Course specification and structure
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UDGRPDES - BA Graphic Design

Course Specification

Validation status Validated
Highest award Bachelor of Arts Level Honours
Possible interim awards Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Higher Education, Certificate of Higher Education, Bachelor of Arts
Total credits for course 360
Awarding institution London Metropolitan University
Teaching institutions London Metropolitan University
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Subject Area Design
Attendance options
Option Minimum duration Maximum duration
Full-time 3 YEARS  
Part-time 6 YEARS  
Course leader  

About the course and its strategy towards teaching and learning and towards blended learning/e-learning

BA (Hons) Graphic Design at The Cass is about making conceptual thinking visual, audible and experiential. It is about creating structure and surprise, through innovation. It's communication. Students will be encouraged not only to find solutions, but also to seek out problems. This graphic design course enables students to investigate, question and challenge the contemporary purpose of graphic design, connecting with wide-ranging social issues and new ideas, to find their voices as graphic designers and to make their thinking visible. In Visual Communication at the Cass, we carefully consider the commercial world that our graduates will enter and ensure that they become independent and adaptable professionals with core skills that enable a life-long career in the creative industries.

Students will develop specialist skills and learn how to reach their audience through innovative design. Themes explored include audience, context, tone and effective methods of visual communication. Learning experiences include everything from type fundamentals, drawing and letterpress printing, to app design, user experiences, human-centred design and connected communication platforms. There are many diverse employment options available to graduates of this degree. This graphic design course enables students to investigate, question and challenge the contemporary role of graphic design, connecting with wide ranging social issues and new ideas in order to find their voices as a designers.

Consideration has been given to the following: the Subject Benchmark Statement (Art and Design 2017), the HE Qualification Framework, the University’s Strategic Plan and Student Charter, the University’s Undergraduate Regulations, the views and feedback of students, external examiners and employers/ clients, developments within the subject area, and the changing needs of the cultural/ commercial sectors and professions. Due consideration has also been given to inclusivity in course and assessment design.

Embedded in the Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design, the course draws on the strengths of teaching staff from across the School and the wide circle of academic and cultural contacts and collaborators attached to the School and University.

The course seeks to provide and foster:

1. learning through direct experience, connecting academic and creative studies;
2. student choice in subject and style of learning;
3. a culture of independent and critical thought, encouraging the challenging of received ideas and practice;
4. employability attributes, through live projects engaging with external partners, institutions and companies that create a realistic environment of professional; expectations for students, preparing students for graduate-level employment
5. engagement across the School and University, providing opportunities for collaborative project work during study;
6. individualised learning and study support opportunities, that cater for different learning styles
7. awareness of the duty of all to understand the impact of their decisions and actions as graphic designers and to strive to act responsibly.

Students are encouraged early on to make their thinking visible, to test ideas through iteration and to collaborate in practice. Students will have the opportunity to develop specialist and broad-based design skills, to think laterally and to innovate through making, testing and defining, and finding and reaching audiences. This course offers real opportunities to connect with graphic design studios and consultancies, to work across the realms of art direction, digital publishing and editorial design, moving image and sequential narrative, web and innovatory digital practice from app design to social media, brand communications to start-ups and design enterprise.

A high-profile lecture series offers students the chance to engage with leading practitioners in the field of graphic design and the wider field of visual communication, including art direction, digital publishing and editorial design, and the opportunity to benefit from live project opportunities and a vibrant studio culture. Students will explore moving image and sequential narrative, brand communications, working with start-ups and design enterprise, as well as digital practice, including app design and social media. The course engages with national and London-based competitions and encourages students to extend these opportunities as extra-curricular activity, including collaborative publication and exhibition wherever possible. These industry links provide students with a clear understanding of future employment opportunities.

Teaching methods include: lectures, seminars, tutorials, external visits, live briefings and feedback from partners, group critiques, workshops and opportunities for studio practice. Teaching and learning adopts a student-centered approach that identifies individual learning styles and accommodates them.

Lectures provide and encourage a critically informed view of a topic, contextualising the subject and illustrating applied approaches. Lectures provide students with a managed introduction to a theme, enabling them to continue with suggested or directed self-study.

Seminars enable students to debate and explore subjects, questions and assignments with peers and tutors, encouraging an open and collaborative approach to shared learning.

Tutorials support individual learning, allowing for individual approaches to study, and catering for individual interests. Tutorials can be diagnostic or can support specific assignment or project-related questions, and support differing student paths to achievement of learning outcomes.

