Cardiff Metropolitan University Illustration

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Cardiff Metropolitan University Illustration

Cardiff Metropolitan University Illustration

Course Overview

Illustration always has a purpose, making sense of complex ideas. As illustrators, you will work to enable understanding of the everyday; enriching literature and poetry and responding to social issues from science, medicine, politics and economics.

You will be asked to explore and experiment with materials, technical skills and challenging subject matter, developing visual languages, which communicate in a visceral way. You will define your purpose from your interests and strengths, and by being exposed to ideas and subject matters you are not ordinarily drawn to.

You will test how images ‘work’, in a variety of environments and scenarios – alongside and integrated with animation, film, printed and digital media. Illustration is constantly extending its reach, and whether it’s working with clients and collaborators or authoring and directing your own projects, you will graduate with a multitude of transferable skills.

In an industry that’s constantly growing, you will be asked to consider the power of images in a visually saturated world and to shape your own practice enabling your work to speak to audiences in a way that’s helpful, humble and inclusive.

Course information on this page relates to September 2017 entry.

Please note: This programme will undergo periodic review in early 2017. As such, course content shown below may change to ensure the programme remains current. Any applicants will be informed of any changes once confirmed.

​Course Content​

Unlock ideas for illustrative material – from a variety of perspectives. You’ll explore applied narrative, drawing, making and collaborative processes, incorporating a wide range of skills that include:

  • Drawing experimental and observational
  • Painting
  • Printmaking
  • Understanding colour
  • Characterisation
  • Composition
  • Personification i.e. working with inanimate objects as characters
  • Metaphor
  • Storytelling
  • Animation stop-frame/experimental
  • Book binding
  • Book design and book cover design
  • Editorial illustration
  • Zine making
  • Poster design
  • Gif making
  • Design for personal website
  • Shadow puppetry/ puppetry
  • Live briefs/ competitions

You’ll start to think about your speciality – honing your skills and building on your strengths. And in your final year, you’ll work towards producing a sophisticated body of work to showcase your passion for communicating ideas.

Right from the beginning, you’ll look ahead to the future. You can get exposure to the industry through live briefs and work placements, travel and study abroad or expand your academic skills with a research project.

Year One

Subject: visual languages – 30 credits
Subject: in contexts – 30 credits
Build the tools, language and understanding you need to become an imaginative observer, an interpreter and a visual dramatist. Through tutor-led briefs, you’ll explore themes of visual communication, interpretation, rhetoric and narrative. You’ll take on a number of projects that all inform each other – giving you ample opportunity to self-reflect and critique your practice.

Field one: collaborate – 20 credits
Widen your horizons by joining students from other courses to collaborate on a project. You’ll take inspiration from other disciplines to build on your experience and expand your creativity – and use your skills and artistic insight to apply them to your work.

Constellation: concept – 40 credits  
This module introduces you to the wider world of ideas, theory and contextual studies to help you develop your academic research skills and critical thinking. You’ll focus on particular areas of interest in study groups and you’ll become familiar with the exciting trans-disciplinary research and expertise in Cardiff School of Art & Design.

Year Two

Subject: enquire, choreograph, grow – 40 credits
Learn to communicate complex information using a variety of voices and perspectives. You’ll explore images and texts through tutor-led briefs – designed to help you to develop your own approach and ideas. All of this is underpinned by discourse, reading and writing to expand your knowledge and understanding of the subject.

Field two: explore – 40 credits
You’ll expand your experiences with challenging projects designed to encourage you to explore and experiment outside your immediate discipline. This transformative opportunity leads to new thinking and innovation – and opens up all kinds of future possibilities. You’ll take on exciting projects that challenge you in new ways. You can also choose to travel, take a work placement, start your own business or try something new.

Constellation: critique – 40 credits  
By critiquing literature, journals and exhibitions, you’ll hone your ability to put your design practice into context. You’ll also have opportunities to interact with students and staff and delve deeper into your areas of interest.

Year Three

Subject: encounter – 40 credits
This module is as much about your enquiry into visual languages as it is about developing final work. You’ll consider difficult subject matter that challenges your communication skills. And you’ll explore new ways of working – taking you beyond traditional methods to help further your creative practice.

Field three: exposure – 40 credits
Your final term is dedicated to a major project and an exhibition of your work. This is where you draw together everything you’ve learned during the course and is the launch pad to your future career.

