This diverse and exciting course 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 work experience comes from placements, studio visits and real life briefs.
Graphic Communication 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 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 myt 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 University-wide Open Day will take place on Saturday 19 November 2016. Come along to find out more about our courses and see our facilities.
Visit our School site for more student work and extra information about how we're transforming the futures of creative practitioners.
Our students have gone on to work with companies such as:
We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.
In addition to qualifications, applicants will also need a good portfolio.
112 UCAS tariff points or equivalent, see typical offers below.
|UK Qualification||Requirements 2017/18|
|GCE A Level/ AS Level||BBC at A Level or 112 UCAS tariff points from A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels|
|Access to Higher Education Diploma||Pass overall with 60 credits, 45 at Level 3 and 15 at Level 2. Must be in a relevant subject pathway|
|BTEC National Diploma (12-units not including early years)||D*D* or combined with other level 3 qualifications to achieve a minimum total of 112 UCAS points|
|BTEC Extended Diploma (18-units not including early years)||DMM - 112 UCAS points|
|BTEC Subsidiary Diploma/ National Award (6-units not including early years)||D* or combined with other level 3 qualifications to achieve a minimum total of 112 UCAS points|
|BTEC Diploma in Foundation Studies in Art and Design||Distinction|
|International Baccalaureate Diploma||14 points overall|
|Irish Leaving Certificate||112 UCAS points - Higher Levels|
|Scottish Higher/ Advanced Higher||112 UCAS points|
|Welsh Baccalaureate (core plus options)||Grade Pass plus grades CC at A-Level (or equivalent qualifications) to achieve a minimum total of 112 UCAS points|
|If you have a qualification that is not listed in the table please refer to our full entry requirements on UCAS.
Further guidance on tariff points can be found on the UCAS website.
|EU/Non-EU (International) Qualifications||Requirements 2017/18|
|IELTS||6.0 overall with 5.5 minimum in all bands|
|International Baccalaureate Diploma (or equivalent, including internationally accredited Foundation courses).||14 points overall
Country-specific entry requirements and qualifications.
International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).
If you're considering applying for this course to start in September 2017 onwards, it's important to know that the UCAS tariff system is changing.
UCAS tariff points – the points system most universities use to compare different qualifications – will be introducing a new system on how points are calculated.
From A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels
|BA (Hons)||Sep 2017||FT||3 years||£9,250 per year||Apply via UCAS|
|BA (Hons)||Sep 2017||FT||3 years||£12,000 per year|
The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.
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.
There are three ways to apply:
You will need to complete our International Application Form and submit it together with scan copies of your original academic transcripts and certificates.
Our in-country representatives can help you make your application and apply for a visa. They can also offer advice on travel, living in the UK and studying abroad.
If you are applying for an undergraduate degree or a Higher National Diploma (HND), you can apply through the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
You can request a printed form from your school or nearest British Council office. You will be charged for applying through UCAS. Birmingham City University’s UCAS code is B25 BCITY.
Your portfolio might be viewed when you are not present, therefore make sure it is easy to use - think of it like a book. Your name and a title on the outside will be useful - this also helps distinguish the front from the back!
Include relevant work related to the subject area of interest. Know about the course you are applying for. Show ideas generation, experimentation and risk taking. Within your portfolio, are you able to demonstrate knowledge of the subject discipline, practitioners and individuals that have inspired you?
Think about the basics
Show examples of paintings, drawings, photographs, three-dimensional work, time-based work and anything else relevant to the area of practice.
Tell a story
Try to show one full project from start to finish with the preparatory drawings included. Annotations are helpful as they show how you research and reflect on the development of your work.
The finished article
Include three to four final pieces that you are able to talk about. This might include 3D models rather than photographs.
Include sketchbooks. This will give us an understanding of how you think (through your annotations) and allow us to see the development of your drawing (if the portfolio is digital, photograph or scan some of the best pages).
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 which will help you 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 equipment
During 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 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 Unions Eco Fund.
Trips and travel
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 equipment
You’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.
Your personal statement is a highly important part of your application. It gives you a crucial opportunity to say why you’re applying and why the institution should accept you.
Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:
Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?
If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.
Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.
Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.
eg Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise scheme.
You should also mention your future plans – if you’re planning to take a year out, don't forget to give your reasons. Talk about any subjects you’re studying that don’t have a formal assessment and any sponsorships or placements you’ve applied for. And don't be scared to add in details about your social, sports or leisure interests.
Get more information on writing personal statements.
Search our Frequently Asked Questions for a range of information about our courses and studying here.
We offer further information on possible undergraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.
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.
Introduction to Visual Communication
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 their 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 and academic rigour 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 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. Using the facilities within the faculty and beyond to further develop your individual project.
The School offers a suite of optional technical workshops including software training in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Sketchup.
Images: Ben Lupton / Joshua Sallon
|27||Time in lectures, seminars and similar||MidnightBlue|
|73||Time in independent study||RoyalBlue|
Images: Amritpal Sembhi / Tom Armstrong
Students 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.
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.
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:
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.
If you are interested in undertaking part of your studies abroad, the Erasmus scheme may be of interest to you. It allows higher education students to study for part of their degree in another European country.
It is open to undergraduates in their second year (or above) and offers a unique opportunity to enhance your CV and experience new cultures. If you study with us you will have access to an Erasmus co-ordinator, who can provide information about which institutions we have links with.
As graduating students, you will naturally follow your own career path and that may mean going straight into industry. However, many students look at the opportunities we offer for postgraduate study at Birmingham City University.
The School of Visual Communication runs a one-year MA as a natural progression from its undergraduate courses. You will be encouraged to continue your journey with us and develop your practice further.
When you come onto the course, you will be offered opportunities to go on group excursions both in the UK and abroad.
We usually have about three overseas trips a year, which we offer both at subject level such as the Design for Performance trip to the Prague Quadrennial and Photography trip to Paris Photo Fair, as well as School-level trips 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 we do encourage you 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.
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.
Through our courses we give you the skills and experience needed to get a head start when applying for jobs. But we offer something extra too – Graduate+.
Our unique programme gives you the chance to develop valuable skills outside of the more formal classroom learning. We award points for Graduate+ activities (including firewalking!) and these can be put towards a final Graduate+ award.
The School of Visual Communication offers a broad education as well as the very specific subject skills so 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:
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:
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.
International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.
BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.
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. The 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.
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.