• Overview
  • Levels and Modules
  • Start Dates
  • Entry and Portfolio Requirements
  • Fees and Discounts
  • Careers
  • Student Discounts and Offers
  • Tutors
  • Course Duration
  • Advanced Entry


illustration overview

What does the course involve?

On the BA (Hons) Illustration programme, you will be guided through a series of practical illustration projects and activities designed to help develop your creativity.

Our tutors, who are all experienced practitioners, will provide unlimited one-to-one support from enrolment until graduation via our online study website, IDI-Study. This is your online portal to which you will upload all of your assessment work for review.

On completion of your studies, you will have developed an individual creative approach and gained confidence in your own aesthetic, design and commercial judgement.

You will also have created your own illustration portfolio that will impress prospective employers and help you on the way to building a successful career as a professional illustrator.

All of our course materials are online and communication is asynchronous, allowing you the flexibility to study at times that suit you.

Subject to minimum student enrolment numbers, on all BA (Hons) courses you can choose from full-time, part-time or accelerated study modes. Find out more about the different modes of study here.

Levels of Study

The programme is broken down into three levels:

  • Level 4: Certificate of Higher Education
  • Level 5: Diploma of Higher Education
  • Level 6: BA (Hons)

Download the Programme Specification for detailed information about the course, or read on to find out more about what is involved in each level and for descriptions of each module.

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Levels and Modules

illustration levels and modules

Level 4: Certificate of Higher Education

Throughout your first level of study, you will develop fundamental skills and techniques used in visual communication. You will be introduced to a wide range of media and materials, working with traditional media and modern digital technology, such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Level 4 Module Descriptions

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Visual Communication

This first combined module will introduce you to core visual communication skills in both graphic design and illustration as a foundation for specialisation in your chosen discipline.

This module will improve your understanding and knowledge in the preparation for a career within the creative industry, in which designers and illustrators are required to collaborate. You will also be provided with opportunities to extend your research abilities, problem-solving skills, range of design thinking and craft and mark-making techniques. You will be challenged to consider your creative thinking in the production of exciting designed and illustrated visually narrative solutions.

The work for Visual Communication assessments will include the generation and development of ideas, the manipulation of digital imagery, and the production of narrative artwork in answer to the two main briefs. As part of your studies you will also develop your awareness of target audiences as well as refining your presentation and communication skills.

You will be introduced to the worlds of contemporary graphic design and illustration, providing the key skills and opportunity to allow you to make an informed decision about your future as either a graphic designer or an illustrator.

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Illustration Essentials Part 1

This first specialist illustration module will introduce you to core skills and knowledge in drawing, image-making, experimental practices, problem solving and software for illustration within a range of contemporary illustration contexts.

Throughout the module, there is a strong emphasis on research, idea generation, narrative and story-telling supporting the development and realisation of expressive visual outcomes.

You will be introduced to ways to approach an illustration brief, whilst continuing to develop your personal visual language. As well as developing core skills, you are encouraged to adopt an experimental approach to thinking, idea generation, development and mark-making.

Within the project briefs, you will develop the core skills needed by illustrators and test your knowledge and creative problem solving through a series of project briefs. You will also build on your research, narrative and presentation skills. Within the briefs, you will develop a portfolio of illustrations, contextualised images, sketchbooks and the visual outcomes of experimental activities.

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Critical and Cultural Studies

Critical and Cultural Studies at Level 4 will encourage you to reflect on the relation between art, photography, design, media histories and cultures, as well as your own creative practice.

You will become familiar with a range of modern graphic design and illustration practices and debates, and understand their role in contemporary culture. You will also explore a variety of theoretical, historical, professional, cultural and critical perspectives relating to these practices.

This module also gives you the opportunity to improve your critical analysis skills and you will communicate your ideas using correct, conventional academic referencing. A series of activities will give you the opportunity to practise these skills and receive feedback before you complete your final essay.

