Course details

Study options

Full-time: 3 years

UK/EU fee

£9,250 per year (2020/21)

International fee

£14,045 per year (2020/21)

UCAS points

112 (September 2021 entry)

UCAS code


Course level



BA (Hons)

Start date



Markeaton Street, Derby Campus

If you do not achieve the typical entry points required, you may want to consider studying this course with foundation year.

View with foundation year optionView with foundation year option

Course description

Graphic design is seen, felt and experienced everywhere. Once focused on objects, graphic design is now increasingly concerned with contexts. Graphic designers inform, confront, persuade, entertain, provoke, challenge, question, direct and engage with the political, social and environmental issues of the world we live in.

The aim of the graphic design programme is to create passionate, creative, resourceful, entrepreneurial and adaptive problem-finders, who are prepared both technically and intellectually to embrace and exploit the opportunities that graphic design offers in the 21st Century.

Being a graphic designer is fun, stimulating and inspiring. Designers are creative problem-finders and solvers. You will be challenged to think differently, even professional designers are constantly developing their skills. There are always new trends, new technologies, new ideas, and new sources of inspiration – a creative mind never stops learning. It is more than just a job – it's a way of life.

The course is studio based, practical, hands-on and creative. It offers you many different ways to make graphic design work as you explore the different contexts and formats in which graphic design is experienced. It allows you to decide what kind of designer you want to be. It will test and challenge you to expand your understanding and knowledge of what graphic design is, what it can do and what it is for.

You will be introduced to typography and layout, drawing as observation and problem solving, identity and branding, packaging and point of purchase, exhibition design, publication and printing, and digital moving image. The course has a great resource base for you to use. Typically our students work on Apple Macs in computer labs, and in the Digital Print Hub you will be able to access (under guidance) high quality printing on many different types of materials, laser-cutting, book-binding, and other printing options, including screen print and Letterpress print in our Printing Studios.

Last year our second year students worked on live projects and competitions including a collaborative project with Derby Museum to make new interpretive tools for their archaeology gallery. Third year students were briefed by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) at Markeaton Street, for the RSA Student Design Awards. The RSA student briefs tackle social engagement and allow students to explore graphic design solutions for real world issues. And students from graphic design and illustration were shortlisted for the prestigious Penguin Student Design Awards.

We understand how important it is to have the professional skills that you need to make the transition from University to employment. So we have a professional practice module in the second year that is all about researching the industry, meeting designers and studios, building design networks, identifying your strengths and promoting yourself as a graphic designer. This work has helped our students prepare for graduate life, with 93.8% of our students being in graduate level destinations within six months of completing this course (HESA 2016). 

Students working in the visual communications studios

Visual Communication studios

Our Visual Communication studios at Markeaton Street are for courses such as Graphic Design, Illustration and Animation.

Take a look at the studiosTake a look at the studios


All art and design courses are based at our Markeaton Street site where modern, purpose built studios and labs provide a modern creative space for our arts students. Markeaton Street encompasses Chandos Pole Street (home to our Fashion and Textiles courses) and Britannia Mill (home to Fine Arts and our print-making facilities). Students on any of our theatre related courses also get to study at Derby Theatre, and Dance students study at Deda.

Markeaton Street is a 15 minute walk from Kedleston Road, and is serviced by regular free site shuttle buses.

Explore our facilities through our Virtual Tour:

Markeaton Street

Art and Design creative spaces

What you will study

Year 1Year 1Year 2Year 2Year 3Year 3

Code: 4VC511

Discovering Graphic Design

This fact-finding and practical module asks students to explore the creative industries in relation to their subject discipline and introduces them to the external world of graphic design. Students will be asked to explore the field of graphic design via the University Learning Hub; to explore design journals; local exhibitions and external organisations, in order to discover the range of applications and potential pathways available in their subject.

Students will be encouraged to identify and discuss design disciplines such as branding, identity, packaging, information design, wayfinding, advertising and persuasive design across social media platforms.

Students will be asked to identify aspects of creative practice, and should begin to reflect on visual language and purpose, in relation to global audience.

