BA (Hons) Illustration


Course Overview

​The focus of the BA Illustration degree is not only to develop you as a student and critical thinker, but to inspire your growth into a skilled and intellectual illustrator. These attributes, which are dependent on one another, combined with practical experience and an understanding of the illustration's place in the world, this course will form the beginning of your career, and stand you in the strongest possible position to carry it forward. 

The Illustration programme is taught by an experienced team of dedicated illustrators. Staff interests and research areas range from performative illustration such as puppetry and music, to the illustration of complex abstract concepts. Our professional experience includes narrative and editorial illustration as well as animation design and production.

Illustration always has a purpose. This applied art form covers a vast range of methods and media, and is constantly growing in its contexts both through new technologies and traditional media. From enhancing literature, to enabling understanding of science, medicine and health, politics and commerce; illustration brings sense, understanding, empathy and humanity to complex and difficult subject matter.

Illustration is integral to the animation and film professions, as well as printed and digital media such as books, advertising, newspapers and magazines. Illustrators illuminate ideas, texts and narratives. These are often initiated by commercial clients and collaborators, but Illustrators are increasingly becoming authors and directors of their own projects.

Our programme helps you to discover what kind of illustrator you want to be through explorations in subject matter, materials and skills. We will enable you to develop the robust range of skills, ideas and fluidity to fulfil your unique potential!​

Course information on this page relates to September 2016 entry.

​Course Content​

The course structure is full of variety enabling you to undertake a work placement, carry out research with one of our Professors, or to travel to study illustration in countries where the traditions are very different.

In the third year you will work towards producing a refined body of work which reflects your passion for communicating ideas arising from your chosen subject matter. We ask our students to constantly question the power of images in our visually oversaturated world and to consider how their work will speak to audiences humbly, helpfully and inclusively. 

Illustration spans a broad area so in their third year students may choose to complete a detailed business plan instead of the traditional dissertation. Full support is offered to students whether students are considering further post-graduate study or preparing themselves to launch their freelance career upon graduation.

Year One:

In your first year, you will concentrate on unlocking ideas that can be translated into illustrative material. The emphasis will be on illustrative perspectives, including those of the inventor and interpreter. Later, you will explore applied narrative, drawing, making and collaborative processes. You will have the freedom to experiment with familiar and unfamiliar technical skills, according to your emerging needs, interests and strengths.

Subject 1 - Interpreter and Dramatist:
This module is designed to provide you with the tools, language and understanding to realise your potential as imaginative observers, interpreters and visual dramatists. Through a series of tutor-led practical briefs, you will explore themes of visual communication, interpretation, rhetoric and narrative, as you develop your own expertise. Each project you undertake will inform the next, thus the production of 'final pieces' is not as important as developing a self-reflective understanding of why your practice is, or isn't, as successful as it might be.

Field 1:
In this module, you will be offered the opportunity to collaborate across subject disciplines. By tackling a set of concerns as a group, you'll gain a deeper understanding of your own strengths, skills and artistic insight in relation to the broader creative field. 

Constellation – Concept:
This module will develop your ability to contextualise your practice by introducing historical and theoretical perspectives to assist in the development of ideas. We offer a series of keynote lectures that will introduce you to staff areas of interest and expertise and you will participate in study groups that allow you to specialise in particular areas of interest. Through interdisciplinary working, the focus will be on developing your academic and research skills to enable critical reflection on your practice.

Year Two:

Your second year offers the challenge of communicating complex information using a variety of voices and perspectives. All second year work is underpinned by discourse, reading, and writing; helping you to explore new knowledge.

Subject 2 – Picnic at Hanging Rock:
This module is designed to help you reflect upon your own strengths and interests, building intellectual expertise and vocation into the core of your practice as the foundations for your future career. Through a series of tutor-led briefs, you will explore images and texts, all the while developing a more thorough and more sophisticated understanding of your individual approach and ideas. 

