Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication



Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication majoring in: Graphic Design, Photography, Multimedia, Illustration & Art Direction

3 year - full time - NQF 7


Our unique academic programme lets our students engage with exciting new trends in various creative disciplines, popular visual cultures, and cutting-edge design technologies. They begin with a foundation year where students have the opportunity to experience all of our visual disciplines: Graphic Design, Photography, Art Direction, Illustration and Multimedia, before choosing a major visual subject to take through to their third year. This allows for a unique understanding of visual communication as well as an opportunity for our students to truly curate their learning according to their avenues of talent and interest.

We combine this practice with subjects like Marketing, Business Leadership, Discourse and Visual Studies, ensuring our students are at the forefront of an industry that is constantly evolving.

The five majors (Art Direction, Graphic Design, Applied Illustration Design, Photography and Multimedia Design Studies) focus on creative and industry-related practical knowledge and skills, with the remaining three components delivering vital context and theory that set our graduates apart in the South African job market.

Visual Studies develops students' understanding of how historical and contemporary world events have shaped the production of specific images, photographs and designs. They are exposed to European, African and South African forms of visual communication practice and theory, the intention of which is to enable informed decision making in our students' own creative practice.

Marketing engages with the world of modern marketing where students are introduced to the essential theories and concepts of marketing that are critical to managing profitable customer relationships in an ever-changing marketing and business environment.

Discourse is concerned with design and socially responsible design practice. In this context students are made aware of the power and responsibility that visual communicators have in shaping the way they treat humanity and the earth.

We believe that by teaching our students the importance of citizenship and social responsibility, we will be able to nurture a future creative generation of problem solvers and change makers who will use their creativity for the good of the community. In a world with as many problems as ours, it is only right that we look at innovative, creative ways of solving some of South Africa’s (and the planet’s) biggest problems.


Our Disciplines

What is Graphic Design?

Graphic Design is the art and practice of using visual and textual content to project ideas to an intended viewer or audience. These ideas can be physical (like a poster or a piece of packaging, for example) or virtual (like the look and feel of websites or apps) and make use of images, words and/or graphics. If you enjoy conveying ideas through words, symbols and images, then Graphic Design is the discipline for you.

What you learn: 

Over the three years of your study, you will develop conceptual and analytical skills, enabling you to solve design challenges within a variety of applications. Your design expertise will evolve across all the mediums most important to the industry including print, online and digital design. You will learn a variety of skills from conceptual development through to analytical skills and practical application. The topics covered in Graphic Design include branding, digital media design, illustration, packaging, publishing and other niche design fields. As a graduate, you will be able to use your newly acquired design knowledge to create effective communication strategies, and apply your technical skills in numerous professional contexts.

Career possibilities: 

Graphic designers work within advertising agencies, communication- or publishing companies, and other large companies with specialised in-house design requirements. You may also decide to start your own design company and be your own boss. Whichever you choose, you will exercise your creativity across various platforms: print design, digital design, packaging, signage, infographics and environmental design.


What is Photography?

If you’ve spent hours setting up the perfect shot, waiting for the perfect light and the perfect conditions, then photography is the thing for you. While most people are aware of what photography is, it does bear repeating: Photography is the art of image-making using different photographic processes, whether digital or analogue.

What you learn: 

During your three years, you will become adept at the pre- and post-production of images through a combination of theory and applied photographic practices. You will draw on classroom content to research and develop personal projects, as well as client briefs in the industry. Your assignments will take you out of the lecture theatre and into the outside world, where you will practise various genres of photography, including fashion, portrait, product, décor, food, landscape, environment, corporate, wildlife, events, documentary, post-production, moving images, and editing. You will draw on your environment to shape the meaning that you create with your imagination.

Career possibilities: 

You might choose to work either as a full-time or freelance photographer for an advertising company, marketing house or media publication. Or you could work for yourself, travelling the globe to capture enthralling images. As a photographer, your initiative and ability to self-start are key. A grounding in photography could become a career in directing films and adverts, but it’s all about what you make of it.


What is Art Direction?

Art directors take charge of the conceptual and visual appearance of advertisements and other communications platforms in order to communicate most effectively. If you have an active imagination, think creatively and are adept at presenting ideas visually, then Art Direction is for you. Taking a communication concept to completion through all the visual facets of the creative process will give you the satisfaction of making an idea come to life.

What you learn: 

In this subject, you will develop and hone the creative and conceptual thinking skills that are the foundation of great art direction. Your ideas and creative thinking skills will be extended from single print advertisements to fully integrated campaigns with multimedia touch points. Upon graduation, you will be adept at applying these skills across a wide variety of advertising contexts.

Career possibilities: 

As an art director, you will brainstorm with copywriters to conceptualise all forms of advertising: Apps, websites, TV commercials, print ads, and billboards. You will also be involved in creative and strategic decision-making about which visual mediums to apply to which platforms: illustration, photography, graphic design, animation, film, and so on. Ultimately, your responsibilities will be the planning and implementation of the visual aspects of a core idea, once the creative director in an advertising agency has approved it.


What is Illustration?