This growing awareness of external graphic design trends and disciplines will help to contemporise their critical awareness and enhance their ability to evaluate their own work and that of their peers. Students will also be invited to reflect on their emerging practical portfolio. This reflective analysis will help students to express their personal identity and to define their future ambitions with the graphic design specialism.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 4VC512

Graphic Design: Culture and Curiosity

This module approaches the history of graphic design as a vast and extraordinary museum filled with exciting ideas which can be used to inspire and inform students’ own design practice. Students will be encouraged to be curious and discover the fantastic range of graphic art both in the past and present and use these creative ideas as impetus for their own making and thinking.

As such this module supports the development of design practice that takes place in other level 4 modules: Discovering Graphic Design; Exploring Visual Communication; and Graphic Design Process.

Graphic Design Culture and Curiosity will help broaden students’ knowledge of the evolution of graphic design as a creative discipline. Specific historical periods, themes and topics are identified and students are encouraged to think about the ways in which design practice is intimately related to the historical, social, political, technological, cultural and artistic contexts of its production. This will provide rich material for students to consider as developing practitioners. We will consider how contexts have influenced design but also how design itself has shaped culture and society both the past and present.

Learning will take place in the contexts of slide-lectures, gallery visits, seminars and tutorials and we will focus on the close study of individual examples of graphic design. Academic assignments will be set which will foster development of skills in researching, essay writing, visual analysis and historical and critical discussion of design.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 4VC513

Graphic Design Process

This module introduces you to the essentials of Graphic Design Process and connects thinking with making in relation to problem finding and solving. The module consists of a series of set graphic design projects offering a range of themes and issues requiring exploration and practical responses. An important aspect of the project work of this module is to encourage you to analyse, understand and respond to communication problems with an awareness of your developing ways of working, as a design process, and to generate successful communication outcomes with a focus on audience and purpose.

You will be encouraged to explore, experiment and take creative risks and start to develop an individual approach to the way you work.

Research into and investigation of themes and topics included in projects, form a major feature of the module. You are required to consider carefully the validity of your proposals and their appropriateness to a given audience and purpose.

Practical projects will be set encouraging personal experimentation and developing competence in digital software skills.

You will also be encouraged to establish an understanding of the historical and contemporary context of the work you are producing. This knowledge and understanding will be evidenced in the exploratory, developmental, process book and final outcomes of the projects set.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 4VC514

Exploring Visual Communication

This module introduces the student to the creation of visual ideas using words and images and develops this fundamental approach for the generation of effective visual communication within graphic design. An emphasis will be placed on how words communicate within this module and students will be invited to explore typography and to examine the creative potential of language, colour, composition, style, visual hierarchy and creative wordplay.

Students will be encouraged to experience letterforms through drawing, model-making, letterpress and screen-printing, as well as Adobe creative suite.

A further emphasis will be placed on how images communicate. All students will be invited to explore meaning through the use of icons, symbols, pictograms, semiotic theory, colour theory, culture and context, as practically through collage, photography and drawing.

Students will be introduced to digital software and encouraged to experiment with photo-manipulation, vector graphics and animation. Students will be encouraged to record their creative experimentation within a process book that is designed to be a visual laboratory where ideas, materials and techniques can be tested and visually discussed.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 5VC512

Graphic Design: Making and Meaning

How may we better understand the good, the bad and the ugly in graphic design? How might we think of the value of these disciplines in our culture? And how can we learn to analyse images and texts, so as to improve the intellectual study and understanding of graphic design.

This module focuses on ways we may theorise Graphic Design. We will consider how “critical theory” can help us analyse Graphic Design practice with intellectual rigour. Furthermore, the module considers how theory and practice within your own practice may enmesh and be mutually complementary.

In contemporary culture, Graphic Design is a significant vehicle of ‘representation’. Taking Graphic Designs as ‘texts’ we consider how they both produce and reproduce ideologies of culture, society, politics, economics and so on. Graphic Design may challenge or resist dominant social and cultural values. We will study the ways in which visual practices represent race, gender, ethnicity, class and further categories of identity, thus, reflecting on critical and ethical concerns which have a contemporary significance. We will work towards applying various theories, in order to analyse works by visual practitioners, so as to better understand their work, evaluate it, and consider what may be learned from it.

There will be an emphasis on undertaking scholarly research on critical theory alongside detailed research on specific visual practitioners. Working in this way will help you to explore the relationships between theory and practice. Links will be made to studio practice modules.

