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Graphic Design for Beginners (Online Short Course)

Graphic Design For Beginners (Online Short Course)

Central Saint Martins
Taught by
Ruth Sykes


This short online graphic design course gives you an intensive and practical introduction to 20 key graphic design principles.

Each week you will gain experience applying these principles, by completing practical and realistic projects. Through this project work you will become familiar with techniques for working with images and fonts, designing layouts, and crafting logos and visual identities. The four projects can be tailored to your needs and can be related to current professional projects if required.

The course is also suitable for those wishing to discover and practice the fundamental principles of communication via the combination of text and image, perhaps as a first step into a new area of study, or simply to exercise an enquiring mind in a two-dimensional arena. The course does not cover the use of graphic design software, but you are welcome to complete projects using any software you wish, or none, as all projects can be completed working with hand tools (pens, pencils, paper, scissors, glue etc.).


  • Layout design
  • Typography
  • Kerning, tracking, and leading
  • Working with images
  • Scale, spacing, and positioning
  • Using grids to enhance your work
  • Logo design
  • Exploring the notion of the ‘graphic idea’
  • Communicating words and feelings through images
  • Fusing physical and digital processes
  • Found objects: creating an overlay
  • Scale, spacing, and positioning
  • Visual hierarchies, integrating each element and the role of white space
  • Pastiche, appropriation and creating visual puns
  • Decoding / constituting typefaces and designing typography
  • Executing the double-page spread
  • The visual relationship between words and images
  • Experimenting with kerning, tracking, leading and bleed
  • Exploring symmetry, consistency, and colour

Student Reviews:

"I really enjoyed this Graphic Design course. Even though it was short, we explored several notions of graphic design and it was really interesting to learn all the keywords and to explore artworks I wasn't previously aware of. Ruth's feedback was always very helpful in regard to improving my work, and thanks to this course, I'm now sure that graphic design and art direction is where I would like to take my career.” - Chayana Lim-Quartier, Paris-based Creative Project Coordinator

"The course gave me a very good introductory foundation to Graphic Design principles and broadened my understanding of design in general - plus it was great fun! I thoroughly enjoyed the course and found it very creatively stimulating. The structure and way in which it is delivered really suited my busy lifestyle and enabled me to learn some new skills about a subject I've always been interested in.” - John Collins, IT Project Manager in the retail luxury fashion sector

"Extremely helpful introduction to graphic design. Ruth was spectacular at explaining design concepts and giving constructive feedback, all while being very understanding and supportive of the ideas behind our work!" - Sammie Chan, marketing officer based in Hong Kong

"I loved the course, it was so much better than what I was expecting. I have already recommended a friend to sign up for an online course with UAL!" - Sheryl Sahni, arts and politics gradutate based in New York

"I enjoyed and learned a lot from the course! The feedback that I received was really detailed and helpful, and the online course format makes it very easy for me to continue learning. Ruth is amazing and explained the content very well, while the classes were really well organised" - Yuan Xie, building and urban design masters student based in London

Course Outcomes:
By the end of the course you will have;

  • Attained an understanding of what graphic design is and what graphic designers do
  • Become familiar with technical graphics terminology
  • Studied techniques that can be applied to each graphic specialism
  • Completed a diverse range of exercises designed to strengthen your visual skills
  • Have a clear understanding of how graphic design is used to communicate ideas
  • Gained knowledge of typefaces and fonts prior to designing your own typography
  • Learned how magazine layouts are formed and devised your own with creative freedom
  • Discovered what makes an effective logo and created several of your own
  • Had your worked reviewed weekly by the tutor and received personalised feedback

Who is Graphic Design for Beginners for? (Online Short Course) for?
This course is designed for individuals interested in exploring the endless possibilities of how words and images interact. Perfect for small business owners, creative individuals working in a corporate world and those keen to craft a graphic identity online. This is an opportunity to expand your portfolio and become familiar with the 20 key graphic design principles. Each of the four projects can be tailored to your needs and could be used for professional endeavours if you wish. Perfect for those wishing to study the subject at a high level or for those who eager to widen their skills and exercise an enquiring mind.

Level: Beginner.

Why choose an CSM Online Short Course
Our online learning short courses allow you to experience Central Saint Martins wherever you are in the world. The real-time chat sessions are fully interactive allowing you to communicate easily with the tutor at the same time as fellow students. Additionally all CSM Online Short Courses include;

  • Live sessions with expert
  • Lesson recordings
  • Practical assignments
  • Personal feedback
  • VLE with course content
  • Forums for support
  • 3 months online access
  • CSM Certificate upon completion

Please note that all courses are taught in UK time. To check and compare times please click here

Please note: This course is for students aged 18 and older
Please note that Online courses are closed to all new bookings 48 hours prior to the course starting.

Tutor Description

Ruth Sykes is a graduate of Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art. In 2003, Ruth co-founded graphic design partnership REG ( and began teaching on the graphic communication design programme at CSM where she continues to work. Her design work encompasses exhibition, visual identity and publication design for arts, education and charity sector clients such as The Crafts Council, Central Saint Martins and Amnesty International. Ruth’s writing on graphic design history has been published in Eye magazine, the London Transport Museum’s book ‘Poster Girls’ and the American Institute of Graphic Artist’s journal ‘Eye on Design’.


Online Short Course Materials

To take part in the Online sessions you will need:

  • An up-to-date web browser (we recommend Firefox or Chrome)
  • The latest version of Java installed on your device
  • Microphone and headphones (a headset with a microphone function is recommended)
  • Webcam
  • Strong Internet connection via WiFi or ethernet; 2G, 3G or 4G will not be sufficient

Course Specific Materials

Please ensure that you have the following materials to hand:

  • Black ink pen
  • Sketchbook (A4 size)
  • Coloured pens and pencils are useful
  • A camera (any sort, a camera phone is fine) 
  • 1 x USB webcam (external), to easily show work in progress
  • A printer (any sort, basic black & white laser printer is fine)

For those who wish to work by hand (not computer) it is also necessary to have:

  • Scissors 
  • Glue stick
  • A3 tracing paper (around 6 sheets)

To neatly trim printed out work, and for more precise cutting when creating compositions, the following is useful:

  • Scalpel knife
  • Cutting mat
  • Metal safety ruler

NB The course does not cover the use of graphic design software, but of course you are welcome to complete projects using any software you wish, or none, as all projects can be completed working with hand tools (pens, pencils, paper, scissors, glue etc.).

Available dates