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MA Illustration (Visual Communication)


What does the course involve?

While studying the MA Illustration (Visual Communication), you’ll develop a proposal for a programme of sustained creative practice in the field of illustration – in an area of your own personal interest.

Whether you’re working in a theoretical, philosophical or commercial context, you’ll be encouraged to experiment and develop your own visual voice.

Your work will culminate in a Major Study, challenging you to produce a proposal relating to a wide range of issues and debates – from historical to contemporary illustration practice.

The following aspects are at the core of the MA programme:

Specialist Art and Design Practice:

You will have the opportunity to develop your creative practice within your own discrete subject area, alongside critical reflection and analysis in the context of historical and contemporary trends.

Professional Context:

You will develop skills, knowledge and understanding relating to the professional environment of art and design, including management, team working, project development and client relationships.

International Perspective:

You will explore this in relation to the creative industries in a global context and to the characteristics of the industry as they are manifested nationally and locally.


You will develop skills, knowledge and understanding relating to business planning, resource planning and project management within the creative industries.

Course duration

You’ll complete the programme across six semesters, delivered over two 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 needed to read supporting materials, upload your work to the site, and for discussion with your tutors and peers in the forums.


This MA 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


What will I learn?

You will study a number of interdisciplinary modules alongside students from related art and design subject areas, while also specialising in your own discpline. You will be encouraged to approach each module from the point of view of your own individual practice, as well as developing skills in collaboration and an understanding of working in the Creative Industries within your subject area.

It is recognised that despite the wide-cross section of disciplines contained within the Postgraduate Programme in Art and Design, there are many common themes and shared interests, including: creative practice, research and advanced study skills, the acquisition of professional skills to help career development, and the range of conceptual issues that underpin advanced practice in art and design.

Module overviews

The descriptions below should help you to get an overview of what your MA award involves.

We recognise that students undertaking the MA are likely to come from a variety of backgrounds. Therefore, this introductory module aims to prepare you for master’s level study in Art and Design, introducing the core skills, the study skills required for future modules and the expectations of postgraduate study. Particular emphasis is placed on the relationship between theory and practice, with the aim of preparing you to understand the connection between your project direction and all of the modules in the programme.

This module aims to help you to:

  • Understand the relationship between theory and practice
  • Define relevant contexts and approaches to MA study
  • Establish reflective practice and critical thinking
  • Engage in interdisciplinary practice and collaborative group work
  • Develop an individual Project Proposal at Postgraduate Level

The first Creative Industries modules provides insights into the global creative environment. With reference to your own experience, you are invited to consider your creative practice in relation to local, national and global art and design industries.

You are also encouraged to consider local and international opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, so that you are prepared to present your practice in professional contexts.

You will become familiar with a variety of professional creative and cultural environments, develop your awareness of your position within the wider local and global creative industries, and recognise the challenges and possibilities of working globally.

You will consider what is meant by “global audiences “and “globalisation” as well as thinking about how global perspectives impact on your planned project work within the programme as a whole.

The module aims to enable you to:

  • Develop your understanding of art and design in a global context
  • Conduct research on international aspects of art and design
  • Consider art and design in national/local context as it relates to global practice
  • Develop an awareness of creative project management issues within the creative industries globally
  • Frame the research territory of your individual Project Proposal

The Research and Practice module introduces academic enquiry and critical response. The emphasis is on preparing you to critically engage with current debates and to develop your information handling, enquiry and research skills. You will undertake focused research into themes that are of particular relevance to your practice.

You will gain specialist knowledge of the current issues and debates that exist within your field, and develop your ability to contextualise the practical work that you undertake during other modules.

This will add to the placing of your creative practice in context and will also challenge your assumptions. You will be expected to demonstrate awareness of insights at the forefront of your field of practice, and the skills of critical engagement that are required to present and respond to these debates.

The module is designed to encourage you to:

  • Critically engage with a range of current ideas and debates concerning research, enquiry and creativity
  • Analyse, critically evaluate and reflect upon your own work and the work of others
  • Develop your understanding and skills in a range of information handling, enquiry and research practices
  • Develop communication skills appropriate to master’s level study

Assessment is typically based on written assignments that are designed to test your skills in academic research and critical analysis.

Your approach in Practice 1 should reflect your individual interests within your contemporary creative discipline.

In the Practice 1 module, you will develop a first phase of creative project work. You will also define new directions for your project that you will take forward into the Practice 2 and Major Study modules.

During the module you will:

  • Negotiate a first phase project that takes into account advanced knowledge and best practice within your discipline
  • Negotiate project aims that addresses a range of wider contexts (creative, social, international, ethical and commercial) within your field
  • Make a critical evaluation of the skills necessary to develop and realise the negotiated project
  • Undertake a period of sustained creative enquiry leading to a presentation, portfolio, exhibition or other negotiated outcome, and make a critical appraisal of the proposed project

On completion of the module you will have an improved understanding of practice at postgraduate level. You will be able to undertake visual exploration, leading towards meaningful outcomes.

Assessment is typically based on a portfolio of work, finished to a professional level, which demonstrates knowledge of practical, professional and academic contexts.

