Do you have a keen eye for creating imagery, crafting stories or developing characters? Want to experiment with different artistic techniques and formats? If so, our BA (Hons) Illustration course could be for you.
Develop your own personal style as you study creative problem solving and discover how your creations can work within a commercial setting. With the support of our industry-expert lecturers you’ll learn how to develop your skills, respond professionally to briefs and bring your idea’s to life.
I have learnt so much more than I previously knew about the variety of opportunities within the many different areas of illustration including editorial, product design, digital and print. Learning how to follow and complete professional briefs and entering competitions were such valuable experiences. My skills have improved greatly and I am confident in the many different approaches I now use in my work.Sue Elder
We understand that when it comes to deciding where you’d like to study, there are a lot of things to consider. Come along to our Open Day and discover why BNU could be the place for you. You can find out more about your course, meet the course team, and get all your questions answered.
For everything you need to know about applying, check out our Application Guide. You can find useful information for each stage of your application journey – from before you even apply to what to do if you receive an offer, and everything in between.
Why study this subject?
See the world differently and bring your visual ideas to life for those around you. As an illustrator, you have the opportunity to create and design visual imagery for everything from publishing to advertising campaigns.
Whether you end up in a studio, working as a freelance visual-artist or following one of the other many routes illustration offers, you can be sure that your designs and creations can help convey a message to consumers and artistically inspire the next generation of image makers.
Why study at Buckinghamshire New University?
With a history of delivery expert craft, art and design education for more than 130 years, Buckinghamshire New University is the perfect place to start your creative career.
Led by our dedicated and supportive course team, you will have the freedom to explore all areas of Illustration, whether that’s digital such as vector art or traditional methods such as printmaking. You’ll work on a diverse range of creative projects written by the course team or self-written as well as external competition and industry briefs.
During your time with us you’ll get direct access to guest lectures and can benefit from live project briefs, master classes, and plenty of networking chances. As well as this we equip you with really important skills in preparing you for a successful career through lectures, seminars workshops as part of our Professional Studies and Professional Practice modules.
As well as this you’ll have access to a range of our facilities to help you bring your visions to life. This includes Adobe Creative Suite programmes and a range of hands-on methods, from silkscreen and letterpress to laser cutting and 3D printing technology.
London is only a short journey away, so you can easily visit some of the world’s best exhibitions, galleries and museums for inspiration and research.
I received a lot of support from my tutors whilst at the University. They supported me through each project and were always there to offer guidance if needed. The tutors really helped me to develop my illustration style and experiment with media I had never thought to try before.Rebecca Thick
What facilities can I use?
Our design studios have a stunning range of equipment for you to realise your ideas.
We don’t restrict you to using computer software, even though we have everything from the Adobe Creative Suite programs to plotter cutters and photo studios.
You can craft beautiful image solutions using our silkscreen, letterpress, and litho equipment, as well as our laser cutting and 3D printing technology. We make sure you get as hands-on with our equipment as possible. And our staff are always around to help you get set up.
What will I study?
This course gives you many opportunities to explore the diverse world of illustration, whatever your chosen field within image-making.
You’ll work on creative projects set by your lecturers as well as external competition and/or industry briefs. We give you the freedom to write your own briefs and start realising your ideas. You’ll also work with professional illustrators who will critique your work and help you improve your illustrations. Group work with others helps prepare you for working in the professional world where you will have to generate ideas and present them to clients.
The course has been designed to provide students with a vocationally relevant education in the dynamic world of commercial Illustration. Over the duration of the 3 years you are given many opportunities to explore the varied world of Illustration in a diverse range of ways. Vital skills in creative problem solving, research methods, team working, project management, presentation skills, design strategy, art direction and independent learning are present throughout the course. These cross disciplines transferable skills significantly contribute to employability prospects. Dynamic project briefs aligned to industry skills development, form the basis of the course, which are supported by industry led and competition briefs.
The Critical and Historical Studies modules run throughout the three years which develops historical perspectives, research, and writing skills and provides the academic grounding on which to develop critical understanding and practical application.
The 1st year is where you get to explore the many workshop facilities and equipment that the department has to offer from laser cutting, the Adobe Creative Suite, letterpress printing and photography. These skills are introduced by experienced technical instructors in workshop sessions and activities.
Through practical hands-on, project based learning you will explore the fundamental core aspects of the subject such as narrative structure, hierarchy, composition and layout, typography, information design, image creation and conceptual thinking skills. Students are encouraged to take risks in their work, and learn to challenge established languages and processes through questioning and individual experimentation.
Through specialist 2nd year modules in Editorial Applications and Narrative Illustration students explore a range of media, techniques and theoretical ideas which build an understanding of the role of a professional illustrator. By investigating contexts and audiences through practical projects and live briefs, students develop their personal visual language, consolidate critical and strategic thinking, complex problem-solving and presentation skills, to build an awareness of the wider contextual role of an Illustrator.
