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How to build a foundation in graphic design

  • Written byOliver Jameson
  • Published date 05 January 2022
Artwork by Nat Rosa

“I’m here now - it was a good investment!” - how the comprehensive 14-week Graphics Folio Online Short Course prepared one student for postgraduate study by helping her embrace her graphic design dreams.

Nat Rosa came to the Graphics Folio Online Short Course in pursuit of a new direction. Working as a documentary film producer in New York, her experience with graphic design came largely out of necessity, yet proved to be the spark behind a new passion. “When we had smaller budgets for documentaries, I designed DVD covers, posters, invitations; the sort of things you need to promote films,” Nat explained. “It’s always been something that I was interested in, but I had never really fully developed that interest.”

Following an MBA at Cambridge and having previously taken part in a number of short courses at UAL, Nat saw an opportunity to further explore her graphic design interest through the MA Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. Coming from a non-traditional design background, the Graphics Folio Online short course would serve as the basis for building a strong portfolio with which to apply; a self-development crash course covering everything from design principles and history to the practical ins-and-outs of design for branding, editorial and user experience alongside illustration, typography and photography.

Image of student
Nat Rosa

“It was a great way to be able to look at all sorts of projects that you could do going forward as a graphic designer, dipping our toes into different practices,” she said of her experience on the Folio course. “We worked on everything from creating posters for the United Nations teaching people about Covid-19, to producing book covers for Penguin. I even produced a concept for an Audible original story for Amazon.”

The course presented an opportunity to learn not only practical design skills in a range of mediums and contexts, but also a way of design thinking and research that would prove invaluable for approaching postgraduate study. Using her portfolio built during the short course, Nat was accepted onto the MA Graphic Communication Design course and began studying in 2021, where she is currently embracing the opportunity head-on.

“I’m here now - it was a good investment! The way of working and thinking on the Graphics Folio course translated well into my MA. Much of it became the foundation for what I’m doing now,” she explained. “The thing I’m most excited about is using the facilities at Central Saint Martins, seeing where I can take things. I’m very interested in silk-screening and printmaking, they’re things I’d really like to explore. I’m coming at it from an ‘everything is valid’ and an ‘everything is interesting’ perspective.”

“The short courses are structured in a way that you get a lot out of them — but it’s also about what you put into them. They’re a time commitment and you become that course for a little while. It worked for me and that’s why I’m here on the MA now!”

But it was more than just Nat’s working processes that developed over her time on the Graphics Folio short course; exposure to the insight of tutors and the work of other students from a diversity of backgrounds informed a strong understanding of how to get the most out of feedback in postgraduate study. “Not coming from an arts background, the crits and feedback can be quite confronting - being in a situation where you’re so vulnerable and accepting that vulnerability can take some getting used to,” she said. “It was really helpful being in that position on the folio course so I was ready for it when I got here.”

Having used a short course to achieve her goal and take a step in a new direction, Nat reflects on time well spent investing in herself and pursuing additional studying. “I’ve done a lot of short courses at UAL over the years. I think that every course has given me something different and has added value to another aspect of my life, whether it’s learning a skill, experimenting, or understanding how to see things differently.”

Whether you’re looking to apply for a BA or MA programme, or simply build a professional portfolio for work in graphic design, the Graphics Folio Online Short Course is for you. Over a 14-week programme, expect a comprehensive graphic design education that provides all the fundamentals to build on existing practice or start a new creative chapter in your life.

Want to expand your knowledge of visual communication or experiment with new mediums in typography, visualisation and more? Browse our full collection of Graphic Design Short Courses - including courses designed specifically for kids and teens - to discover a world of new experiences and ideas.

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