Learning will take place in the contexts of slide-lectures, seminars and tutorials and we will focus on the close study of graphic design. Academic assignments will be set which will foster development of skills in researching, essay writing, intellectual discussion and visual analysis.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 5VC513

Graphic Design Connections

This module links to Discovering Graphic Design in Level 4 and asks students to explore the creative industries, and the professional external world of Graphic Design, introducing them to the reflective question, ‘What kind of Graphic Designer could I be?’

Students will start to build a network of individuals, student peers, local businesses, creative practitioners, organisations, studios and agencies in order to broaden their internal and external contacts. These links once developed may lead to future collaborative partnerships in the final year of study (in the module, The Live Studio), or beyond graduation.

There will be short information gathering projects, liaison activities, social events and practical workshops that challenge a student’s promotional and networking skills in their subject area.

Students will be challenged to increase their initiative, confidence and autonomy as a creative practitioner to prepare themselves for a career in the design industry.

There will be study visits to exhibitions, visiting speakers, conference opportunities and related networking events as appropriate, that will help you develop and broaden your perspective.

Students will discover and discuss with their peer group the professional skills necessary to have a successful career within the graphic design industry and will begin to discuss options that may be open to them upon graduation.

Students will be encouraged to reflect on their strengths, weaknesses and transferable skills, in relation to graphic design and their emerging practical portfolio. This reflective analysis will help them to express their personal identity and to define their future ambitions as a creative professional.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 5VC514

Graphic Design: Value

This module introduces the designer to the concept of adding value by connecting the design process to a set of audience specific needs or requirements. This introduces the student to the interface between design and business, the client, customer or organisation with whom, or for whom, the design work will take place.

This module introduces the important credo: ‘We Design For People’ and confirms the student’s position as a thoughtful and responsive individual from whom an appropriate creative solution can be found.

This module is concerned with adopting correct conventions within the professional design process surrounding argument, business thinking, research, context, the creative brief, cultural probing, evaluation, customer expectation, customer journey, design rationale, strategy, discourse, framing, and ultimately social impact.

Students will be encouraged to design for people and also to reflect on the value of doing so in an ethical, meaningful and positive way. Special emphasis is placed on correct ‘problem finding’ and correctly deducing the best and most appropriate method and means of answering the design brief.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 5VC515

Graphic Design: Ambition

This module offers the design student the opportunity to test their developing skills on a range of creative projects, from live projects and design competitions to collaborative peer-led briefs. It is aimed at applying the design skills that the student is developing as a creative practitioner. The module will help the student to orientate themselves within their subject specialism and identify their individual creative potential.

Students will be encouraged to develop and refine their design process and to develop a personal methodology in solving a range of visual communication problems.

This module aligns with the Graphic Design: Value module (Level 5) where students are asked to connect considerations of a given audience and purpose, in resolving visual communication problems.

Students will be encouraged to develop and refine their technical skills as appropriate to achieve increasingly professional outcomes in the form of a portfolio of projects. Studio based project work will be supported by group work checks, seminars and workshops.

The module will provide advanced workshop sessions and supported experimentation with forms of digital media and traditional production methods, enabling the student to explore processes and working methods relevant to the development of their personal approach to practical work and developing design direction.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 6VC500


In this module Graphic Design, Illustration and Animation final year students come together to apply the knowledge and skills from the specialist programmes to one visual communication problem. You will be challenged to respond with individuality to the specific theme to demonstrate the focus of your approach to your practice. The project will evidence the resolve you have achieved at this point in your career as an artist or designer in readiness for your next ‘destination’ as a graduate.

Emphasis will be placed on identifying, understanding and applying the experience and knowledge you have gained throughout your study and you will be encouraged to clearly define your individual direction as a Graphic Designer, Illustrator or Animator. Within the specified theme topics and tasks will include portfolio presentation, self-promotion, and design solutions for your graduating degree show exhibition.

The project will be set under the conditions of a ‘live’ brief and will aim to be as close to a professional situation as possible. It will be an opportunity for you to demonstrate your professionalism as a visual communicator demonstrating your personal approach to your practice area.

The work produced should clearly evidence a good knowledge of methods and media within your own specific area of working in visual communication.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 6VC502

Negotiated Study in Graphic Design

This double module will enable you to select from a range of graphic design projects, including competitions and live briefs. The selections you make will enable you to refine the focus of your practice, to build a portfolio that represents your strengths and to begin to direct your own learning in the areas that most interest you. You will be expected to challenge your abilities, processes and methodologies in addressing the projects selected and to refine your ways of working to achieve professional standards in preparation for employment and/or further study.

