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Choosing a design course

Choosing a design courseDesign is a large and growing industry. Find out how you can get involved.

What is design?

Design is the planning out of products, from buildings to clothes to fonts. It combines both aesthetic considerations ('Does it look good?') and practical ones ('Does it work?')

More specific areas of design include:

  • Industrial design: Designing the form of a product for mass production
  • Interior design: Planning the inside of buildings to make them functional and appealing
  • Graphic design: The use of images and type to communicate effectively
  • Computer-aided design (CAD): Using computer software to create and improve designs

Some courses may combine more than one of these areas - in particular, CAD is often a part of other course, as it's useful in a variety of disciplines.

What courses are available?

There are a huge variety of design courses available. Some will cover a specific area, such as those listed above, and are useful if you have a specific design career in mind. Others will cover design skills more widely, allowing you to specialize further once you have more experience. Some courses combine art and design, allowing you to explore and develop complementary skills in each.

Design courses are also available at a variety of levels, from GCSEs to postgraduate degrees. This includes work-based courses such as apprenticeships and BTECs.

How do I get on a design course?

The entry requirements will depend on the level of qualification you’re going for. To study a degree in design, you'll normally need an A-level, BTEC or equivalent in art, design or a related subject like graphics or textiles. Some universities require you to complete a general foundation year in art and design before starting a more specific design course.

For qualifications higher than A-level, you'll normally need to provide a portfolio of your work as part of your application. This could include work you have done for previous courses or your own personal projects. You may also be asked to attend an interview about your portfolio, your interests and your application.

What can I do with a design course?

Design courses usually have a strong focus on career-relevant skills, so you'll learn about professional standards and practices as well as the essentials of design. You can put this to work in the design world in a number of ways:

  • A job with a design agency gives you the chance to work for various different clients on various different products.
  • Companies such as Dyson and Apple hire full-time designers to work on their products.
  • Going freelance puts you in control on your work and could be a first step to starting your own design agency.

Your skills may also be useful in media or advertising, and you'll develop transferable skills like creativity, teamworking, critical awareness and IT.

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