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A-Level Graphic


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Why study Graphic Communication?

Exam board and specification codes: AQA 7203

Graphic Communication expresses creativity every day in our life. Graphic communication conveys information and ideas through visual means. Every design project from a logo or illustration to a big advertising campaign has the potential to make difference. A poster campaign could encourage someone to change their habits, the right logo can help businesses attract more customers or designers can point people in the right direction through the use of effective signage.

The critical element for a graphic designer is the effective communication of a message or idea through the organisation of images and words. The scope of graphic communication has been extended through the growth of design applications in the home and in public and through the development of the internet. Graphic Communication need to understand user and audience needs and how these groups respond to various forms of visual communication; as well as how changes to working practices lead to new forms of communication and presentation.

What is covered by the course?

AS Level - if relevant

  • As an art department, students work towards their full A-level from the beginning of year 12. They would only be put in for the AS if they wanted to have this as a stand alone qualification without going on to complete their full A level in year 13.

A-Level year one

  • Students are introduced to a variety of experiences that explore a range of graphic communication media, processes and techniques. They are made aware of both traditional and the implementation of new media and new technologies.
  • Students explore the use of drawing for different purposes, using a variety of methods and media on a variety of scales.
  • Students may use sketchbooks/workbooks/journals to underpin their work where appropriate.
  • Students explore relevant images, artefacts and resources relating to a range of art, craft and design, from the past and from recent times, including European and non-European examples. This should be integral to the investigating and making processes.
  • Students' responses to these examples are shown through practical and critical activities that demonstrate their understanding of different styles, genres and traditions.
  • Students are made aware of the four assessment objectives to be demonstrated in the context of the content and skills presented. They are made aware of the importance of process, methodologies as well as final product.

A-Level year two

Component 1

Personal Investigation

Students conduct a practical investigation, into an idea, issue, concept or theme, supported by written material. The focus of the investigation is identified independently by the student and lead to a finished outcome or a series of related finished outcomes.
The investigation is a coherent, in-depth study that demonstrates the student’s ability to construct and develop a sustained line of reasoning from an initial starting point to a final realisation.
The investigation must show clear development from initial intentions to the final outcome or outcomes. It must include evidence of the student’s ability to research and develop ideas and relate their work in meaningful ways to relevant critical/contextual materials.
The investigation must be informed by an aspect of contemporary or past practice of artists, photographers, designers or craftspeople.

Personal Study

Students written material must:

  • Be a coherent and logically structured extended response of between 1000 and 3000 words of continuous prose.
  • Include specialist vocabulary appropriate to the subject matter
  • Include a bibliography that, identifies contextual references from sources such as: books, journals, websites, through studies of others’ work made during a residency, or on a site, museum or gallery visit
  • Be legible with accurate use of spelling, punctuation and grammar so that meaning is clear

Component 2

Externally set assignment

Question papers will consist of a choice of eight questions to be used as starting points. Students are required to select one. Students are provided with examination papers on 1 February, or as soon as possible after that date. Preparatory work is presented in any suitable format, such as mounted sheets, design sheets, sketchbooks, workbooks, journals.

Following the preparatory period, students must complete 15 hours of unaided, supervised time. In the 15 hours students must produce a finished outcome or a series of related finished outcomes, informed by their preparatory work. Preparatory work and the work produced during the 15 hours of supervised time is assessed together, as a whole, against all four assessment objectives.

Students will be assessed on their ability to work independently, working within the specified time constraints, and developing a personal and meaningful response. There is no restriction on the scale of work produced.

How is it examined

Component 1 -  Personal investigation

  • No time limit
  • 96 marks
  • 60% of A-level

Component 2 - Externally set assignment

  • Preparatory period (from 1st February) + 15 hours supervised time (in May)
  • 96 marks
  • 40% of A-level

Related university courses and careers

  • Interactive Media (including web, app and game design)
  • Advertising
  • Packaging Design
  • Design for print
  • Illustration
  • Typography
  • Graphic Communication Design
  • Branding
  • Multimedia
  • Motion Graphics
  • Design for Film and Television

Suggested reading


'Meggs' History of graphic design' by Purvis Meggs

'Visual Communication in digital design' by Ji Park Yonk

'Drawing on the right side of the brain' by Betty Edwards

'The complete guide to colour' by Tom Fraser and Adam Banks

'Foundations of Art and Design' by Alan Pipes

'The Graphic Design exercise book' by Carolyn Knight and Jessica Glasser

'Creative workshop' by Sherwin

'The Layout Book' by Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris

'Atlas of Graphic Designers' by Elena Stanic and Corina Lipavsky

'Design as Art' by Bruno Munari

'Visible Signs' by David Crow

'Creative Advertising' Mario Pricken

'Ways of seeing' by John Berger

'100 Ideas that changed Graphic Design' by Steven Heller

'Visual Methodologies' by Gilian Rose

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