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BA (hons) Illustration

Course Overview

Illustration has the power to spark imagination and to shed light on complex subject matter. A diverse and expanding discipline, it encompasses moving image, sound, 3D forms and new languages through emerging technologies. Illustrators illuminate ideas, texts and narratives, often initiated by clients and collaborators commercially, but increasingly as authors and directors of their own projects.

Illustration always has a purpose, from enhancing literature and the everyday, to enabling understanding of science, medicine and health, psychology, politics and comers. It may be encountered in magazines and advertisements, and it is integral to the animation and film professions.

Download a BA Illustration prospectus here

Our programme gives you every opportunity to find out what kind of illustrator you want to be and then enables you to develop the skills and ideas needed in order to fulfil your potential.

In your first year, you will concentrate on unlocking ideas that can be translated into illustrative material. The emphasis will be on illustrative perspectives, including those of the inventor and interpreter. Later, you will explore applied narrative, drawing, making and collaborative processes. You will have the freedom to experiment with familiar and unfamiliar technical skills, according to your emerging needs, interests and strengths.

Your second year offers the challenge of communicating complex information using a variety of voices and perspectives. All second year work is underpinned by discourse, reading, and writing; helping you to explore new knowledge.

In your third year you will work towards the final exhibition, dissertation and portfolio.

Hannah Makepeace“We were encouraged to invent stories from objects or things that we’d found. I found these two little porcelain-type rabbit figures in Peruvian dress, so I invented a love story” Hannah Makepeace Click here to see the results of Hannah’s work for the ‘City’ brief

The structure of the course enables you to gather strong business experience, undertake a work placement within the industry, carry out research with one of our Professors and research staff, or travel to study illustration in countries where the traditions are very different. In the third year, illustration students can elect to undertake a business plan or a dissertation, preparing the way for your career on graduation. The choice is yours, and it’s there to help realise your ambitions – whether that is to continue your personal development through further study, join a company, start your own business or build an audience or client base for your work.


The focus of the degree is not only to develop you as a student and critical thinker, but to inspire your growth into a skilled and intellectual illustrator. These attributes, which are dependent on one another, combined with practical experience and an understanding of the illustration industry, will form the beginning of your career, and stand you in the strongest possible position to carry it forward.

The Illustration programme is taught by an experienced team of dedicated illustrators; staff interests and research areas range from performative illustration, puppetry and music, to the illustration of complex abstract concepts. Our professional experience includes narrative and editorial illustration, animation design and production.

Year One (level 4)

Module One – Interpreter and Dramatist: This module is designed to provide you with the tools, language and understanding to realise your potential as imaginative observers, interpreters and visual dramatists. Through a series of tutor-led practical briefs, you will explore themes of visual communication, interpretation, rhetoric and narrative, as you develop your own expertise. Each project you undertake undertake will inform the next, thus the production of ‘final pieces’ is not as important as developing a self-reflective understanding of why your practice is, or isn’t, as successful as it might be.

Module Two – Illustration in the City: In this module, you will be offered the opportunity to collaborate across subject disciplines. By tackling a set of concerns as a group, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your own strengths, skills and artistic insight in relation to the broader creative field.

Module Three: Constellation – Concept In term one, a series of keynote lectures from across the Constellation team will introduce you to the staff and their areas of interest and expertise. Through interdisciplinary working – such as collective presentations – you will be developing your academic and research skills, across concepts ranging from post-modernism, identity and globalisation to post colonialism, technology and embodiment.

Click here to read the full description of this programme (PDF format).

Year Two (level 5)

Module One: This module is designed to help you reflect upon your own strengths and interests, building intellectual expertise and vocation into the core of your practice as the foundations for your future career. Through a series of tutor-led briefs, you will explore images and texts, all the while developing a more thorough and more sophisticated understanding of your individual approach and ideas.

Module Two – Field: You will be set a challenging project which will require you to negotiate and learn beyond the curriculum of your subject discipline. It may take you abroad for international study; to an existing company for work experience or voluntary social engagement; or result in working with School’s leading research teams or individual staff. Designed to encourage you to explore and experiment, individual projects will be graded by a common form of assessment.

