New Visual Communication Technical Award: creating promotional products and materials

Published: Tuesday 14 Jun 2016

We’ve developed a new Technical Award in Visual Communication which, along with the new GCSE in Design and Technology, replaces the outgoing Graphic Products GCSE. The new qualification will be available for first teaching in September 2017.

We have taken this opportunity to refresh the content, including the introduction of digital techniques. It’s designed for young learners who want to study graphics in a practical and imaginative way, developing the graphic design skills needed to create materials for marketing and promotion.

Technical Awards are practical, vocational qualifications available to 14-16 year olds to take alongside GCSEs. If approved by the Department for Education, a single award will be equivalent to a GCSE qualification and will count towards performance tables. They could then be included in Progress 8 as part of the non-Ebacc open group of subjects.

Course content

This is a practical qualification with a focus on developing practical design and layout skills, learners will have the opportunity to use traditional skills, such as drawing and sketching in 2D and 3D and also modern technologies, including web design.

Our new qualification enables learners to:

  • develop a broad knowledge of materials, components and technologies
  • develop practical skills to produce high quality functional prototypes and/or products
  • develop decision making skills through both independent, team and collaborative work
  • communicate their decisions effectively to a third party
  • produce, read, interpret and work from drawings, briefs and instructions
  • present ideas and proposals to a near professional standard
  • develop an understanding of quality, and how this can be achieved using a variety of techniques, both traditional and digital
  • use materials efficiently in relation to cost and environmental impact
  • demonstrate safe working practices
  • use key technical terminology related to materials and  processes
  • develop the knowledge and understanding to evaluate and refine their own skills
  • develop an awareness of industrial practices and employment opportunities
  • be able to design and make products that demonstrate creativity and originality
  • develop an understanding of digital software applications.

All learners will be taught and assessed in the same way, and there is no need to split your class into Level 1 and Level 2.

Assessment structure

There are two internally-assessed units, and a third unit that is externally assessed.

Unit 1: Skills Demonstration (30%)

Learners have the chance to carry out a number of bite-sized projects to demonstrate their competency in the core skills outlined in the specification. They’ll record their work in a portfolio.

Skills include:

  • drawing and sketching in 2D and 3D
  • using digital software
  • understanding typography
  • colour theory
  • publishing layout
  • surface development and card engineering
  • photography
  • web design
  • printing processes
  • finishing techniques
  • teamwork and collaboration.

Unit 2: Extended making project (30%)

For this unit learners will undertake an extended project that showcases the skills they have developed in unit 1.

Example briefs learners might receive:

  • A client has asked you to produce a point-of-sale display for products associated with a major sporting event.
  • Design a webpage to promote a new product of your choice aimed at teenagers.
  • A new hotel is opening in your town or city. Produce a set of promotional materials for the launch.

The project will be marked against the following criteria:

  • planning and development
  • making
  • testing and evaluation
  • communication

Unit 3: External assessment (written exam – 40%)

Learners will be assessed on the following topics:

  • Business organisation and activity
  • Career opportunities
  • Intellectual property
  • Planning
  • Visual communication techniques
  • Consideration of commercial aspects
  • Processes and skills
  • Social, environmental, cultural and economic issues
  • Health and safety
  • Materials and stock forms
  • Tools end equipment

Why choose AQA

Insight from teachers:

“I like the fact that credit is given for a range of skills that students learn throughout the course.”

Linda Hill, Deputy Subject Head, Design and Technology, Coundon Court, Coventry

“There is a real relevance to our everyday needs as well as allowing students to develop skills and knowledge that will be required in the modern world of industry and commerce.”

Sean Heidler, Head of D&T, Gumley House Convent School

Where this award leads

This Technical Award is designed to equip learners with the practical skills in visual communication that they need to progress to further general or vocational study. They’ll develop a broad understanding of the sector, so they can make informed decisions about their career opportunities.

Learners will also develop valuable transferable skills including communication and collaboration.

We’ve worked with post-16 education providers to ensure that Technical Awards count equally alongside GCSEs when applying to do further study in either general or vocational qualifications.

Support and resources

We’ll be submitting our draft qualification to the Department for Education in September 2016, when we’ll share the draft specification with you. We’re also planning a series of free support events throughout the autumn term, alongside a full set of resources.

Design and Technology Technical Award qualifications

We have developed a suite of four Technical Awards in the following subjects:

These qualifications complement our GCSE in Design and Technology and Food Preparation and Nutrition.

Contact us

Our subject team is here to help. Sign up for updates on our new Technical Awards, or contact Amanda Luby and the customer support team on 0161 957 3334 or by email at

See all updates