You will negotiate your project selections with your assigned Personal Tutor and with your Module Tutors, who will support and advice on identified strengths and the balance of the projects chosen. Your goal will be to express your personal voice and extend your individual direction within graphic design.

All of the projects offered will be challenging visual communication problems across a range of issues offering a wide choice of options to respond to in your own way, within your practice focus. Collaborative or joint projects may also be negotiated.

You will be required to produce a portfolio of your practical work responding to the projects set. You will also be required to evidence the application of a high level of research and understanding of historical and contemporary practice in the subject area in responding to and developing your selected projects.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 6VC505

Specialist Practice in Graphic Design

This double module will support you in developing an individual graphic design project devised by you, for sustained in-depth study in an enquiring manner. You will be required to define yourself as a Graphic Designer, in presenting a body of work which expresses and forms the basis of your professional potential.

You are encouraged to work with independence, originality, initiative and confidence, to develop further your abilities of research, critical analysis and self-organisation. You will also be expected to extend your practical abilities through refining your approach to the creation of effective design solutions and questioning your ways of working and visual solutions in relation to your individual personal direction.

You will be required to critically evaluate, analyse and reflect on the development and success of your outcomes, on the basis of the effectiveness of their communication to your intended audience. You will be encouraged to develop your practice with consideration of sustainability and ethical perspectives.

Emphasis is placed on independent learning but throughout the module your work will be supported by seminars, lectures, small studio group work-checks and individual tutorials with an appointed member of staff with specialist knowledge of your pathway. There will also be large peer group review days across the pathways. Assessment is by presentation of practical work, which includes a reflective journal of your research and planning.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 6VC507

Visual Culture: Extended Essay

In this module you will produce an extended essay on a topic determined by you with the support of your tutor. While the topic will be of your own choosing, it should relate to your own discipline and practice.

The topic selected should offer enough depth to allow you to identify issues for research, investigation and analysis. You will be encouraged to build on and apply the theories and historical knowledge explored in the modules “Visual Culture: History” and “Visual Culture; Theory.”

Your topic will be carefully selected and honed to ensure that it helps inform your understanding of your discipline and practice. For example, you may focus on a specific practitioner whose work successfully responds to a set of problems, which are pertinent to your own concerns.

There are indeed other approaches to identifying a topic focus and research question; for example, one method is to compare and contrast, while another may be to focus on a narrow historical period or a narrow genre of visual texts. Your tutor will help guide you in refining your approach and in establishing your title for the extended essay.  

You will identify, negotiate and assume responsibility for conducting your research and producing the extended essay.

You will work towards developing a coherent argument, informed by your research, which will drive the structure and logic of the extended essay. You will work towards producing coherent academic writing, which adopts the scholarly conventions of referencing according to Harvard procedures.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  1. Initiate, generate and research an individual topic relevant to your subject, with reference to cultural, theoretical and historical influences
  2. Articulate an analytical and critical written presentation on that topic establishing a considered argument
  3. Engage in critical discussion, articulating ideas effectively and contributing to current debate within your specialist subject

Module content

In consultation with tutors, you will define and research an area of study, which will reflect and complement your particular individual practice.

Tutorials will provide advice, direction and additional sources of research and visual material where appropriate. The tutorials will also provide a framework for ensuring coherence of the topic, and direction for the methods and planning of research, draft versions and final presentation issues.

More information
20 Credits

Please note that our modules are subject to change - we review the content of our courses regularly, making changes where necessary to improve your experience and graduate prospects.

Side-on portrait of a young student with purple bokeh lights in the background

Campus Tours

Campus Tours are a great way to explore our campuses, facilities and halls of residence. We’ll be running the tours in two-hour timeslots, giving you the best possible experience while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Book your Campus TourBook your Campus Tour

Virtual Open Day

Delve deeper into the course with our Virtual Open Day, packed with subject and course information to help you make your choice, including tours of facilities, 360° views of award-winning accommodation plus advice and insight from students and academics.

Explore our Virtual Open DayExplore our Virtual Open Day

How you will learn

Teaching is delivered mainly through studio-based and experiential learning using project briefs. This is supported with tutorials, lectures, seminars, visiting speakers and visits to galleries and exhibitions.

