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Subject list Visual arts

Graphic Design

Copy of 2023 Y12 Noelia F Cyberpunk Portrait

Crafting visual narratives from thumbnails to final layouts

Graphic Design at GCSE and A Level is a dynamic field focused on communication and problem-solving, blending traditional art skills with emerging technologies. The beauty of graphic design is that you don’t need to be an exceptional artist to excel.

Students will engage with real-world ‘client briefs,’ which may include designing posters, book covers, advertisements, CD designs, magazine illustrations, and leaflets. This course encourages students to delve into the works of both historical and contemporary artists and designers, fostering research and development of personal ideas. Through experimentation with traditional and modern media, students will cultivate their unique style.

The courses emphasise 2D Graphic Design techniques, encompassing both digital software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and hand-made techniques like illustration, rendering, typography, layout, and visual editing. As Paul Rand aptly put it, “Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” This journey equips students to become effective ambassadors of their creative vision.

Consider the impact of iconic logos like Nike’s swoosh—simple yet powerful—or the transformative work of Milton Glaser, whose "I ♥ NY" logo became a cultural icon. Students will explore various facets of design, including infographics, packaging design, environmental design, and more.

Typography is another critical element, transforming words into visual art. As Massimo Vignelli stated, “The life of a designer is a life of fight: fight against the ugliness.” This course provides the tools to master typography, enabling students to create visually compelling and communicative designs.

Whether crafting a magazine layout or designing an engaging infographic, these courses prepare students to tackle any design challenge with creativity and confidence.


Graphic Design at RIC

Graphic Design overlaps well with all Art & Design subjects whether visual (Fine Art, Photography, Textiles, 3D), performance (Music, Drama) or written (English Literature, History, Classics). History of Art would be especially beneficial to enhance the visual analysis skills needed to comment on students’ own practical artwork. Graphic Design also overlaps well with Media, Business Studies, Film Studies and Sociology. 

It is taken at RIC by those interested in design courses in the future or by those looking at architecture, engineering or business related higher education options. 

Exam Specifications


60% coursework, 40% examination. All units are practical 

A level exam – 15 hours of unaided, supervised time

Students will be introduced to a variety of experiences that explore a range of graphic communication media, processes and techniques within traditional and new media and will explore the use of drawing for different purposes, using a variety of methods and media on a variety of scales.

Students’ exploration into relevant images, artefacts and resources relating to a range of art, craft and design, from the past and from recent times will be integral to the investigating and making processes. Responses to these examples will be demonstrated through practical and critical activities that show understanding of different styles, genres and traditions as well as an awareness of the importance of process as well as product.

Areas of study

Students are required to work in one or more area(s) of graphic communication, such as: • interactive media (including web, app and game design)
• advertising
• packaging design
• design for print
• illustration
• communication graphics
• branding
• multimedia
• motion graphics
• design for film and television

Component 1 - Personal Investigation 

This is a practical investigation supported by written material. Students are required to conduct a practical investigation, into an idea, issue, concept or theme, supported by written material. The focus of the investigation must be identified independently by the student and must lead to a finished outcome or a series of related finished outcomes. This must be supported by an extended written response of between 1000 and 3000 words of continuous prose. The personal investigation will be assessed as a whole.

Component 2 - Externally Set Assignment

The question paper will consist of a choice of eight questions to be used as starting points. Students are required to select one. Following receipt of the paper students should consider the starting points and select one. Preparatory work should be presented in any suitable format, such as mounted sheets, design sheets, sketchbooks, workbooks, journals, models and maquettes. Following the preparatory period, students must complete 15 hours of unaided, supervised time. In this time students must produce a finished outcome or a series of related finished outcomes, informed by their preparatory work.

Curious about Graphic Design?


Just My Type by Simon Garfield 

Not just a font book, but a book of stories about how Helvetica and Comic Sans took over the world. About why Barack Obama opted for Gotham, while Amy Winehouse found her soul in 30s Art Deco. About the great originators of type, from Baskerville to Zapf, or people like Neville Brody who threw out the rulebook, or Margaret Calvert, who invented the motorway signs that are used from Watford Gap to Abu Dhabi. About the pivotal moment when fonts left the world of Letraset and were loaded onto computers ... and typefaces became something we realised we all have an opinion about. As the Sunday Times review put it, the book is 'a kind of Eats, Shoots and Leaves for letters, revealing the extent to which fonts are not only shaped by but also define the world in which we live.'