Field 2:
This module will offer you a range of projects to choose from. Within these projects you will be set a challenging brief, which will require you to negotiate and learn beyond the curriculum of your subject discipline. It may take you abroad for international study; to an existing company for work experience or voluntary social engagement; or result in working with one of the School's leading research teams Professors. Designed to encourage you to explore and experiment, individual projects will be graded by a common form of assessment. 

Constellation - Critique:
In terms one and two you will engage in a diverse range of topics where you will be able to put your academic skills into practice.  This will include critiquing current literature as well as contemporary journals and exhibitions. Further contextualising of your practice will be nurtured at this level, with an opportunity to specialise in areas that reflect on your own interests.

Year Three:

In the third year illustration students can elect to undertake a business plan or a dissertation, preparing the way for your career upon graduation. The choice is yours, and we will be there to help you realise your ambitions – whether that is to continue your personal development through further study, join a company, start your own business or build an audience or client base for your work.

Subject - Spectacle:
This module is student-led in terms of both content and outcome, and is designed to help you further your creative practice. This module is as much about your enquiry into your visual languages as it is about developing final work. You will be asked to consider difficult topics and subject matter to challenge your ability to communicate and to explore new ways of working towards and empathetic understanding of the discipline beyond its traditional spheres.

Field 3 - Exhibition:
Built around a major project and an exhibition brief, the module will see you produce a professional presentation of your body of work as a unique illustrator.  This module is the culmination of your creative practice, developing a strong ground from which to launch your career.

Constellation - Contribution:

Your final Constellation module will demonstrate your ability to produce a dissertation of significant value to your field, with a sense of authority stemming from thorough research and academic rigour.  Your final dissertation submission can take the form of a 10, 000 word essay or a business plan, a technical report, conference paper and presentation, a 6000 word paper and accompanying practical piece. ​

Learning & Teaching

From the outset, you will gain hands-on experience in practical studio sessions and workshops – developing your core material skills. Lectures, lead by members of the academic staff, will broaden your theoretical understanding of your field, whilst smaller, targeted seminars are designed to provide guidance for meeting more individual intellectual and practical demands.


Throughout the duration of your studies, you will be evaluated on three main criteria, which underpin all of the disciplines being taught at CSAD:

SKILLS: The practical, technical and conceptual skills you acquire during your course.

CONTEXT: Your understanding and knowledge of broader intellectual context within which your discipline and work is located. This includes historical, environmental and ethical issues and will often be explored in your 'Theory and Context' modules.

IDEAS: Your understanding of intellectual and creative ideas from within and beyond your discipline; plus your ability to acquire new concepts and form new ideas. Ideas will be explored in your written work, as well as being evident in your practical progress.

Each of these criteria is given equal weighting during the assessment process. That is to say that they are seen as equally important and critical to your development; an emphasis which is designed, for example, to enable a more well-rounded skill set from a student who may be skilled technically, but weak in generating ideas, or a student with much creative flair who may struggle to hone a broad concept into a strong, individual design.

We provide a number of ways for you to track your progress en route to submitting your work for marking. Understanding that the emphases will revolve around the core areas of skills, context and ideas, you will also become familiar with the structured assessment form used by your tutors and learn to relate to your work back to the intended learning outcomes of each brief.

The main types of formative assessment are; academic (feedback from your tutors); peer (from your course-mates or project partners); and self-assessment (which is your own critique, in light of other forms of feedback). You won't just be receiving feedback at the end of a brief, however – your tutors will often assess your progress as your work develops, providing formative feedback at crucial moments where it is hoped to encourage you to take risks, maintain your motivation or shape-up your ideas ahead of deadline. ​

Employability & Careers​

The course is designed to develop you into a rounded and capable illustrator and intellectual. This is built upon a curriculum that has your potential in mind. As such, the emphasis that will have been placed upon your work ethic, both creatively and academically, is matched with significant focus on real world experience. This will include building contacts and undertaking placements as well as live briefs. You will be offered support in forming your own business should you choose to do so.