You'll work with both local and national project partners on live project briefs and national competitions. This year our students have worked with Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Ernest and Julio Gallo Wineries Europe. They have also responded to competition briefs from D&AD (Designers & Art Directors), Young Creatives Network, Penguin Student Design Awards and the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Student Design Awards. 

As you develop your studio based project work you will also build a Personal Development Plan that provides a road-map for continuous reflection on your studies, progress and future career planning. The Graphic Design: Connections module at Stage Two of the course allows you to investigate the industry, meet professionals and start to build your personal design network.

Assessment is based on coursework, relevant to each module. This may include portfolios of artwork, exhibitions, sketchbooks, research and background material, essays, reports and presentations.

Degree Show

Every year students from the School of Arts celebrate their time at University by showcasing their work at an end of year Degree Show at Markeaton Street and across the City of Derby. The Show usually runs throughout June and is a fantastic opportunity for potential employers, friends, family, industry and members of the public to see exciting creations by the next generation of artists, designers, creators and makers from Derby. The Show takes the form of:

Take a look at highlights from the 2019 Degree Show.

Computer illustrations of the periodic table, milk carton designs and an abstract lightbulb image

Personal academic tutoring

Your personal academic tutor will work with you to help you get the most out of your time at university. Having someone to talk to about your academic progress, your university experience and your professional aspirations is hugely valuable. We want you to feel challenged in your studies, stretched but confident to achieve your academic and professional goals.

Find out more about personal academic tutoring

Who will teach you

Richard Levesly at our Markeaton Street site.

Richard Levesley
Programme leader

Drawing is at the core of Richards practice. He is particularly interested in sketchbooks, gathering ideas exploring various drawing processes and illustrative outcomes. His research practice explores drawing, digital process and printed in relation to commercial Illustration and directly informs my teaching.

View full staff profileView full staff profile

Entry requirements

September 2021 typical entry requirements

RequirementWhat we're looking for
UCAS points112
Specific requirements at A-level

No specific subject requirements

Specific requirements at GCSEGCSE Maths and English Grade C/Grade 4 (or above) or equivalent qualification
IELTS6.0 (with 5.5 in each skills area)
Interview / AuditionYes - see interview details

Yes - see portfolio details

Alternative entry qualifications:

We usually consider an A-level in General Studies as a supplementary qualification. A good application/performance will be taken into account if you do not meet the criteria/offer conditions.

Offers will be made initially based on your application, including predicted grades and/or grades you have already achieved. Following this, if you submit a strong portfolio we will make you an unconditional offer, to reflect the quality of your work and your potential.

Our entry requirements for this course should be read together with the University's general entry requirements, which details subjects we accept, alternative qualifications and what we're looking for at Derby.

Fees and funding

2020/21 Fees


£9,250 per year



£14,045 per year


Further information about our fees and support you may be entitled to.

Additional costs and optional extras

How to apply

UK/EU students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for EU students post-Brexit

International students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for international applicants applying for an undergraduate degree


As a graduate you could work in a design studio, freelance, art direction, editorial design, typography, branding, advertising, corporate identity, interactive media, signage, design consultancy or online design. 

You have the opportunity to further enhance your skills by considering our MDes (Masters of Design) in Graphic Design or our MA in Visual Communication.

Contact us

If you need any more information from us, eg on courses, accommodation, applying, car parking, fees or funding, please contact us and we will do everything we can to help you.

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Additional information about your studies

Teaching hours

Like most universities, we operate extended teaching hours at the University of Derby, so contact time with your lecturers and tutors could be anytime between 9am and 9pm. Your timetable will usually be available on the website 24 hours after enrolment on to your course.

Additional costs and optional extras

We’re committed to providing you with an outstanding learning experience. Our expert teaching, excellent facilities and great employability prepare you for your future career. As part of our commitment to you we aim to keep any additional study costs to a minimum. However, there are occasions where students may incur some additional costs.

The information below is correct for entry in the academic year September 2020 - August 2021 only. Entry for future academic years may be subject to change.

Included in your fees

Mandatory costs not included in your fees

Optional costs not included in your fees

Please note: Our courses are refreshed and updated on a regular basis. If you are thinking about transferring onto this course (into the second year for example), you should contact the programme leader for the relevant course information as modules may vary from those shown on this page.

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