The Complete Guide to Studying Graphic Design in Malaysia

What will you study in graphic design? Check out the institution options, subject list and requirements in this comprehensive guide.


Based on the Pilot Critical Occupations List 2015/2016 constructed by the Critical Skills Monitoring Committee (CSC) to address talent mismatch issues in Malaysia, Graphic Designers were one of the most sought-after occupations in Malaysia.

With a solid demand for Graphic Designers, should you also pursue a course in Graphic Design?

Just like any other course, Graphic Design may not be the right fit for everyone. But how can you tell?

Read on as we draw out the details that you’ll need to know about studying a Graphic Design course in Malaysia.

First City University College

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

Learn from staff members from professional bodies including Graphic Design Association of Malaysia (wREGA), Malaysian Institute of Interior Designers (MIID) and Majlis Rekabentuk Malaysia (MRM)

#1. The Basics of Graphic Design

Graphic Design Courses in Malaysia - What is Graphic Design?

a) What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic Design involves communication with clear and easily understandable visuals. Compared to other Design courses, Graphic Design is focused on crafting appealing visual aids to attract a group of audience.

Sounds like something very common?

Yes, it is! The presence of Graphic Design can be found almost everywhere around you, from the huge highway billboard ads and latest movie posters plastered in malls to the attractive Facebook posts flooding your newsfeed and packaging of your favourite chocolate bars.

A great piece of Graphic Design work is one that is engaging enough that you’ll spend the time to understand the underlying message or is persuasive enough to entice you to take specific actions, such as buying a product or downloading an app.

#2. Studying a Graphic Design Course

a) Entry Requirements & Qualifications

To pursue a course in Graphic Design, you’ll need to meet the minimum requirements set by the respective colleges and universities.

(i) Diploma in Graphic Design

If you’re thinking of applying for a Diploma in Graphic Design, the minimum entry requirements are typically:

  • SPM / O-Level: Minimum 3 credits

In the event that you did not take up an Arts subject in SPM, certain colleges may require you to submit an art portfolio for review or sit for an art assessment administered by the college.

Therefore, it’s important to start compiling your artwork for your portfolio. Your art portfolio should include samples of your drawings, sketches, paintings or any form of artistic work. Colleges typically rely on your portfolio to assess your creativity skills and determine whether you’re suitable for a Graphic Design course.

A Diploma in Graphic Design course is usually 2 – 2.5 years long. Throughout the Diploma programme, you will be guided to create your own authentic designs by learning basic concept development practices and design processes.

With the completion of a Graphic Design Diploma, you can either choose to continue your learning with a Degree in Graphic Design or look for suitable working opportunities.

(ii) Degree in Graphic Design

The completion of SPM or an equivalent qualification PLUS a Pre-University or Foundation qualification is necessary if you are planning to take up a Degree in Graphic Design.

The usual entry requirements typically set for a Graphic Design Degree are:

Like a Graphic Design Diploma, you may need to send in an art portfolio as part of your registration. Otherwise, you may be required to sit for an art assessment as required by certain colleges or universities.

Important Note: It’s best to do your research first as some colleges or universities may set their entry requirements higher than stated above.

The usual study duration for a Graphic Design Degree is 3 years. With a Degree in Graphic Design, you will gain a more comprehensive knowledge of design principles and concepts, and at the same time, acquire more technical design skills.

You will also learn how to identify changing trends and market needs in order to make your designs more relevant and profitable.

Apart from that, most Graphic Design Degrees also require you to undergo industrial training and carry out a major design project during the final year of your degree. This is to help you build a professional portfolio and gain relevant working experience to reinforce your learning in class.

First City University College

Foundation in Art & Design

Gain experience in practical studio work such as drawing, experimentation and exploration of media and material, and model making

b) How Does Your Education Pathway Look Like?

Graphic Design Courses in Malaysia - Graphic Design Education Pathway

Upon completion of SPM, you’ll have the option to take a Pre-University course (e.g. A-Level, STPM, Australian Matriculation, etc.) or pursue a Foundation programme instead. You can also opt for a Diploma in Graphic Design as an alternative.

All the courses mentioned above will lead you to a Degree in Graphic Design, provided that you meet the minimum entry requirements.

Graphic Design Diploma graduates can also choose to join the workforce immediately without completing a degree.

c) What Will You Study in Graphic Design?

Graphic Design Courses in Malaysia - Common Subjects

Graphic Design can be a very broad field to pursue. Creating a compelling and powerful visual typically requires more than just brilliant illustration and drawing skills.

Various factors such as layout, colour, typography, word choices and understanding of social trends and cultures also contribute towards creating a compelling and powerful visual for the intended audience.

Sounds overwhelming, right?

But fret not! You will certainly be taught to apply the skills and knowledge that you’ve learned through various projects and assignments throughout your Graphic Design course.