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Level 5: Diploma of Higher Education

At Level 5, there is a greater emphasis on working at a professional standard, enabling you to enhance your skills and knowledge towards working independently as a professional illustrator.

The briefs at this level are designed to introduce you to working to strict deadlines and within the constraints imposed by clients when working in the creative industries.

Level 5 Module Descriptions

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Illustration Essentials Part 2

The primary purpose of this module is to build on Level 4, encouraging deeper knowledge and understanding of key practical skills essential to developing effective and creative visual communication. In this module, you will deepen your knowledge of illustration practice and varied platforms for image-making, equipping you with a more advanced visual 'toolbox'.

With an emphasis on the creative ‘journey’ – through exploration of a wide variety of media and materials, experimentation of processes, techniques and methodologies – you will develop a personal and expressive illustrative visual language.

Within the module, you will be introduced to aspects of the industry for further and deeper investigation. You will be encouraged to critically reflect on your own image making skills and the contexts of your work, ensuring that you understand the need to acquire adequate individuality, style, skill and quality. Briefs and activities will cover skills such as drawing, sketchbook work, exploration and experimentation with media, materials and software skills.

In the briefs, you will explore contemporary illustration across a range of integrated contexts reflecting established and emerging sectors of the industry, including editorial illustration, identity, illustration for exhibiting, spatial and 3D illustration and multimedia.

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Illustration: Professional Development

This module provides contextual knowledge and experience relating to professional practice in the illustration and visual communications industry, both nationally and internationally. The objective is to equip you with knowledge of the professional life of an illustrator and the commissioning process. You will be encouraged to investigate the contemporary illustration industry, and the working practices of professionals and practitioners in the field, in order to gain experience of the ways in which your artwork may be used in professional contexts.

The briefs will provide you with the opportunity to develop a personal portfolio in a range of print and digital formats. You will respond to briefs reflecting the requirements of self promotion and industry practice, in order to gain greater understanding of the client-illustrator relationship.

This module is designed to encourage you to reflect on your own image-making skills in a professional context, and to develop your own identity as an illustrator, allowing you to demonstrate your own unique individuality, style, skill and quality of work to professional standards.

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Illustration Commissions

This module has an emphasis on applying your illustration knowledge and skills to a series of set briefs, which may include national illustration competition briefs or other equivalent set or live briefs. Briefs will follow industry professional practice, while supporting personal and individual expression, allowing you to further explore the world of contemporary illustration.

Set competition and live briefs will vary, typically covering areas such as editorial illustration, illustration for publishing including digital and online formats, illustrated posters and the creation of illustrated books. In the briefs, you will build upon previously acquired technical, practical and transferable skills encouraging a deeper know ledge and understanding of the essential tools required by the developing visual communicator and the ability to utilise them within a professional context.

Within the briefs, you will be encouraged to reflect on your own image-making skills and respond to the increased professional requirements to reach standards for national competitions. You will also develop the quality and depth of your research and thinking, idea generation, presentation of work, and time management skills for illustration commissions.

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Critical and Cultural Studies

At Level 5, you will be introduced to critical theories and methodologies relevant to your own discipline. You will learn how to critically engage with your own practice, as well as that of others.

You will undertake in-depth research and set out aims and objectives for further study, suggesting possible methods of approach. You will complete a series of activities and receive ongoing tutor feedback, which will support you in your choice of research topic for the final brief. You will also further develop your academic writing skills.

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Level 6: BA (Hons)

Level 6 is ‘the portfolio year’, which is centred on building a portfolio of work in preparation for entering the creative industries. You will develop your ability to approach your work critically and with a greater degree of independence. You will also fulfil a range of industry typical briefs and be encouraged to enter various national design competitions.

As this is your final level of study, before you begin to practise your discipline professionally, you will acquire the self promotion and marketing skills necessary to establish contacts, work experience, and employment within the industry.