Constellation: contribution – 40 credits
Your practice is underpinned by your knowledge. Demonstrate your research and analysis skills in your final constellation submission, where you’ll explore ideas in both written and practical forms. ​

Entry Requirements​ & How to Apply

Please note: The following entry requirements relate to September 2017 entry and use the new UCAS tariff.  Please refer to our Entry Requirements for further information on the new tariff, or contact Admissions if you have any questions​

Applicants should have a strong art and/or design portfolio and demonstrate a commitment to art and/or design, five GCSEs including English Language (or Welsh First Language), Mathematics* and Science at grade C or above / grade 4 or above (for applicants holding newly reformed GCSEs in England) ​Our typical offers will include:

  • 96 – 120 points from a successfully completed Art & Design Foundation Diploma or/and
  • CCC – BBB / 96 – 120 points from at least 3 A Levels; or grades CC – BB at A level along with the Welsh Baccalaureate – Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate grade C
  • QCF BTEC Extended Diploma: Merit Merit Merit – Distinction Distinction Merit​
  • 96 – 120 points from a combination of Scottish Highers and Scottish Advanced Highers
  • 96 – 120 points from the Irish Leaving Certificate at Highers to include 3 x H2 grades from any subject (minimum grade H4 considered)
  • ​96 – 120 points from the Access to HE Diploma within a relevant subject

*For Welsh applicants sitting the reformed Mathematics GCSE, we will accept either GCSE Mathematics or Mathematics – Numeracy.

For applicants only undertaking 2 A Levels or equivalent, or applying with other life experiences, other qualifications and/or art & design achievements will be considered along with the rest of the academic profile and we may issue a graded offer in lieu of an offer using the UCAS Tariff.

If you are studying combinations of the above, or if your qualification isn’t listed please either contact Admissions or refer to the UCAS Course Search​ for the entry requirements. Further information on our entry requirements, including qualifications from the EU can be found by clicking here.

International Applicants:
Before making an application, international students (those outside of the EU), should contact the International Office at Cardiff Met to discuss the necessary procedures in relation to studying with us. For further information visit

Selection Procedure and Interview Days:
Selection is based on the receipt of a completed UCAS application and attendance at a School of Art & Design Interview.

Acceptance at interview is based upon a balance of three criteria:

      • Personal enthusiasm for and immersion in the practice and theory of Art & Design
      • Academic achievement and ability
      • Quality of work, ambition and skills demonstrated in a portfolio

For more information about Art & Design Interview Days, please click here.
​​How to Apply:
Applications for this course should be made online to UCAS at For further information please visit our How to Apply pages at

Employability & Careers​

The course is designed to develop you into a rounded and capable illustrator and intellectual. This is built upon a curriculum that has your potential in mind. As such, the emphasis that will have been placed upon your work ethic, both creatively and academically, is matched with significant focus on real world experience. This will include building contacts and undertaking placements as well as live briefs. You will be offered support in forming your own business should you choose to do so.

You can elect to take a route through your second and final years of studies where you can engage with businesses or prepare to launch your own business upon graduating. In your final year, rather than submit a dissertation, you have the option of devising a detailed business plan.

Graduates from the programme are well placed to join design companies, work as illustrators and designers in large organisations, or set up their own businesses. Some take further training, for example a PGCE. Some elect to take their studies further by studying at CSAD for a Masters level qualification and there are opportunities to take this further still, through a Professional Doctorate in Design.

Tuition Fees, Student Finance & Additional Costs

For up to date information on tuition fees and the financial support that may be available whilst at university, please refer to

Undergraduate costs of study in CSAD


CSAD provides a variety of basic materials. These enable students to develop their competence in a range of skills and demonstrate their technical ability. Materials needed in unusual quantities, or those that are specialised, expensive or unusual are at the student’s expense. Advice will be given about how ‘unusual’ is defined, which materials are deemed to be ‘expensive’, and examples given of what is viewed to be ‘unusual’. CSAD students often elect to spend on materials they prefer to work with, including sketchbooks and pens, as well as specialist equipment of their own choosing.

In the main, no charges are made for the use of equipment, with the exception of some specialist high end equipment such as the Mimaki and 3D printers. Access to Cardiff FabLab is subject to student membership; it offers reduced fees for student use.

For further information about additional course costs, including fees, equipment requirements and other charges for each undergraduate programme, please visit

Field trips and visits 

Field trips that are part of core learning will be paid for by the School. Additional visits are occasionally arranged which are optional and where the students may be asked to share the costs. The costs of study abroad, including exchanges, placements and projects are the responsibility of the individual student.

Contact Us

For general enquiries please contact the Admissions Team on 029 2041 6044 or email

For course specific enquiries, please contact Subject Leader Amelia Johnstone Email: