Our MA Graphic Design programme is a two-year part-time course, beginning October 2021.

Through online delivery the course is accessible to anyone who, because of work, caring or family commitments, would not otherwise be able to consider studying at a higher degree level.

There are still some places left on the October 2021 cohort, so we’ve extended the deadline to apply to 10th September 2021!

What is Graphic Design?

The MA Graphic Design at the OCA is an opportunity to create a dialogue about what Graphic Design is as a discipline and how we can cross boundaries into other disciplines such as: Games Design; Service Design; Sculpture; Programming; Activism; Performance; Moving Image and Spatial Design.

This programme offers you an opportunity to work in a medium of your choice. The course itself starts with a short, ‘Unlearning Programme’ encouraging incoming students to explore processes and mediums before committing to a platform of study, for example, Design Activism, Experiential Design, Digital Domains, Motion, Typography, Brand… These platforms will help you locate your practice within the broad subject of Graphic design, whilst offering up opportunities to collaborate with students from other platforms and broadening your professional outlook and experiences.

As you progress through the course you will be able to share experiences and learning through group and individual work. The curriculum builds from a more structured programme towards autonomous study, with an emphasis on enquiry, critical reflection and exploration.

Photo by Kerde Severin on Unsplash

How is the course delivered?

The course is delivered primarily by e-learning technologies, incorporating online seminars and peer group discussion. Independent research and studio practice is a significant element of the course.

Through varied teaching approaches, such as lectures, seminars, tutorials and critiques as well as one-to-one tutorial support, you’ll benefit from the expertise of core course tutors. These professionals have an outstanding range of expertise and are practicing designers in the field in addition to being experienced educators. 

The course includes:

  • One to one tuition via video conferencing
  • Online seminars
  • Group work such as critiques or studio sessions
  • Access to the world class Bridgeman Education Art Library and digital resources from the University for the Creative Arts
  • Online Group Orientation
  • Study resources and other relevant materials

Consideration has been given to the participation of overseas students within the MA programme. We recognise that they may be in a different time zone and online participation within the UK’s time zone may be a challenge. Sessions are carefully scheduled bearing in mind the location of overseas participants, however some session may be outside the working day for some students. In addition, OCA schedules one to one sessions across time zones and some sessions are optionally asynchronous.

Photo by HalGate on Unsplash

Course Philosophy and Progression

The course embraces all aspects of Graphic Design, allowing you to explore the boundaries of what a Graphic design practice can be. Through conversation and debate we will tackle the boundaries and possibly re-define them in your own image. You will  become an independent practitioner with the ability to  initiate, interrogate and resolve complex problems through creative and skillfully applied activity. Your practice will be the coming together or speculation and technical expertise, creating work that is both meaningful and of a high standard.

Progression routes are individual as well as collective, and you will be supported to develop your increasingly sophisticated practice towards public presentation of your work and effective and appropriate communication of your ideas. Whatever your aspiration, whether it is increasing the range and impact of your networks nationally and internationally, moving on to further related study, or work in the Graphic Design industry, you will benefit from this course. Our MA Graphic Design introduces professional practice in your chosen discipline and offers support of your aspirations.

This course is extremely flexible and its structure means you can earn while you learn and at the same time advance your career prospects. People studying this MA will be better placed to gain higher level teaching posts in the field of art, or move into creative sectors of employment.

Craig Roberts

Course Content

There are a total of 180 HE credits in this degree which are split into three 60 credit units covering essential elements including the following aims:
  • The unit supports you in developing an advanced awareness of graphic design through practical projects and independent research. The aim of the unit is to develop a highly critical and creative conversation between your practice and research interests. This will introduce you to:

    1. innovate professional design practices
    2. relevant academic literature and theories
    3. current debates around graphic design and its subject boundaries
    4. strategies to apply research and practice to inform your creative approach and critical position.
  • The unit provides the opportunity to identify, develop and manage a substantial self-directed project, and presenting the outcomes through suitable publications, exhibitions or presentations. The aim of the unit is to apply highly fluent creativity to resolve professional and innovative ideas. A Professional Practice folder will gather and reflect on external facing aspects of the project. 

    The unit encourages you to apply specialist graphic design skills by undertaking projects with a focus on professional practice, enterprise, collaboration, or other external partners. The aim of the unit is to apply specialist design skills in research, creativity, critical-thinking and problem-solving, and to develop a professional understanding of how to operate as a graphic designer.

  • The unit provides the opportunity to identify, develop and manage a substantial self-directed project, and presenting the outcomes through suitable publications, exhibitions or presentations. The aim of the unit is to apply highly fluent creativity to resolve professional and innovative ideas. A Professional Practice folder will gather and reflect on external facing aspects of the project. 