External visits offer opportunities for vital direct experience with objects and sites of study, and to communicate with and learn from experts and specialists attached to partner institutions and bodies.

Live briefings and feedback are an important aspect of work-based learning, exposing students to experience of professional ways of working, of professional expectations of standards, and of the most current professional practice.

Critiques allow students to benefit from feedback on their own and others’ work, to contribute to that feedback, and are a valuable part of the peer-to-peer learning that is a core expectation and reason for University study.

Workshops offer students opportunities to engage in creative practice. Opportunities will be available to students to undertake workshop and studio practice relevant to their assignments or collaborative projects. The objective is to apply knowledge and/or acquire technical competence, to think critically and creatively, to master technique and develop the capacity to work independently and within teams.

Blended learning utilises the University’s VLE platform to support and reinforce reflective learning, to monitor progress through assignments, to foster peer-to-peer communication and collaborative research activity, and to facilitate tutorial support for students and flexible approaches to learning

Project briefs develop from year to year in accordance with contemporary practice and opportunities for engagement with external partners that arise. Disciplinary research skills are embedded at the beginning of the course and are built upon each academic year to ensure the maximum exploitation of the learning opportunities that projects and assignments offer. Students will graduate with a portfolio of work that will include written work and outcomes that exhibit analyses through the creation, manipulation, examination or curation of artefacts.

Critical and Contextual Studies run in parallel to the design and creative industry practice modules. These modules focus on transferable graduate skills in the field of academic scholarship and writing (alongside professional practice). Students need to be able to retrieve, analyse, interpret, articulate and structure information and knowledge for different purposes and audiences. These modules frame key skills of research within the specific context of art and design history and theory, taking into account the practice requirements of the industry, and its professional, legal, ethical and institutional contexts. Intensive blocks of learning in seminar and lecture presentations, alongside site visits, image analysis, case studies, and workshops aid acquisition of skills in presentation, visual and textual analysis and representation.

Digital Literacy is embedded in the curriculum through the use of the VLE and in curriculum delivery and expectations of digital capabilities as appropriate to task set and the level of study. Students make use of digital platforms alongside traditional approaches to research, develop and communicate their projects.

Student journey: There are 30 weeks in the academic calendar (27 weeks of teaching followed by assessment and feedback) plus the Summer Show preparation, set up and events. The year typically ends around week 35.

Course aims

The aims of this course are aligned with the qualification descriptors within the Quality Assurance Agency’s Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.

The course aims to:

1. offer a creatively stimulating experience, which encourages students to engage with a wide range and combination of visual and conceptual communication methods, processes and issues that will continue to concern graphic designers;

2. provide project opportunities that develop both individual and team skills and that encourage debate between graphic design and related creative disciplines such as illustration, publishing, digital design and animation;

3. encourage individual questioning of the status quo and ensure that students build their personal professional design practice with the relevant skills to work within society, culture, commerce and/or education;

4. promote historical and contemporary knowledge and understanding of the professional contexts of graphic design and foster exploration of current and emerging technological issues and theoretical cultural debates, especially inclusivity and diversity;

5. develop a generation of ‘reflective creative professionals’ in graphic design, who have a clear creative voice and are able to articulate and defend their concerns and ideas;

6. support the development of high-level intellectual and practical skills necessary for the practice, management and theorising of graphic design and visual communication in the context of emerging practice, technologies and critical debates;

7. develop confident and persuasive presentational and communication skills utilising multidisciplinary approaches and production techniques;

8. produce graduates who can work independently and collaboratively, manage their own time and tasks and those of others, reflect objectively on their own performance, and plan effectively for the future, including for their careers;

9. support the growth of the individual; fostering self-reliance and commitment to personal and professional development, ensuring that graduates remain well-informed about current and developing thought and practice, and therefore maintain their employability.

