Graphic Design with Integrated Foundation Year BA (Hons)

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This is a four-year version of our popular BA (Hons) Graphic Design course, with an integrated foundation year. Challenge convention. Explore and experiment with creative ideas. Learn to design in a way that maximises the impact of your communication.

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This graphic design course focuses mainly on creative commercial outcomes. Your design work will excite, challenge and persuade target audiences. The work will be varied and will involve designing anything from corporate graphics, logos, branding and corporate identity, brochures, annual reports, promotional items, web, mobile apps, packaging, typography, design, advertising, exhibitions, print and many other graphic outcomes.

Staff who teach on this course are themselves practicing professionals at the cutting edge of their field and they bring their industry insights and experience directly into their teaching. We have fantastic facilities, award-winning staff and students, and a focus on employability and cutting edge professional skills. 

Why us?

  • The Design programmes at Sunderland have been winning top international design awards and accolades for almost three decades. The most recent successes include the D&AD ‘The Best in Show’ and the Adobe Students Creative Awards
  • 100% of our BA (Hons) Graphic Design and BA (Hons) Graphic Communication graduates are in graduate-level employment, further study or training within six months of graduating, according to DLHE 2016/17 (based on full-time, first degree, home leavers)
  • We are one of six institutions across the UK that is participating in The Design Council’s Design Academy Scheme. Design Academy is an interactive, four-day training programme for Design students at leading universities, helping to prepare students from a variety of disciplines for real-world design challenges by developing their strategic design capabilities
  • Access to FabLab Sunderland on City Campus, part of a global network of digital fabrication spaces that provide 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters and a CNC router

New Sunderland Culture logo

A city brimming with creative potential

Offering a year-round programme of exhibitions, events and performances, Sunderland Culture brings big-name artists from the worlds of contemporary visual arts, glass, ceramics and performance to the city, alongside showcasing the best and most exciting local talent. There is a huge range of opportunities for students to visit the venues, take part in events and get involved in the programme. Learn more about Sunderland Culture.

Student work

Course structure

In the first year – the foundation year – you will study five modules; a module about the foundations of art, design, performance and media production, an essential study skills module, a foundation project module, practical numeracy skills, and an introduction to creative practice module. After completion of this foundation year, you will then move onto the Graphic Design honours degree course.

Teaching methods include, lectures, seminars, group work and e-learning. We encourage you to develop independent study skills. You will also have opportunities to present ideas to other students and develop concepts within groups. Teaching takes advantage of the University’s specialist computer laboratories.

View more student work in our student galleries.

Foundation Year

The Creative Industries: Arts, Design, Performance, Media Production Integrated Foundation Year includes five modules:

  • Foundations of Art, Design, Performance and Media Production (40 credits)
  • Essential Study Skills (20 credits)
  • Foundation Project (20 credits)
  • Practical Numeracy Skills (20 credits)
  • Introduction to Creative Practice (20 credits)


Some modules have prerequisites. Read more about what this means in our Help and Advice article.

Year 1 (national level 4):

  • Design Theory 1 (20 credits)

Join with students from other design courses to explore the most significant movements, theories and practitioners that have shaped design thinking and approaches over the years.

  • Introduction to Visual Communication (60 credits)

Take an introductory look at broad design principles, visual hierarchies, typography, software, layout and grid systems, colour theory and presentation. Apply these through hands-on creative projects.

  • Visual Communication and Design Principles (20 credits)

Explore visual graphic language through a schedule of exercises and design methodology aimed at encouraging an understanding of the technical and creative processes involved in graphic design.

  • Motion Graphics 1 (20 credits)

Look at approaches and techniques appropriate to the creation of moving graphics. Explore the theory and practice of designing, planning, editing and creating time-based, or 'motion' graphics through taught workshops.

Year 2 (national level 5):

  • Design Theory 2 (20 credits)

Continue to study the principles of design alongside students from other design courses.

