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Higher National Certificate in Graphic Design
Department of Art & Creative Multimedia Design

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Award   Higher National Certificate  HNC Course Title   Graphic Design
UCAS Code   412W Award Level   QCF 4
Start Dates   September and January Study Mode  Part-Time [1 year ]
Awarding Body  Pearson BTEC
  1. Entry Requirements
  2. Course Overview
  3. Course Structure
  4. Course Content
  5. Progression
  6. Professional Recognition
  7. Fees
  8. Apply Online

Course Overview

On this course you will develop thorough grounding in the key knowledge, understanding and practical skills required for a career in graphic design.

The strong emphasis throughout the course is on creativity and practical work. You will be challenged to experiment with advanced projects in art and design in an imaginative and considered way. You will work with both given and self-defined briefs to create a portfolio of art and design work.

You will be given an opportunity to explore different areas of graphic design, such as, digital imaging, corporate design, contextual referencing, typography and idea generation techniques. You will also develop a critical awareness of the historical and professional issues relevant to graphic design practice.

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and practical laboratory sessions. You will be working in teams to simulate industry practice and further enhance your transferable skills. Your studies will be supported by trips to galleries, museums and exhibitions.

You will be assessed through individual and group projects, visual and oral presentations and written assignments.

Entry Requirements

    If you are under 21 years of age at the start of the course, you must have at least one of the following:

    • At least one GCE A-level pass. In addition, you should have appropriate supporting passes at GCSE (including English and Maths at grade C or above) or Key Skills Level 2 qualifications in communication, IT and Application of Number or equivalent.
    • A Level 3 qualification such as: BTEC level 3 Diploma, National Diploma, Advanced GNVQ/NVQ, AVCE/VCE, Foundation Certificate in a relevant subject
    • Access to Higher Education in a relevant subject
    • Advanced Modern Apprenticeship with Level 3 qualifications in a relevant subject
    • Baccalaureate/International Baccalaureate
    • An equivalent foreign qualification
    • Any other level 3 qualification in a relevant subject

    If you are over 21 years of age, you may demonstrate a more varied profile of achievement that is likely to include relevant work experience and/or achievement of a range of professional qualifications in their work sector.


This course will prepare you for different graphic design careers, such as freelance graphic designer or artist, in-house graphic designer, teacher, creative work in related media or public sector, work in museums and galleries.

You can also progress to a Higher National Diploma in Graphic Design or a relevant Bachelor degree.

Professional Recognition

BTEC Higher National Certificate in Graphic Design has been developed with career progression and recognition by professional bodies in mind. It is essential that students gain the maximum benefit from their programme of study.

You will be ble to apply for a student membership of the Chartered Society of Designers.

Course Structure

    To qualify for the Pearson BTEC Higher National Certificate in Graphic Design you must complete at least 120 credits. A minimum of 65 credits must be at level 4.

    You will study these modules:

Year 1
HNGD 101Visual Communication - 4415
HNGD 102Ideas Generation and Development - 4415
HNGD 103Contextual and Cultural Referencing - 4415
HNGD 104Professional Practice - 5515
HNGD 108Ideas in Context - 5 515
HNGD 110Photographic Techniques - 4415
HNGD 111Design Principles - 4415
HNGD 129Corporate Identity in Graphic Design - 5415

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for Part-Time Programmes - 2013/2014

Study Programme Yearly Fees
UK/EU Students
Yearly Fees
International Students
Foundation Diploma £1,687.50 £2,493.00 2 years
Higher National Certificate
(excludes Engineering)
£2,730.00 £2,975.00 2 years
Higher National Diploma
(excludes Engineering)
£3,640.00 £3,967.00 3 years
Higher National Certificate
£2,730.00 £3,300.00 2 years
Higher National Diploma
£3,640.00 £4,400.00 3 years
Postgraduate Diploma £1,993.00 £2,820.00 2 years
Postgraduate Standard Diploma £2,360.00 £3,350.00 1 year
Top up degree programmes
New/Current Students
(excluding Enginneering)
£2,730.00 £2,975.00 2 years
Top up degree programmes
New/Current Students
£2,730.00 £3,300.00 2 years