Course learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

Knowledge and Understanding
1. recognise the historical development, philosophy, ideas, context and concepts of graphic design and visual communication (cultural, economic, ethical, global, historical, political, societal and theoretical) and distinguish the key methods and concepts connected with the analysis of visual culture (CA1, CA2, CA3);
2. appreciate how visual culture can be used to communicate ideas, problems and solutions; and create a coherent sense of identity visually, verbally and in writing, showing an awareness of the important roles of both the client and the designer (CA1, CA4, CA6, CA9);

3. recognise and utilise the impact of innovation and technology on the development of the discipline (CA1, CA6, CA7);

Cognitive Intellectual Abilities
4. collect, analyse and interpret data from a variety of sources and articulate creative and theoretical connections (CA2, CA4, CA5, CA7, CA8);

5. identify, propose and solve problems applying appropriate practical, conceptual and intellectual skills (CA5, CA6, CA8, CA9);

6. work within differing contexts, both within and beyond the field of art and design, and exercise critical reasoning and independent thought within practice (CA3, CA4, CA5, CA6);

Transferable Skills

7. work effectively, professionally and independently managing time, working to deadlines and apply confident professional skills in oral, visual and textual communication and presentation, including information, digital and visual literacy (CA5, CA7, CA8, CA9);

8. apply resourcefulness and entrepreneurial skills to recognise, anticipate and accommodate dynamic change within complex contexts of contemporary practice, and define a distinctive argument through reflective critical awareness (CA3, CA6, CA8);

9. employ and interpret professional principles and processes underpinning the management of design projects individually and in groups, recognising the role of the designer (CA1, CA2, CA5, CA8);

Subject-specific Practical Skills

10. employ intellectual curiosity expressed through appropriate visual languages to articulate imaginative concepts and ideas (CA1, CA5, CA7);

11. observe, analyse, speculate, visualise and communicate ideas as professional material outcomes for target audiences (CA5, CA6, CA7, CA8, CA9);

12. exhibit and display practice for self-promotional purposes to the client, markets and consumers (CA5, CA7, CA8, CA9).

Course learning outcomes / Module cross reference

Insert table mapping modules (with code) against the course learning outcomes:

Module Title Module Code Learning Outcomes
Critical and Contextual Studies 1 (Visual Communication)
CP4021 LO1, LO2, LO4, LO7, LO10
Visual Research and Communication
LO1, LO2, LO4
Design Principles
DN4002 LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5 LO7
Graphic Authorship
DN4004 LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5 LO7, LO11

Critical and Contextual Studies 2 (Visual Communication)
CP5021 LO1, LO2, LO4, LO7, LO10
DN5003 LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6, LO7, LO10, LO11
Exploring Design Practice
DN5020 LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6, LO7, LO10, LO11
Work Ready 1
DN5019 LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6, LO7, LO8, LO9, LO10, LO11, LO12

Critical and Contextual Studies 3: Dissertation (Visual Communication)
CP6019 LO1, LO2, LO4, LO7, LO10
Project Design and Development
DN6001 LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6, LO7, LO8, LO9, LO10,

Final Project Realisation: Graphic Design
DN6032 LO1,LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6, LO7, LO8, LO9, LO10, LO11,LO12

Work Ready 2
DN6031 LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6, LO7, LO8, LO9, LO10, LO11, LO12

Principle QAA benchmark statements

Subject Benchmark Statement; Art and Design (2017)

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy for the course has been designed holistically, to ensure manageable timing, workloads and clarity of expectations for students, and to avoid duplication of assessment of learning outcomes.

The assessment regimes for the modules and tasks are designed together with the briefs, prior to the start of the year, taking into account student, external examiner, professional collaborator and colleague feedback from previous instances. The requirements of briefs and their components, the assessment criteria, grading scheme and descriptors are published and explained to students at the start of the year and are designed to be used as consistently as possible, to avoid unnecessary complication. Assessment is related to the achievement of learning outcomes; qualification frameworks and subject benchmark statements are consulted to ensure clear language that is appropriate to level of study. Students are informed of the procedures for first, second and parity marking, and external examiner scrutiny of the assessment process and marks, to ensure that they understand and have confidence in the probity of the process and security of the final marks.

In every case, there is required formative assessment and feedback prior to summative assessment at set points. This is recorded so that it can be used by both students and staff to track further progress and engage support where it is required. Feedback follows good pedagogic practice in that it is constructed as ‘feed-forward’, with a focus on specific actions and strategies as to how to improve, not only on what requires improvement. Challenge to students is managed, so that students performing well in-year are encouraged to strive for excellence, while those performing less well experience clear, targeted and structured guidance, including notice of where they are doing well or are showing potential.

The course adheres to the University’s requirements for assessment and feedback turnaround times and to academic regulations for marking and second making sampling. Additionally, the course engages in Subject and School parity exercises to ensure that assessment standards are consistent. This is especially important in relation to studio delivery through which students on the same modules will be undertaking differing projects.

