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Illustration BA (Hons)

  • Level(s) of Study: Undergraduate
  • UCAS Code(s): W220
  • Start Date(s): September 2023
  • Duration: 3 year(s)
  • Study Mode(s): Full-time
  • Campus: City Campus
  • Entry Requirements:
    • A-levels – BBC; or
    • BTEC Extended Diploma – DMM; or
    • 112 UCAS Tariff points from three A-levels  or equivalent qualifications; and

    More information

Introduction:

This course takes you on a journey into the exhilarating world of illustrative practice. Our aim is to help you locate your unique personal direction as an illustrator and prepare you for industry.

You will graduate as a highly sophisticated visual communicator, whose work demonstrates a high level of craft and aesthetic flare across different digital and analogue media, platforms and projects.

Main image credit: Kai Wong

  • You’ll have the opportunity to complete a work experience placement of up to a year in length. Dependent on the duration of your placement, you could gain an additional Diploma or Certificate in Professional Practice.
  • Develop your professional skills through self-initiated work experience placements, industry competitions, collaborations with organisations and guest lectures.
  • During your time here, you will be given the opportunity to showcase your work to members of the creative industries and develop a professional portfolio tailored to your own career aspirations.
  • You will work with industry on live briefs and hear from visiting speakers.

What you’ll study

You will develop a professional portfolio of work through independent, collaborative and industry-led briefs and projects and develop a range of professional skills that will serve you throughout your career.

These two year-long modules run side by side.

Exploring Illustration

(100 credit points)

This module provides you with a dynamic exploration of the fundamentals of illustrative practice. During the first year you will explore observational and imaginative drawing and how they are applied to image making. You will be given opportunities to investigate methods and materials relating specifically to digital and analogue illustrative and graphic techniques. We will promote experimentation, playful approaches, reflection and critical evaluation in a studio setting.

You will also work collaboratively on projects to produce inspiring and creative outcomes and be introduced to how illustration is used in industry: how it is applied and how it appears in different contexts.

Ultimately, you will learn how to communicate your ideas visually using line, shape, texture, colour, form, type and image through a range of exciting projects, tutorials and workshops.

Illustration in Context

(20 credit points)

Explore key developments in the history of illustration, and examine illustration’s historical and cultural role in communicating and challenging ideas. You’ll study breakthroughs including print technology, the cultural significance of illustration in relation to protest, and key concepts including text/image relations, narrative sequence, visual storytelling, and modes of illustration.

Professional Context and Personal Direction

(60 credit points, full year)

In Year Two you will focus on industry and developing a personal direction and visual identity which truly represents you as an illustrator. You will engage in a mixture of staff and live industry briefs which will introduce you to the professional world of illustration.. Technical workshops and seminars will develop your digital and analogue skills further alongside sessions focused on illustrative thinking, process and development that will sharpen your research and evaluation skills, allowing you to become confident in discussing a broad range of illustrative issues.

Contemporary Issues in Illustration

(20 credit points, full year)

Examine key issues in contemporary illustration, including illustration as communication; illustration as storytelling; and illustration and authenticity. These issues will be explored from the point of view of both narrative illustration (children’s books; comics; graphic novels; non-fiction) and applied illustration practices (editorial illustration; reportage illustration; scientific illustration; fashion illustration; environmental illustration; maker illustration eg. surface pattern and interiors). This module will also explore contemporary issues such as sustainability and ethical practice in illustration.

CoLab: Research, Exploration and Risk-taking

(20 credit points, second half of the year)

Through active participation with team-based problem-solving, you will work together in mixed teams on a project where you will use your creative ideas to generate solutions to the challenge or brief. Your project will allow you to explore how creativity can make an impact in society, as you choose a theme of sustainability, social justice, enterprise and innovation or community. This collaborative learning experience will expose you to a range of new processes and approaches that will develop your creative thinking.

Optional module

You will also choose one optional 20-credit module from:

  • Telling Stories
  • Storyboarding
  • Experimental Animation
  • Publishing: Experimental Formats
  • Typography: Use and Expression
  • Motion Graphics

These two year-long modules run side by side.