During the year students are introduced to the Professional Studies module which focuses on preparing students for their career. Practical work is supported by a range of guest speakers who help contextualise project work in an industry environment.
Towards the latter part of this academic year you will begin work on your dissertation topic, which culminates in the final year. The dissertation can be developed and submitted in either a traditional or alternative format such as a film or a designed artefact as a way to facilitate practice based research.
The 3rd year focuses on personal exploration, application and developing personal voice through a Major Project module. We encourage students to investigate their own interests by writing a brief that challenges students to create innovative and imaginative solutions to problems in areas that are important to them. At this stage studies are tailored towards individual career paths, or further study, for example at MA level.
The Professional Practice module is centred upon students own career aspirations, and through guest lectures from industry specialists, seminars and live and industry projects students build their own distinctive portfolio that demonstrates your unique strengths and interests to prospective work opportunities upon graduation.
The final year normally culminates in taking part in the graduate Art and Design Showcase exhibition at the university. I addition, students are offered the opportunity put forward work for the D&AD New Blood exhibition in central London, where a selected group of students are also invited to attend.
How will I be taught and assessed?
You’ll work in a design studio alongside a diverse community of illustrators and graphic designers, each working on their own projects, just as a ‘real-world’ design studio would function. You’ll study in a close-knit tutor group where everyone’s input is recognised and valued. Not only will you make friends for life, you’ll also make important connections that will last through your career, and you’ll form a network, just like you’d find in any design group.
You’ll also work with professional illustrators who will give you feedback and pointers on how you can develop your imagery. Workshops, lectures and seminars with other students in the art and design department help you prepare you for life in an agency or studio environment where you will need good presentation and ideas generation skills as you meet and impress clients. We have many visiting tutors running workshop-based sessions in fields as diverse as stencil print, bookbinding, branding, ideas generation, storytelling, and ethical design.
Our illustration students benefit from an amazing team of enthusiastic tutors and lecturers. And with London within a 25 minute train ride away, you’re never too far from inspiration.
To build your experience, we support work placements for the right students with companies that we have long relationships with. Students have worked for publishers, advertising agencies and magazines as well as winning awards such as the V&A Illustration Award.
As well as running educational trips to London, we also have a first-year trip to a European destination such as Amsterdam, Paris or Barcelona, plus a second-year visit to New York in the spring, with visits to agencies, design, film and multi-media companies.
BNU is a Placements Plus university. So, whatever degree you do, you can be sure there’ll be plenty of industry-relevant opportunities on offer, to help you get into your chosen field.
We’ll also prepare you for work beforehand, with special skills for work training, further boosting your CV, and building skills employers will value. In recognition of the value we place on these skills we have incorporated this experience into your study time.
Placements Plus is all about helping you get some valuable experience under your belt while you’re a student, to increase your choices later, and help you get the graduate-level job you want.
What are the course entry requirements?
A typical offer will require a UCAS tariff score of: 88 - 112
A minimum of two full A-levels (or equivalent) is required. Every application is considered on an individual basis.
Applicants will need to complete an interview and/or demonstrate portfolio work, further guidance is given on the interview and portfolio advice pages.
For further details of our international English entry requirements, please visit our international pages.
Applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements for the three-year undergraduate programme, or those who do not feel fully prepared for a degree course, can apply for a four-year programme including a Foundation Year; find out more.
This module map provides a list of the modules that make up your course. You can find more information about how your course is structured on our Academic Advice section.
Year 1 Modules
Critical and Historical Studies - Historical and Critical Thinking
Type and Image
Year 2 Modules
Critical and Historical Studies - Design Research and Theory
Year 3 Modules
Critical and Historical Studies - Dissertation
Integrated Final Major Project
How much does it cost
Home and EU
Home and EU, Academic Year 2021-2022
£9,250 per year
International, Academic Year 2021-2022
£13,750 per year
What are my career prospects?
We have a good employment rate with many of our graduates going into work or further education after the course. As you develop a wide range of skills and abilities ready for your career, you’ll be able to specialise in a multitude of different areas. We have graduates working as freelance as illustrators, graphic designers, typographers, web designers in areas such advertising, publishing whilst others have started their own businesses.
Throughout your time with us we’ll support you on the route to your chosen career. We’ll help you to develop crucial skills, encouraging you to become enterprising, employable and good leaders. We also help you find employment after graduation. Have a look at our Careers and Employability pages to find out more.
Our BA (Hons) Illustration course will help prepare you for a range of career possibilities, such as:
- Graphic Designer
- Story Board Artist
- Concept Artist
- Print maker
We're really proud of our graduates, whose profiles tell their own story:
- Rob Flowers successful freelance illustrator represented by Blink Art
- Alex Tait is a successful freelance image-maker represented by Jelly Agency
- Elissa Gay commissions illustration at Random House Publishing
- Laura Carlin, who won first prize in the V&A Illustration Awards, is represented by Heart Agency, and her work is seen in the national press.
You may also wish to stay on at Buckinghamshire New University and study our full-time or part-time postgraduate courses.