Cardiff School of Art & Design>Courses>Illustration - BA (Hons) Degree

Illustration - BA (Hons) Degree

Illustrations are active images; they always have a purpose, making sense of complex ideas. As illustrators, you will work to enable understanding of the everyday - from enriching literature and poetry, to responding to societal issues from science and medicine to politics and economics. You will develop rich imaginative responses to build your unique practice, inviting your audiences in.

With core skills in drawing and narrative you will explore and experiment with materials, developing a range of both technical skills to find your own visual languages with which to tackle challenging subject matter.

Through our unique curriculum you will grow a practice that is defined in its purpose not only by how you make your work but importantly by what the work is about, and how it communicates, underpinned theoretically and historically.

You will test your illustrations in a variety of environments and scenarios – exploring beyond the immediate world of the illustrator through, for example; animation, film, printed and digital media to contextualise and articulate your discipline, enriching your work with a greater understanding of the environment it operates in.

Illustration is constantly extending its reach. Whether it’s working with clients and collaborators or authoring and directing your own projects, you will graduate with a multitude of transferable skills.

As students in illustration you will join our Vertical Studio where you will explore, examine and reveal the discipline through dynamic conversations, debates and presentations, unlocking the power of illustration.

The challenge is to understand and use visual trends in a critical way, whilst developing your own unique approaches – all while taking into account the power of images in a visually saturated world. Through the three years of study you will shape your own unique practice so that it speaks in a way that is inclusive of your audience.

Course information on this page relates to 2022 entry

Course Content

Unlock ideas for illustrative material – from a variety of perspectives. You’ll explore applied narrative, drawing, making and collaborative processes, incorporating a wide range of skills that include:

  • Drawing experimental and observational
  • Painting
  • Printmaking
  • Understanding colour
  • Characterisation
  • Composition
  • Personification i.e. working with inanimate objects as characters
  • Metaphor
  • Storytelling
  • Animation stop-frame/experimental
  • Book binding
  • Book design and book cover design
  • Editorial illustration
  • Zine making
  • Poster design
  • Gif making
  • Design for personal website
  • Shadow puppetry/puppetry
  • Live briefs/competitions

You’ll start to think about your speciality – honing your skills and building on your strengths. And in your final year, you’ll work towards producing a sophisticated body of work to showcase your passion for communicating ideas.

Right from the beginning, you’ll look ahead to the future. You can get exposure to the industry through live briefs and work placements, travel and study abroad or expand your academic skills with a research project.  

Year One

Subject: Visual Languages - 40 Credits
This module utilises a combination of workshop experiences and project briefs through which students develop a foundational awareness of visual languages and begin to explore how visual images can be used to communicate ideas, feelings, information and specific points of view.

You will challenge preconceived ideas regarding the practice and the function of illustration in order to show how new work emerges, and does so actively and with purpose.

Students develop a variety of practical skills (e.g. drawing, photography, collage, print, moving image) and conceptual skills that work in harmony and enable them to compose a body of work that demonstrates these skills.

This playful, experimental module uses texts and sound as catalysts aiding the elaboration of possible scenarios in which illustrations work actively. The combination of traditional and non-traditional methods and skills acquired in this module are transferable and built upon in subsequent modules.

Subject: In Contexts - 20 Credits
This module invites you to explore the significance of context for the discipline of illustration through reflective practice. Considering who is your audience, where will your work be seen and what is the purpose of your work?

There will be a mixture of projects with fixed outcomes to and ones which are freer and can be led by you. This reflects the nature of the way an illustrator may navigate their career via client led and self-initiated projects.

Throughout the In Contexts module you will be building on your experience within the Visual Languages module, in particular continuing to develop skills in your use of materials, process and technique and your overall understanding of image making and the role of narrative within illustration.

Consider how you are developing your understanding of colour, and composition and how you are growing your skills in all aspects of drawing from observational to imaginative approaches.

Field One: Collaborate - 20 Credits*
Widen your horizons by joining students from other courses to collaborate on a project. You’ll take inspiration from other disciplines to build on your experience and expand your creativity – and use your skills and artistic insight to apply them to your work.

Constellation: Concept - 40 Credits
This module introduces you to the wider world of ideas, theory and contextual studies to help you develop your academic research skills and critical thinking. You’ll focus on particular areas of interest in study groups and you’ll become familiar with the exciting trans-disciplinary research and expertise in Cardiff School of Art and Design.

Year Two

Subject: Enquire, Choreograph, Grow - 40 Credits
This module allows you to explore your illustrative world and ground you in your unique ways of working. You will then apply this when learning to communicate complex information using a variety of voices and perspectives.