With that being said, some of the common subjects that you will typically encounter in a Graphic Design course are:

  • Art History
  • Typography
  • Colour Theory
  • Illustration
  • Web Design
  • Advertising Principles
  • Photography
  • Creative Writing

#3. Why Should You Study Graphic Design?

Graphic Design Courses in Malaysia - Why Study Graphic Design?

Do you tend to draw out specific points of what your teachers are saying in class? Or maybe you love putting your thoughts into visual representations?

These are some habits you may possess that can make taking up a Graphic Design course seem like a no-brainer.

Here are more reasons why you can consider taking up a course in Graphic Design.

(a) You enjoy the challenges of visual communication

Yes, conveying specific messages through graphics may sound like an easy thing to do. But with so many visuals around us screaming for our attention, an averagely designed graphic will not cut it anymore.

The real challenge lies in creating impactful yet attractive and engaging visuals.

If you enjoy the challenge in creating visuals that are attention-grabbing and easy to understand, then you’ll certainly enjoy studying Graphic Design.

(b) You want to work in fun and creative industries

If the mere thought of being confined to a cubicle and 9-to-5 job makes you cringe in horror, perhaps a more sociable and exciting work setting would suit you well.

Studying in Graphic Design will certainly give you access to multiple industries with a fun and inclusive working culture that thrives on creativity!

Even though the notion of work-life balance can seem remote to you, you will certainly learn how to ‘work hard, play hard’.

(c) You love spending time on design websites, magazines and books

Love admiring books with creatively-designed pictures instead of those filled with texts?

If you’d rather spend your pastime admiring and interpreting other people’s design instead of doing what other normal kids tend to do like play computer games or hang out with friends, then you definitely need to give Graphic Design a strong consideration.

Graphic designers are some of the rare few who can appreciate and draw inspiration from creative graphics and images.

First City University College

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

Learn from staff members from professional bodies including Graphic Design Association of Malaysia (wREGA), Malaysian Institute of Interior Designers (MIID) and Majlis Rekabentuk Malaysia (MRM)

#4. What Skills Do You Need for a Graphic Design Course?

Graphic Design Courses in Malaysia - Graphic Design Key Skills

You’ll need to be more than artistically-inclined to thrive in a Graphic Design course. Here are certain attributes that you may need to perform well in a Graphic Design course.

(a) Passion to constantly learn new things

As part of your Graphic Design course, you will learn a multitude of design techniques and methods that you can employ to create engaging and relevant graphics.

While these may form the foundation of your knowledge, this is an industry where you will constantly need to upgrade yourself with new skills and keep yourself updated with the latest trends. Much like how technology has changed how we use smartphones, Graphic Design is an ever-changing field since people's tastes and preferences in design can change over the years.

Your strong, continuous drive to learn and acquire new skills and knowledge will not only keep you ahead of the curve in a Graphic Design course but also later on in your career.

Important Note: Apart from being good at drawing, Graphic Design students are also required to have a strong mastery of various Graphic Design software and tools such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and many more.

(b) Ability to work collaboratively with others

Performing well in a Graphic Design course is definitely more than just a solo effort. You’ll be expected to collaborate with your coursemates to work on various design projects and assignments.

Ability to work well with others will be a huge plus point in your career as you will you be working very closely with various parties – from your colleagues and superiors to your clients.

Of course, with collaboration comes the need to be able to accept criticism and feedback as well. While you may think that you've just designed the next best Kuala Lumpur tourism logo, your lecturer (or client) may not view it the same way. Keep an open mind and aim to make your designs stronger.

(c) Comfortable with late-night working marathons

Graphic Design is a field constantly plagued with tight deadlines and countless amendments.

If you think you can keep a comfortable work-life balance like your peers in typical 9-to-5 jobs, then Graphic Design may not be right for you. Expect to work long hours, weekends and holidays to get your work done. Then wait for the onslaught of amendments requested by your clients.

With that in mind, it is extremely important to be self-motivated as you hustle under intense pressure and lose some shut-eye from time to time.

Don’t worry if you do not possess any of these qualities or skills yet. Taking a Graphic Design course will equip you with these necessary skills. Just make sure you’re mentally prepared to face the challenges and demands typically associated with taking a Graphic Design course.

#5. What Career Options Do You Have with a Graphic Design Degree?

Graphic Design Courses in Malaysia - Graphic Design Career Options

Graphic design students are generally highly demanded across a multitude of industries. Upon completion of your Graphic Design Degree, you can proceed to work as a freelance designer, seek employment in companies (e.g. advertising, media production, event management, etc.) or even start your own design firm!

Some of the immediate career opportunities that you may seek as a Graphic Design graduate are:

  • Event Designer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Web Designer
  • Visualiser
  • Design Executive
  • Digital Image Artist
  • Illustrator

#6. Where Can You Study Graphic Design in Malaysia?

Planning to pursue a Graphic Design course? Here are some of the most popular universities to study Graphic Design courses in Malaysia.

Looking for other institutions? Check out our comparison tables for Graphic Design, Interior Architecture, Industrial Design and Animation.