Organised work experience, work based learning, sandwich year or year abroad

Work- related learning is embedded in the course both formally and throughout the course through live projects, industry visits, visiting speakers and events such as ‘Making a Living’ and ‘Celebration’ weeks.

Work-related learning is an integrated and mandatory part of the course, in line with the University’s policy of securing a work-related learning opportunity for each undergraduate student during their studies, with at least 70 hours working on live projects for real organisations delivered through placement, live briefs, real entrepreneurial activities or short in term work placements built into the course. Students will experience a competitive recruitment process or pitching for opportunities, and they will be required to reflect on their experience of the project or placement and undertake forward career action planning.

The majority of tutors and lecturers on the course are practitioners and share their knowledge and experience with students throughout their course of study. The studio delivery of the course means that opportunities for work related learning through collaboration with external companies, agencies, institutions, competitions and professionals can be taken up as they arise, if appropriate to the programme of study.

Studios function as simulations of professional workplaces, with expectations of professional standards, conduct and delivery building as students progress from level to level. During their final year, students are expected to work independently towards completion of professional portfolio of projects, culminating in exhibition of these in the annual summer show and associated events.

The level 5 module ‘Work Ready 1’ and the level 6 module 'Work Ready 2' are designated as the placement or work-related learning modules.

Course specific regulations

In BA (Hons) Graphic Design, the following course regulations shall apply:

As a condition of progressing from level 3 to 4, level 4 to 5 and level 5 to 6, students are required to have gained 120 credits per level, that is, by achieving pass marks (40%) in all four modules in the preceding level of study.

Level 6: In order to achieve an honours degree award on this course, students must have completed and passed each Level 6 module at 40% or above.

ii) The structure and scope of learning within Level 4 of this course can permit (if appropriate) related programme course transfer. In other words, students who succeed in passing all modules at Level 4 who wish to, based on their learning experience, seek review and revision of their course title (within the related programme cluster i.e. Visual Communication), may do so within the first twelve months of their course (i.e. from BA Graphic Design to BA Illustration and Animation or BA Design for Publishing)

Part-time study is defined as 60 credits per year. Consequently, in part-time mode, the duration of study for a 360-credit degree will be 6 years. The pattern of study shall be as follows:

Year 1:
DN4002 Design Principles, DN4004 Graphic Authorship
Year 2:
CP4021Critical and Contextual Studies 1 (Visual Communication), DN4001 Visual Research and Communication
Year 3:
DN5003 Narrative, DN5020 Exploring Design Practice
Year 4:
CP5021 Critical and Contextual Studies 2 (Visual Communication), DN5019 Work Ready 1
Year 5:
DN6001Project Design and Development, DN6032 Final Project Realisation: Graphic Design
Year 6:
CP6019 Critical and Contextual Studies 3: Dissertation (Visual Communication), DN6031 Work Ready 2

Modules required for interim awards

All modules on the course are core and compulsory (there is no flexibility in choice or in the order in which modules may be taken). The part time route is prescribed (section 25).

Year 1/ Level 4 core modules:
• CP4021 Critical and Contextual Studies 1 (Visual Communication)
• DN4001 Visual Research and Communication
• DN4002 Design Principles
• DN4004 Graphic Authorship

Year 2/ Level 5 core modules:
• CP5021 Critical and Contextual Studies 2 (Visual Communication)
• DN5019 Work Ready 1
• DN5003 Narrative
• DN5020 Exploring Design Practice

Year 3/ Level 6 core modules:
• CP6019 Critical and Contextual Studies 3: Dissertation (Visual Communication)
• DN6001 Project Design and Development
• DN6031 Work Ready 2
• DN6032 Final Project Realisation: Graphic Design

Arrangements for promoting reflective learning and personal development

The School’s studio system of curriculum delivery embeds reflective learning and personal development planning throughout the course.

Most summative assessment is at the end of year-long modules, with several formative assessment points formally instituted in the course of the year. At these interim formative assessment and feedback points, students reflect on their progress to date with their peers and course staff (with the benefit of feedback from professional partners), seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. The feedback and student reflection are recorded and forms an action plan for the next period of study.

This system is highly individualised, but also benefits from peer engagement in studio critiques. The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able, as they progress from year to year, to understand the professional environment of their disciplines, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Throughout the modules and the course therefore, in this way, students build bodies of work, including reflections on progress and achievement, and planning for their future achievement of targets.

