative practice focussing on, the development of technical confidence, research, study skills and productivity.

The two final semester modules will give you greater autonomy, encourage positive integration between research and practice, challenging decision making and technical competency. This semester is designed to empower you with independent learning skills appropriate for your future BA studies.

In order to progress onto your BA Programme, you must successfully pass all four core modules (totalling 120 credits).

First Year

Your first year of study will introduce you to the basic skills and critical framework within Graphic Design. 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 design 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. 

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 100 credits): 

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following list of OPTIONAL modules:

Second Year

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 order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 100 credits):

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following list of OPTIONAL modules. 

Final Year

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. 

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):

Download course specification

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Images: Amritpal Sembhi / Tom Armstrong


Classroom projects and activities

Look book
Students 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.


Student work

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:

  • Richard Jones has an affinity for visual identities and brand strategy, ensuring all aspects are rationalised. Richard’s work exemplifies a broad socially aware design ethic and encompasses work with the RNIB and Winterbourne Press
  • Nora Bruno’s passion for creativity and design brought her to the UK about six years ago. Nora enjoys working with ink, paper, typography, calligraphy and hand lettering. Her work represents her passion for working in an experimental way and the use of mixed media such as screen-printing, letterpress and mixing printmaking with digital techniques
  • Taylor Lantelli enjoys all kinds of art and design, and would consider herself more of a 'maker' because she loves creating tangible objects. In terms of graphic design, her real passion lies in anything print and editorial. She finds publications fascinating and views every page as a separate piece of artwork.

Trips and visits

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.

Employability

Enhancing employability skills

Our students are required to achieve all of the learning outcomes set by the Graphic Design 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 and live briefs will sharpen and improve your employability skills and prospects.

Internationalisation of the student cohort, student exchange opportunities and Birmingham City University’s strong links with China, Malaysia and Thailand offer you a varied global curriculum.

Placements

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.


Links to Industry

Our partnerships with industry include the following: day briefs, live briefs, competitions, pitches, curriculum development and awards ceremonies. Live project partnerships include NHSBeehive, Studio Bonito, McCann Erickson, The Times Newspaper Group, Chapter, One Black Bear, Cogent, Leo Burnett London and more. Take a look at how students have worked with industry here

International

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Further Information

Students come to study in the School of Visual Communication from all over the world but we have nurtured some long-standing relationships with Malaysia, Thailand, China and India.

If you are a student from these countries, or any other, you should consider studying with us as we offer a wide curriculum that has internationalization built into the modules. We actively encourage trans-disciplinary teaching, group projects and have established relationships with colleges and industry overseas.

We take a pride in developing strong creative communities and these thrive on the injection of different cultural experiences. To develop a sense of sharing all experiences and ideas is fundamental to the philosophy of Visual Communication.

Facilities & Staff

Parkside building exterior
Graphic design student work - open magazine with distorted images

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.

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.

The Parkside Building also offers:

  • exhibition space
  • digital and analogue photographic facilities and studios
  • dark rooms

Margaret Street campus

During your Foundation Year you will be based at our Margaret Street Campus - an impressive purpose built Grade 1 listed building. From industry-standard machinery in metal, wood and print, to our studio spaces and media suite, everything you need will be at your fingertips from day one. See our facilities

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.

Our staff

Jo Newman

Foundation Course Director and BA course leader

Jo chose a career in education so that she could provide students with learning environments where conversations, ideas and materials can be selected, combined, analysed and shared, offering them a way of socializing, caring and questioning to grow their learning with meaning for their futures.

More about Jo

Joe Miles

Course Leader BA (Hons) Photography

Specialising in commercial and editorial photography for national and international clients, Joe currently leads the BA (Hons) Photography and BA (Hons) Fashion Imaging courses. Experienced in both film and digital photography he has worked with RED cameras, combining moving and still imagery. His extensive list of clients include:...

More about Joe

Christopher Morris

Senior Lecturer and Course Leader in Digital Marketing

After graduating from Northumbria University, Newcastle in BA (Hons) Advertising & Graphic Design, Christopher Morris was employed as an Art Director for several London agencies; Lowe Howard-Spink/Horseman Cooke, The Unknown Partnership & D4.

More about Christopher

Professor Andrew Kulman

Professor of Arts and Design

Award winning Illustrator with 30 years of industry engagement. Research areas include the development of autographic print processes in contemporary graphic art practice. Andrew Kulman has taught across all three years of the undergraduate course in Illustration at BCU, has delivered lectures to several postgraduate courses and has...

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George Hart

Deputy Head of Digital Arts

George Hart was the first member of my family to go to University, which has given him an understanding of the challenges students face when going to Universities. After the completion of his degree George worked within the creative industries for seventeen years as a Freelance Illustrator/ Designer, mainly working in London, but also nationally....

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Nathan Tromans

Head of Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts

Nathan Tromans background as a Photographer, with an interest in contemporary art and music, provides the backbone to his role in encouraging interdisciplinary practice. Managing some 600 students across the UK, Hong Kong and Thailand, Nathan is committed to ensuring courses have vocational relevance and is active in developing a number of links...

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David Osbaldestin

Interim Course Leader for BA (Hons) Fine Art and Course Leader for BA (Hons) Art and Design

David Osbaldestin is the Interim Course Leader for BA (Hons) Fine Art and Course Leader for BA (Hons) Art and Design based at our School of Art. A Creative Director with a passion for typography, David Osbaldestin is using his fine art and design skills to teach the complex art form of the printed letter. He has a wide ranging role at Birmingham...

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Jane Watts

Senior Lecturer | Course Director of BA (Hons) Art Business (Level 6 Top-Up)

Jane is an interdisciplinary practitioner, and began her career in textile design. She has since worked as National Craft Advisor for the Women’s Institute in the charity sector, and has 20 years’ experience of teaching in higher education across a range of creative programmes. Alongside running the BA Art Business programme, Jane is also...

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