BlogUniversityWhat It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Design at UNSW

What It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Design at UNSW

UNSW Art and Design - Fact Sheet

Has a Bachelor of Design at UNSW caught your interest? Could UNSW Art and Design be for you?

If you’re a photoshop wizard, the most crafty of all your friends, or you’re just obsessed with website design, then a future in design might be exactly where you’re headed. Naturally, you’ve scoured the web trying to find the right course for you.

You might still be looking, but luckily for you, you’ve stumbled across us. Majors, core units, university culture — absolutely everything you need to know about UNSW Art and Design can be found just a small scroll below.

What are you waiting for? Let’s dive in!

What is a Bachelor of Design at UNSW?
Core Units and Majors
How to Get into a Bachelor of Design at UNSW
What’s the Teaching Format?
What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

What is a Bachelor of Design at UNSW?

Now isn’t that the golden question? The thing is, you might struggle to find one solid definition. This is mostly because a Bachelor of Design at UNSW can be tailored to fit a wide range of careers in the design world. 

In short, it’s a one-stop shop for anyone looking to start their professional life in design, even if they’re not too sure yet how they plan to specialise — it builds a foundation in a range of design disciplines, such as: graphics, object, 3D visualisation, textiles, and UX design. After giving you some holistic exposure to the field, you can choose how you want to specialise. 

It is the perfect intersection between creativity and practical, technical skills. What’s more, it’s future-focused, implementing design technologies and state-of-the-art studio spaces into its curriculum — it’s the degree for the creatives of tomorrow. 

A little heads up too — UNSW Art and Design has a completely different campus to UNSW! Don’t sweat though, it’s only a 15 minute bus ride away from the main campus!

Honours

This program allows, and actively encourages, its students to undertake an Honours year (it isn’t compulsory though). The Honours year is reserved for students who have achieved a WAM (UNSW’s grade point average) of 70 or above.

The Honours year comprises two research projects, a design theory class and a professional placement project. The program is designed to even further expand the critical and creative skills of the students that undertake it. 

While honing their skills at the university, the students will also gain professional development experience by undertaking the professional placement. The Art and Design faculty offers multiple resources for students trying to find these placements and actively connects them with employers. 

Career Paths

Speaking of employers, let’s talk about where exactly a Bachelor of Design at UNSW can take you. The design field is diverse and the career prospects reflect that.

This course will expose you to a variety of design disciplines, which could lead you to a career in the following fields:

    • Graphic design and digital media production
    • 3D visualisation and virtual reality
    • Interaction design and user experience (UX) design
    • Object, furniture and lighting design
    • Jewellery, wearables, fashion and textile design
    • Design for exhibitions, festivals, galleries and museums
    • Costume, stage and set design
    • Design writing, education and training
    • Design management and strategy

This will also depend on how you choose to specialise. For the most part, though, your career opportunities will be extremely broad!

Core Units and Majors

UNSW Art and Design - Student Quote

The Bachelor of Design at UNSW is designed to pump out well-rounded design graduates. This is why you will be required to undertake a variety of different design-focused core units on top of your specialisation areas.

These units are established in 6 different design areas:

    • Design Narratives
    • Design Communication
    • Collaborative Industry/Stakeholder Project
    • Interdisciplinary Project
    • Design Studio Proposal 
    • Design Studio Project

These courses will provide you with knowledge across all different areas of design (graphics, object, 3D visualisation, textiles etc.) through different design projects.

What to expect in the core courses?

Design Narratives will introduce you to the concepts and practice of contemporary design — it’s essentially a foundational course that will provide a basis to prepare students for what’s to come. The course has a practical focus on drawing, prototyping, and creation, meaning a range of design concepts will be touched on.

Design Communication is a direct follow on from Design Narratives, so the practical skills developed in the first course will be reinforced in this course, though the key focus will be on the art of presenting your projects. This means that you will be able to utilise collaborative and presentational skills to learn how to introduce a design to stakeholders in a variety of different contexts.

Interdisciplinary Project is where you really get to put your diverse skills to use. Here, you will be required to bring together two or more different design specialisations into one course.

You will be given a design brief, and then you will have full autonomy to create a project, utilising different skills. You will also be working in teams, so that you can really bring together different specialisations.

What about Majors?

Why choose one when you can have two? That is at least the case with a Bachelor of Design at UNSW.

The design faculty understands that it’s important for graduates working in the field to have a diverse skill set. So the course is structured to have you choose two specialisations. 

The degree is separated by three different levels of design studios: introductory, intermediate and advanced. Students choose two different specialisations and continue through each stage. The specialisations are:

    • 3D visualisation 
    • Objects 
    • Graphics
    • Textiles
    • Interactions
    • Experience 

On top of these design studio courses, students will also have 4 design history and theory courses throughout the program. These theory classes will not involve projects like the studio classes — they might be more similar to what you would experience in Humanities classes.

Is there a built-in internship?

Sort of. Many moons ago (and by that I mean in 2017), the Honours year was a compulsory part of the program. Since an internship is a part of the Honours year, you could argue that it’s still part of the program.

In any case, if you’re hooked on an internship, we recommend sticking it out for the Honours year!

While it’s true that you won’t have to do an internship during your Bachelor’s, the course does include a professional preparation course — Design Professional Practice (DDES2102). This course doesn’t include an actual internship, but it will prepare you for what to expect if you do pursue one.  

What’s more, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from taking an internship during your holidays or after you graduate, so don’t sweat!

 

How to Get into a Bachelor of Design at UNSW

There are two common entry points for this program — the first is to achieve an ATAR of 80. The second is to seek entry through a portfolio project.