The second Creative Industries module explores the relationships between creative practitioners. You will be expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of professional environments and audiences. The module content prepares you for various engagements with other professionals, including project management and collaboration.

During this module you will investigate ways of working, focusing on roles and relationships within a commercial environment, to develop an understanding of your place within a team or group context. It is key to your success as a practitioner that you understand how to liaise and collaborate with others: even a sole practitioner cannot operate in isolation.

You will have the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary peer group on a project brief which simulates creative collaboration within the professional work environment.

You will also:

  • Understand the business context of the creative industries
  • Develop an awareness and understanding of business analysis and planning, including financial analysis
  • Develop an understanding of management issues and gain management skills, including project and people management
  • Undertake a project which allows for the development of relevant skills and understanding of the workplace environment
  • Complete a report which demonstrates an understanding of the business context of a creative project

On completion of this module you will have a familiarity with professional environments and preparedness for work alongside other creative professionals, ensuring that your skills are marketable in a global business environment.

The third Creative Industries module prepares you to present yourself and your art and design work to a range of potential clients and audiences appropriate to your own practice. You will have the opportunity to demonstrate the value of your knowledge, skills and creative practice to potential audiences and employers, and to negotiate the demands of different stakeholders.

During the module you will develop a professional digital presence through a range of activities aimed to enhance your portfolio and your preparedness for pitching and presenting to potential clients and audiences.

The aims of the module are to:

  • Enable you to develop your understanding of the creative and business contexts of responding to a professional client brief
  • Encourage you to develop an understanding of the requirements of presenting work in a professional context
  • Create a professional portfolio of work
  • Create a professional digital presence, as appropriate to your field of study
  • Understand the requirements of the professional client pitch
  • Develop appropriate skills and competencies for presenting to clients

On completion of the module you will be able to present yourself and your work to appropriate audiences in a professional manner.

Building on the Practice 1 module, you will continue with the next phase of your project. Typically, you will work on a more in-depth body of work in negotiation and discussion with your tutor.

As in Practice 1, your focus will be within an appropriate sector of your contemporary discipline. Taking this further, you will be encouraged to consider interdisciplinary contexts, wider contemporary debates and your professional audiences, in order to expand your practice.

During this module you will:

  • Develop a second project phase that demonstrates advanced knowledge and creativity
  • Locate your practice within a specific creative, cultural, ethical or professional context
  • Make a critical assessment of responses from audiences and external professionals to your creative practice
  • Acquire the skills, creativity and understanding necessary to plan for the final phase of your study

Assessment is typically based on a portfolio of work, finished to a professional level, which demonstrates knowledge of practical, professional and academic contexts.

Following on from the Research and Practice module, Critical Studies aims to further develop your handling of theoretical, historical, contemporary and global texts. This provides a basis for a systematic knowledge and understanding of genres, aesthetic traditions and current and emerging debates, to a level appropriate for postgraduate research.

You will be required to critically engage with a variety of complex ideas, and to communicate your responses in forms appropriate for an audience of researchers and peers.

Activities typically include presentations and written texts that emulate forms of research output encountered in scholarly environments, such as conference papers and journal articles.

During this module you will:

  • Extend your knowledge and critical thinking of the theoretical, historical and contemporary cultural contexts of your discipline and your own practice, to a standard appropriate for postgraduate study
  • Explore and develop your communication practices and skills to a standard appropriate for postgraduate study
  • Progress a research project demonstrating awareness and use of appropriate methodologies and approaches to critical study, and explore historical and contemporary contexts
  • Develop your familiarity with the scholarly environment, and will have an understanding of key histories and theories that underpin practice in your field

Assessment is typically based on presentations and written texts that are common to research output encountered in scholarly environments, such as conference papers and journal articles.

Following the completion of the Practice 1 and 2 Art and Design modules, in Major Study you will work with your specialist subject tutor from your own discipline, as well as having the opportunity to engage with an interdisciplinary peer group. The Major Study will extend the knowledge and ideas explored throughout the MA, in a new and final phase of project work. You will demonstrate an advanced level of creativity and an in-depth knowledge of your discipline.

You will be required to clearly define the scope and aims of your Major Study project, to delivery practical outcomes that are completed to a professional standard. You will be required to present your project outcomes in a form suitable for your target audience.

The Major Study project is the concluding submission for the award of MA. It is the final stage of your postgraduate journey, demonstrating the communication, professional, conceptual and creative skills that you have acquired during the programme. This project will also provide evidence of preparedness for employment for potential employers and clients.

During the module you will:

  • Develop a final project phase in your discipline that demonstrates knowledge and creativity
  • Communicate an ambitious project suitable for professional and public audiences
  • Refine the skills, creativity and understanding necessary to work as a professional practitioner in your field
  • Acquire critical awareness of contemporary debates and new insights at the forefront of contemporary practice in your discipline

Assessment is typically based on a portfolio of work, finished to a professional level, which demonstrates knowledge of practical, professional and academic contexts.

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.

*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.

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).

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

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.

Fees and Discounts

Payment in Full Payment Plans
Total payment




per month

  • 6 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. 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 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.

Student Stories

Degree Show - February 2017


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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