Developing a Distinctive Professional Portfolio

(100 credit points)

By the end of this module you will have a bespoke personal portfolio that is aligned to your personal and professional goals. Your work will include briefs, both set and self-initiated, and may include competition briefs that have been set by established professional bodies, as well as ‘live’ client’ briefs set by partners and practitioners. Through research, reflection and analysis of your working process and others you will evidence intellectual, and connected, visual responses, and you will be confident with your own visual language, identity and aesthetic.

These areas of study combined will bring together your knowledge of the subject and industry, with your own creative vision to produce a highly considered professional body of illustrative work.

Independent Journal

(20 credit points)

The Independent Journal is a written and visual project that allows you to document and develop an understanding of your own creative practice in relation to the wider context of illustration theory, history, techniques, and ideas you have explored in previous modules.

How you’re taught

Studio practice is a key element of this course, and you’ll spend a lot time in a creative studio environment. Teaching and learning experiences will include:

  • studio activities
  • peer groups
  • lectures
  • workshops
  • seminars
  • group tutorials.

You will also benefit from one-to-one surgeries, portfolio reviews, and self-initiated work experience.

Collaboration across courses

This course offers our new innovative collaboration module. This gives you the opportunity to work collaboratively with your contemporaries from a range of different art and design subjects and beyond. You’ll be working alongside artists, designers, photographers, illustrators, animators, and filmmakers on daring and creative projects that prepare you for a rewarding career in your chosen industry. Your project will allow you to explore how creativity can make an impact in society, as you choose a theme of sustainability, social justice, enterprise and innovation or community.

Contact hours

  • Year 1 lectures/seminars/workshops (21%), independent study (79%).
  • Year 2 lectures/seminars/workshops (20%), independent study (80%).
  • Year 3 lectures/seminars/workshops (20%), independent study (80%).

Further information

NTU is in the UK’s Top 15 for Art & Design in the Complete University Guide 2023 (Ranked 15th).

Staff Profiles

Sarah McConnell

Senior Lecturer

Nottingham School of Art & Design

Sarah McConnell is Course Leader of MA Illustration in the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University. She is a widely published Author/Illustrator of Children's books.

Eleanor Wild

Senior Lecturer

Nottingham School of Art & Design

Ellie is currently the module Leader for Year 1 Graphic Design at Nottingham Trent University, where she is responsible for the management and delivery of the year. Ellie also teaches

Helen Merrin

Senior Lecturer

Nottingham School of Art & Design

Helen Merrin is a Senior Lecturer on the BA(Hons) Graphic Design course where she primarily teaches the year one design studio module and is a personal tutor. She is also…

Isabel Story

Senior Lecturer

Nottingham School of Art & Design

Isabel Story is a Lecturer in Visual Communications in the School of Art and Design.

Kristian Jones

Lecturer

Design and Digital Arts

Kristian Jones is a Lecturer in Illustration. Teaching across all levels of the BA illustration degree.

How you’re assessed

Assessment is predominantly through coursework. You’ll be assessed at the end of each module and awarded a grade, receiving feedback throughout.

You will construct an in-depth portfolio of assessed work throughout the course. Further assessment consists of presentations, essays, seminars, group work and a professional journal.

Your final degree mark will be based 100% on your final year work.

  • Year 1 coursework (92%), practical exams (8%).
  • Year 2 coursework (92%), practical exams (8%).
  • Year 3 coursework (100%).

Careers and employability

From the very start of the course, you will be encouraged to identify with the world of work and your future beyond graduation. The course has a dedicated employability tutor and the School Employability team support Illustration students with drop-in session and advice.

This course will equip you with skills and experience needed to work as a professional illustrator, as well as a range of transferable skills that can be applied to a number of roles within the creative industries.

Connecting with industry

Our BA (Hons) Illustration course was created in consultation with leading industry bodies such as the Association of Illustrators (AOI), whose knowledge and expertise informs our approach and ensures that the course is aligned with the most current industry needs and expectations.

Some of our other industry connections, clients or partners include:

  • Hachette
  • Harper Collins
  • Penguin Random House
  • Usbourne
  • Scholastic
  • Folio Society
  • Carmelite
  • Nobrow Press

Throughout the course you will work with industry on live briefs and hear from visiting speakers. You will also be supported and encouraged to enter national and international illustration competitions such as The World Illustration Awards (AOI), The Batsford Prize, The Macmillan Prize, V&A Illustration Awards, and the YCN, Creative Conscience.