If your ATAR prospects are looking somewhere between 70-79, you can submit a personal statement, along with a portfolio (or an essay). You should also include the contact details of two references. 

For more information on the portfolio entry, check out the faculty’s website! 

Is there assumed knowledge or prerequisites?

No! UNSW Art and Design recognises that artistically talented people can come from a range of different backgrounds. In saying that, having some experience in visual art would definitely give you a big head start.

Also, there is no formal training for Photoshop or Lightroom even though you will be expected to use both programs, so try to brush up on those skills too!

What about scholarships?

UNSW understands that funding your studies can be a struggle. This is why they offer scholarships for all different years and areas of study.

Check out their scholarship page to see if you qualify!

What’s the Teaching Format?

They say everything good comes in threes, and UNSW definitely agrees. In other words, the university decided to operate under a trimester system.

Trimesters are a little bit of a controversial topic, but I’m sure you’ll hear all about that once you’re at uni. Some people love them, some people hate them, some just tolerate them! 

Under the full-time trimester format, you’ll be studying either 3 or 2 subjects depending on availability of courses during each academic session. This basically means you’ll be studying 8 to 9 courses per year.

Design courses generally have 4 contact hours per week, so expect 12 total hours all up (pretty cruisy, huh?).

Class Structure

UNSW Art and Design courses either comprise a studio class or a lecture and tutorial. This will depend on whether you take a design studio or theory class.

UNSW Art and Design - Class Structure

Studios

Studios are the most common class medium for UNSW Art and Design—they go for 4 hours and they involve teaching and application. There will be an allocated “lecture” slot, where the teacher will introduce some content.

The majority of the class, though, will be used to work on your project and get support from peers and teachers! You will have a chance to present the progress on your project and the teacher will give you guidance and direction.

These classes are highly interactive and intimate with a student presence of no more than 30 people.

Lectures

Lectures are integral to the theory classes and these are where the teacher will introduce the course content that will inform your assessments for the semester. There is very little interaction during the lecture.

The entire hour is dedicated to presenting the content, meaning there is very little time for asking questions or interacting with the teacher. Lectures are presented in lecture theatres, which means they can host more students with a class size of roughly 100 people.

Tutorials 

These three hour sessions are reserved for discussing and interacting with theory. During the tutorials you will have more time to interact with your peers and teacher (interaction will be encouraged).

You will have readings to complete before the class that will form the basis for the topic of the tutorial—they are basically used to get a deeper understanding of the course content and to make students think critically. Tutorials are also much smaller than lectures with a class size of 30, similar to studios.

Assessments 

One thing is certain, you will not be doing any exams (wipe that smile off your face!). There is, however, a little variation in the assessment style between studio courses and theory courses.  

Studios

Studio courses will focus on one large project. You’ll have 2 marked progress checks throughout the semester, which will culminate in a final submission.

You’ll also be expected to keep up a log book throughout the semester, which is even more important than the quality of the final submission itself (so make sure you keep it up to date!).

Theory Classes

The theory classes will largely emulate a humanities subject. You’ll have several written submissions (such as essays) throughout the semester, based on lecture content.

You’ll need to reference your readings to prove you’ve kept up with the course content. There may be presentation-style assessments, but mostly expect essays of 1000-3000 words.

What skills will you refine? 

It’s no question that you’ll develop some hard design skills (both digital and material). Completing project after project, you’ll be the master of creating something out of nothing — whether it be necklaces, new fonts, furniture pieces, or all three, you’ll certainly have an impressive portfolio by the end of your studies.

UNSW Art and Design develops more than just hard skills in design though — the focus on design concepts in a professional setting will make students effective communicators when dealing with stakeholders. You’ll also learn how to work in a team, develop some serious research skills and start to think outside the box. 

These secondary soft skills mean that graduates of a Bachelor of Design at UNSW are ready to work even outside the design field (in marketing or communications for example) if they so please.

What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

UNSW’s school of Art and Design definitely has a distinctive feel to it. Any student coming from UNSW main campus would be surprised to know that they are in fact the same educational body.

The campus has a very artistic vibe — even just by looking at the clothes and style of the students. The campus also hosts multiple gallery spaces such as ADspace and Kudos Gallery, which will probably make you feel like you’re actually just at a gallery.  

The school is also much smaller than the main campus. This means that there is definitely a close-knit community, where pretty much everyone knows each other and gets along!

Keen to know more about UNSW Art and Design? Check out our article on the pros and cons here!

The UNSW Art and Design Faculty

This faculty is without a doubt the coolest at UNSW when it comes to organising events. From weekly gallery hops (with drinks after of course), to full-scale performance events where past and present students can show off their artistic talents, there’s almost always something on.

On top of organising events, the faculty hosts publications such as Arcadia and Framework, which gives students a platform to get their work out there. They also facilitate the mentorship program, which partners first years with second and third years to guide them through uni life.

If you want access to all of these benefits and more, make sure to sign up with Arc (UNSW’s Student representative association) once you’re at uni.

For more info on what’s on offer check out their website!


Cody Williams is a Content Writer at Art of Smart Education. While Cody studied a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and French Studies at UNSW, he quickly realised that his dream job would have him sit happily behind a keyboard. Cody’s digital writing career started with an internship at Bauer Media where he was writing for ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR’s online publications. Once he had a taste for writing he never looked back, moving to Brisbane soon later to work as a Producer for Channel Nine Queensland. After a year in television media, he dusted off his online writing shoes so he could put them to good use, stamping out some scorching-hot career and educational resources at AOS.

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