First Year

Are you interested in a career in art or design? Do you respond to the world around you visually? Are you a creative, imaginative person looking to develop new forms of visual expression or communication?

First Year Studies at NCAD gives you the solid foundation that your require for entry into the variety of creative paths of study offered by the college. First Year Studies is a common entry course that leads our students onto studying Fine Art, Design, Product Design or Education.

First Year Online Exhibition 

You can now visit an online exhibition of work from Students who have just completed First Year in NCAD.  The images and video are from the final specialist module, made in the time of COVID. We are delighted to share this work with you and hope you enjoy exploring it, the show is a small example from each of the pathways available to our students. 

Click here to visit the exhibition

First Year Studies NCADWhat will I study in First Year?

During First Year, all students will engage with Studio Practice, Visual Culture and Professional Practice. It is a full-time programme which runs over a five day week (Monday - Friday), with one full day of Visual Culture. First Year is divided into two semesters.

Semester 1

When you arrive in NCAD, you will be divided into random groupings and will share the studio with a wide mix of your peers. You will be assigned studio-based projects that will challenge you. You will also get to select certain projects that may be of particular interest to you. This is a great opportunity for you to experience the diversity in art and design thinking and working methods, and to discover your particular strengths.

First Year begins with a period of interdisciplinary art and design research, observation and analysis. Your curiosity is our starting point. You will build on the work you began in addressing the portfolio brief and the summer project.

At the end of the first semester of First Year Studies, you will choose to continue your learning within the School of Fine Art or the School of Design. (This choice of school also applies to students on the Art and Design Education course but does not apply to students on the Product Design course)

Semester 2

The second semester of First Year Studies is school-based. This means that the projects you engage with from this point will be based either in the School of Fine Art or the School of Design. These projects are designed to help you to choose your discipline for further study within your school.

Once you have learned about the various departments, you will spend some time studying in the department supporting your degree specialisation where you will undertake a series of skills acquisition projects and self-directed work. 

Course Modules and Descriptors

First Year Studies Modules
Semester 1 (30 credits) Semester 2 (30 credits)

CE1-2 Learning & Professional Practice 1A

5 credits

CE1-8 Professional Practice II (Design or Fine Art)

5 credits

VC1-1 Introduction to Key Concepts in Art & Design 1A

5 credits

VC1-2 Introduction to Key Concepts in Art & Design 1B

5 credits

CE1-4 Studio 1A-1

10 credits

CE1-6 Studio 1B-1

10 credits

CE1-5 Studio 1A-2

10 credits

CE1-7 Studio 1B-2

10 credits














Sample Project Briefs

Project Brief 1 - Observation and Analysis

Project Brief 2 - Materials and Processes

Project Brief 3 - Concept and Topic (Elective 1)

Project Brief 4 - Negotiating the Fields of Practice (Elective 2)

First Year Studies NCAD

What if I am an Education or Product Design student?

First year studies is referred to as a common entry course. This means all new students follow the same course for the first semester of Year 1.

Education and Product Design students go through the same common First Year; the difference being that they will have chosen in advance which degree pathway they will take. Education students will decide through the course of First Year Studies whether their degree in Art and Design Education will be in conjunction with Fine Art or Design.

First Year Studies NCAD

The key areas of study in First Year are:

Descriptive, explanatory, analytical and inventive skills through drawing, making and recording.

Using Materials
Development of the physical and aesthetic behaviour of materials such as paper, clay, wood, plastics, metal, plaster, wax, fabrics, card, pigments, charcoal, graphite, paint and digital media.

The process of gathering visual information in relation to topics of inquiry.

The use of traditional and innovative techniques and equipment in the stimulation and development of ideas.

Professional Practice
Time management, organising and presenting work, peer learning, development of an individual body of work.

Visual Culture
In this part of the course, students study the connections between history, theory and practice in modern and contemporary contexts, in order to become reflective and effective practitioners.

First Year Studies NCAD

How will I be assessed?

Assessments are on-going in First Year Studies and will include the presention of practical studio work, submitting visual culture essays and writing professional practice reports.

Studio Assessments
Assessments occur at the end of each module. Students will present their work for assessment in their studio spaces. The work is assessed by a team of staff in accordance with the assessment criteria given at the start of the year. Grades and comments are given to students.

Visual Culture and Professional Practice
In Visual Culture and Professional Practice assessment is based on essay writing and assignments. Formal assessment results are issued at the end of First Year Studies. 

First Year Studies NCAD

What materials will I need to have for my studies?

There are some recommendations for materials and equipment that are vital to your success such as workshop tools, a laptop and a camera. You can download a full list of recommended materials below:

Download the Materials List

Download the Digital Materials List

Some materials, such as cartridge paper, specialist inks, dyes and printing plates are provided by the college.

First Year Studies NCAD

How can I prepare for First Year Studies?

Upon gaining a place in First Year Studies, you will be sent a brief to complete before you begin your course. This small project will be easily completed within a week.  You should bring the gatherings and outcomes from this Sourcing Project with you on the first day of college along with your materials and a representive selection of work from your original portfolio. 

Download the Sourcing Project Here

We also recommend reading the following book:
The Drawing Book By Sarah Simblet, published by DK (Dorling Kindersley)
ISBN 978 1 4053 4123 3

First Year Studies NCAD

What happens at the end of First Year Studies?

At the end of first year your final results are posted and successful students progress to second year within their chosen school and department. There is a opportunity for students who may have been unsuccessful in certain modules to repeat them over the summer.

For students with a strong interest in the history and theory of visual culture, there is an opportunity to take a Joint Honours Degree in Design or Fine Art and Visual Culture. Students make this choice at the end of First Year. 

First Year Studies NCAD

Course Details

Length Common 1st Year of 3/4  Year Level 8 Honours Degree in Art, Design or Education 

CAO Course Codes:

AD101 First Year Art & Design (Common Entry)

AD102 Illustration and Graphic Design

AD103 Textiles, Jewellery& Objects

AD202 Design or Fine Art and Education

AD204 Fine Art

AD211 Fashion Design 

AD212 Product Design

AD222 Interaction Design 

Entry Requirements

Leaving Cert: 6 Subjects: (2 X H5 and  4 X O6/H7) 

Subjects must include English, Irish and one of the following:

A third language or Art or Design & Communication Graphics (DCG)


FETAC: 5 Distinctions Full Award

For AD212 Product Design and AD222 Interaction Design Leaving Cert  level Maths is required at 06/H7.

Download full details on entry requirements here

Portfolio Requirement NCAD Portfolio Submission Wesbite
Degree Awarded
Common 1st Year leading of the following degrees:

BA  Fashion Design
BA Jewellery & Objects
BA Textile & Surface Design
BA Illustration
BA Graphic Design
BA Interaction Design
BA Product Design
BA  Fine Art ( Print, Media, Painting, Sculpture, Textile Art & Artefact, Ceramics & Glass)

Contact Information: 

Head of Department
Mary Avril Gillan
BA(Hons), DipADT, MScMultimedia
Tel: 353(01) 636 4220

Department Secretary
Patricia McDonnell
Tel: 353(01) 636 4221