Creative Industries Federation

We are members of the Creative Industries Federation (CIF), which means students in the Nottingham School of Art & Design have the opportunity to sign up to free student membership. Creative Industries Federation are an organisation that represents, champions and supports the UK’s creative industries and membership grants students exclusive access to their selection of resources and events to help advance your career and connect with industry.

Showcase

You will be given the opportunity to exhibit your work during your time at NTU to members of the creative industries. Visit our ‘We Are Creatives’ showcase to take a look at the work of this year's graduating students’.

Campus and facilities

Our graphic design and illustration facilities are based in the Waverley building – a beautifully restored, listed building with real design heritage – the original home of the Nottingham School of Art. View our Nottingham School of Art & Design Facilities Hub here.

Entry requirements

112 UCAS Tariff points

What are we looking for?

  • A-levels – BBC or equivalent; or
  • BTEC Extended Diploma – DMM; or
  • 112 UCAS Tariff points from three A-levels; and
  • GCSEs – English and Maths or Science grade C / 4.

Other requirements

Other qualifications and experience

We will consider equivalent qualifications and combinations, please see UCAS course search for details and use our calculator to help you work out how many UCAS points your qualifications relate to.

We may also consider credits achieved at other universities and your work/life experience through an assessment of prior learning. This may be for year one entry, or beyond the beginning of a course where applicable, for example, into year 2. Our Recognition of Prior Learning and Credit Transfer Policy outlines the process and options available for this route.

Contextual offers

As well as assessing your application and qualifications, we use contextual data and information to make offers for this course. Depending on your circumstances, we may make you an offer up to two grades below the standard entry criteria. Find out how we assess your application.

Getting in touch

If you need any more help or information, please email our Admissions Team or call on +44 (0)115 848 4200.

International qualifications 

We accept qualifications from all over the world – check yours here:

Undergraduate preparation courses (Foundation)

If you don’t yet meet our entry requirements, we offer Foundation courses through our partner Nottingham Trent International College (NTIC), based on our City Campus:

English language entry requirements 

You can meet our language requirements by successfully completing our pre-sessional English course for an agreed length of time, or by submitting the required grade in one of our accepted English language tests, such as IELTS:

Advanced standing (starting your undergraduate degree in year 2 or 3)

You may be able to start your undergraduate course in year 2 or 3 based on what you have studied before.  This decision would be made in accordance with our Recognition of Prior Learning and Credit Transfer Policy.

Would you like some advice on your study plans? 

Our international teams are highly experienced in answering queries from students all over the world. We also have members of staff based in Vietnam, China, India and Nigeria and work with a worldwide network of education counsellors.

Fees and funding

Preparing for the financial side of student life is important, but there's no need to feel anxious and confused about it. We hope that our fees and funding pages will answer all your questions.

Getting in touch

For more advice and guidance, you can contact our Student Financial Support Service.

Tel: +44 (0)115 848 2494

What's included in the course fees?

The School will cover the costs of any mandatory study trips.

In Final Year, the Nottingham School of Art & Design will provide infrastructure costs for your Showcase.

If you’re selected to showcase your work at a graduate show in London, the School will cover the cost of the exhibition stand and of transporting your work to the show.

Additional costs

Print and copy costs

The University allocates an annual printing and copying allowance of £20 depending on the course you are studying. For more details about costs for additional print and copying required over and above the annual allowance please see the Printing, photocopying and scanning information on the Library website.

We advise you to budget between £50 - £250 (minimum) per year for printing costs.

Material costs

Depending on the materials you choose to work with, you should budget a further minimum of £150 (Year One), £250 (Year Two), and £250 (Final Year) to cover the other production costs associated to your course. Of course, you may spend less or more than this depending on the nature of your studies.

Stationery and reading materials

Most study modules will recommend one or more core textbooks, which most students choose to purchase. Book costs vary between courses and further information is available in the University’s bookshop, Blackwell’s.

