Graphic Communication Design (Top-Up) BA (Hons)

Key Facts

  • UCAS Code:


  • Level:


  • Duration:

    Full Time: 1 year
    Part Time: 2 years

  • Starting:


  • Fees UK 23/24:

    Full Time: £9,250
    Part Time: £1,540 (per 20 credits)

  • Fees International 23/24:

    Full Time: £15,500

  • Location:


Get in touch

For questions regarding study and admissions please contact us:

UK/EU Students enquiries
0300 303 2772

International Students enquiries
+44 (0)1604 893981


Our Graphic Communication Design (Top-Up) BA (Hons) builds upon your prior knowledge and skills to explore the communication of ideas and messages to diverse and ever-evolving audiences through a dynamic range of media that highlights the potential of what design can achieve.

The Top-Up programme will develop your critical understanding of communication, expand your understanding of how the Creative Industries work, and advance your creativity and professionalism. The Graphic Communication Design (Top-Up) is focused on identifying your individual interests, launching you on your career path and honing your commercial design skills.

Studio culture is at the heart of our Top-Up programme, naturally fostering the creativity, collaboration and debate that inspire personal perspectives on design and prepares you for the professional industries.

Students experiment with a range of traditional processes and evolving technologies to challenge the conventions of image-making and meaning. Through engaging with issues, real-world problems and commercial scenarios, you will develop critical, reflective and professional skills that will prepare you for the ever-changing creative industries.

Updated 25/11/2022


On Graphic Communication Design BA (Top-Up) (Hons), you will have access to specialist resources, regular guest lecturers and industry contacts, as well as the opportunity to work with live commercial briefs, social impact initiatives and international competitions. In recent years, several of our students have either been shortlisted or have gone on to win international design competitions, such as Penguin Cover Design Award and Design and Art Direction – New Blood Awards (D&AD).

Along with exhibiting your work in your final year Degree Show, we have had students participate in D&AD’s ‘New Blood’ and the ‘New Designers’ industry graduate degree showcases in London.

  • Dedicated GCD design studio with access to Macbooks, creative software, cameras and lighting kits, sound and print facilities.
  • High-quality teaching from experienced practising designers and educators.
  • Work based learning through live commercial projects with a real focus on your future career, with employability modules in all years of the course.
  • Participate in social design projects.
  • Technical support and specialist workshop demonstrations
  • Success with national and international competitions.
  • Regular input from industry professionals.
  • Study trips and cultural visits.
  • Guaranteed paid internship with the Northampton Employment Promise.
  • HP Laptop and software included with this course, see Eligibility criteria and Terms and Conditions

Course Content

  • Our Graphic Communication Design (Top-Up) BA (Hons) provides you with the vital skills and knowledge needed to further your understanding of visual communication, working in the creative industries, or potentially progressing onto postgraduate study. Having already developed the skills and qualifications for years 1 and 2 on your previous course, in year 3 with us you’ll be able to focus on expanding your conceptual and technical skills.

    We explore Graphic Communication Design through commercial, cultural, social, and environmental issues via a mix of practical work, live industry projects, critical study and design competition briefs. You’ll be taught in various ways including small and large group teaching, workshops and individual tutorials, lectures, group presentations and seminars, and we do this through a combination of face to face and online teaching, exploring digital media and software alongside craft skills such as print making, 3D and photography.

    We look at 4 areas on the course, these are –

    Commercial – here we develop your technical skills and practice the principals of graphic design and apply these to commercial projects and briefs – this includes understanding how audiences think and respond and how we approach and manage the design process to create effective solutions.

    Professional and Critical – here we expose you to the wider creative industries, the various roles and skills needed to work as a professional designer and how the business of design works. Additionally, we explore the development of visual culture and how it’s affected us and our world, and how we and others see and understand the world around us. Along with this, you develop your research abilities and your analytical and reflective writing skills.

    Experimental – here we encourage your individual responses to themes and issues that are not commercially focused – we challenge you to use your visual skills be used to convey complex and thought-provoking messages, and we develop your ability to see differently, think differently and explore different mediums and formats.

    Changemaker – here we focus on Graphic Communication Design’s role as a force for positive change through projects that explore social, ethical and environmental concerns. You are encouraged to develop empathetic and mindful approaches using your creative skills for progress and transformation.

    At the heart of our Top-Up programme is the creation of visual ideas that convey a message – this could be to sell, entertain or solve a commercial problem, or to expand understanding and awareness of an issue, or to influence and persuade people to see or think about something in a different way.

    We do this through considered, well researched and tested design solutions and use targeted technologies and channels to reach out and make a difference – the successful communication of a message is determined by its effective design; this is how we influence, create an emotion, and have impact.

