Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography's Curriculum

Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography's Curriculum

Stellenbosch Academy’s true difference lies in its interdisciplinary approach to teaching visual communication. Major subjects are combined, rather than treated as separate entities.

All majors have supporting subjects, which inform the students’ practical work, allowing them more versatility and teaching them to be better integrated thinkers – a vital skill in today’s creative communications industry.

This versatility results in an agile curriculum, which can be constantly reviewed to meet industry needs.

Across all three years the theoretical components of Visual Studies and Marketing are integrated into the chosen majors to generate both critical and strategic thinking. While the Academy insists on the highest possible levels of craft from the students, this is all informed by helping students learn ‘how to think’. High-quality conceptual and strategic thinking, which is cognizant of target audience, media choice and potential budget, is an integral part of any creative work taught at the academy. This thinking forms the base upon which students can craft their work to as near perfect as possible, graduating with some of the strongest portfolios in the country.

Due to the structure of their final year, graduates are able to produce a very focused portfolio which best reflects their individual strengths. This is achieved by allowing students to choose from a range of briefs, which makes it easier for them to hone their skills and craft a specific direction within their chosen majors.


Whereas many design courses can become close to pure art in their application, the design course at the Academy places an emphasis on design with a predominantly commercial purpose. This better equips students to find employment after graduating.

The Design course at the Academy begins by giving students a basic grounding in design – teaching the basic principles of Typography, Layout, Integration of text and image, Identity, Editorial and Packaging.

During their three years, students will learn all the necessary digital skills needed and apply them within the context of design briefs that range from 2D (logos, editorial, posters, brochures, book covers) and 3D applications (packaging, environmental, outdoor) to digital (web, mobile) across a variety of media currently used in the industry. The emphasis is on problem-solving to match conceptual thinking with well-crafted executions.

In their final year, Design students choose from four different briefs in each briefing session, enabling them to choose according to their strengths and create a focused, conceptually strong and crafted industry-ready portfolio.


Photography in this millennium is no longer centred on print. In today’s cross-platform age where images must live both on and offline on a range of screens and in a range of formats, photographers and image generators need to think across all mediums. At the Academy students learn to think creatively, how to understand agency culture and digital postproduction. They also learn a range of photographic styles, ranging from fine art black and white photography through to creating engaging and unique ideas for marketing briefs. They will also learn to incorporate moving images/video into their skill set in order to give them the edge in the digital world.

Photography at the Academy offers students a well-rounded experience in all avenues of the medium including: Fine Art, Commercial, Food and Wine, Portraiture, Documentary, Exterior and interior architecture, Macro and large format photography to Advertising and Art directed photography. Students are actively encouraged to seek out their own niche and develop their skills with expert guidance from the Academy’s experienced lecturers. This enables them to build a portfolio that best represents their skills.

Photography students begin with the basics of photography, learning digital and analogue together and the role each one plays in the medium. From basic product photography to advanced large format digital photography, the students are guided through this process and encouraged to experiment and think creatively with every assignment.

From the large daylight and flash studios, to the processing of black and white film in the darkroom and post production editing, students are exposed to the latest in digital technologies and photographic programs in order to best prepare them for a competitive industry.


The Illustration course at the Academy teaches students how to create and refine illustrations for a number of different applications. This includes: Illustrated books, poster art, illustration for merchandise, digital or print editorial, and also personal projects. Students begin with the basics of mark making, observational drawing, and collage and continue on to more advanced techniques that are both digital and hand generated stylistically. The emphasis of the course is on narrative and interpretation, conceptual thinking, application of illustration to a design context, and understanding the various techniques and mediums of the discipline. Choosing to major Illustration means that a student is given the guidance to develop a highly individualistic approach to image-making, and that he/she can confidently enter the industry with a competitive skills set.

Art Direction:

Art Direction refers specifically to the visual representation of an idea or message in an advertising context. Whereas Copywriting deals with the words and message of an advert or piece of communication, art direction deals with how best to represent that idea or message in a visual way.

Students begin by learning basic conceptual thinking and then move on to problem solving in briefs that cover both Traditional Media (print advertising – outdoor, poster, magazine and newspaper), Broadcast Media (radio and television), as well as Unconventional (ambient, alternative brand contacts) and Digital (web, mobile applications).

The emphasis is on creating a memorable and campaignable idea in response to an integrated marketing brief. Students are also taught copywriting and have three years of marketing behind them to better prepare them for a demanding industry as young art directors.

Supporting Subjects:

All majors are supported by a range of subjects, designed to take students from the creative studio into the boardroom. These include:

-Visual Studies: Learning the cultural context of images and how to tailor communications to be effective to any target audience.

-Business Leadership: Delivering the vital skills needed to take charge in business situations and/or start your own business.

-Marketing: Learning the other side of the advertising industry, how to market a product or service from the brand’s side.

-Integrated Communications: Looking at the communication of ideas in the different fields of Photography, Design, Art Direction and Illustration from a historical and contemporary perspective..


A four-week period of internship (work integrated learning) is facilitated at the end of the final year of study. Placement at various photographic studios, design and advertising agencies and illustration studios is based upon both student preferences and strengths as well as lecturer input.

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