Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

BA Graphic Design

UCAS code: W210

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Edinburgh College of Art

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing BA Graphic Design

Graphic Design has a continuously expanding visual vocabulary. It sorts and differentiates, it informs and promotes. The process is purposeful and offers huge potential for a variety of creative endeavours. Balancing pre-determined project parameters alongside personal expression is the exciting mix of this subject as is the interchange of traditional and contemporary technologies.

Graphic design must challenge the status quo, cross boundaries, think backwards from the future and develop powerful and novel solutions. Designers should be observant and culturally and historically aware to show openness, understanding and receptivity.

At ECA we encourage bold, lateral thinking and understanding of process, technique and business, to produce innovative, emotive, enduring and aesthetic design through intense, sustained involvement with the design process.

Year 1

You will be introduced to the theoretical and practical concepts of design through compulsory courses in graphic design, typography and context. There will also be opportunities to choose option courses from across the University.

The graphic design and typography courses will introduce you to the concept of the graphic designer as an observer, thinker and visual translator. These courses will allow you to apply basic design principles and acquire practical and technical knowledge of the discipline.

You will be able to take up to 60 credits of option courses, either from within ECA, or across the wider College. These are subject to availability but offer the flexibility to construct a suite of courses that reflects your interests and enhances your main study.

Year 2

You will explore graphic design principles, theories and working practices through compulsory courses in applied graphic design, typography and context. There will also be opportunities to choose option courses from across the University.

Within graphic design and typography the creative potential of design is covered. These courses encourage you to explore new methods of seeing and thinking in order to stimulate the creation of alternative solutions to the discipline. Digital and analogue instruction will be covered in set projects and exercises. Our Applied Typography course reinforces the terminology, rules and guidelines, philosophies and theories of typography through historical and contemporary perspectives.

Again, you will be able to choose option courses subject to availability.

Year 3

An externally facing professional practice year where there is a range of opportunities through compulsory courses in research and practice, externality, design agency and context. There will also be opportunities to choose elective courses from across the University.

Externally-facing activities may typically include periods of exchange, internship, live projects/competitions, exhibition and so forth.

Year 4

Within the Year 4 compulsory courses you will work on set and self-initiated projects, design agency and theoretical underpinning, finally leading to an end of year exposition of your body of work.

You will explore the process of design in greater depth, addressing the cycle of analysis, interpretation, trial solution and resolution. This final honours year allows for focused exploration and consolidation and will enable you to identify and plan your own personal direction with which to seamlessly enter the professional world upon graduation.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

We publish the latest available information for this programme. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year.

Programme structure (2017/18)

Our facilities

Design students benefit from studio-based learning at our Lauriston Place campus, along with the exhibitions and events associated with a vibrant art college. Option courses are usually taught outside the School across the wider university campus. You will also have access to the University's extensive libraries and computer facilities.

The University is investing in the ECA estate and facilities to further develop our flexible, stimulating, supportive and sustainable learning and research environment for students and staff.

Further information is available on the ECA website.

Facilities and resources at ECA


There will be opportunities for credited work-based learning during Year 3 although students from each year group often explore internships during their holiday period.

Study abroad

The School of Design believes that the addition of an international dimension to our programmes provides significant educational and social benefits for our students. We therefore encourage you to participate in Erasmus and other international exchanges with approved partners, usually in Year 3.

How will I learn?

The majority of design teaching and learning is through involvement in a range of experiential projects situated in a studio environment. Conceptual, material and technical issues are explored through seminars, workshops, lectures, tutorials and critiques.

Research, critical thinking and study of the visual, intellectual, social and professional contexts that shape creative design practice are regarded as essential to your development. This often involves participation in exhibitions, competitions, collaborations and live industry projects.

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment is continuous throughout the year, aiming to give you meaningful feedback and to encourage experimentation in the studio and beyond. Formative assessment for compulsory courses is through a mix of verbal and written modes such as portfolio, presentations and essays.

There is a mid-session review, usually at the mid-point of any given course you study. Summative assessment at the end of all the courses you take is informed by your academic and creative progress and performance throughout.

Programme details

Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.

We publish the latest available information for this programme. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year.

Programme details (2017/18)

Graphic Design graduates work in a wide range of creative career paths. The variety of projects, approaches and opportunities on the programme enable graduates to apply their knowledge and experience of the design process and their considerable skills on to many disciplines.