You can elect to take a route through your second and final years of studies where you can engage with businesses or prepare to launch your own business upon graduating. In your final year, rather than submit a dissertation, you have the option of devising a detailed business plan.

Graduates from the programme are well placed to join design companies, work as illustrators and designers in large organisations, or set up their own businesses. Some take further training, for example a PGCE. Some elect to take their studies further by studying at CSAD for a Masters level qualification and there are opportunities to take this further still, through a Professional Doctorate in Design.

Entry Requirements​ & How to Apply

Applicants should have a strong art and/or design portfolio and demonstrate a commitment to art and/or design, five GCSE passes including English and Maths at grade C or above plus:

  • 300 points from a successfully completed Art & Design Foundation Diploma or/and
  • At least 3 A Levels / Scottish Advanced Highers from any Subject (General Studies excluded)
  • QCF BTEC Extended Diploma: Distinction Distinction Merit
  • 300 points from the Irish Leaving Certificate at Highers to include 3 x B1 grades from any subject (minimum grade C2 considered)
  • Access to HE Diploma with 45 credits at Level 3 within a relevant subject
  • Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma considered along with grades CC at A Level within any subject, General Studies excluded
  • Qualifications equivalent to the above

If your qualification isn't listed above, please refer to the UCAS website.

For applicants only undertaking 2 A Levels or BTEC equivalent, or applying with other life experiences, other qualifications and/or art & design achievements will be considered.

Selection Procedure and Interview Days:
Selection is based on the receipt of a completed UCAS application and attendance at a School of Art & Design Interview.

Acceptance at interview is based upon a balance of three criteria:

      • Personal enthusiasm for and immersion in the practice and theory of Art & Design
      • Academic achievement and ability
      • Quality of work, ambition and skills demonstrated in a portfolio
For more information about Art & Design Interview Days, please click here.

How to Apply:
Applications for this course should be made online to UCAS at For further information please visit our How to Apply pages at

UCAS Code:

Key Facts

Place of Study:
Cardiff School of Art & Design
Llandaff Campus

Course Length:
Three years full-time.

International Applicants:
Before making an application, international students (those outside of the EU), should contact the International Office at Cardiff Met to discuss the necessary procedures in relation to studying with us. For further information visit

Tuition Fees, Student Finance & Additional Costs
For up to date information on tuition fees and the financial support that may be available whilst at university, please refer to

Undergraduate costs of study in CSAD 


CSAD provides a variety of basic materials. These enable students to develop their competence in a range of skills and demonstrate their technical ability. Materials needed in unusual quantities, or those that are specialised, expensive or unusual are at the student’s expense. Advice will be given about how ‘unusual’ is defined, which materials are deemed to be ‘expensive’, and examples given of what is viewed to be ‘unusual’. CSAD students often elect to spend on materials they prefer to work with, including sketchbooks and pens, as well as specialist equipment of their own choosing. 

In the main, no charges are made for the use of equipment, with the exception of some specialist high end equipment such as the Mimaki and 3D printers. Access to Cardiff FabLab​ is subject to student membership; it offers reduced fees for student use. 

For further information about additional course costs, including fees, equipment requirements and other charges for each undergraduate programme, please visit

Field trips and visits 

Field trips that are part of core learning will be paid for by the School. Additional visits are occasionally arranged which are optional and where the students may be asked to share the costs. The costs of study abroad, including exchanges, placements and projects are the responsibility of the individual student.​

Bursaries & Scholarships:
The university also offers a bursary and scholarship scheme to help students whilst at university. To see if you are eligible, visit

Contact Us

For general enquiries please contact the Admissions Team on 029 2041 6044 or email

For course specific enquiries, please contact Subject Leader Anna Bhushan Email:​ 

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Full terms and conditions in relation to accepting an offer to study at Cardiff Metropolitan University can be found by visiting