  • Beyond Desktop Publishing (20 credits)

Get a basic introduction to the historical, theoretical and fundamental principles of typography and design. Follow this up with in depth practical research on typography, image creation and advanced layout techniques using new technology and traditional processes.

  • Contemporary Graphic Communication (40 credits)

Learn how to deal with a range of contemporary subjects and themes where outcomes provoke opportunities for the audiences themselves to share in the act of communication, test design boundaries and explore creative concept, ethics and technique.

  • Motion Graphics 2 (20 credits)

Build upon knowledge gained from the stage one module and continue to explore the creative and visual possibilities of motion graphics.

Optional modules are also available for stage 2: Integrated Creativity, Computer Illustration, Web and Mobile App Design.

Final year (national level 6):

  • Design Research Project (20 credits)

Research and write about a design area that is relevant to your intended career path.

  • Graphic Design and Professional Practice (40 credits)

Explore specific aspects of graphic design and choose a range of projects according to your own personal interests or portfolio/career needs. Demonstrate a wide range of independent research, creative and technical skills and create high quality work, which you can include in a formal portfolio.

  • Design – Final Major Project (60 credits)

Produce a project that will be the centrepiece of your showcase to future employers, demonstrating your fresh and creative approach to your discipline.

More about BA (Hons) Graphic Design with Integrated Foundation Year at Sunderland

Discover more articles
  • The University provides generous studio spaces, well-equipped workshops and excellent facilities for design students.

    Within our digital design suites, there are Apple Macs, PCs, HTC VIVE VR and Wacom Cintiqs with Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium. This includes software such as ZBrush, Unity 3D, Maya, Blender, Cinema 4, Dreamweaver and Adobe Creative Suites. Our specialist technical staff, including qualified Adobe and Maya Certified Instructors, offer back-up and help in making the most of the software.

    Design facilities
  • FabLab Sunderland offers a diverse range of specialist digital design and fabrication equipment. Based at the Hope Street Xchange in Sunderland city centre, it is a creative space where anyone can make (almost) anything. Our students gain free access to FabLab's machines which include:

    • Epilog laser cutter
    • ShopBot CNC router
    • The Roland Modela MDX-20 milling machine
    • Roland Vinyl cutter GS-24
    • Dimension 1200es Series 3D Printer – ABS plastic (large capacity 3D printer)
    • Ultimaker 2 (small scale 3D printer)
    • Ulitmaker 2 Extended (medium scale 3D printer)
  • The University Library has an exceptional collection of photography books and monographs and subscribes to a comprehensive range of academic journals and databases so you can access reliable and up-to-date information.

    A dedicated Academic Liaison Librarian supports students and staff in the arts, design and performing arts disciplines.

    The key resources for your course include:

    Discover: The Library’s multi-disciplinary search tool

    Art Full Text: A major resource for media and arts information

    JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’): Giving access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences

    Lexis: A major resource on full-text newspaper articles and legal information

    Library Services - arts and design
  • Map and directions


This course is based at the Priestman Building, the main base for art, design and performance on City Campus. Thanks to a major renovation programme, the Priestman Building provides an excellent teaching space and resources as part of a vibrant and creative learning environment.

Entry requirements

The Integrated Foundation Year is specially designed to support you where you have just missed the grades required for direct entry onto a three-year degree, or if you have relevant work experience and are now looking to broaden your subject knowledge but want more time to develop study skills before starting your degree.

Entry requirements are provided for guidance only and we may offer you an entrance interview which will help us determine your eligibility for your chosen degree. This enables us to consider making you an offer if you are perhaps a mature student who has been out of education for a period of time, or you have gained significant knowledge and skills through employment rather than traditional education.