Level 6 Module Descriptions

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Critical and Cultural Studies

This module will enable you to conduct an in-depth study of an aspect of design culture of your choice, with emphasis on the analysis of appropriate social, cultural, economic, technical, historical and aesthetic issues relevant to your chosen topic and creative work.

You will have the opportunity to bring your own interests into your work, and your independent research will be supported through discussion with your peers in the forums and course materials. You will also further develop skills in research, organisation and planning, and critical analysis.

The assessed element of this module consists of a 6,000 word essay or technical report.

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Illustration Advanced Practice

This module places increased emphasis on preparing for professional practice as an illustrator after graduation, and for entering the competitive and challenging professional environment of contemporary illustration. You will have the opportunity to respond to briefs set in national and international illustration competitions, ensuring that you are aware of the requirements of industry and the standards of work of graduating students from the UK and internationally.

Set briefs will vary, but typical competitions include Penguin Random House Books, The Folio Society, Young Creative’s Network (YCN) and Design & Art Direction (D&AD), or other equivalent set briefs. Project briefs will cover a range of illustration areas such as editorial illustration, illustration for moving image, packaging illustration, publishing, print and digital formats.

The briefs aim to support you in achieving professional standards and realising your personal employment ambitions. Alongside guided and group work, you are also expected to work with a high degree of independence and personal initiative as you further refine your personal visual language and advanced skills as an illustrator at Level 6.

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Illustration Advanced Practice 2

This final module on the BA (Hons) programme represents the culmination of your undergraduate illustration journey. It contains a series of challenging and rewarding set and personally generated project briefs, which will develop your commitment, visual language and skills in illustration to advanced levels, as well as your time and project management skills.

In this module, you will complete a Final Major Project alongside at least two other projects. The work produced within this module will form the bulk of your final graduating illustration portfolio, and there is scope and potential for you to select and negotiate self-generated projects that provide a unique and individual direction to your portfolio.

Your Final Major Project will typically emerge from a set of self-negotiated briefs. This constitutes the most ambitious illustration project undertaken on the programme. In addition, you will complete two further competition briefs or negotiated self-initiated projects. Within these, you will also consider your own portfolio and self-promotion as an illustrator. This will provide opportunities for you to consider self-branding and the presentation of your work in printed and digital formats in order to launch your career as an illustrator.

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Start Dates

Most of our applicants are keen to start their studies as soon as possible, so we have intakes in February, June and October. Depending on the course you choose, you may be able to start in any intake, but there could be some restrictions. You can apply directly on our website at any time for any future intake and your Admissions Advisor will be able to confirm when the next start date for your chosen course will be.

Even if you are unsure about when you would like to start, or which course is best for you, contact us and a member of our Student Recruitment Team will be able to advise you.

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Entry and Portfolio Requirements

We consider all applications on an individual basis and welcome applications from those with non-standard qualifications and from a variety of backgrounds.

Education, Skills and Work Experience

With all applicants, we like to see either some evidence of previous study within art and design or visual (skill) evidence of art and design experience.

UK Applicants

For UK applicants, we require either between 240 and 260 points from GCE A Levels (or equivalent), including art related subjects, and English Language and Mathematics at grade C or above, or a relevant level of equivalent skills and experience.

International Applicants

You will normally have completed either a pre-degree course in visual arts, which may be a Foundation or equivalent course leading to a BTEC National Diploma/Certificate or equivalent international qualification.

All applicants from non-majority English speaking countries need to provide proof of English language proficiency. One of the following qualifications (or equivalent) is required:

  • GSCE English Language grade A-C
  • IELTS 6.0 (with no less than 5.5 in any band)

Portfolio Guidelines

For entry to the course, we are looking for work that shows an interest in, and aptitude for, visual communication. It is often sufficient to provide a few examples that demonstrate your drawing skills, but you can also include examples of any work you have done in graphic design, photography, painting, printmaking, digital media, text based pieces, and other art and design media.