    What do our students go on to do with these skills?

    After graduation, our students go on to work in a wide range of creative roles; some go on to work in agencies, some work as freelancers, some start their own businesses, producing work across branding, advertising, illustration, interactive and online design, UX and UI, editorial and publishing, film and moving image, packaging and photography. Additionally, some go on to postgraduate education to further enhance their skills and knowledge.

    There is a wide range of career and postgraduate options for you to explore, so during year 3, we will help you to identify and focus in on what your skills and interests are. Through your modules and the teaching and support from your lecturers, you will have had the opportunity to work on a detailed career plan that will set you on your path.

    Follow us on Instagram @gcd.uon

    Follow us to see what we are doing and have done over the last few years., including posts and stories from this year’s successful degree show, our ‘Changing Futures Week’ events, our competitions wins, and student highlights and features.

    Student highlights

    Our students are regularly shortlisted for the Penguin Cover Design Award and this year was no different. We had 2 students shortlisted – Evy Diepenbroek and Karla Ayree for the Adult Fiction category, with Karla beating hundreds of fellow designers from across the country to win the prestigious national prize.

    Karla was named winner at the awards ceremony in June for her cover design for ‘Girl, Women, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo.

    Karla Ayree Girl Woman Other Penguin Cover Design Winner 2022


    Evy Diepenbroek’s design was shortlisted for the same prize

    Evy Diepenbroek Girl Woman Other Penguin Cover Design shortlist
    See all winners and shortlisted designers here – Penguin Random House Design award

    We also had success in the D&AD New blood competition last year with our 2022 graduating student Laura Tucker winning a pencil for her Giff Gaff Recycling animation.

    Both the Penguin Cover Design and the D&AD The New Blood Awards are an invaluable introduction to the reality of working in the creative industry and entering gets your work seen by some of the biggest names in the creative industry. Over many years, students on our Graphic Communication Design BA (Hons) course have been regular winners.

    Please note the modules shown here relate to the academic year 22/23. The modules relating to the academic year 23/24 will be available from June 2023.

      • Module code: 2DD3012
        Status: Compulsory
        The purpose of this module is for students to confidently define their post-graduation trajectory. Students will develop and apply interpersonal skills and industry knowledge to a range of work models from the evolving creative industries. This module concludes with a detailed presentation outlining the students? professional intentions.
      • Module code: 2DD3013
        Status: Compulsory
        This module enables students to establish a professional graduate portfolio through a series of industry-related briefs covering a range of contemporary design practices. Impactful ideas targeted at defined audiences are central to this module, with students encouraged to take risks and explore new and emerging ways of working and communicating.
      • Module code: 2DD4007
        Status: Compulsory
        The purpose of this module is to develop a progressive and impactful body of practice and writing, based on thorough critical research into an area of personal interest within contemporary visual culture. Outcomes will form a significant part of the graduate?s portfolio, showcasing specialisms within contemporary graphic communication design.

    Your taught study will be a combination of lectures, seminars, workshops and technical demonstrations, usually for 15 hours per week, depending on your level of study. In addition, we recommend that you spend around 10 hours per week in self-directed study time. Outside of taught time, you will have access to technical facilities and studies.

  • Standard entry requirements apply. Applicants are expected to have studied a Graphic or related Art and Design subject at Foundation Degree/HND or equivalent.

    We welcome international applications and applications from students with a range of non-traditional educational or professional qualifications.

    Applicants are requested to send a digital portfolio of their own work in Art and Design and attend a 30 minute online interview with a member of Graphic Communication Design team.

    Receiving an offer may also be subject to qualifications and standard entry requirements.

    For more more information on how to make an application, please visit our How to Apply page.

    If you are an International student and would like information on making an application, please see our How to Apply page.

    English Language Requirements

    All International and EU students applying for a course with us must meet the following minimum English language requirements:

    • IELTS 6.0 (or equivalent) with a minimum of 5.5 in all bands
      for study at undergraduate level.

    For information regarding English language requirements at the University, please see our IELTS page.

  • 2023/24 Tuition Fees

    Fees quoted relate to study in the Academic Year 23/24 only and may be subject to inflationary increases in future years.

    • UK – Full Time: £9,250
    • UK – Part Time: £1,540 per 20 credit module
    • International – Full Time: £15,500
    2022/23 Tuition Fees

    Fees quoted relate to study in the Academic Year 22/23 only and may be subject to inflationary increases in future years.

    • UK – Full Time: £9,250
    • UK – Part Time: £1,500 per 20 credit module
    • International – Full Time: £14,500
    Materials, Events and Visits

    Materials for workshops, entry to competitions associated with your programme of study, and those visits that are necessary for your course are all made available at no additional charge.