Eligible entry qualifications:

1. Normally a minimum of three Level 2 qualifications (NVQ, GCSE or equivalent ), including Maths and English at grade C or above** and a minimum of 40 UCAS tariff points from Level 3 qualifications (e.g. A or AS Levels, BTEC certificates/diplomas, access courses or equivalent)
2. Demonstrable evidence of appropriate knowledge and skills acquired from at least three years of post-school work experience.

Find out how many points your qualifications are worth using the UCAS Tariff calculator.

If you are unsure of whether you think you might be suitable for the course, please contact us!

** If you have studied for a GCSE which has a numerical grade then you will need to achieve a grade 4 or above. Equivalent alternative qualifications are also accepted, such as Level 2 Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number. If you have not achieved a grade C in Maths and English we may be able to work with you to ensure that you are able to gain these in the first year of the course, depending on your experience.

If English is not your first language, please see our English language requirements.

For more information about Integrated Foundation Year programmes, including more detailed module information, please see our Help and Advice articles.

Fees and finance

If you join us in September 2020, the foundation year will be £5,000.

For the following three years, the annual fee will be £9,250 but you will receive £1,250 cash-back in the first and final year of the full-undergraduate course.

In addition, you may receive free travel across the Tyne and Wear region and a University of Sunderland StudyPLUS Card loaded with additional offers up to the value of £200, plus a bundle of study skills books worth £80.

If you are a full-time UK student you may be eligible to receive financial support to cover your fee and maintenance loan for the full four years.

Please note, this course is not available to international students.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or international student, find out more in our Help and Advice article.

Take a look at the Your Finances section to find out about the scholarships and bursaries that may be available to you.

Use our scholarships calculator to see what you may be entitled to.

Scholarships calculator

This information was correct at the time of publication.

City Campus by night


Throughout the course we support you to launch your design career. You will build up a creative and industry ready portfolio, access guaranteed work placements, attend employability days and put your designs on show to the public.

On modules such as ‘Studio Practice’, you will receive valuable advice on a variety of work-related topics. These range from costing, cash flow and business plans to going freelance, self-promotion and copyright issues.

You will also develop a Professional Engagement Document. This highlights all your self-development activities and engagement with industry, as well as other factors that give you an edge compared to other graduates.

Career options

Our graduates have gone on to work all over the globe in graphic design, editorial, infographics, motion graphics, advertising, web, packaging and interactive design. We have graduates working in Ordinance Survey, MTV and SEGA. Some have also gone on to work in the creative industries of publishing, design consultancies and advertising design, while others prefer self-employment.

This creative degree can also open doors into many other careers, such as teaching, or further study to Masters or Doctorate level.

Real-world experience

We encourage you to participate in competitions and award schemes including those run by the Design and Art Directors Association (of which we are a corporate member). Such competitions are part of building up a compelling creative portfolio.

In your final year you'll display your work at our annual Degree Show, attended by industry experts and potential employers. You may also have the opportunity to take your work to London.

In addition, our academic team organises visits to arts venues across the UK and in cities such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and New York.

Employability days and guest speakers

We hold specific ‘employability days’ to help give our students that essential cutting edge. We invite graduates and employers to come into the University in order to look at student portfolios and give advice.

Through our links with industry, we also attract professionals in graphic design to come in and give talks throughout the year. These help you gain valuable insights and contacts in the world of work. Our creative spaces and conferences attract acclaimed guest speakers from across the design world, such as Andy Aldmann (Why Not Associates), Ben Fry, Jill Calder, Fig Taylor and Bruce McClean.


Guaranteed work placement

All students studying on-campus undergraduate design courses can take up a CV-enhancing work placement, a University-led industry initiative, or a professional and business development boot camp.

By the term placement, we mean we are offering you a taste of the industry which might last anything from two days to four weeks on a part-time basis.


Meet the students

  • The support, facilities and taught subjects are all world class.
    Rebecca Ross

    Bex Ross

  • My course allowed me to experiment, push new ideas and learn new, innovative techniques.
    Brendan Carr

    Brendan Carr

Meet the team

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