A good supply of these essential text books are available in the University libraries, which students can easily borrow or access on-line/directly whilst studying in the library.

You should budget between £50 - £100 per year (minimum) for stationery and reading materials.

Field trips

All essential field trip costs will be included in your course fees. There may be the opportunity to take part in optional field trips, which do incur additional costs.

If you choose to join an optional UK study trip, you’ll need to budget £50 per year (minimum). If you choose to join an optional international study trip, you’ll need to budget £500 per year (minimum).

Placements

If you're undertaking a placement year, you'll need to budget for accommodation and any travel costs you may incur whilst on placement. Many of our placement students do earn a salary whilst on placement which can help to cover these living costs.

If you undertake work experience or a longer placement, you will have the chance to gain an additional Certificate or Diploma in Professional Practice, dependent on duration.  The Diploma in Professional Practice incurs a fee for the additional placement year.

Preparing for the financial side of student life is important, but there's no need to feel anxious and confused about it. We hope that our fees and funding pages will answer all your questions.

You might be able to get a scholarship to help fund your studies. We award scholarships to those international students who can demonstrate excellent achievement, passion, and dedication to their studies.

Please take a look at our International students page for information about fees, scholarships for international students, visas and much more.

Getting in touch

For more advice and guidance, you can contact our Student Financial Support Service.

Tel: +44 (0)115 848 2494

What's included in the course fees?

The School will cover the costs of any mandatory study trips.

In Final Year, the Nottingham School of Art & Design will provide infrastructure costs for your Showcase.

If you’re selected to showcase your work at a graduate show in London, the School will cover the cost of the exhibition stand and of transporting your work to the show.

Additional costs

Print and copy costs

The University allocates an annual printing and copying allowance of £20 depending on the course you are studying. For more details about costs for additional print and copying required over and above the annual allowance please see the Printing, photocopying and scanning information on the Library website.

We advise you to budget between £50 - £250 (minimum) per year for printing costs.

Material costs

Depending on the materials you choose to work with, you should budget a further minimum of £150 (Year One), £250 (Year Two), and £250 (Final Year) to cover the other production costs associated to your course. Of course, you may spend less or more than this depending on the nature of your studies.

Stationery and reading materials

Most study modules will recommend one or more core textbooks, which most students choose to purchase. Book costs vary between courses and further information is available in the University’s bookshop, Blackwell’s.

A good supply of these essential text books are available in the University libraries, which students can easily borrow or access on-line/directly whilst studying in the library.

You should budget between £50 - £100 per year (minimum) for stationery and reading materials.

Field trips

All essential field trip costs will be included in your course fees. There may be the opportunity to take part in optional field trips, which do incur additional costs.

If you choose to join an optional UK study trip, you’ll need to budget £50 per year (minimum). If you choose to join an optional international study trip, you’ll need to budget £500 per year (minimum).

Placements

If you're undertaking a placement year, you'll need to budget for accommodation and any travel costs you may incur whilst on placement. Many of our placement students do earn a salary whilst on placement which can help to cover these living costs.

If you undertake work experience or a longer placement, you will have the chance to gain an additional Certificate or Diploma in Professional Practice, dependent on duration.  The Diploma in Professional Practice incurs a fee for the additional placement year.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS.

We will ask you to provide a digital portfolio. Visit our webpage which has some advice on what to include to help make your portfolio stand out. After you have submitted your portfolio, we may also invite you to an online interview to help us make our final decision.

You can apply for this course through UCAS. If you are not applying to any other UK universities, you can apply directly to us on our NTU applicant portal.

Application advice

Apply early so that you have enough time to prepare – processing times for Student visas can vary, for example.  After you've applied, we'll be sending you important emails throughout the application process – so check your emails regularly, including your junk mail folder.

Writing your personal statement

Be honest, thorough, and persuasive – we can only make a decision about your application based on what you tell us:

Your portfolio 

If your initial application is successful, you may be asked to upload a portfolio of your work and you may also be asked to attend an interview.

Portfolio advice

Would you like some advice on your study plans? 

Our international teams are highly experienced in answering queries from students all over the world. We also have members of staff based in Vietnam, China, India and Nigeria and work with a worldwide network of education counsellors.

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