If you travel everywhere with your sketchbooks, pencils and pens you might just be a future illustrator. Applied Illustration Design is a specialised field of image-making that makes use of visual representation to communicate a message, an idea or an atmosphere. Illustrators apply a variety of skills onto various platforms, such as books, packaging, concept art and textiles.

What you learn: 

Applied Illustration Design cultivates students who can translate their visual imagination into an intelligible visual language, and apply their image-making skills onto various platforms, such as storytelling, character design, packaging, textiles as well as graphic recording and graphic facilitation of meetings/workshops. It gives graduates the skills to use images to tell stories, convey ideas and beliefs, change behaviour, entertain and visually enlighten their audiences in diverse industries. As you learn to clarify and amplify your message through visual imagery, you will acquire the ability to broadcast your ideas more effectively to a broader market. Your image-making abilities will become the means through which you address and solve problems. The mediums you will use to do this include drawing, painting, digital printmaking, collage, photomontage and mixed media.

Career possibilities: 

Companies need illustrators for their skills in publication, infographics, print and digital advertising, animation, graphic novels, children’s book illustration, manuals, gaming, cartooning, story boarding and graphic facilitation. Alternatively, you may decide to work as an independent or freelance illustrator.


What is Multimedia?

If you dream of designing for screens across the world, then Multimedia Design Studies is for you. Multimedia design uses a wide range of constantly evolving tools, including graphic design, animation, film and video, sound and computer programming skills. It’s all about using whatever skills and tools you have at your disposal to best represent the app, website or other piece of online/digital communication you are creating.

What you learn: 

By applying what you learn on web-based platforms and mobile devices, you will develop the discipline of online communication. In this subject, you will design and develop content for new media, which is defined as any means of communication to the masses using digital technologies like the Internet. You will acquire skills across a wide range of online design platforms, including animation, user interface experience, websites, mobile apps, film and video production and motion graphics, while sourcing and applying the latest industry methods and practices. Multimedia Design evolves so quickly that being up to speed is vital.

Career possibilities: 

You could oer your services within the advertising and marketing industries, or you could find employment in the in-house department of companies that specialise in web design, UI and UX design, motion graphics, gaming, interactive design or 2D animation. Alternatively, you could follow the path of self-employment, or work freelance for a range of companies.


Theory Subjects

The Importance of Theory

At the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography, we pride ourselves in producing well-rounded graduates who are not only adept at their visual disciplines, but aware of the social, political and cultural  context of their work. This is the difference between a graduate who can create purely for aesthetics, versus one who can understand why a specific visual route will be more appealing.

Visual Studies 1, 2 & 3

In Visual Studies, you will learn how to critically read and respond to images. Visual Studies will broaden your understanding of visual culture by drawing on philosophy, sociology, anthropology, politics and art history. It will change the way you see the world around you and help you to become a better visual communicator.

The subject aims to facilitate critical thinking skills linked to contemporary culture and visual communication. Students will engage with a broad range of cultural manifestations and critical debates associated with visual culture and critical theory.

Visual Studies develops your critical thinking by exposing you to Critical Theory and its relationship to visual culture. You will gain a broad understanding of the history of art and design, as well as contemporary visual cultures like photography, advertising, music videos and illustration. You will learn how visual cultures reflect the values, tastes, thinking practices and political climate of our times. Visual Studies aims to inform your practical work by exposing you to key theorists and significant developments in visual culture worldwide.

Discourse 1 & 2

Discussions about significant historical events, social systems and current affairs, both locally and globally, are necessary for any future thinker. Therefore, Discourse serves as a platform where you can understand social dynamics in order to develop new ways of thinking to be further applied in other theory and practical subjects.

Through the exposure and encouragement to take part in these discussions, you can form new and critical ways of thinking and become confident in your ability to create informed opinions and discuss these with others. This goes a long way in helping you understand your own ideas and ensuring you can communicate them well to others; vital for any budding creative.

Marketing 1, 2 & 3

Marketing provides you with the theoretical know-how and critical marketing skills you need to manage profitable customer relationships in a constantly evolving business environment. This is expanded further in Marketing 3, which is called Business Leadership, and which draws on the expertise of social entrepreneurs and innovators to explore the lessons of sustainability for a challenging marketplace.

Technical Software Training

This subject will familiarise you with industry standard software packages for digital design. By exposing you to projects that require digital interaction in the form of basic web and online development, Technical Software Training equips you with the skills you need in all the major software applications to enter the industry.

Year 1

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The first year of our degree programme serves as a foundation year, allowing students to have a hand’s on experience of all possible majors. In semester one, students do a combination of all five majors. In semester two, they choose two to explore further. This equips them creatively with more than one skill, but most importantly allows them to make an informed choice on their major subject in second year.

Year 2

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One major is chosen at the beginning of second year from the two majors chosen in the second half of first year. This allows individual students to make decisions according to their strengths and interests, which can help define a rewarding and successful career path.

Year 3

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As this is the final year, emphasis is placed on creating a highly individualised industry-ready portfolio based on the major discipline of each student. This prepares them to find the job of their dreams after they graduate.