    A contextual study in Unit 1 provides an opportunity to demonstrate your advanced awareness of contextual knowledge and critical thinking. In Unit 2 you can explore ideas through a contextual study, or produce a suitable project report or business case. These can be developed through written, presentation, or visual essay formats. Throughout the course you will document your work through a learning log and produce reflective presentations to help synthesize your learning.

Graphic Design Programme Specification

Download here

Jonny Briggs - Programme Leader for MA Graphic Design

My practice is broad and exploratory, covering Graphic Design practice, through my design studio (field.studio), My exploratory coding and image collaboration which goes under the name of Project Something and finally my teaching covering my role at the OCA and Leeds Beckett University. If I had to describe my practice in one sentence, I would say it’s a collection of loose parts and foraged ideas.

Application Process

All applicants to the MA Graphic Design will be required to complete the OCA Master’s application form and submit a written statement with a recent portfolio of artwork to be considered for the course.

The statement should be between 500 – 1000 words and reason why you wish to study an MA with OCA and what are your aspirations for the course. Refer to your portfolio work and let us know about you as an artist. Your portfolio should include 8 – 10 images of work from last two years, and we advise focusing on the work you would like to develop on the course. It would be useful to include development work to show your methods of working.

Within the application form, you need to claim a minimum of 50 points of the entry criteria for your statement and portfolio to be reviewed. When claiming criteria points, you must provide supporting evidence e.g. if you have a degree in Fine Art, include a digital copy of that certificate with your submission.

  • Criteria Points
    Degree in any subject 40
    Degree in the visual arts 50
    Evidenced experience of working in any relevant creative industry or context. For example, as a practising Fine Artist. 50
    Higher National Diploma/Foundation degree or equivalent in Art 30
    Higher National Certificate or equivalent in Art 20
    A-Level Art or equivalent 10
    Other experience or learning, whether certified or not, will be considered on an individual basis

    Equivalency to the qualifications stated include international qualifications, provided these are accompanied by a UK NARIC equivalency certificate and/or un-certificated training or work experience to an equivalent level. In all cases acceptance is at the discretion of Open College of the Arts.

  • This programme is conducted centrally online. It is therefore essential that you are adept at communicating and using online tools and have a desktop computer or laptop with internet access that you are able to use regularly, and that you are able to easily manage a range of basic functions through ICT.

    If accepted to the course, an IT survey must be taken to ensure sufficient skills, knowledge and internet / online capabilities as well as establishing a sufficient broadband speed.

  • For applicants where English is not their first language, they will be required to provide evidence of English Language proficiency equivalent to B2 CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference).

    You can evidence you meet this requirement through one of the following documents:

    • A Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider, taken two years or less before the date of enrolment to the course. IELTS for UKVI or IELTS Academic may be accepted as meeting these requirements, provided the student has achieved a minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four elements of language learning.
    • Have successfully completed an academic course (not professional or vocational) at Bachelors degree level or above from an educational institution in the UK or in a majority English speaking country as listed below.
    • A passport provided as evidence of nationality of a majority English speaking country as listed above.
    • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) iBT taken two years or less before the date of enrolment to the course, with minimum scores in each of the four elements of language learning as follows: reading 18, listening 17, speaking 20 and writing 17.
    • Cambridge English B2 First qualification with scale range 160-179 taken in the last two years as of the date of enrolment to the course.

    The above list is not exhaustive and other evidence can be accepted providing it is clear the evidence equates to Level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. In all cases acceptance is at the discretion of Open College of the Arts.

    If you do not have any of the above documents, then you may be interested in taking an online test through Duolingo. You would need an overall score of 90 or above to meet Level B2 of the CEFR, and a minimum score of 85 in each category (providing your overall score is still above 90).

    A nationality of a majority English speaking country includes: Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Great Britain, Grenada, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

  • Each 60 credit course unit is studied over approximately 28 weeks, and requires 21 study hours per week.

    Prepare to set aside around 2 hours each week for a scheduled group tutorial (arranged once the cohort is established).

  • OCA courses are studied and paid for on a unit by unit basis with fees being reviewed annually. On the MA Graphic Design course, you will study three 60 credit units, equating to 180 credits required to complete a Masters.

    For the academic year 2021/2022, a single 60 credit unit costs £2,640 for UK based students, and £3,540 for international students, meaning the course overall will be roughly £7,920 for UK students, and £10,630 for international students. Payments are made at three points across the two years.

    You can pay for a course unit fee upfront or break down the payment through a deposit and instalment option. For UK students, this would be a deposit of £870 followed by 7 monthly instalments of £260. For international students, this would be a deposit of £1,070 followed by 7 monthly instalments of £360.

    If funding the MA course through Student Finance, any funds granted are paid directly to the student who can then choose how to use those funds. You can apply through Student Finance England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Please check the relevant government website to check your eligibility.

  • The deadline to submit applications is 10th September. Applications submitted after this date may not be accepted.

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