Discover your visual language at Cambridge School of Art on this full-time, practice-based illustration course. Choose to study abroad for one semester in the Netherlands or Poland and join our annual overseas drawing trip. Get support to find work placements and work experience, and take part in live briefs set by local industry. Develop your own unique creative style on your way to a career as a professional illustrator.
- Our Design & Crafts courses ranked 8th in the UK for ‚Satisfied with Course’ and 3rd for ‚Satisfied with Teaching’ in the The Guardian University Guide 2020
- Get individual attention from a dedicated team of professional illustrators and your own desk space, thanks to our small class sizes
- Benefit from a 150-year tradition of drawing and inspiring creativity at Cambridge School of Art, with notable alumni including Ronald Searle and Edward Bawden
- Show your work to industry professionals at our end-of-course degree show, and New Designers in London.
- Study in Cambridge, with its galleries, exhibition spaces and inspirational areas for drawing, and just a quick train journey from London
- Benefit from an illustration culture fostered by our world-renowned MA Children’s Book Illustration
- Go global: study abroad for one semester in the Netherlands or Poland, and apply for funding to help cover the cost, and take part in our annual drawing trip to locations like Porto and Seville.
- Take advantage of all our industry-standard facilities, and get full training from our technical officers
- Receive ongoing support to find placements and work experience and take part in live briefs set by local industry.
Why study illustration?
Being an illustrator is a great way to find your own creative voice, and one that allows you to share your creativity with the world through many different projects. UK creative industries have never been so vibrant, global and high profile, and illustration is involved across many different aspects of them. You might illustrate books; become a satirical cartoonist; design film sets, product labels or community murals; or even work on animated films.
Also, drawing is not only a lot of fun, but is widely considered to be good for your health.
What will you do on the course?
Most of your work will be practise-based coursework, giving you the necessary time to develop your artistic skills, then stand back and consider them critically, as a professional would. The emphasis of the course is on ideas and visual problem solving: finding the best media to suit your work, whether it’s a Victorian printing press or a digital notebook.
Our group discussions, critiques, and tutorials – as well as your own visual and textual research – will help you discover more unique ways to express yourself creatively and develop your own visual language – a crucial asset in today’s competitive marketplace.
You’ll also go on group drawing/reportage trips in the UK and overseas, as well as visits to museums and galleries. These will assist your own visual research as well as helping you understand how illustration intersects with cultural, environmental and ethical issues, which play an important role in editorial illustration.
We will encourage and support you to enter national and international competitions, undertake live industry briefs (recent briefs have been set by Doc Martens, Stansted Airport and Cambridge Corn Exchange), take up internships and attend professional practice talks and discussions, giving you an awareness of what it takes to work as a professional illustrator, as well as a chance to make important contacts for your career.
You’ll work in our dedicated natural light illustration studios, right next door to Ruskin Gallery, with the opportunity for training in all our other industry-standard art facilities as well, including a traditional printmaking room, 3D workshops, animation suites, and life drawing studios.
At the end of the course, you’ll display your work to the public and professional commissioners at our Cambridge School of Art Degree Show and, optionally, New Designers in London. You’ll also find opportunities throughout the course to exhibit at local venues in Cambridge and further afield, as well as discovering many inspirational areas of natural and architectural beauty around the city to inspire your work, such as the Botanic Gardens and historic city centre.
Why study on our course?
Our BA (Hons) Illustration continues a 150-year tradition of drawing at Cambridge School of Art. You’ll follow in the footsteps of acclaimed illustrators such as designer and war artist Edward Bawden, satirist and illustrator Ronald Searle; founders of TV phenomenon Spitting Image Roger Law and Peter Fluck; and more recently, Bethan Woollvin, winner of the Macmillan Prize 2014 and author of picturebooks Little Red and Rapunzel.
