The best places to hone your eye for design

It goes without saying that the key to successful merch is great design. High quality production and materials are important, but they will be for nothing if your design falls flat. A lot of business owners want to stay hands-on with every element of their roll-out, but having a strong vision doesn’t always translate into strong design skills. 

If you like the idea of designing your own merchandise, but aren’t sure where to start, there are a lot of options out there. Whether you might like to study online, take a short course, or dedicate even more time to learning new skills, the UK is home to some brilliant graphic design courses. These courses are also excellent places to scout young design talent, if you would rather hire someone to help you build your vision and grow alongside your business.

Here are some of the best flexible graphic design course options out there. 


Shillington is a portfolio-focused school with no requirements for students who wish to enroll, and they offer a three month full-time course or nine month part-time course in both Manchester and London. Being such a big operation means they have extensive experience in taking someone with zero experience and turning them into a credible designer.

City Lit

City Lit offer over 5,000 Adult Education courses a year and have been going since 1919! They are Europe’s largest provider of short courses for adults, and that means they know exactly what you need to succeed in a part-time course. They offer a wide range of study options, but we recommend their Graphic design: stage 1, which covers Typography, Layout, Use of colour, Branding, Logo design and Lateral thinking.

Central Saint Martins

London’s trendiest school offers online courses in Graphic Design for those who want to develop skills on their own schedule. Their course features more than just recorded lessons, with live expert sessions and student forums to keep you feeling connected to your studies.

Open College of Arts

Distance learning provider the Open College of the Arts offers a comprehensive Graphic Design training in three stages, to cater to all levels of interest and commitment. Their courses may be more expensive than some others, but they offer one of the most comprehensive academic and pastoral packages to their students.

London College of Contemporary Arts

The CPD Graphic Design short course offered by the London College of Contemporary Arts is broken down into nine modules, and students can elect to study any combination of interests if they don’t want to commit to the whole curriculum. 

The Graphic Design School

All of the online courses that The Graphic Design School offers are highly flexible, and students are encouraged to customise their lesson plans to suit their availability and their needs. Beyond their specific course materials The Graphic Design School have also put together a vast library of video tutorials on any number of skills, to encourage students to become voracious learners.

University of the Arts London

The huge wealth of combined expertise across the University of the Arts London is available to their short course students, and they offer tailored study that ranges from Graphic Design: An Introduction to more specific areas like Visual Identity. Courses run in six week blocks throughout the year.


Ravensbourne offer one of the least expensive short courses in Graphic Design, running over just six sessions. The lessons cover the very basics of Graphic Design, including Photoshop and InDesign, for those who have no familiarity with these programmes at all.

Want to print your designs on custom t-shirts or tote bags? ICON Printing offer fast turnaround printing on a range of garments, counting clients ranging from the Tate to Boiler Room and WeWork. Get a quote in 2 minutes online.