Bachelor of Arts Honours in Visual Communication


Bachelor of Arts Honours in Visual Communication

majoring in: Graphic Design, Photography, Multimedia, Illustration and Art Direction

1 year - full time - NQF 8


‘Honours opened up my mind to entirely new perspectives in life and once that door has been opened it can’t be closed again.’  - Coerine Hattingh (graduate)

‘The Honours Degree at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design was something that truly changed my life – not only in the way that I think about design and how I design, but the education and encouragement I was given inspired me to create an impact on people and the world.’ – Robyn Bodman (graduate)

Why study an Honours?

The BA Honours in Visual Communication offers students the rare opportunity to produce a self-directed body of creative work that develops skill level matched with theoretical and contextual understanding. The degree comprises three subjects: Creative Practice, Contextual Studies and Visual Studies.  

An exciting and enriching component that students participate in is a Creative Exchange in a neighbouring African country. Students are placed within a creative agency or organisation to work on a short-term collaborative creative project.The value of the Creative Exchange is evident in the altered perspectives and insights that inform their future creative production. The culmination of this exchange is presented at a collaborative feedback session in the host country and later in the year at the Creative Dialogues forum at the Stellenbosch Academy.


‘The Creative Exchange truly pointed out how important it is to consider different contexts before commencing the design process, as meaning and understanding fluctuate between social and cultural spaces.’ – Naneca Viljoen

Additional engagements with local creative spaces and institutions takes place throughout the year with visiting lecturers and class outings. We firmly believe that learning has to extend beyond the classroom and by taking students to spaces they would not usually have access to, we endeavour to mould engaged and informed creatives.



Creative Practice

The production of creative work comprises 50% of the learning within the year and students build on their undergraduate skills with the possibility of cross-disciplinary growth and exploration depending on the scope of their project.  Within the Creative Practice component, students are guided through the process of defining a practice-led research project that fulfils the individual aims of each student.  

Students bring a proposal to the table where they identity specific skills together with a theme or conceptual approach that they wish to explore in their discipline. In this way students are able to extend their undergraduate learning and develop their skills in a longer-term project where there is time for exploration and growth in areas they may not have had the opportunity to investigate or refine in their undergraduate programme. 

Visual Studies

With an emphasis on the southern African context, the aim of this subject is to provide students with access to knowledges they may not have encountered in their undergraduate degree.  A key aim is to enable students to develop the ability to critically engage with diverse examples of visual culture and reply with both verbal and written responses. In addition to engaging in independent research and writing a thesis, the seminar series forms a core component of the class-based learning where students present ideas in response to readings. By linking theory and practice Visual Studies aims to enrich and enlarge student thinking with the intention of producing critically engaged visual communicators.  

‘Links between Visual Studies, Creative Practice and Contextual Studies were made throughout the year. Critical thinking through Visual Studies opened up a unique means to analyse and explore the layers of history, society and concepts through visual perception.’ – Alaya Rousseau (Graduate)

Contextual Studies

This subject is taught in a sustained module at the start of the year and offers a solid understanding of how design and visual communication have shaped the world.  Students use design thinking to solve a real-life challenge within the local Western Cape context, and also write a proposal that applies the learning and insights acquired within the lecture series. In this way students start the degree with a clear insight into the sustainability challenges and socioeconomic context in which they are working as visual communicators.  

‘I found the project proposal for Contextual Studies…very empowering…Such a proposal can be applied to a practical project and the fact that I was exposed to writing about a real and current issue gave me a sense of hope and confidence for important work to be done.’ – Alaya Rousseau (Graduate)

What you will graduate with

At the end of the year all students are required to have an exhibition showcasing their work.  In addition to the exhibited work, students also produce a professional portfolio.

An important part of the Honours degree is the reiterative creative cycle that students engage in as part of their practice-led research project. This creative process aims to equip students with the skills to work independently where they are able to critically reflect on and improve upon their work. A process book, blog or film that documents the whole year’s creative process is also a degree requirement.

The outcomes of the two theoretical subjects comprise a range of written responses and a Visual Studies thesis. The aim of the theoretical subjects is to inform the creative work that the student produces. We firmly believe that students who have had to grapple with ideas and contemporary thinking develop stronger work because they are critically engaged. 

With these skills we intend that our Honours graduates will enter industry with a strong portfolio that reflects their thinking as well as their creative capabilities.