Many of our students have had their work reviewed in trade journals and design magazines, including Blue Print and Creative Review, or received recognition in competitions such as the D&AD awards (Hannah Bigley, New Blood award 2015); the Penguin Design Awards (Tim Parker – Winner, Puffin Children’s Prize 2013; Angharad Burnard, Highly Commended, Random House Design Award 2014), and the YCN Awards (Max Machen, Winner of Royal Court Brief, 2013).
Your studies will be supported by our team of staff who are all recognised illustrators in their own fields:
- Course Leader Chris Draper has worked for high-profile clients on many different projects, including editorial illustration, book publishing and advertising.
- Allan Drummond has published award-winning children’s books, as well as creating the mural and floor designs in Holborn underground station, illustrating one of the Royal Mail’s Millennium postage stamps and working for clients including The New Yorker and Time magazines.
- Jim Butler is best known for his artist’s books, winning the professional books category in the World Illustration Awards 2018 for his piece ‚Blackrock Sequence,’ and having publications purchased for public collections at the Tate, the British Library and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.
You’ll also work with nationally-recognised visiting lecturers, who will give you their perspectives on modern-day illustration, and valuable advice for your future career. Recent visitors have included Melliss Castrillon, Angus Greig, Jonny Hannah, Olivier Kugler, Laura Carlin, George Butler and Graham Rawle.
We work with employers to make sure you graduate with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need. They help us review what we teach and how we teach it – and they offer hands-on, practical opportunities to learn through work-based projects, internships or placements.
Find out more about our placements and work experience, or the faculty’s employability support.
Our past students have found success in many different creative industries, often as a direct result of making contacts at our end-of-course Degree Show or the New Designers exhibition in London. Past employers and commissioners have included Sky TV, Oxford University Press, Katana (creative media design agency), Eljo’s Haberdashery, Moonpig Greetings Cards, The Mill (post-production company), Wilkinson (for work on a luggage range), Hallmark cards, Tigerprint and Tesco.
Across all three years of the degree, you’ll have opportunities to enter competitions, participate in live industry briefs and take up relevant internships and voluntary work, all of which will give you a valuable grounding in what it takes to be a professional illustrator.
Some of our recent graduates include: Bethan Woollvin, successful children’s books creator and winner of the Macmillan Prize 2014; Catherine Rowe, who runs her own design business with clients including Paperchase and Liberty of London; and Aleesha Nandhra, whose clients include the Barbican Centre, Film4 and BuzzFeed News, and who recently took part in the ‘Creating Heroines’ project in Nepal.
You might decide to stay in academia after you graduate, perhaps specialising your talents on our MA Children’s Book Illustration. If so, you might be interested to know we offer an alumni scholarship that could save you up to £2000.
Modules & Assessment
Year one, core modules
Illustration Practice 1
Print and Process
Year one, optional modules
English for Study 1 & 2
Year two, core modules
Illustration Practice 2
Debates and Practices
Ideas Through Design
Year two, optional modules
Business for the Creative Arts
Writing for Sequential Images
Text and Image
Year three, core modules
Year three, optional modules
Working in the Creative Industries
For a full breakdown of module options and credits, please view the module structure (pdf).
You’ll demonstrate your progress through a combination of written and practical work.
As well as verbal feedback in taught sessions and tutorials, you’ll be given thorough personal written feedback that highlights your successes while indicating areas of improvement for future submissions.
Where you’ll study
Your department and faculty
At Cambridge School of Art, we combine the traditions of our past with the possibilities afforded by the latest technologies.
Using our expertise and connections in Cambridge and beyond, we nurture creativity through experimentation and risk-taking to empower the makers and creators of the future.
Our academics excel at both practice and theory, making a real impact in their chosen fields, whether they are curating exhibitions, designing book covers or photographing communities in Africa. They are also regularly published in catalogues, books, journals and conference papers, their research classed as being of ‘international standing’, with some elements ‘world-leading’, in the most recent Research Excellence Framework.