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BA (Hons) Illustration

Turn your stories and creative concepts into narrative art by exploring the world of illustration and visual communication
Course length
Full-time — 3 years
Start date
Tuition fees
GBP 6900 / year

About the course

BA (Hons) Illustration is a diverse course that encourages students to communicate ideas and narratives through a broad range of traditional, digital and time-based media. Students are expected to work with ingenuity and professionalism on commercial briefs, whilst also developing distinctive work pursuing personal interests. As well as creating imagery for magazines, newspapers or advertising, we develop skills in narrative art forms such as animation, picture books, comics, short films and interactive digital environments.

The course also provides a welcoming environment to students working in craft-based areas, such as printmaking, ceramics, street art and textiles. As such, BA (Hons) Illustration a varied and exciting subject area that provides a memorable student experience.

BA (Hons) Illustration programme is validated by University of Hertfordshire.

Course Outline 

Our teaching philosophy is underpinned by our belief in drawing as an essential tool for experimentation, analysis and idea development. This is reflected in skills workshops and the requirement for students to work every day in personal sketchbooks in addition to their other projects. Students also develop a wide range of transferable skills to prepare them for employment, such as presenting to peers and clients, writing project reports and evaluations, critiquing work in groups, and organising their own exhibitions and events.

BA (Hons) Illustration graduates progress to careers in editorial, publishing, advertising, children’s books, art direction, graphic design, film and animation, fine art, digital media, teaching and web design; as well as those who move on to further study at post-graduate level.


On successful completion of the programme, students will typically have: 

Knowledge and understanding of:
- Historical and current developments in the discipline of illustration.
- Cultural, historical and professional contexts
- Visual languages appropriate to the practice of illustration in relation to problems, markets and audiences
- Materials, techniques and processes relating to illustration
- A process of project development and design realisation to standards of professional competence

Intellectual Skills:
- Exercise, in a creative design process, thorough research, analysis, selection and critical judgement
- Demonstrate a confidence and ability in the generation of ideas and approaches to solving visual communication problems, present arguments fluently and draw conclusions independently
- Demonstrate a willingness to explore visual languages, materials and techniques 
- Develop levels of critical analysis and self reflection in response to research and ideas
- Present an appropriate range of solutions to design problems in critical response to set briefs and/or negotiated projects
- Make informed aesthetic, functional and intellectual judgements relative to the appropriate realisation of design ideas

Practical Skills:
- Produce, design and imagery to a professional standard using a range of materials for various audiences/contexts
- Demonstrate professional competence in the realisation, presentation and communication of design ideas and concepts in the field of visual communication
- Demonstrate professional competence in drawing and other core mark-making techniques, skills and mediums and be able to use these to convey meaning
- Demonstrate professional competence in typography, layout, composition, word and image juxtaposition, choice and use of paper, print processes, finishes and formats

Transferable Skills:
- Research, edit, organise and present information effectively to a range of audiences both traditionally and digitally
- Demonstrate a high level of personal responsibility and initiative in the management of self learning
- Identify personal strengths and learning through reflection and evaluation
- Demonstrate effective communication skills through considered use of English Language, both orally and in writing
- Work effectively within a team in a variety of roles
- Respond flexibly to discussions, recommendations and change
- Demonstrate responsibility with regards to time and project management
- Effectively deploy a range of personal and entrepreneurial skills to meet their career aspirations.

Year 1
In Semester A, students work alongside Graphic Design students on a range of design and illustration projects. The emphasis of this semester is on idea generation, establishing a productive design process and expanding visual skills in drawing, traditional media and digital design programs.

In Semester B, students commit to specialisation in Illustration and undergo a number of projects exploring different facets of illustration practice. The main project in this semester is based around a piece of literature and consists of a variety of directed and self-directed tasks, that focus on research, idea generation, character development, storytelling, designing and producing a costume, using photo/video equipment and is concluded by a performance. This semester also includes image making workshops, live drawing sessions, lectures from industry guests and daily sketchbook practice.
Year One culminates in a study trip to London, with educational visits to degree and post-graduate exhibitions at Royal College of Art and D&AD New Blood, plus the Association of Illustrators and major museums such Tate Modern, Barbican and Saatchi Gallery.

Core modules:
- Visual Communication L4
- C&CS Level 4 Graphic Design and Illustration L4
- Illustration Essentials Part 1 L4

Year 2
Semester A begins with a study trip to St Petersburg for the Boomfest comics festival, St Petersburg Street Art Museum and Hermitage State Museum. In the studio, students focus firstly on research and reportage, and then move onto a study of visual storytelling, mainly working with animation and video. During this semester, students are encouraged to consider their own personal direction as an illustrator and identify areas and techniques in which to focus their practice.

In Semester B, students are challenged to develop their work through an increased focus on the demands of professional illustration practice. Studio projects include international and local competitions, and students are given the opportunity to work on exciting and challenging live briefs with clients. Recent commercial partners include Mayakovskiy theatre, Bowers & Wilkins, Cinzano, Benetton, Interview magazine, Lee Gamble, Art Moscow and JBNY. Students also undergo a series of short projects aimed at developing engagement with professional practice, including organising exhibitions, working in teams, presenting their work through portfolios and CVs, visits to industry contacts and lectures on professional practice.

Core modules:
- Illustration Essentials Part 2
- Illustration Professional Development
- Illustration Commissions
- C&CS Level 5 Graphic Design and Illustration

Year 3
During Semester A, students focus on their degree essay, a piece of critical writing that addresses key issues in contemporary illustration, and supports their studio practice. Studio work continues to focus on live client briefs and international illustration competitions, plus a series of editorial workshops aimed at developing quick ideas and illustration drafts.

