Graphic Design (Graphic Communications) (A Level)

Why should I study A Level Graphic Design (Graphic Communication)?

Graphics is a subject that is aimed at any student who wants to improve their visual communication using traditional techniques and/or modern technology. It is a stimulating and wide ranging subject that develops the ability to appreciate the commercial visual world and to respond to it in a personal and creative way. Students learn to use a range of graphic techniques including print, sketching, illustration, presentation drawing as well as Photoshop and Illustrator.

Graphic Design is a chiefly practical course with some written elements. Coursework projects include book cover design, packaging design and typographical work. In the second year, students can choose their own projects which can include such briefs as branding for festivals, marketing for new food or clothing companies and exhibition displays. Students have the freedom to approach projects in a variety of ways depending on their interests and skills. For example, when designing a poster, one student may want to develop their designs using computer software such as Photoshop, another may however wish to further their skills in hand drawn illustration. Both are equally valid.

The Graphic Design area is well resourced with a large number of computers using the latest industry standard software and a range of commercial grade equipment and machines which allows students to produce work to an incredibly high standard. There are a range of rooms and facilities that students are encouraged to make use of both in lessons and during their own time.

Many students go on to apply for a wide range of design related degree courses. It combines well with any other subject at the College including one or more subjects within the Art and Design Department.

Developing your skills by looking at the work of professional designers and artists is an important part of any designer’s experience. There is a trip in the summer term to a major annual design exhibition. As part of the Art and Design Department, students have opportunities to participate in a residential trip to a foreign city.

Course Content

The first year of the AQA course consists of coursework projects followed by a shorter exam project. For coursework you will be learning new techniques, looking at the work of other graphic designers and building up your skills and understanding of contemporary graphic design. The projects in the first year will enable you to address the A Level assessment criteria and give you a good idea of the standard of preparation required in order to produce a sophisticated final outcome.

Progression onto Year 2

Progression to the second year of this A Level course will be dependent on having made satisfactory progress in the first year of the course, including achieving at least an E grade in a formal late spring assessment, as well as the maintenance of a good level of attendance and commitment throughout the year.

The Year 2 A Level Graphics course consists of two components – Coursework and Exam project. The coursework consists of one major project, which you choose yourself. There is also a short written element to the coursework. The exam project culminates in a 15 hour practical exam.


Coursework is due in at the end of January. From the 1st February you will start your exam project. In May, at the end of the exam preparation, you will be completing a final piece during a 15 hour exam – spread over 3 days. 

The coursework is worth 60% of your A Level mark and the exam project is 40%.

Minimum Entry Criteria

Standard College entry requirements (as detailed on page 12) and a minimum of: 


Grade 5


GCSE Product Design




Grade 4

GCSE Art & Design, or GCSE Graphics (Art Validated), or GCSE Textiles (Art Validated) 





BTEC Art & Design Level 2

For those who have not studied a GCSE Art and Design or Technology subject, or a Level 2 BTEC course, it is still possible to be considered for this A Level Graphics course. You will need to complete an exercise set by the Art and Design Department which you can request by emailing the College Admissions Department, once you have had your college interview. This exercise will need to be submitted to the Head of Department during your College Induction Day.

What can I do after studying A Level Graphic Design? 

Studying Graphics can lead to many careers in the creative industries. Possible careers include: graphic design, illustration, architecture, product design, web design, games design, automotive design, fashion and textiles, industrial design, marketing, teaching and animation. Most universities offer courses in one or more of these subjects. If you are not sure about which design based degree course to do at university you can also opt for a one year foundation diploma (for example at Colchester Institute) after your A Levels. This course will help you choose your pathway at degree level. Many of our students progress on to either foundation diplomas or design degree courses across the country. 

Further Information

Graphics students are required to purchase a graphics pack at the start of the course. This includes all the basics for the entire course including two sketchbooks for coursework and the exam, an A3 presentation portfolio and a set of designer’s pens and pencils. It also contributes towards the costs of professional printing and materials for 3D mock-ups. The cost for the pack is £45.