Your portfolio should show evidence of the design cycle, from generating ideas, through development, to a completed outcome. Including examples from your sketchbook or journal is a good way to showcase this. Above all, we want to see evidence of your enthusiasm for creativity and your eagerness to learn more.

For more information, please visit our Portfolio Guidelines page.

Reading and Materials Requirements

During your studies with IDI you will need access to specific pieces of equipment, which will enable you to complete your coursework. Sourcing these will be your responsibility and any costs incurred are not included in your fees. For further information about the equipment requirements, please refer to the programme Reading and Materials List.

The requirement is to have access to the materials, not necessarily to own them. For example, they may be accessed in an open access studio, media resource centre, library, StudyNet or Community Centre. Equipment and materials can be acquired as you work through the course materials, they do not necessarily have to be purchased at the start of your course and what you require may vary in quantity and range depending on the work you carry out.

If you have any problems gaining access to the equipment required, you can contact our Admissions Advisors who will be able to give you more information and answer any queries.

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Fees and Discounts


  • Our standard fees for degree level courses are £4,500 per level
  • There are three levels in a BA (Hons) degree programme
  • Fees are payable per level


From £576 per month
  • Two instalments of £2,304
    Total payment of £4,608 per level*
  • Eight instalments of £576
    Total payment of £4,608 per level*



From £288 per month
  • Four instalments of £1,152
    Total payment of £4,608 per level*
  • 16 instalments of £288
    Total payment of £4,608 per level*


*Please note these figures include a small administration fee.

Employers and self-employed student discounts

We offer a discount to employers who are supporting their employees to study with IDI. Students who are self-employed can also benefit from this discount.

We can also arrange a group price for employers who want to support a number of employees.

For details of payment options and to find out how this could benefit you and your business please contact Danielle Gray on 0131 777 9321 or Freephone 0800 917 1118 or by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Future Finance student loans

IDI are partnered with Future Finance to offer current and prospective students on the following courses the opportunity to apply for loans:

  • All MA courses
  • All BA (Hons) courses

To find out more about fees, funding and Future Finance student loans, please click here.


Should our fees be subject to an increase at any time during your studies, your fees will be fixed at the level you paid at the start of your course, as long as you follow your original pattern of study.

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illu careers

This course will prepare you for a career as an illustrator, as well as for illustration-related roles in digital graphics, online media, communications and marketing, publishing, advertising and various other related fields.

Following on from your undergraduate studies, if you decide that you want to further specialise in illustration, we also offer an MA Illustration (Visual Communication) award. You can find out more about our Postgraduate Programme in Art and Design here.

Whichever path you choose, you’ll have many opportunities to create a strong portfolio of illustration projects that will be an invaluable advantage when seeking employment in this rewarding, vibrant and growing industry.

Potential Careers:

  • Branding and Identity Designer
  • Children's Book Illustrator
  • Typography Specialist
  • Editorial Illustrator (print)
  • Spatial Illustration
  • 3D Design and Visualisation
  • Animation Illustrator
  • User Interface Designer
  • Multimedia Illustrator
  • Interaction Designer


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Student Discounts and Offers

Through partnerships and initiatives, we are able to offer our students institutional discounts on various products and services to help you gain access to quality materials at an affordable fee.

Adobe Creative Cloud

As an IDI student, you would be eligible for a discount of up to 65% off Adobe Creative Cloud* on production of an approved 'Proof of Student Status' letter.

*Adobe Creative Cloud is only available in selected countries. Find out if you can gain access from where you live by clicking here.

Graphics Direct

IDI students can also receive additional discounts. Enter ‘IDI’ at the Graphics Direct checkout and you will receive an extra 10% off, even on discounted and sale items.


All of our tutors are professionals with first class educational experience. We guarantee our students a consistently high standard of tuition, guidance and support across all of the online art and design courses that we deliver.

Click on the images below to find out more about their practice and experience:

  • Belinda Langlands

  • Christopher Gibbs

  • Ella Goodwin

  • Elspeth Edmondson

  • Joanna Kane

  • Jonathan Williams

  • Kimberley Roworth

  • Robert Potts

  • Simon Gomes

  • Tina Burton

Course Duration

The BA (Hons) Illustration programme is available to study in the following modes, subject to minimum student enrolment numbers:

  • Part-time – Completed in twelve semesters (four years)
  • Full-time – Completed in six semesters with two semester breaks (two years, eight months)
  • Accelerated full-time – Completed in six semesters (two years)

Expected minimum studying time commitment per study mode:

  • Part-time – 15 to 20 hours per week
  • Full-time – 30 hours per week

The hours per week indicate time spent on directed activities. However, you will also need to consider the additional time needed to read support materials and other resources, upload your work to the IDI-Study site, communicate with your tutors and interact with your peers within the forums.

If you begin studying and feel that the pace isn’t quite right for you, you can change your study mode within the first four weeks of study, or on completion of a level.

Advanced Entry

If you have a previous qualification in illustration or a closely related field, or extensive industry experience (at least five years), you may be considered for advanced entry onto either Level 5 or 6 of the degree programme.

Accredited Prior Learning (APL)

Accredited Prior Learning (APL) is the process for accessing and recognising prior experiential learning or prior certificated learning for academic purposes. This recognition gives the learning a credit value and allows it to be counted towards the completion of a degree or other award.

Credit is the common currency of university programmes. Each course module has a credit value and these credits are accumulated towards the full award. For example, an honours degree requires 120 credits at each of Levels 4, 5 and 6.

The APL process is intended to stop learners repeating learning that they have already achieved.

There are two types of APL:

Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL)

Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) is learning that has been recognised previously by an education provider, evidenced by formal certification, and assessed and recognised for the award of credit.

If you have previously studied a course that has broadly the same learning outcomes as ones on an IDI programme, then you can apply to have these credited against your degree. However, if a qualification or credit is more than five years old, it could be considered out of date and may not be used towards a degree.

If you have international qualifications, we may ask you to provide an official document that states how your international qualification compares to UK qualifications. You are likely to have to pay for this service.

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) is learning that has been achieved through experiences outside the formal education and training systems, normally associated with a working environment, which has been assessed and recognised for the award of credit by the University. It is different from formal learning, as it is often unstructured and can be more personal and individualised.

APEL applicants can develop skills, strengths and knowledge from a range of experiential learning. Please be aware that learning must be at an equivalent level to that on the modules offered on our programmes and you must be able to evidence it. This is typically done by means of a portfolio. It is usual for this to involve some sort of reflective writing about your learning, but it might involve many other forms of evidence too.

It is important to remember that it is the learning from experience rather than the learning itself that is assessed for credit and so you will need to be able to articulate this.

Making an Advanced Entry Application

When completing an application for advanced entry, you will be asked to provide evidence that you have confidently met the learning outcomes of the level(s) for which you are claiming credit. Your Admissions Advisor will help you with this

Completed applications will be submitted to our Admissions team and forwarded to the Academic Leader for review. After review, a recommended entry level will be given and you will receive feedback on your application. If your claim for Accredited Prior Learning (APL) is full or partly on Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL), you will be invited to attend a viva via Skype to support your claim.

In some rare cases we can offer credits for one or more modules in a level, but this is not common or advisable, as the modules have been developed for you to benefit from the complete learning journey. There are also no payment plans in place for this situation and in most cases you will be required to pay for the full level.

If you are successful in your claim for advanced entry, you will be sent a conditional offer. This condition is based on confirmation of your claim for credits from the University of Hertfordshire’s Board of Examiners who will approve the award of credit on your student record. At this stage you will be invited to confirm your place on the course by making payment.

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