Module Three – Critique: In terms one and two you will attend a series of seminars led by different Constellation team members, thus engaging in a diverse range of topics where you will be able to put your academic skills into practice. This will include critiquing current literature as well as contemporary journals and exhibitions, with the purpose of examining a range of modern research ideas; from interactivity and design to metaphor, critical theory, ecology, art and science. In doing so, you will be introduced to additional research methodologies, such as ethnographic research, content analysis, archival research.

Click here to read the full description of this programme (PDF format).

Year Three (level 6)

Module One – Subject: Spectacle: This module is student-led in terms of both content and outcome, and is designed to help you further your creative practice. As such, it could be that your work is founded in a professional context, or that it centres around entry into competitions.

Module Two – Field: Exhibition: Built around a major project and an exhibition brief, the module will see you produce a professional presentation of your design collection; this being the culmination of your creative practice, often serving as the launch-pad for a final year student’s future career.

Module Three – Constellation: Dissertation: Your final Constellation module will demonstrate your ability to produce a dissertation of significant value to your field, with a sense of authority stemming from thorough research and academic rigour.

Click here to read the full description of this programme (PDF format).


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.

Click here to read the full description of this programme (PDF format).


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, theoretical and social issues and will often be explored in written or theoretical work, known as your Constellation 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 Constellation assignments, as well as being evident in your practical progress.

Click here to read the full description of this programme (PDF format).


Whilst your learning is designed to develop you into a rounded and capable designer and intellectual, your curriculum is similarly structured with 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; from building contacts and undertaking placements to live briefs and, should you choose so, support in forming your own business.

You can elect to take a route through your second and final years of studies where you can engage with businesses or launch your own for the moment you graduate. 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 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. They have opportunities to take this further, through a Professional Doctorate in Design.

Click here to read the full description of this programme (PDF format).


Applicants should have a strong art and/or design portfolio and demonstrate a commitment to art and/or design, five GCSE passes including English and Maths at grade C or above plus:
• 300 points from a successfully completed Art & Design Foundation Diploma or/and
• At least 3 A Levels / Scottish Advanced Highers from any Subject (General Studies excluded)
• QCF BTEC Extended Diploma: Distinction Distinction Merit
• 300 points from the Irish Leaving Certificate at Highers to include 3 x B1 grades from any subject (minimum grade C2 considered)
• Pass Access with 45 credits at Level 3 within a relevant subject
• 300 points from the Welsh Baccalaureate to include grades CC at A Level within any subject, General Studies excluded, Core counted as fourth subject
• Qualifications equivalent to the above

If your qualification isn’t listed above, please refer to the UCAS website.

For applicants only undertaking 2 A Levels / 12-unit BTEC or equivalent, or applying with other life experiences, other qualifications and/or art & design achievements will be considered. If you are a UK or EU student intending to enter the first year and are confident you will meet the academic level (the tariff points) for your preferred undergraduate course, then you should apply through the usual means (UCAS in the UK) as detailed on the applications page of the Cardiff Metropolitan University website.

Selection Procedure:
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.
(i) Personal enthusiasm for and immersion in the practice and theory of Art & Design.
(ii) Academic Achievement and ability.
(iii) Quality of work, ambition and skills demonstrated in a portfolio.

Click here to read the full description of this programme (PDF format).


UCAS code: W220
Course length: Three years full-time.
Subject Leader: Chris Glynn;

For course specific enquiries, please contact Subject Leader Chris Glynn;

Click here to read the full description of this programme (PDF format).

Below is a list of other related courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Visit the courses page for the full list.
BA Fine Art
BA Graphic Communication
Postgraduate Certificate in Research Skills: Art & Design (CRS)
Communication - MA (Art & Design)
MA (Art & Design) with pathways
Master of Fine Art (MFA)

Cardiff School of Art & Design is home to 1200 students, united by ambition and a true passion for creative enquiry. We are makers and thinkers in the fields of fine art, design, architecture and a range of craft practices. We have workshops and studios that ensure our students can operate as professionals from the moment they start their studies.

Why choose CSAD? Read three big reasons here.

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