Graphic Design is one of three pathways within the Visual Communication programme, alongside Illustration and Experimental Communication. This pathway seeks to evolve expanded notions of graphic design practice that acknowledge current industry, social and educational contexts, while revisiting, extending and disrupting the tools, intent, context and role of graphic design disciplines with renewed purpose.
There are two main subject clusters within the pathway. Visible Language focuses on expanding and challenging primary and fundamental subject thinking – and making – specific to graphic designers, while Situational Design explores the possibilities and the relationship between graphic design and spatial environments. The pathway is supported by a series of critical making workshops shared with the Experimental Communication and Illustration pathways.
Visible Language is experimentation with the vocabulary, tools and craft of graphic design and the dissemination of information. In this area, collaboration, an understanding of audience and context and innovation are essential to the execution of strategic development and problem-solving design solutions. Research, testing methodologies and analysis, and the generation and authorship of the project brief are key to building a successful outcome. Key areas of study within Visible Language are an expanded approach to: typography, editorial design, materiality of text, graphic information, and web- and screen-based design.
Situational Design describes the act of deploying the skills of graphic design to produce work that is placed within a defined space or context, whether that is three-dimensional space, screen-based environments or urban spaces. Collaborative research engagement and self-authored projects bring together the skills of complex problem solving with the aim to inform, stimulate and educate. This area is an invitation to explore the potential of specific contexts that could be gallery, street or retail environments, with multiple-screen, multiple-platform, site-specific installations composed of animated typography, sound and moving image.
Key areas of study within Situational Design are an expanded approach to design in the environment and immersive digital environments. A designer’s audience now receives and transmits information through multiple devices and sources – often simultaneously. A communication designer must be able to understand, navigate and create these ‘experiences’ to bring meaning, clarity and understanding. The delivery of information is entirely integrated into how, why and when we experience it.
At the outset, students are introduced to the scope and depth of the programme and, facilitated by tutors, co-design an individual journey and frame their academic pathway to reflect their individual concerns, aspirations and context for their learning on the programme.
When students enter Year 1, they are introduced to interdisciplinary thinking via a choice of one of the School of Communication electives, which are provided by each subject in the School. Within Visual Communication, these electives form practice frameworks for thinking through creative practices in communication. These ‘frameworks’ are: Collaborate, Dismantle, Engage, Intuit and Narrate.
The electives are designed to focus on particular ways of working within communication practice. Each elective is experienced through a series of integrated projects, events and talks delivered using interdisciplinary ideologies while making use of the programme’s professional contacts. Hands-on workshops provide support with the methods and skills required for translating ideas into practice. Visual Communication electives have a ‘published’ end in the last week of the spring term that takes the form of an exhibition, symposium, book launch or other appropriate output.
Parallel to their choice of elective, students also work on subject-specific (i.e. pathway-led) projects set by visiting or programme tutors, which align to the key clusters in each of the pathways. Students have a choice of which project they sign up for based on their individual interests. Here, students are expected to explore and advance their own individual practice through self-initiated and set projects, lectures and individual tutorials, supported by both subject-specific and interdisciplinary workshops. This is supported by visual research sessions, which are a dynamic series of visualisation projects that explore materials/subject matter/working methods and platforms, while reconsidering the art of looking.
In Year 2, on completion of their dissertations, students are facilitated through workshops to outline their final projects. Further to this, they are assigned to subject-specialist tutors who can support their individual studies within their selected pathway. As in Year 1, teaching in Year 2 is balanced between interdisciplinary teaching (through mixed group forums) and subject-specialist teaching (delivered in subject interest groups and personal and group tutorials).
Students build on their expanded notion of practice from Year 1 and critical approaches arising from the dissertation to develop a substantial body of work evidencing their rationale and priorities as a creative practitioner. Expanding on the threads/themes in their work, students consider commercial and non-commercial contexts within which they intend to locate their work and to shape it in relation to their intended audiences and environments. Students are supported by subject-specific and interdisciplinary workshops and tutorial groups, lectures and individual tutorials.
In the second year, students are expected to work independently and/or in collaboration with their peers, while setting their own aims, objectives and deadlines. Many students take the opportunity to work in collaboration with others, often from different areas of the College. A final body of work will evidence a considered process of selecting, testing and making use of appropriate materials and technical processes and must be concluded in an accessible way, in any publishable form, presentation, performance or installation and/or other appropriate output.
Links between the two years are maintained by the programme lecture series, shared workshops and opportunities to work on live (College and external) projects.