Important Notes

  • The above tuition fees do not include textbooks, study materials or accommodation fees.
  • 5% discount is offered to self-paying students who settle the annual tuition fees in full before the start of the course. This discount applies only when the annual fee is £4000.00+.
  • Administrative charges of £100.00 or £150.00 apply to payments by installments (please refer to payment policy for details).
  • Additional fees per module apply to re-assessments and re-take modules.
  • A graduation fee of £200.00 will be charged to all students attending the Graduation Ceremony.Students who do not wish to attend their Graduation Ceremony will be charged £30
    £200 graduation certification fee, depending on the award and additional services requested (eg apostille, international postage, notary public certification, etc). These charges are due on the final year of study.

Home Students

To be classified as a home student for the purpose of tuition fee payment:
  • you must be a British or EU national
  • you must have resided in the European Union for three years prior to the start of your course
The three year residence rule also applies to you if you have:
  • an indefinite leave to remain in the UK visa
  • a spouse/partner/dependent visa
  • any other visa which permits you to remain and work in the UK without any restrictions

Online Application

Note: Before you apply, please make sure you have access to your email, prepared document scans (picture, passport, other supporting documents)

Please click here to proceed with Online Application (opens in new window)

Visual Communication - 4 [HNGD 101]

Unit type:Core

    Learners will be expected to develop an understanding of the role and responsibilities of the artist, designer and craftworker in a commercial context and to acquire the ability to communicate ideas through drawing and other visual techniques and skills. Learners need to engage in integrated research to include analysis of the brief, preparation of initial ideas, market research, investigation and practical exploration into materials, processes and techniques. Learners will need to explore the visual and tactile properties and characteristics of materials. They will also need to investigate contexts and demonstrate the ability to select and interpret research information through design development. This will necessitate practical first-hand experience in manipulating materials to meet requirements of briefs. It is important that a level of practical competence is shown in studio and workshop practice combined with evidence of an awareness of relevant safe working practice. Learners will need to gain a thorough understanding of design practice, relevant legislation, including health and safety, public liability and copyright law. Learners should keep records of all professional practice (meetings, attendance, punctuality, contracts etc) and provide evidence of the correct use of terminology and vocabulary in written and oral presentation. It is important that learners gain a thorough understanding of contemporary professional practice and guest speakers, workshops, visits to design studios and appropriate exhibitions will contextualise practical studies.

Ideas Generation and Development - 4 [HNGD 102]

Unit type:Core

    This unit introduces a number of idea-generating techniques to demonstrate that creative thinking is a skill that can be continually developed. Evidence of ‘thinking on paper’ may take the form of ‘open-ended’ idea sheets and visual/verbal ‘mind maps’. Learners will be encouraged to originate ideas which fulfil visual communication objectives. Learners will also be required to use mark-making techniques to express their ideas on paper and they should be able to identify the cultural contexts in which their ideas work. Selection, review and development of ideas should be evidenced in sketchbooks, design sheets, thumbnails or concept sheets. Learners should be encouraged to research the creation of graphic imagery and digital portfolio and be exposed to a broad cross section of good quality examples. In particular, the study of graphic and visual imagery in relation to different cultural contexts should be wide ranging and eclectic. Their study could include examples from contemporary youth and music culture to which material from other cultures can then be related. A series of progressively developed idea sheets and concept boards could culminate in clearly expressed ideas produced by learners to meet specific communication tasks. Visual communication assignments should be inventive and stimulating, and, where possible, should have topical and/or contemporary cultural relevance. In addition, experimentation and risk taking should be encouraged. Discussion and criticism should concentrate on the potential and interest of ideas and this can be presented separately or in the form of annotations to visual ideas sheets, concept boards and collections of exemplar material.

Contextual and Cultural Referencing - 4 [HNGD 103]

Unit type:Core

    This unit develops learners’ knowledge of the cultural history and social theory which informs current thought and debate across the visual arts. Emphasis is on research and study skills and on learners acquiring source material and knowledge. For this unit learners will need to be familiar with a broad sweep of the historical and cultural developments which inform current thought and debate about art and design in general and their chosen specialism in particular. Also presentation skills will be applied in a practical context. Notebooks and visual diaries should indicate that learners understand and develop information received from lectures and seminars. Oral presentations and illustrated assignments should form part of learners’ practical work and can be linked to practical units.