    We recommend that you budget for additional printing costs (approximately £30 per year for laser and large format printing) and any specialist design materials that you may require (£50 or more depending on materials) per year.

    There are optional trips, both within the UK and overseas: UK visits and Trips will cost approximately £50 per year. Overseas trips or visits will cost approximately £350 per trip

    The 3rd year Degree Show held in the summer additionally requires contributions [or your own fund-raising activities] to support the funding of a catalogue and marketing materials costing approximately £20 each, along with further contributions to exhibit at the off-site Graduate Design shows in London, approximately £25 each.

    As part of our course, you will get a free subscription to the full Adobe Creative suite for the duration of your course and we have our own suite of MacBooks to use in our design studios and access to iMacs however, if able, buying your own Apple computer is recommended.

    As you will expect on an Art and Design course, you’ll be expected to provide your own day to day art and design materials such as sketchbooks, pens, pencils, markers, rulers etc. We have an onsite Art shop that can cater for all these needs and your staff team will talk you through what you will need prior to starting your course.

    For information on the scholarships available to you, please see our scholarships page.

  • Every year the Graphic Communication Design team invite guest speakers, industry professionals and creatives into our studios to talk to our design students. In recent years we have had Adrian Shaughnessy, Ken Garland, Alan Moore, Jonathan Barnbrook and Malcolm Garrett to name but a few, along with practical workshops and Industry led portfolios reviews. We also invite our past students to talk about their current jobs and life after university.

  • How will I be taught on Graphic Communication Design (Top-Up) BA (Hons)?

    You will be taught through a variety of methods such as;

    • Project briefs (staff-set/self-set /industry/competition)
    • Individual, group tutorials and seminars
    • Workshops/demonstrations
    • E-tivities/Active Blended Learning / Online activities
    • Group critiques and presentations
    • Visiting speakers and Industry Guests

    You will be taught by your core team of Senior Lecturers, Lecturers and Associate Lecturers – and you have contact with them week in, week out. It is these lecturers that deliver the majority of your taught experience, set project briefs, assess your work and lead study visits.

    How will I be assessed?

    You will be assessed through a range of graphic communication design assignments, design competitions and live projects [producing individual work as well as working in groups] including design work submitted through portfolio presentations [these can be printed, online, digita or physical], oral presentations and pitches, written work and self-assessments.

    Are there any suggested reading and resources?

    Yes, we suggest looking up the following titles for some inspiration:


    • Graphic design: a user’s manual – Adrian Shaughnessy
    • The A-Z of visual ideas: how to solve any creative brief – John Ingledew
    • Design History, A Students’ Handbook – Hazel Conway
    • Know your onions: graphic design – Drew De Soto
    • The art of looking sideways – Alan Fletcher
    • On Creativity – John Hegarty
    • Graphic Design: A New History – Stephen Eskilson


    • Creative Review
    • Eye: the international review of graphic design
    • Juxtapose
    • Baseline: international typographics journal
    • Aesthetica
    • Computer Arts Magazine
    • Adbusters


    • Its Nice That (web)
    • Computer Arts magazine / CreativeBloq
    • Design inspiration – Design Inspiration

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Careers and Employability

A Graphic Communication Design degree can open up your career options. You will not be limited to one specific type of role, but rather be able to pursue numerous career paths.

Our Graphic Communication Design graduates use their design skills to work in:

  • Branding
  • Advertising
  • Illustration & Animation
  • Editorial and Publishing
  • Digital moving image
  • Interactive, online, social media and app design
  • UI/UX Design
  • Packaging design
  • Photography
  • Information design
  • Social Design

Throughout your time on the course, as well as post-study, we offer ongoing support to ensure you receive the guidance and information needed to succeed in your chosen field of work.

Postgraduate Opportunities

Our postgraduate courses are a great way to enhance the skills you have already learnt. Benefit from our 20% alumni discount on postgraduate fees to give yourself a CV that will catch the eye of employers.

Facilities and Special Features

When you study Graphic Communication Design at the University of Northampton, you will enjoy access to a number of different facilities and services to help you in your studies, including;

  • Large specialist studio spaces with dedicated access to Mac-books, digital cameras, lighting kits and sound recording equipment. Additionally we have access to a vast collection of magazines and books in studio.
  • Additional iMac design suite
  • Subsidised digital printing
  • Printmaking facilities and professional photography studios with controlled lighting studios
  • Video editing suites
  • Free Adobe Creative Cloud software account for your duration on the course

Onsite printmaking workshop

Our onsite printmaking workshop can enhance the creative practices of students on a variety of courses