You will apply your practice through tutor-led and competition briefs – designed to help you to develop your own approach and ideas. All of this is underpinned by discourse, reading and writing to expand your knowledge and understanding of the subject.

Field Two: Explore - 40 Credits*
You’ll expand your experiences with challenging projects designed to encourage you to explore and experiment outside your immediate discipline. This transformative opportunity leads to new thinking and innovation – and opens up all kinds of future possibilities. You’ll take on exciting projects that challenge you in new ways. You can also choose to travel, take a work placement, start your own business or try something new. 

Constellation: Critique - 40 Credits
By critiquing literature, journals and exhibitions, you’ll hone your ability to put your design practice into context. You’ll also have opportunities to interact with students and staff and delve deeper into your areas of interest.

Year Three

Subject: Encounter - 40 Credits
This module is as much about your enquiry into visual languages as it is about developing final work. You’ll consider difficult subject matter that challenges your communication skills. And you’ll explore new ways of working – taking you beyond traditional methods to help further your creative practice. 

Field Three: Exposure - 40 credits
Your final term is dedicated to a major project and an exhibition of your work. This is where you draw together everything you’ve learned during the course and is the launch pad to your future career. 

Constellation: Contribution - 40 Credits
Your practice is underpinned by your knowledge. Demonstrate your research and analysis skills in your final constellation submission, where you’ll explore ideas in both written and practical forms.

*modules available through the medium of Welsh

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.

Students will also work with a personal tutor throughout their three years of study. Personal tutors will meet students once a term to offer pastoral support and guidance, and to check in with students on their engagements with all aspects of the course.

The team continues to practice as illustrators and researchers within the field our Vertical Studio provides the opportunity for staff, students and guests across all levels to meet together and share their work, this develops professional skills and involves students in directly in the broader discourse of the discipline and their role in developing it for the future.

During their first year of study each student can expect to receive between 14 and 22 hours of contact time per week via lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical and technical workshops both on campus and online. Throughout the three years, students are offered a vibrant learning environment, both in the studio and online, that nurture student’s career ambitions and trajectories.


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, and preferably five GCSEs to include English Language (or Welsh First Language), Mathematics* and Science at grade C or above / grade 4 or above (for applicants holding newly reformed GCSEs in England) 

Following an interview and assessment of portfolio, our typical offers can range between:

  • 96 - 120 points from a successfully completed Art & Design Foundation Diploma or/and
  • 96 - 120 points from at least 2 A Levels; Welsh Baccalaureate – Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate will be considered as a third subject
  • RQF BTEC National Extended Diploma / Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma: MMM / DDM
  • 96 - 120 points from a combination of Scottish Highers and Scottish Advanced Highers 
  • 96 - 120 points from the Irish Leaving Certificate at Highers to include 2 x H2 grades from any subject (minimum grade H4 considered)
  • 96 - 120 points from the Access to HE Diploma within a relevant subject

*For Welsh applicants sitting the reformed Mathematics GCSE, we will accept either GCSE Mathematics or Mathematics – Numeracy.        

For applicants only undertaking 2 A Levels or equivalent, or applying with other life experiences, other qualifications and/or art & design achievements will be considered along with the rest of the academic profile and we may issue a graded offer in lieu of an offer using the UCAS Tariff.

If you are studying combinations of the above, or if your qualification isn’t listed please either contact Admissions or refer to the UCAS Course Search for the entry requirements. Further information on our entry requirements, including qualifications from the EU can be found by clicking here.

International Applicants
Students whose first language is not English will need to provide evidence of fluency to at least an IELTS 6.0 standard or equivalent. For full details about how to apply and English Language qualifications please visit the International pages on the website.

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

Read more about our Art & Design Interview Days

How to Apply:
Applications for this course should be made online to UCAS at Part-time applications should be made direct to the University at

For further information please visit our How to Apply pages at

Recognised Prior Learning (RPL) and Credit Transfer into year 2 & 3

If you are interested in transferring credit from another institution to study at Cardiff Met for a course which accepts entry for year 2 and/or 3, you can find further information on this and information on how to apply on the RPL page. Please contact Admissions for any queries that you have on RPL.

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.

Contact Us

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

For course specific enquiries, please contact Subject Leader Amelia Huw Morgan: 


Key Course Information

UCAS Code: W220

Place of Study: 
Llandaff Campus

Cardiff School of Art & Design

Course Length:
Three years full-time. Four years full-time if undertaking year-long sandwich placement.

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