As well as having a flair for design, to be successful as a graphic designer you'll need to work with accuracy and precision - and the first step is choosing the right course
To successfully secure a job as a graphic designer you'll need the right training and qualifications. Take a look at some examples of the types of graphic design courses on offer.
Graphic design degrees
While a lucky few may be able to secure work as a graphic designer purely through relevant work experience and an excellent portfolio, the design industry is generally made up of professionals educated to degree level. Therefore, you'll be expected to hold at least an undergraduate qualification.
A career in graphic design is open to graduates of any design-related discipline, including 3D design, communication design, photography, illustration or visual art, but a specific graphic design degree will be the most useful.
A variety of institutions offer graphic design courses, such as Leeds Arts University. During your first year of its three-year BA (Hons) Graphic Design course, you'll focus on the fundamentals of visual language and explore research methods and design practice. You'll work with typography, print, drawing processes, photography and screen-based media.
Moving into the second year you'll take part in workshops, critical assessments and seminars. You'll learn about audience, context, distribution and ethical issues. In your final year you're supported to build a portfolio, while discovering more about professional practice, business and marketing and project management. You'll exhibit your work at the end of year show. To get onto this graphic design course you'll need 112 UCAS points, the equivalent of BBC grades at A-level - with one being in a relevant subject.
Find out more about putting together a creative portfolio.
Alternatively, The University of Edinburgh offers a professional practice year as part of its four-year BA Graphic Design course. In your first year you'll be introduced to theoretical and practical concepts of graphic design through compulsory courses in graphic design and typography.
Your second year will focus on exploring more theories, and in Applied Typography you'll study the terminology, rules, philosophy and history of typography from historical and contemporary viewpoints. Across both years you'll study key theories in the Design & Screen Cultures module.
After your third year is spent completing internships, at exhibitions and working on live projects, you'll use your final year to produce a written dissertation and exhibit your body of work. To gain entry onto the course you'll need ABB at A-level or four Scottish Highers at ABBB.
Masters in graphic design
Securing a graphic design job is tough, especially when you're fighting it out with other talented graduates. A postgraduate qualification isn't a prerequisite for a graphic design career, but a Masters can help you stand out from the competition.
The one-year Graphic Design MA at the University of Huddersfield encourages you to push the boundaries of graphic practice with the development of innovative and imaginative concepts and ideas. For entry onto this course you'll need at least a 2:2 in a relevant subject. You'll be instructed by industry professionals in modules such as Research Method and Project Proposal, Graphic Design Concepts, Creative Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Graphic Design Processes. The study of these modules leads on to a major project before completing the course.
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) also offers a one-year, full-time Graphic Design MA, which to apply for you'll need at least a 2:2 in a relevant discipline, as well as a substantial creative portfolio. You'll study modules in Design Practice, Design Research and Graphic Design Practice across three semesters, while being encouraged to break boundaries in the world of contemporary graphic design.
Short design courses
Intensive graphic design courses are available at all levels, from beginner to advanced, and are perfect for those trying to fit their learning around a full or part-time job.
Shillington College, with campuses in both London and Manchester, offers a three-month (full time) or nine-month (part time) portfolio-based graphic design course for students with little to no design experience. You'll learn relevant industry skills from practising graphic designers and graduate with a polished portfolio of work. The programme takes you through the design process from beginning to end and covers design theory (design principles, typography, colour, design thinking) and industry-standard software programmes such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Sketch. There are no specific entry requirements and no previous experience is required.
Online graphic design courses are also available at beginner and professional level. Central Saint Martins, a college of the University of the Arts London, runs an online graphic design short course for beginners over a six-week period. The programme includes eight topics beginning with techniques to form and develop creative ideas, typography and logotypes and kerning, tracking and leading, before moving on to scale, spacing and positioning, poster design, magazine layout and using grids to enhance your work. The final unit, bookmaking and bookbinding, requires you to make a small book and build your portfolio.
The Graphic Design School also runs intensive online graphic design courses at foundation and masterclass level.
Aspiring graphic designers at beginner and intermediate level can study short, ten-week evening courses at Nottingham Trent University. At beginner level the course combines theoretical and practical content and focuses on the development of ideas, the creative process and gaining an understanding of visual language, layout and typography. The intermediate programme is suitable for those wishing to expand their creative skills with a focus on ideas, creative thinking and visual problem solving.
How to get essential technical skills
Competence in Adobe software programmes such as InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat and Dreamweaver is essential for graphic designers. If you need to brush up on these technical skills an assortment of short, stand-alone evening and weekend courses are available.
London training provider City Lit offers intensive one-day courses in InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop for design professionals, while the London College of Communication (LCC) offers a range of training programmes for Adobe packages.
Many universities, such as Nottingham Trent University, and art colleges also provide additional short courses in useful graphic design software.
Certitec, an Adobe-authorised training centre operating in Bristol, Cardiff and London provide an array of one to five-day courses in a variety of Adobe programmes including Acrobat, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop.
No matter which graphic design course is right for you, all aim to equip you with the qualifications, skills and confidence to succeed.
Graphic design apprenticeships
More commonly offered by large and medium-sized businesses, do your research to find graphic design apprenticeship opportunities in your area.
Apprenticeships enable you to earn while you learn and offer a viable alternative to university study. If you opt for a degree apprenticeship however, you'll obtain a Bachelors or Masters qualification while developing your skills and putting them into practice. Degree apprenticeships can be studied over a period of one to six years, depending on the nature of your role and the method you choose to complete your studies.
Find out more
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