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Graphics is the process of communicating and problem-solving through visual means. Graphic designers create, control and combine symbols, images and text to communicate visual meaning, messages and moods.

Exam Board


Entry Requirements

GCSE grade 5/BTEC Merit in a visual arts subject or submit a portfolio of current work for inspection by a member of the visual arts team.


  • 60% Practical Coursework
  • 40% Externally set assignment
About this course An introduction to Graphics Pathways Information FAQs

What is Graphics?

Graphics is an A-level Art and Design subject focussed around visual communication. Graphic designers create, control and combine image, text and symbols to produce visual outcomes that communicate meaning, messages and moods. This might be in order to persuade an audience or entertain them, to inform, to entice or to educate.


What will I study?

Through a series of brief-led coursework projects, you will develop your skills and understanding as a designer and produce personal and meaningful visual responses. You will learn how the pillars of graphic design – image, text, colour and layout – are used to communicate and create meaning, and you will explore and refine the practical skills needed to control these elements yourself. Across these varied projects, you will improve existing skills with media and be introduced to new ways of working, including traditional methods such as printmaking and collage, as well as digital processes in software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

In order to understand how all these skills can be used to craft successful design outcomes, you will study and analyse the work of other artists, designers and craftspeople, using this understanding to inform and refine your own developing ideas. You will learn to develop and refine ideas and work in a reflective and exploratory way, keeping a detailed record of your ideas, observations and insights and of your creative process.



As a 100% coursework-based A-level, your ongoing work in the subject will form the basis for all assessment.


Year 12

During your first year, your work will be regularly assessed against the subject’s full assessment criteria; you will be given marks and personalised feedback and you will be encouraged to track your own progress and develop your own action points in response to feedback. During this year, your work on the brief-led projects will gradually increase in skill and complexity; you are likely to see a relatively low grade at first, that improves steadily through the year as you approach work that is of an A-level standard.


Year 13

In your second year, you will complete two extended coursework projects that will provide all the marks for your final grade. Both projects are internally assessed and moderated and later externally moderated by the exam board.

Component 1: Personal Investigation – 60%

Running from the end of Year 12 until the Spring term in Year 13, the Personal Investigation allows you to set your own creative brief and run a design project of your own choice. You will select a personal theme, identify the artists and designers you wish to respond to and develop and present a personal and meaningful response to the brief you set.

Your full and completed Personal Investigation will be marked against the full assessment criteria and these marks will provide 60% of your final grade.

Component 2: Externally Set Assignment – 40%

During the Spring term in Year 13, the exam board will issue a subject-specific question paper that gives several prompts for possible design projects.  You will choose one of these and use it to develop a new creative brief and coursework project. At the start of the summer term, as this project comes to a close, you will complete and present your final outcomes and responses during a 15 hour period of ‘supervised time’ where work is completed under exam conditions (usually as three, 5-hour days).

Your full and completed project (not just the work from the supervised time) will be marked as one body of work and these marks will provide the remaining 40% of your grade.


Trips, visits and enrichments:

Trips and visits are used to gather research and inspiration and learn more about the creative industries. Past visits have included excursions to the Black Country Living Museum to look at how graphic design and advertising developed through the early 20th century, and to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford to gather cultural inspiration and reference material.

Towards the end of Year 12, a trip is carried out to allow students to learn more about the creative industries or about pathways into Art and Design. This might mean visiting an end of year degree show such as New Designers or D&AD’s New Blood Festival, or taking part in the Birmingham Design Festival or Conference.

Across the Art and Design courses, various enrichment opportunities exist to develop visual skills outside lessons. These include a figure drawing programme and workshops in printmaking, mobile phone photography and other areas.


What can it lead to?

A substantial portion of our students go on to study visual communication, graphic design, illustration or other art and design courses at university, with many going on to work within the UK’s vast creative industries. There are also opportunities to enter apprenticeships in design roles that offer a more immediate path to industry. The Graphics course has good alumni links and students will hear from young professionals making their way in the creative industries who can share their experiences.

A-level Graphics students will develop the skills needed for roles in areas such as animation, UX and UI design, web design, copywriting, illustration, production design, concept art and art direction, game design, advertising and digital media and many more (including Graphic Design, of course).

Graphics can also help students to develop the skills and portfolio needed to study architecture.

As well as developing the practical skills needed in the creative industries, students will also develop highly valuable and transferable skills that will be useful in any career path, including project and resource management, creative thinking and problem solving, reflective practice and presentation.


Is all of the work done on computer?
No. While all work will need to be brought into the computer to prepare it for screen or print applications, traditional design skills, including drawing, thumbnailing and tracing are of huge value in Graphic Design and an important part of the creative process. We do teach the use of digital design and illustration techniques, but students will also learn and develop traditional skills.
What equipment or software do I need?
Students only need to provide some basic art materials and these are all offered by the college at a reduced price and covered by bursaries or other financial support where appropriate. Adequate access to IT, including printing facilities, is provided by the college, and all Art and Design students are set up with an individual Adobe user licence that grants them full use of all Adobe software, both in college and at home.
Is it a problem if I haven’t studied Graphics before?
Definitely not. We ask that students have a good grade in an Art or Design subject so that they have developed a level of understanding and both the practical skills and project management skills needed to succeed at A-level. As well as Art and Design GCSE’s, appropriate qualifications that meet our entry requirement include Product Design, D&T, and Btec Creative iMedia, amongst others. If you are unsure if you have these skills, or you are not studying an appropriate qualification now, please contact our admissions team for further advice.
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