The final semester of the course is focused on a Final Major Project (FMP), defined by the student, which consists of a focused, substantial project on a chosen subject. The FMP is both a statement of intent about where the student wishes to progress as an illustrator, and is also a culmination of the learning experienced on the course. This Final Major Project is presented to the public in the students’ graduation exhibition. In this final semester, students also compile and present a portfolio of their work, in readiness for life as a professional illustrator.

Core modules:
- Illustration Advanced Practice Part 1
- Illustration Advanced Practice Part 2
- Graphic Design and Illustration L6 Degree

Admissions for the 2019-2020 academic year will be open in spring 2019.

Enrolment to BA level is usually processed upon completion of Foundation Art & Design programme. Enrolment straight to BA is possible as an exception in case it becomes evident during the interview that the applicant already has all the visual and intellectual skills acquired during Foundation.

To enroll on the course, applicants have to present a portfolio of their work supported by a sketchbook showing research, development work and evidence of their English language competence. A grade 6.0 or higher on the IELTS scale is acceptable and the CAE and FCE qualifications are considered. If the applicant cannot produce a certificate, their English is tested together with prospective students who are applying for the Foundation Art & Design Course. However, the applicant must provide the IELTS certificate later on, by particular deadline.

Enrollment is based on the results of a portfolio assessment and an interview with one of the tutors. The applicant's knowledge and skills reflected in their work should be comparable to the knowledge and skills students acquire at Foundation level. Interviews and portfolio assessments are usually scheduled in the 3 days followed by the language test.

Transfer to Year 2 will be possible only if a student attended a higher education institution which uses a credit-based system. For these purposes, the number of previously received credits is compared with the number of credits which is necessary for transfer to the relevant stage of a British undergraduate course.

Period of study

Full-time — 3 years

Tuition fees

Full-time: GBP 6,650 / year *

Students, as a rule, pay their tuition fees once a semester, that is, twice a year, but at their request can choose to pay on a monthly basis.

You will be expected to meet additional costs which may arise as a result of materials, art supplies and consumables you may need for your projects, as well as printing and copying services and other types of services and consumables. Their list and the amount of costs depends upon the requirements of your course and the nature of your projects. Additionally during your time at BHSAD you may be recommended to visit museums, art galleries and other venues as part of your learning and there may be a cost for such visits which you should also budget for.

Below is the list of materials and supplies which BHSAD students use most frequently and which are likely to be among those you may need:

A3 or A4 hardback sketchbook, A2 or A3 portfolio case with ringbound plastic sleeves, HB pencils and rubber, UHU glue, Pritt stick, PVA glue, small lined notepads, spray mount, masking tape, sellotape, double sided tape, invisible scotch tape, scalpel with replaceable blades, basic set of acrylic paints, coloured pencils, basic set of drawing pencils, highlighter, assorted brushes, writing pen, fine line drawing pens, small plastic ruler etc.

Please note that this list is indicative and given for your reference only. Full list will depend upon your project and the range of materials and techniques which you may wish to adopt.

* This proposal does not constitute an offer, the prices are subject to change. Cost of services and conditions of their provision will be specified in the contract.

Required documents

- Online application form
- Copy of previous education certificates and academic qualifications. The following documents can be submitted: high school diploma, college degree diploma, higher education or BA diploma
- 2 photos 3х4 cm
- Copy of your passport
- Personal statement

Entry examinations
Applicants who apply for Year 1 of British higher education courses, need to sit the following:

- English exam
- Portfolio assessment
- Entry interview

During the admission exams, the admissions staff will arrange a convenient date and time for demonstration of portfolio and interview, after that, the matriculant will be allowed to pass the English test.

English test is not required for students from English-speaking countries or if an IELTS or equivalent certificate is produced. For international students we can organise skype entry interviews. In such cases the portfolio can be sent via email.
Required level of english
IELTS band 6.0 (or equivalent certificate). Along with the IELTS results, the following certificates are also accepted:

- CAE (Certificate in Advanced English) grade C or above;
- FCE (First Certificate in English) grade A.

If a prospective student does not have an IELTS certificate of the required level but successfully passed BHSAD English test as part of BHSAD entrance exams, he/she needs to obtain an IELTS certificate before the start of the first semester on Year 1.
Required Portfolio
The range of work in your portfolio should cover a broad spectrum of media, materials and approaches. Projects may be submitted in different disciplines including but not limited to graphics, drawing, painting, textile, photography, decorative art, design, web-design, animation. First of all, the admission committee would like to see how you can generate and develop your ideas; that is why, besides finished projects, the portfolio should also include notebooks with sketches, sketchbooks, written works (articles, essays, if any). Please try to present examples of the best and most recent projects which reflect your creative abilities.

Your portfolio needs to be printed (А3 format or larger). Animation and CG works should be presented on CDs or memory sticks. It advisable to show photographs of large works which otherwise would be difficult to transport.

interview procedure
Prospective students will be asked questions regarding their education and professional background in order to make a final decision about admission on to the course. Please be ready to tell the interview panel about yourself, your design experience and projects in your portfolio.

You may be asked about the history of creation of a particular work and the context of its creation. The panel may ask you about well-known designers to learn about the influence of creative activities of other designers and artists on you, the reason why you follow them and the main incentive for your development in terms of your occupation.
Application Deadline
Application deadlines will be announced in spring 2020.

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