Reasons to choose the programme

You will gain intensive work experience stimulated by the real-life dynamics of agency practice and mentored by Edinburgh-based professional design agencies.   
You will be encouraged to develop your own individual style and voice. We don’t subscribe to or enforce a house style.
Our staff are practicing designers, artists and researchers who share their experience in a hands-on and supportive environment.
You will take part in a series of live projects which include collaborations with many influential clients.
In your final year you will have the chance to incorporate your design strengths into a showcase presentation of your work in the Degree Show

"What we like to say about students on our programme is – they not only leave with a degree in Graphic Design, but they also have three years’ work experience."

Zoe Patterson, Programme Director


We encourage bold, lateral thinking coupled with a clear understanding of process, technique and business and we pride ourselves on helping graduates to be unique and individual, and 100% employable. Our aim is to produce confident and emotive designers who can successfully interpret complex briefs and grasp the subtleties of targeted and effective problem-solving.

As a student, you will learn through sustained involvement with the design process, graduating with skills spanning the wide range of engagement that contemporary graphics demands. An essential tool in this process is the esteem in which we hold the currency of ideas generated by open debate.

Student projects are constantly revised, reflecting the ever-evolving nature of the graphic design industry, and our award-winning Design Agency Project, with mentorship from industry professionals, will help you build valuable networks and prepare you for life after graduation. Our many live projects include collaborations with influential clients, including the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, BBC, British Airport Authority, Barrie Cashmere, Craft Scotland and The National Portrait Gallery. Being part of the School of Design also encourages collaboration with peers across the various disciplines of ECA and the wider university community. Our students are becoming increasingly vocal about the world they inhabit – issues around sustainability and ethics often expressed through experiential design have been particularly successful.

On this programme, you will develop a variety of skills, from the traditional techniques of screen print and letterpress, through to cutting-edge digital technologies. We use up-to-date digital tools, but the importance of the handmade is considered fundamental to the thinking process, and is encouraged at every opportunity.

Final year students have the chance to fully incorporate their design strengths into a final exposition of their work. 



Graphic Design graduates work in a wide range of creative career paths. The variety of projects, approaches and opportunities on the programme enable graduates to apply their knowledge and experience of the design process and their considerable skills on to many disciplines.

Typically graduates leave to become valuable members of a graphic design agency. There are extensive links with the professional world built through industry-led projects and staff research. This coupled with a range of visiting speakers, ensures that graduates are aware of the full range of career possibilities and are provided with a strong footing from which to develop their chosen career.

Previous career paths have included experiential design, packaging, advertising, digital design, interaction design, design research, marketing, retail design, exhibition design, multimedia, design management, education. Graduates may freelance or seek employment within a company they also, of course, may wish to continue their studies at postgraduate level.

How to apply and entrance requirements

If you'd like to study on an undergraduate programme at Edinburgh College of Art, you must apply through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. You can find out how to do this on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder, where you'll also be able to

  • see the structure of the programme and what you will study each year
  • see detailed entrance requirements for each programme on the Degree Finder
  • get information on what to expect after you apply
  • find out about fees
  • find out where to go for further advice and guidance

Take me to the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder


Portfolio guidance

As part of your application, you are required to submit a portfolio as evidence of your artistic ability and potential. You should begin to plan your portfolio as soon as you decide to apply.

Assessors are not necessarily expecting a showcase of final work, but rather an indication of work in progress showing how you approach an idea or subject and develop the work from initial thought, through experimentation and enquiry, to resolved work.



Portfolios are assessed by a team of academic staff who are particularly interested in how you research and develop ideas in a visual way and how you engage with your chosen discipline. This is broken down into four main areas of assessment, briefly summarised as follows:

  • Visual Research and Enquiry shows the level of your engagement in intelligent, structured visual enquiry and how well you communicate this.
  • Idea Development shows your ability to appropriately explore and develop ideas, and your level of skills in the use of materials or techniques.
  • Selection and Resolution shows how well you judge which ideas have the most appropriate potential and your ability to bring them to a level of completion appropriate to your intended outcome.
  • Contextual Awareness shows the extent of your knowledge of the subject you have applied for and how your work relates to it.

How the content of a portfolio provides evidence for the above categories will vary enormously depending on the person and the subject being applied to, and no two portfolios will be the same.


Planning and presentation

Assessors are interested in how you have decided to put your portfolio together. This means that your portfolio should be carefully planned and well presented.

Assessors will be judging your ability to edit your work, so be selective and strategic in your choice of material.

Aim to show a clear narrative or sense of the themes in your work, as well as the connections between the pieces.

If you have lots of high quality work, include it. It can show that you have talent in breadth and are hardworking and committed. If you haven’t, select your best: these key gems can show us that you know what you are good at, and how to show it. There is no need to pad out your portfolio with work you’re not happy with.

Each image can be accompanied by a small amount of text, and applicants are strongly encouraged to make use of this opportunity. You should avoid including titles or descriptions of the work and instead explain the ideas behind the work, the challenge undertaken or any other significant factors.

It may also be useful to explain why you have included the image in its particular category (development work, resolved work or influences). Consideration should also be given to the graphical layout of the portfolio. Remember that assessors will be looking at your work on a screen so the digital image you present to them is what they assess, so be aware of the quality of photographs and scans. It is worth the time and effort to make your work look as good as possible.

The images demonstrating your influences may be images of work or objects which have inspired or influenced your work e.g. people working in the same medium or for the same audience, now or in the past; people interested in the same subject or theme, now or in the past; natural or man-made phenomena, objects, places or events which have inspired or provoked a response.

A strong portfolio is likely to display the following:

  • Evidence of concepts and problem-solving.
  • Experimentation with materials and how ideas develop into resolved pieces.
  • Typographic skills.
  • 2D and 3D skills.
  • A broad range of projects undertaken with a variety of outputs not just one idea, technique or theme.
  • Above all, while drawing and digital skills are desirable, assessors are looking to see ideas. Ideas should be evident at the centre of any work presented.


In addition, applicants to 2nd year should display:

  • Evidence of more lateral thinking.
  • Experimentation and risk taking.
  • Graphic application, i.e. use skills with typography and a larger volume of text, leading to compositions.
  • Ideally some work on a client or more commercial brief.


If you have any questions about the application process, your qualifications or deadlines, our Undergraduate Admissions Office will be happy to help you.

Email the Undergraduate Admissions Office:


What happens next?


We will contact you with our decision by mid-May. If you are made an offer, you will be invited to attend an Offer Holder Day.

Offer Holder Days typically take place in April and are opportunities for successful applicants to learn more about their subject areas and life as a student at Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Edinburgh. Whether you visit us in person or attend a virtual Offer Holder Day, you will have the opportunity to meet with academic staff and current students from your programme, tour the studios and other facilities and attend general information sessions.

Alumni profiles


Zoe Patterson

Programme Director, Graphic Design - BA


Facilities and resources

Students at the University of Edinburgh have access to a range of library resources across the campus and online.

A range of printing, photocopying, scanning and related services are available to students to support projects, events and exhibitions.

The printmaking suite provides a host of facilities for traditional and contemporary printmaking processes.


College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Undergraduate Admissions Office

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 3565