Career, employability and opportunities for continuing professional development

Careers advice is integral to the course. Commercial practitioners and agencies are part of the course teams and they and invited guest lecturers review of student projects and portfolios. Progress surgeries are carried out through which the student is given encouraging and specific advice in regards to their presentational focus. Students are mentored by industry professionals throughout their final year and students are encouraged and supported to seek internships and work experience. Competition, exhibition and publicity opportunities exist throughout the course and internal and external exhibitions enable students to develop further career opportunities. Students are supported throughout to reflect upon their own practice so that they are able to progress successfully to their chosen field within the professional graphic design sector.

Successful completion of the course offers enhanced career opportunities in the graphic design industry. Students leave with a high-quality portfolio of work and a range of practical, professional and academic skills, providing an excellent base for both work and further study. Graduating from the BA (Hons) Graphic Design is the start of lifelong learning and an exciting and varied career in design. It provides graduates with core and transferable knowledge and skills that enable individuals to seek work in a wide variety of areas such as: self-employed freelance graphic design professionals, designers, in-house designers, creative directors or art directors, editorial designers, project managers, photography, design consultancy, advertising, art direction, publishing, moving image, digital design.

Students can also benefit from support and guidance from the Careers and Employability services and the University’s business incubator unit, ‘Accelerator’.

Career opportunities

The teaching team includes professional print, photography, web, animation and graphic design specialists alongside illustrators and artists, who together, create a stimulating teaching and learning environment that allows you to identify and succeed in your chosen career path.

The course has produced a number of award winning students who have excelled in leading design competitions run by organisations such as Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and the Design Museum.

The employment success of our graduates is excellent, with many starting successful careers as graphic designers, taking on leading roles within creative industries or continuing on to postgraduate degrees in the UK and abroad.

Entry requirements

In addition to the University's standard entry requirements, you should have:

  • a minimum of grades BBC in three A levels, one of which is from a relevant subject in the arts, humanities or social sciences (or a minimum of 112 UCAS points from an equivalent Level 3 qualification)
  • a portfolio review

We encourage applications from international/EU students with equivalent qualifications. We also accept mature students with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

All applicants must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Applicants who require a Tier 4 student visa may need to provide a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.

Suitable applicants living in the UK will be invited to a portfolio interview. Applicants living outside the UK will be required to submit a portfolio of work via email.

If you do not have traditional qualifications or cannot meet the entry requirements for this undergraduate degree, you may still be able to gain entry by completing the Art and Design Extended Degree (with Foundation Year) or the Film, Photography and Media Extended Degree (with Foundation Year).

Portfolios and interviews

Your portfolio should be selective but have enough work to show the range of your interests and talents. We're interested in seeing how you develop a project from beginning to end, not only finished work.

Graphic designers work in a variety of media; please include the whole range of your creative work. If you can't bring some of your work to portfolio interview, please take photographs and include them.

Finally, be ready to talk about your work and how you see your future as a graphic designer.

Official use and codes

Approved to run from 2013/14 Specification version 1 Specification status Validated
Original validation date 01 Sep 2013 Last validation date 01 Sep 2013  
JACS codes W210 (Graphic Design): 100%
Route code GRPDES

Course Structure

Stage 1 Level 04 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
CP4021 Critical and Contextual Studies 1 (Visual Commu... Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR TUE PM
DN4001 Visual Research and Communication Core 30        
DN4002 Design Principles Core 30        
DN4004 Graphic Authorship Core 30        

Stage 1 Level 04 January start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
CP4021 Critical and Contextual Studies 1 (Visual Commu... Core 30 CITY SPR+SUM WED PM
DN4001 Visual Research and Communication Core 30        
DN4002 Design Principles Core 30        
DN4004 Graphic Authorship Core 30        

Stage 2 Level 05 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
CP5021 Critical and Contextual Studies 2 (Visual Commu... Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR THU PM
DN5003 Narrative Core 30        
DN5019 Work Ready 1 Core 30        
DN5020 Exploring Design Practice Core 30        

Stage 3 Level 06 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
CP6019 Critical and Contextual Studies 3: Dissertation... Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR WED AM
DN6001 Project Design and Development Core 30        
DN6031 Work Ready 2 Core 30        
DN6032 Final Project Realisation: Graphic Design Core 30