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BA (Hons) Illustration


What does the course involve?

On the BA (Hons) Illustration programme, you’ll be guided you through a series of practical illustration projects and activities.

You’ll also create your own illustration portfolio – to showcase to prospective employers and help set you on the path towards a successful career as a professional illustrator.

Through our online study website, you’ll receive unlimited one-to-one tuition from tutors who are all experienced design professionals. This is also where you’ll discuss projects with your peers, and upload your work for assessment and feedback.

With IDI, you’ll develop an individual creative approach, and graduate with confidence in your aesthetic, design and commercial judgement.

Course duration

You’ll complete the programme across twelve semesters, delivered over four years. All semesters consist of twelve weeks of study, followed by four weeks of assessment processes.

While studying, you’ll be expected to set aside a minimum of 15-20 hours per week for your directed activities. You should also consider the additional time that will be needed to read supporting materials, upload your work to the site, and for discussion with your tutors and peers in the forums.


This course will prepare you for a successful career as an illustrator, and for related roles in digital graphics, online media, communications and marketing, publishing, advertising and many other related fields. (Find out more about starting a career in illustration.)

For more detailed information about the course, you can download the Programme Specification here.

Next Start Dates: 16th October 2017, 19th February 2018 and 18th June 2018

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Illustration Advanced Practice 1

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.

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.

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 more information about the equipment requirements, please refer to the Reading and Materials List.


*The module content, mode of delivery and assessment methods for this programme are subject to change.

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

(UCAS have introduced a new points tariff for 2017, you can find out more and calculate your own UCAS points here.)

For UK applicants, we require either 96 UCAS points from GCE A Levels (or equivalent), including art related subjects, and English Language and Mathematics at grade 4 or above (grade C and D or above if prior to 2015), 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)

You can find more detailed information on our entry requirements page.

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.

Find out more about advanced entry, and see if you could be eligible.

Portfolio guidelines

To be eligible to enrol on the programme, 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 illustration 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 see our portfolio guidelines page.


Fees and Discounts

Payment in Full Payment Plans


per level

  • There are three levels in a BA (Hons) degree programme
  • Fees are payable per level


per level

  • 4 instalments of £1,152
    (total payment of £4,608*)
  • 16 instalments of £288
    (total payment of £4,608*)

*Please note these figures include a small administration fee. If you choose to pay with a payment plan you need to pay your first instalment to secure your place. Your next payment is due approximately one month after your start date.

Employers and self-employed 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 us on 0131 777 9321 or Freephone 0800 917 1118 or by e-mail:

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
  • 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.


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:

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