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Postgraduate study

Course overview

Our MA Illustration explores modern and future-facing definitions of illustration and is an intensive, highly practical course, designed to create flexible practitioners with a keen awareness of the changing needs of the industry. It enables you to develop a unique, industry-ready visual identity - ready for the modern, online marketplace of images.

This course helps you develop your unique voice and to become competitive and recognizable as an individual creator. It also offers early career practitioners an incubation space to challenge and refine their practices, to re-enter the industry with improved confidence and practical skill.The course is uniquely structured to approach a variety of illustrative outcomes including installation, active/participatory illustration, and authorial illustration – all of which are burgeoning and promising areas.

You will have access to industry standard technologies and excellent facilities - including specialist drawing equipment such as Cintiq Wacom Tablets, green screen, motion capture, as well as more traditional facilities such as wet spaces, scanners, drawing tables and light boxes. There are three routes you can choose from to gain an MA Illustration:

  • full-time - 2 years with advanced practice (September and January start)
  • full-time - 1 year (September start) or 16 months (January start)
  • part-time - 2 years.


Course details

Course structure

Core modules

Fundamental Illustration

A picture speaks a thousand words, but how do pictures tell a story? You explore the capabilities of the single image to communicate on its own. You engage in creative and innovative ways with typical commercial outputs. You explore book covers, posters and promotional material that use illustration - each time reconsidering the communicative potential of the single image.

You create single images that suggest a larger narrative, intended to quickly deliver information, atmosphere, and pique curiosity.

Your assessment is 100% ICA based on a wordless piece of visual communication.

Illustration for Communication

You interrogate the field of visual communication and investigate the power of image-based communication in the commercial world.

You examine how complex issues are communicated in visual terms through the navigation of infographics, emoji’s, GIF’s, data visualization and much more as you research and analyse commercial communications in industry.

You also explore non-verbal communication and the use of iconography through history from cave paintings and hieroglyphs to emoji’s and brand marks.

You develop a piece of illustrative work suitable for the online space, describing a significant message or narrative in response to a given brief.
Your assessment is 100% ICA.

Illustration in Brief

You will have the opportunity to demonstrate a deep and nuanced understanding of the key issues relating to the development of illustrative art created in response to found material. You will be provided with a written document that may be in the form of a professionally formatted brief but you will have the opportunity to potentially work with a range of written material from a variety of sources. You will respond to a visual adaptive/interpretive brief, as well as a live assessment that will emulate real-world freelancing by testing your ability to respond to a brief under a time limit.

You will undertake appropriate research and analysis which will be synthesised into your own visual interpretation. Experimentation with storytelling techniques and visual style will enable the you to recognise and develop your individual strengths leading to an original creative approach. You will be required to critically reflect upon your work to promote further development of specialist skills, and you will be assessed via a portfolio of artwork, a reflection and a response to a timed brief.

Launchpad: Exit to Industry

This module supports a strategic career vision related to the media and events industries. You are supported through a series of workshops You produce a range of professional assets designed to support your career aspirations through work and analysis of practice/work related practice.
Your assessment is 100% ICA professional portfolio and exit strategy.

Masters Project: Illustration

You undertake a major, in-depth, individual study into an appropriate specialisation. These projects are drawn from appropriate commercial, industrial, artistic or research-based problem areas. The project involves research and investigation in relevant aspects of a very specific area of study followed by the production of a major portfolio of relevant practice-based materials from the area of illustration. You also produce a written report that contextualises and critically evaluates your final outputs.

Research Methods

You gain a grounding in research approaches and processes in the creative arts disciplines in areas such as animation, visual effects, games and concept art.

You learn how to construct a rigorous critical framework to generate evidence based material to justify and inform your conceptual investigation through creative practice. You also critically evaluate and source appropriate academic research and relevant outputs from the creative arts disciplines.
Your assessment is 100% ICA, a written critical discourse/research proposal that contextualizes and theorizes the accompanying practice element, this may form the basis of your master’s project.

Visual Identity

You research and analyse an area of interest and develop a range of creative responses, developing a piece of illustrative art which communicates your original idea or story. You are encouraged to express your ideas in novel, original and visually idiosyncratic ways, demonstrating a high level of professional competence and willingness to experiment with a range of visual approaches. A range of publishing venues are discussed including online and print. You are required to critically reflect upon your work to promote further development and appropriate professional skills.


Advanced practice (2 year full-time MA only)


The internship options are:

Vocational: spend one semester working full-time in industry or on placement in the University. We have close links with a range of national and international companies who could offer you the chance to develop your knowledge and professional skills in the workplace through an internship. Although we cannot guarantee internships, we will provide you with practical support and advice on how to find and secure your own internship position. A vocational internship is a great way to gain work experience and give your CV a competitive edge.

Research: develop your research and academic skills by undertaking a research internship within the University. Experience working as part of a research team in an academic setting. Ideal for those who are interested in a career in research or academia.


Modules offered may vary.


How you learn

You learn about concepts and methods primarily through keynote lectures and tutorials using case studies and examples. Lectures include presentations from guest speakers from industry. Critical reflection is key to successful problem solving and essential to the creative process. You develop your own reflective practice at an advanced level, then test and assess your solutions against criteria that you develop in the light of your research.

How you are assessed

Various assessment methods are used throughout all of the modules and are specified in the module handbooks. These are primarily what we call in-course assessments, where you submit work during the delivery of the module, rather than sit timed examinations at the end. Arts modules are generally project based and primarily assessed through appraisal of a portfolio of work, often accompanied by a verbal presentation. Creative work is largely developmental and you are assessed on the process by which you achieve your solutions as well as the result, so it is essential that you provide clear evidence of your development work.


Entry requirements

You will normally have a first degree in related discipline (2.2 minimum) or relevant experience or equivalent qualifications.

In addition, international students will require IELTS 6.0 or equivalent.

For general information please see our overview of entry requirements

International applicants can find out what qualifications they need by visiting Your Country


Information for international applicants


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Useful information

Visit our international pages for useful information for non-UK students and applicants.

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2021/22 entry

Fee for UK applicants
£6,100 a year

£3,935 a year with advanced practice

More details about our fees

Fee for international applicants
£13,000 a year

£7,500 a year with advanced practice

More details about our fees for international applicants

  • Length: within 1 year (September start), 16 months (January start) or 2 years with advanced practice (September or January start)
  • Start date: September or January
  • Semester dates

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2021/22 entry

Fee for UK applicants
£680 for each 20 credits

More details about our fees

Apply online (part-time)

Apply online (fast-track) for current students


Choose Teesside


Stand out from other job applicants with your higher level qualification, specialist knowledge and expanded networks.



Improve your project management, critical thinking, research skills, time management, presentation skills and teamwork.



The median salary for working-age (16-64) postgraduates in 2018 was £6,000 more than graduates
(DoE Graduate Labour Market Statistics 2018,



Study in our friendly town-centre campus with over £270m recently invested and another £300m over the next 10 years.


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