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Graphic Design Subject Guide

Are you considering a career in graphic design? You might be wondering whether it’s necessary to study a graphic design qualification at postgraduate level in order to succeed in this field, which is the best graphic design university, or what the entry requirements are for study. 

This exciting field is a fantastic way for natural creatives to follow their passion and get involved in a wide range of projects and roles across all kinds of sectors. 

It can be a competitive field to succeed in, so with the help of this guide, you’ll be able to find out what you could learn in postgraduate graphic design courses, whether it’s worth it, and what graphic design jobs you could move on to. 


Why do a graphic design degree? 

Graphic design is an exciting and popular discipline that places the creative flair and critical thinking of its practitioners at heart. While it is an artistic subject, graphic design is often highly applied, playing a role in business, marketing, construction, public services and more. It can be found everywhere, from advertising to product design, visuals for websites and apps, and more. 

Graphic design offers new activities every day, especially as career options for graduates of this field are wide ranging. Whether you’re an independent artist, working with a single company or interacting with many clients through a design agency, you’ll always be able to exercise your creative mind. 

It’s a competitive field, but a standard graphic designer salary can be rather attractive for those who can demonstrate their unique style, professionalism and ability to seek out and achieve new ideas. 

What qualifications can you get? 

There are several types of postgraduate qualifications open to graphic design students. One course type may suit you best depending on your learning and training to date, your career objectives, and interests. 

Taught master’s degrees, such as the MA and MFA, will deepen your knowledge of the graphic design industry, prominent tools and techniques, and offer an opportunity to further hone your creative thinking and design skillset. You’ll be able to develop an expanded portfolio of work during this course and get a better idea of the particular niches you’d like to explore. 

PGCert and PGDip courses are shorter than a master’s, and provide a great way for students in related fields to build some expertise in graphic design to complement their existing knowledge and move into new career paths. 

MPhil and PhD programmes are also possible in graphic design, which allow students to develop innovative and independent research into a range of applied design issues. From how design affects human thinking to its role in mediating our interactions with technology, or how it affects everything from marketing to building material, students can create new knowledge in their field. 

What jobs can you do with a graphic design degree? 

Career options are broad for students graduating from their graphic design master’s or research postgraduate. It’s a growing field that, while competitive, offers a range of exciting opportunities to creative designers who can stand out from the crowd. Your postgraduate degree will help you achieve a higher graphic designer salary and get involved in more specialised work. 

You could move into roles such as: 

  • Graphic designer 
  • Digital marketer 
  • Game artist 
  • Creative director 
  • Art director 
  • Multimedia artist 
  • Producer 
  • Illustrator 

The creative, management and communication skills that you’ll develop during your graphic design degree will also allow you to succeed in a variety of other roles and sectors. You could even find yourself working in areas like film and tv, interior and spatial design, web design and more. 

What are the graphic design degree entry requirements? 

You’ll need to ensure that you meet the entry requirements for your chosen postgraduate course before you apply. Graphic design courses may differ in their admissions criteria according to the university offering it and the qualification type. 

Typically, you’ll need to have a 2:2 grade or above at undergraduate honours level to get on to a graphic design master’s. This will usually need to be in a related area, such as graphic design, illustration, digital media, or another studio-based discipline. 

Applicants for doctoral level qualifications will often need a 2:1 grade or above at undergraduate, and in many cases will need a master’s degree or significant relevant professional experience. 

What graphic design courses are there? 

There are a wide range of graphic design degrees to choose from as a prospective postgraduate. As a UK student, you might consider applying to courses like: 

  • MA Graphic Design 
  • MDes Graphic Design 
  • MA Graphic Communication Design 
  • MA Graphic Design and Art Direction 
  • PhD Graphic Design 

What topics does a graphic design degree cover? 

You can expect to study a range of topics and modules in your graphic design degree, typically in areas such as: 

  • Contemporary practice 
  • Application and interactions in graphic design 
  • Materials and methods 
  • History and future in graphic design 
  • Design perspectives 

What do you learn in a graphic design degree? 

During your postgraduate degree, you’ll develop a robust portfolio of professional skills that will prepare you to succeed across a range of graphic design jobs. 

You’ll build a career-level ability in areas such as drawing and sketching, digital media, editorial design and art direction, branding, interactive design techniques, typography and more. 

You’ll be adept in using a wide range of industry standard tools, as well as different software packages that are essential to your work. 

Your graphic design skill will be supported by your competency and knowledge of a wide range of tools, techniques and your experience across different formats and industries. 

Soft skills such as creativity, communication of ideas, time management, and working as a team are also central to success. 

How will you be taught and assessed? 

Graphic design courses may differ in their approach to teaching and assessment, depending on the expertise of their faculty and the unique facilities that they offer. However, in general you can expect to learn through a mixture of guided independent study, classes and seminars, supervised working in the studio, and group project working. 

Assessments will usually be a combination of exams, practical working such as presentations and performances, and coursework—including portfolio pieces, reports and essays, and a dissertation in some cases. 

How long is a graphic design degree? 

Your graphic design degree can vary in length depending on the type of course you decide to study, and whether you’re studying full-time or part-time. 

A taught or research master’s in graphic design will typically run for one academic year full-time, or up to two years part-time. If you pursue an MFA degree rather than an MA, you may find your course lasts longer. 

Doctorates can last up to three years full time, while MPhil courses usually take two years. This will be double if studying part-time. 

Where can you study graphic design? 

There are over 80 courses in graphic design available at postgraduate level, offered across nearly 50 different higher education institutions in the UK. Our university search tool is a great way to browse these courses, find out about the course structure, teaching methods, entry requirements and begin the application process. 

What similar subjects are there to graphic design? 

Before you get stuck into your graphic design postgraduate journey, you might also wish to consider similar subjects, such as:  

  • Fine art 
  • Sculpture 
  • Animation 
  • Computer games design 
  • Interior design 

Next: Search for graphic design courses


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