Bachelor in Graphic Design


Program Description

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design

Whitecliffe Graphic Design graduates are thinking practitioners with an understanding of both contemporary practice and traditional mythologies of the sphere of Graphic Design. Their broad technical skills mean they are well equipped to explore and articulate a diverse range of visual outcomes for design projects, making them highly sought after by the industry.

The Whitecliffe programme prepares students for a life-long career in Graphic Design, an industry that offers a broad range of creative and commercial possibilities.Your favourite magazine, beautiful books, functional maps and signage systems, movie credits, the latest company brands and packaging - everywhere you turn, you see the work of a graphic designer. Our students explore how to communicate visual messages to the world - to use their conceptual and visual skills to inform, persuade and educate. Whitecliffe students also graduate with a broad range of technical skills so they are well equipped to explore and articulate a diverse range of visual outcomes for design projects, making them highly sought after by the industry.

BFA Year One

Year One students begin by engaging in a broad range of art and design projects that introduce them to the fundamental processes, theories and practice of being a tertiary level visual-art student. In the second half of the year students pick a major area of study. In the Graphic Design major students engage in projects that introduce them to the fundamental processes, history, mythologies and practices of graphic design studentship.

BFA Year Two

In Year Two, students continue to develop their design skills by engaging with increasingly specialised conventional areas of graphic design, including publication design, identity design, information graphics and web design. Students also explore both traditional and contemporary techniques and technologies needed to materially realise their ideas.

BFA Year Three

At the successful conclusion of Year Three, students will achieve their Bachelor of Fine Arts.

The focus of Year Three is for students to create a body of work or a series of projects that are relevant to contemporary graphic design. Together the projects enable students to reflect on and propose their own individual area of inquiry. In the second half of the year, this culminates in students proposing their own self-directed project. These projects may be a mix of conventional graphic design industry projects like website, magazine or identity design, or they may produce something more speculative such as typeface design or engaging in self-publishing.

BFA Honours (Year Four)

Honours students engage in the development of a year-long body of work that allows them to fully explore a self-proposed, individual area of inquiry into the rich visual culture of Graphic Design.

Life After BFA Graphic Design

Clear and appealing visual communication is an essential part of our contemporary world. Graphic design is a profession that offers an exciting mix of creative, conceptual and commercial possibilities: graphic designers find work in a range of specialist areas, creating everything from print publications to environmental signage; they also collaborate with others to create posters installed around the city streets or websites with everchanging content downloaded anywhere in the world.

The Whitecliffe curriculum gives students a well-rounded understanding of the (at least) century-old, and ever-changing field of graphic design. Students graduate with technical skills, creative ability, commercial awareness and historical perspective. They learn to explore with all technologies, software and content development needed to produce projects across print and digital media. Links to industry develop through guest lecturers and an internship in a commercial environment, such as a publishing house or design studio. Students are also encouraged to do freelance work, organise their own exhibitions and enter competitions.

Employment opportunities abound because of the ever-increasing scope of the Graphic Design industry. Graduates find work with local and international firms across a range of possible work environments. Graphic designers often work in small boutique firms of two to 10 people, but there are also a number of large design studios with over 30 employees. Many businesses employ graphic designers for in-house design roles. There are also a growing number of freelance opportunities for entrepreneurial designers who prefer the flexibility of self-employment.

Graphic design is a vital industry in New Zealand and overseas. It is increasingly important for companies and organisations to communicate clearly and engage with an audience across print, web and interactive media. The field also continues to grow with developments in branding, interactive design and design management.

Career Options

Graphic design skills are used in many areas of design and industry – anything that needs to be communicated visually can be created by a graphic designer. Some graphic designers specialise in a particular skill, such as typeface or publication design, whilst others may bring a strategic understanding of complex public projects, such as company identity design.

  • Graphic design
  • Typeface design
  • Information design
  • Environmental graphics
  • Packaging
  • Print publication design / magazine / book design
  • Freelance design
  • Moving image design
  • Digital / interactive / web design
  • Printing
  • Textile design
  • Identity design
  • Art direction


Whitecliffe HOD Graphic Design was recently interviewed (May 2016) about his background, teaching experience, research, creative projects and best bits about working at Whitecliffe on Design Assembly NZ:

"...We as educators are not tasked to merely train our students to enter a narrowly imagined commercial industry; we have a higher calling (without meaning to sound too televangelical). My students are not just doing projects that emulate some contrived idea of current industry conditions. Courses that do that usually conflate stylistic trends with actual innovation. Rather my students do projects that are more essentially about the sphere graphic design and exploring its changing role in society. About testing and questioning graphic design’s ability to help translate, disseminate, and communicate messages in an engaging way. And this transcends short-term vocational aims." - Jonty Valentine

Last updated Oct 2018

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About the School

Whitecliffe is an independent Arts and Design school of choice, producing the highest quality graduates and shaping exceptional creative citizens. Whitecliffe provides life-transforming educational ex ... Read More

Whitecliffe is an independent Arts and Design school of choice, producing the highest quality graduates and shaping exceptional creative citizens. Whitecliffe provides life-transforming educational experiences in arts and design through teaching and research, educating students to shape culture through the practice and critical study of the arts. Read less