Extract: Chapter 4 - Can a font make me popular 

How to use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry, and (every once in a while) change the world by Michael Bierut 

A monograph, manual and manifesto by one of the world’s leading graphic designers. Protégé of design legend Massimo Vignelli and partner in the New York office of the international design firm Pentagram, Michael Bierut has had one of the most varied careers of any living graphic designer. The 35 projects Bierut presents in this book illustrate the breadth of activity that graphic design encompasses today, his goal being to demonstrate not a single ideology, but the enthusiastically eclectic approach that has been a hallmark of his career. Each project is told in Bierut’s own entertaining voice and shown through historic images, preliminary drawings (including full-size reproductions of the notebooks he has maintained for over 30 years), working models and rejected alternatives, as well as the finished work. Along the way, he provides insights into the creative process, his working life, his relationship with clients, and the struggles that any design professional faces in bringing innovative ideas to the world. Inspiring, informative and authoritative, How set to be the bible of graphic design ideas.

Logo Design - Everything you need to know

“When we look at something, we don’t read first. Before anything else we see shape, we see colour, and if that’s enough to hold our attention, then we’ll read.” David Airey

Colour Theory for Designers 

There are few things in design that are more subjective—or more important—than the use of color. A color that can evoke one reaction in one person may evoke the opposite reaction in another, due to culture, prior association, or even just personal preference.

Design Magazine websites

Creative Review

Design Week

Creative Bloq

Digital Arts 


Word of Mouth (BBC) Not My Type

How do fonts change the meaning of a message? What was Comic Sans invented for? Why was Obama’s first election campaign so typographically bold? And which font would make you buy one chocolate bar over another?

He Shoots, He Draws

Billy Baumann - The Life & Times of a Graphic Designer


Stefan Sagmeister - Happiness by Design TED Talk

Stefan Sagmeister is no mere commercial gun for hire. Sure, he's created eye-catching graphics for clients including the Rolling Stones and Lou Reed, but he pours his heart and soul into every piece of work. His design work is at once timeless and of the moment, and his painstaking attention to the smallest details creates work that offers something new every time you look at it. This TED Talk  takes the audience on a whimsical journey through moments of his life that made him happy -- and notes how many of these moments have to do with good design.

David Carson - Design and Discovery TED Talk

David Carson's boundary-breaking typography in the 1990s, in Ray Gun magazine and other pop-cult books, ushered in a new vision of type and page design -- quite simply, breaking the traditional mold of type on a page and demanding fresh eyes from the reader. Squishing, smashing, slanting and enchanting the words on a layout, Carson made the point, over and over, that letters on a page are art. You can see the repercussions of his work to this day, on a million Flash intro pages (and probably just as many skateboards and T-shirts).

Helvetica - The Movie!

"Helvetica" is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type. "Helvetica" encompasses the worlds of design, advertising, psychology, and communication, and invites us to take a second look at the thousands of words we see every-day.


Websites for researching artists, designers and illustratorsHave a look through these and start to make your own Pinterest boards for different themes with work that inspires you.



Central Illustration Agency (CIA)

Directory of Illustration

A talented team of teachers

Mark Millington  is a Visual Communications and Graphic Design specialist and brings 38 years of industry experience to the RIC Graphics department. His career includes roles such as Head of Graphic Design at the National Theatre and Creative Lead at Universal Music. Mark specialises in film, theatre, music and branding. He is a member of the International Society of Typographic Designers and was responsible for the RIC 40th anniversary branding. 

Mark joins long-serving teacher Joe Becci in the Graphics department. Joe was in fact one of the College’s first Lower School students, taking GCSEs and A levels before studying at the University of the Creative Arts. Joe is an illustrator and concept artist with an undying love for drawing fantastical characters, weird creatures and the worlds they inhabit! His website can be seen here.