Typically graduates leave to become valuable members of a graphic design agency. There are extensive links with the professional world built through industry-led projects and staff research. This coupled with a range of visiting speakers, ensures that graduates are aware of the full range of career possibilities and are provided with a strong footing from which to develop their chosen career.

Previous career paths have included experiential design, packaging, advertising, digital design, interaction design, exhibition design, design research, marketing, retail design, exhibition design, multimedia, design management, education. Graduates may freelance or seek employment within a company they also, of course, may wish to continue their studies at postgraduate level.

Design Agency project

A specific scheme within the undergraduate programme is the Design Agency project which, in 2013, won a Guardian University Award for Employability.

Design Agency is a flagship initiative that enables graphic design students to graduate with an honours degree and, more importantly for this industry, three years of work experience.

Each year, senior students have the opportunity to form their own design agencies. They create their own brand for the agency and advertise vacancies at all levels, from interns to senior designers, for which students in junior years are interviewed and appointed.

It is rare that students work across the different year groups of a university undergraduate programme; although the rewards that are gained from peer feedback are undoubted. Within Design Agency, students work collectively towards a common objective based on ability, regardless of age or experience.

Edinburgh-based design agencies act as ‘mentor partners’ to the student agencies and support them with the many client-led live briefs they work on.

Typical offer

The typical offer is likely to be:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points (grades 655 at HL).

Minimum entry requirements

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or ABBBB/AABB from S4-S6, with a minimum of BBB achieved in one year of S4-S6. National 5: English at Grade C.
  • A Levels: ABB. GCSEs: English at Grade C or 4.
  • IB: Award of Diploma with 34 points overall and grades 655 in HL subjects. SL: English at 5.

Additional requirements


Applicants will be asked to submit a digital mini-portfolio to provide evidence of artistic aptitude and potential, this will form an important part of the selection process. Applicants applying to enter Year 2 of our programmes, who pass the first stage of selection, will be invited to bring a full portfolio to an Applicant Day. (Revised 08/03/2017 to provide more accurate information.)

How to submit your mini-portfolio

Important dates

  • Early November 2017: Mini-portfolio submissions site opens
  • 15 January 2018: UCAS deadline for Home/EU applicants
  • Mini-portfolio submission deadline to be confirmed
  • 30 June 2018: Final deadline for UCAS applications from applicants from outside the EU. (Revised 08/03/2017 to provide more accurate information.)

BTEC/UAL Diplomas

Pearson BTEC and University of the Arts London Diplomas in Art and Design are accepted for entry on their own and in combination with other qualifications. Further information on accepted combinations and required grades will be made available here shortly, or please contact the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Admissions Office.

(Revised 30/03/2017)

Find out more about entry requirements

International students

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Entry to the second year is available. Successful completion of a Foundation Diploma (at Merit Grade), a relevant HND or equivalent is required. Applicants will normally be expected to have undertaken these qualifications in addition to having met the minimum entry requirements (Highers, A Levels, IB etc). In some of our less competitive programmes it may be possible to consider applicants presenting ABC (or equivalent) or above at A-level. These grades must have been achieved in a single first sitting.

You must provide evidence that your written and spoken English is at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

If English is not your first language, you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your spoken and written English:

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component
  • TOEFL-iBT 92 or above with 20 in each section
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): Total 61 with at least 51 in each "Communicative Skills" section
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components

About English language requirements


For SQA and GCSE students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 Grade C
  • SQA Standard Grade 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 Grade A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 Grade C
  • GCSE Grade C or 4
  • IB Standard Level Grade 5

Key Information Sets (KIS) are part of a government initiative to enhance the information that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

KIS are available for most undergraduate programmes and are intended to make it easier for you to find information about the programmes you are interested in studying. It is one of many sources of information available that will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

You can also use this website to find more information on our programmes and the learning environment you will experience at the University of Edinburgh.

Please note that some programmes do not have data available and will not display a KIS.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BA Graphic Design

Additional Costs

The indicated costs are approximate and largely dependent on project outcomes as determined by students themselves.

Year 1: approx £100 for basic graphic materials such as pens, pencils, cutting tools, paper, ruler, sketchbooks, portable USB stick. printing and print workshop costs.

Year 2: approx £100 for basic graphic materials such as pens, pencils, cutting tools, paper, ruler, sketchbooks, portable USB stick. printing and print workshop costs.

Year 3 and 4: approx £150 for materials and trips pertaining to projects undertaken.

In addition, we have optional study trips and individual field-based projects. You will usually be required to cover accommodation, subsistence and travel costs.

Your actual contribution will depend on the project and on the nature and location of each trip.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding