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


On the MA Illustration (Visual Communication) award, you will develop a proposal for a programme of sustained creative practice within the field of illustration that will reflect an area of personal interest. Whether your work is placed in a theoretical, philosophical or commercial context, you will be encouraged to develop your own visual voice through extensive experimentation, and to demonstrate rigorous intellectual engagement with appropriate illustrative processes.

Your work will culminate in a Major Study that will challenge you to produce an individual proposal relating to various issues and debates, ranging from the history of the subject, through to change within contemporary illustration practice. You will also study illustration within a range of contexts and explore, for example, social, aesthetic and technological themes.

Download the Programme Specification for detailed information about the course.

Why Study an MA in Illustration (Visual Communication)

Adding an MA degree to your CV is a great way to stand out in a very competitive industry. As well as gaining an internationally recognised qualification, you will refine your illustration and related art and design skills, gain advanced knowledge of contemporary illustration at the forefront of the discipline − both in the UK and globally − and advance your portfolio with individual and thought-provoking work.

As an IDI student, you will be enrolled on our online Postgraduate Programme in Art and Design, specialising in illustration. Studying online enables you to work at times that suit you as you develop your project proposal in preparation for your Major Study. You will prepare for this through a series of practice modules, which are supported by modules that focus on research and the creative industries. The award on your degree certificate will be MA Illustration (Visual Communication) from the University of Hertfordshire.


ma illu modules

On all of the MA courses at IDI, you will study core modules alongside students from other disciplines. However, you are encouraged to approach them from the point of view of your own practice.

The core modules are:

  • Postgraduate Study in Context
  • Research and Practice
  • Creative Industries: Global Perspectives
  • Critical Studies
  • Creative Industries: Business Perspectives
  • Creative Industries: Professional Presentations

Click here for more information about these modules.

Throughout the course, you will build a foundation for your Major Study. You will also complete an outline or proposal and develop the knowledge and skills required to implement your plans.

You will also undertake three centred on your discipline modules:

ma illu modules 1

Practice 1: Art and Design

Your practice in this module is expected to reflect your individual interests within the evolving contemporary discipline of illustration and may include illustration briefs and emerging practice within editorial and book illustration, applied illustration within branding and visual identity, illustration within screen-based, web, interactive, spatial and moving image contexts. In the Practice 1 module, you will develop a first exploratory portfolio of sketchbook work, identifying new directions for your creative practice to take forward into the Practice 2 and Major Study modules.

ma illu modules

Practice 2: Art and Design

In Practice 2, you will continue to build on your work from the previous module. A commitment to in-depth sketchbook work and other forms of illustration development will be particularly important in this module, which provides a foundation for the Major Study. In your illustration projects you may choose to experiment with digital techniques and/or traditional media, including but not limited to: drawing, printmaking, collage and other image-making media. Projects may reflect emerging contemporary practice within editorial, fine art, applied, spatial or screen-based illustration. In this module, you are encouraged to consider interdisciplinary contexts, wider contemporary critical debates and your professional audiences, in order to expand your practice in illustration.

Major Study

The Major Study will allow you to realise a project that builds on the knowledge and ideas explored throughout the programme, and demonstrate an advanced level of creativity and an in-depth knowledge of illustration.

You will build on ideas investigated in earlier parts of the programme and bring together practical, theoretical, commercial, as well as other contextual approaches, to complete a sustained body of original and innovative practice. This body of work will exhibit professional excellence and comprehensive understanding of illustration practice. The realisation of this body of work is supported by work in progress online discussions involving students studying all disciplines on the Postgraduate Programme in Art and Design, as well as one-to-one dialogue with your tutor.

As the culmination of your postgraduate journey, the Major Study project will be the final submission for the master’s award, demonstrating the communication, professional, conceptual and creative skills that you have acquired during your studies. The project will also provide evidence of preparedness for employment to potential future employers and clients.

Your Major Study project is expected to reflect a development and realisation of individual interests within the contemporary discipline of illustration. This may include, but not be limited to, self-initiated illustration briefs and emerging interdisciplinary practice within:

  • Editorial and book illustration
  • Applied illustration within branding and visual identity
  • Illustration within screen-based, web, interactive and moving image contexts

In your illustration projects, you may investigate digital techniques and/or traditional media including drawing, printmaking, collage and other image-making media. The content should be challenging and thought-provoking. Each project should demonstrate awareness of the forefront of your discipline in its originality and creativity. Your practical work will also address specific audience requirements along with relevant social, cultural and political contexts.

You will also submit a written reflective statement of around 3,000 words in which you will contextualise your own work and practice. The written submission aims to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of theories of visual communication, specifically in relation to illustration, and critically appraise the aims of the work, as well as the professional and commercial contexts in which it was developed. Writing this statement will provide you with insights into your own work, and the skills to express your ideas in a coherent and informed manner to potential audiences.

As in the Practice 1 and 2 Art and Design modules, you will work with a specialist subject tutor.

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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.

start dates

Entry and Portfolio Requirements

ma illu entry

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

To be eligible to study on our Postgraduate Programme in Art and Design, you would normally have an honours degree (2:2 or above) in a relevant field to the award you want to study. If you do not have a degree, you will need to show that you have appropriate professional experience and skills to benefit from the course.

We might also be able to take into account Accredited Prior Learning (APL). If your degree is in a field that is not art and design related, you will need appropriate knowledge, skills or experience in the field you wish to study, or be able to show that you are prepared for intensive new learning.

In all cases you will need to demonstrate, through a portfolio of creative work and personal statement, your preparedness for study at postgraduate level. Once you apply, you will have access to our online Admissions Area, where a member of the Admissions team will advise and guide you through the application process. Applying is free of charge and, after applying, you are not committed to enrolling on the Postgraduate Programme or paying any fees.

International Applicants

For those whose first language is not English, an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score of 6.5 or equivalent is required. Contact us for further details.

This programme is subject to the University of Hertfordshire's principles, policies, regulations and procedures for the admission of students to undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes and will take account of university policy and guidelines for assessing the two types of APL - Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) and Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

Portfolio Guidelines

In your portfolio of creative work, it is particularly important that you demonstrate that your work and experience is at the appropriate level to undertake your chosen course. Please ensure that you submit:

  • High quality and well-presented project work which demonstrates a successful outcome
  • Details of the research and development processes you used to complete the work

If your application is centred on a previous qualification earned at another institution, select previous project work that exhibits your strengths. If it is based on professional experience, choose work that displays an imaginative, creative and innovative approach.

Here is an overview of what should be included in your portfolio:

  • 'About me' section
    • Previous qualifications
    • Recent, relevant experience
    • Key skills
    • Future aspirations
    • Creative process
    • Practice development
    • Additional information
  • Evidence of visual research and research processes
  • Evidence of your working methods and development processes
  • Evidence of critical analysis and evaluation
  • Examples of work from previous studies and/or professional experience

Your portfolio should be delivered in one of the following formats:

  • As a PDF document – comprised of images or pages.
  • As a web portfolio link – preferably as a portfolio page or set of pages with carefully selected recent work.

For more detailed information on what your portfolio should include click here.

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 postgraduate level courses are £6,000



From £510 per month
  • Three instalments of £2,020
    Total payment of £6,060*
  • 12 instalments of £510
    Total payment of £6,120*


From £255 per month
  • Six instalments of £1,010
    Total payment of £6,060*
  • 24 instalments of £255
    Total payment of £6,120*

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

  • All MA courses
  • Levels 5 and 6 (equivalent to year 2 and 3) of 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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ma illu careers

The MA Illustration (Visual Communication) award will prepare you for a career as an illustrator, and also for illustration-related roles in digital graphics, online media, communications and marketing, publishing, advertising and various other fields.

If you think you might be more suited to an undergraduate degree, you might want to consider our BA (Hons) Illustration programme.

This award will enable you to generate a strong portfolio of illustration projects that will help you to secure a job or gain promotion in a rewarding, vibrant and growing industry.

Potential Careers:

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


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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:

  • Dr Alessandra Campoli

  • Christopher Gibbs

  • Joanna Kane

  • Tim Bones

Course Duration

The MA Illustration (Visual Communication) award is currently available for part-time study. Subject to minimum cohort numbers, the course can also run full-time. Please contact one of our Student Recruitment Advisors to register your interest in full-time study.

  • Part-time - Completed in six semesters (two years)
  • Full-time - Completed in three semesters (one year)

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.