Professional Practice - 5 [HNGD 104]

Unit type:Core

    This unit serves to evaluate and assimilate learners’ skills to provide a coherent, creative and professional portfolio of work which can be used for subsequent interviews and presentations. Portfolios will be focused on individual career paths and should be in the most appropriate format, eg paper based, CD, website, blog, vlog, integrated media. Learners will also prepare for their future, through participation in self-analysis and reflection, recognition of strengths and weaknesses, goal setting, practising interview techniques and making applications for jobs. Learners will be expected to research their intended career path and specific job role in order to be well informed of the strategies and knowledge needed to conduct successful interviews. Opportunities will be given to the development of a business database and the opportunity to formulate a long-term career plan or further study proposal. This will be supported by the creation and production of a self-promotional package, including an updated CV, business cards, web page and other appropriate promotional tools. This unit will allow learners the time to reflect on the previous years of study and to assess their strengths and weaknesses. It will allow evaluation of their own progression, the contribution they have made to their subject and the broader critical debate surrounding their subject. Learners will work in groups to help each other understand their strengths and weaknesses. Tutorials will be conducted throughout the unit with a formal in-house job interview and presentation critique at the end of the unit. The unit should be further enhanced by input from visiting practitioners from a selection of areas within the specialist subject. Learners should be encouraged to contact potential employers for interviews, work shadowing or work placement.

Ideas in Context - 5 [HNGD 108]

Unit type:Core

    This unit extends and develops the generation of ideas. Learners are required to generate ideas to fulfil complex visual arts objectives involving social, cultural and commercial considerations. Learners will evolve and adapt ideas to suit a range of different applications in their specialist areas. They will work independently and with others in generating and developing ideas. Learners must also prepare ideas for professional presentation.

Photographic Techniques - 4 [HNGD 110]

Unit type:Specialist

    This unit enables learners to develop skills across photographic techniques on location, in the studio and from initial capture, through processing to output.

    Artists, designers and craftspeople use photography as a means of recording visual information, developing ideas for their working practice, recording the development of their work and publicising their portfolio and output.

    In this unit learners are encouraged to develop practical experience and skills in using photographic equipment and techniques. Learners will use a range of camera types and learn about their potential application and they will use studio set-ups and basic lighting configurations.

    They will explore the potential of photographic techniques, in order to inform their subsequent approaches to using photographic imagery. Learners will need to select and use techniques and equipment appropriate to their creative intentions and evaluate their success in achieving their aims.

Design Principles - 4 [HNGD 111]

Unit type:Specialist

    The aim of this unit is to enable learners to develop knowledge and understanding of the issues that have informed debate on the purposes and processes of design.

    In this unit learners will develop an understanding of how the attitudes of designers, makers and end-users influence the appearance and function of design solutions. These attitudes are informed by the changing values of society and the cultural context within which designers work.

    The unit encourages learners to question the roles of form, function, culture, context and concept in relation to materials, techniques and processes and to reflect on their own distinctive approach to design. Work produced for this unit should be in the learner’s own design specialism and may take the form of case studies, critical essays and practical projects that demonstrate an understanding of these issues and develop personal interpretations of them. Learners will find that in practice, these areas are not always distinct from each other and that one can interweave another eg an investigation of the relationship between form and function might raise issues around truth to materials. This is a realistic reflection of the ever-shifting emphasis that design has in a socio-cultural context that is constantly being reinvented by technological advances, globalisation, mass media and the emergence of internet-based communities that straddle the traditional place, language and ethnicity.

Corporate Identity in Graphic Design - 5 [HNGD 129]

Unit type:Specialist

    In this unit learners will gain an understanding of the social, cultural, commercial and historical contexts in which corporate identity has evolved and is currently defined. Learners will also gain practical experience in developing and applying creative and effective solutions through the use of visual methodologies to present a corporate message. Through these activities, learners will develop their understanding of the ways a symbol or logotype can transcend or be limited by cultural, ethical and commercial factors.

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