BA (Hons) Illustration

Top ten in UK for assessment in Graphic Design (Guardian University Guide 2024)

The USW Illustration degree is based at our creative campus in the heart of Cardiff. The course will equip you will all the skills and opportunities you need to maximise your employability in an ever-evolving visual communications industry.

The lecturing team has a vast range of professional experience that they bring to the course, covering many disciplines within the creative industries, empowering you to explore a diverse range of specialisms during your time on the course.

We have created a learning environment that establishes the culture, attributes and skills needed for life after graduation. You’ll push boundaries, challenge convention, and harness new technology to solve illustration briefs, projects and design problems. The core principles of drawing are applied throughout the program, you’ll develop key skills in creative design thinking, drawing and mark making, and colour theory, all helping you define your own visual language on this Illustration course that is renowned for its professional practice and industry connections.

From day one, you will be encouraged to embrace the studio culture of creative communities, to prepare for today’s increasingly fluid platforms of print, mobile and interactive image. You will communicate ideas in innovative ways using both traditional and digital technologies.

Throughout your time on the Illustration course in Cardiff, you’ll have numerous opportunities to engage with creative professionals and clients. This may be in the form of an industry visit, guest speaker, or a brief set by one of our professional partners.

You’ll study at USW’s creative campus in the centre of Cardiff. Our studios offer views of the city, and social spaces for generating ideas and collaborating with other students. All our facilities are purpose-built and industry-standard, so you'll have all the professional equipment and software you need while you study, helping you prepare for your tomorrow, today.

Top in Wales for teaching and assessment in Graphic Design (Guardian University Guide 2024)


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UCAS Code Study Mode
Duration Start Date Campus Campus Code
W220 Full-time 3 Years September Cardiff (ATRiuM) B
UCAS Code Study Mode
Duration Start Date Campus Campus Code
W220 Full-time 3 Years September Cardiff (ATRiuM) B

The modules on our Illustration degree will help you grow into a professional illustrator and become a flexible and resilient creative thinker. You will learn new ways to think, make, draw, and promote yourself, so you’ll be ready and prepared to make a living from your newly acquired skills.

Each year, modules build on the skills you have already gained and aim to enhance your creativity.

The degree starts with building a solid foundation in core skills: researching, idea development, drawing, colour theory, image making and printmaking. These are essential to your career as an illustrator.

In year two you’ll begin to explore the application of illustration and the many disciplines within the visual communications industry. You will also start to connect with the industry, through partnerships and live projects in the second year, which will improve your illustration practice and employability.

Your final year will enable you to put all your new skills and experience into practice, you will be able to identify your strengths and interests in the broad spectrum of illustration. You will be able to tailor your final year to match these skills and interests, we'll also teach you core business skills in licenses, copyright and tax, and self-promotion. You’ll have the skills and creativity to define you as a contemporary and innovative industry professional.

Year One

Colour and Communication

  • In this module you will explore how colour theory and colour psychology can be used to help you communicate your ideas and aid your visual storytelling. Focusing on both the practical and theoretical application of colour and its importance in image making.

Visual Skills

  • An exploration of your own drawing style and visual language, this module will provide you with opportunities to experiment with a wide range of media and mark making techniques and drawing styles. You will begin to identify and strengthen your own visual language via drawing skills such as, location drawing, life drawing, printmaking and digital skills. These sessions will combine with studio-based sessions allowing you to engage in an experimental approach to media, process, mark-making and storytelling.

Illustration Fundamentals

  • In this module, you'll explore how illustration is applied within the industry of visual communication and illustration, while also considering your visual language, audience and market.

Communication Studies

  • This is a contextual written module where you will look at key movements and features of the past, present and future of illustration practice.

Year Two

Illustration for literature and information

  • Explore the application of illustration and examine the relationship between illustrator, client and agent for literature. Focusing on editorial, publishing, illustration for information, digital and printed material.

Illustration for place and product

  • This module enables you to investigate the application of illustration with relation to places, products and brands.

Illustration for moving Image

  • Learn more about the illustrator’s role in the production of animation and moving image. Explore the creation of character design, animation fundamentals, gif making and augmented reality filters.

Communication Studies 02

  • Develop an advanced understanding of illustration contexts, its purpose and its applications, with an emphasis on social media, opportunities and trends in the creative industries.

Year Three

Critical Research Project

  • This module provides a link between the methods of academic research and creative practice, it will enable you to undertake a sustained research project in a field relating to illustration and/or design.

Final Major Project

  • Through negotiation with your lecturers, you will build a self-directed project, or a professional body of work or portfolio that is based on your strengths, interests or career aspirations.

Client Studies

  • You will undertake a 70-hour work-based industry placement or complete a live project brief provided by an industry partner.

Professional and Promotional Practice

  • This module will provide you with the opportunity to learn valuable employability skills, core business skills in licences, copyright and tax and generate professional and promotional outcomes such as a professional website and social media presence.

Competition brief

  • You will explore the range of illustration and design competitions in this module. Students from the USW Illustration course have achieved success in the following national and international competitions, Penguin Design Challenge, Carmelite Picture Book Prize, YCN Awards, Ruth Borchard Portrait Prize, The Cheltenham Prize and the Creative Conscience Awards to name a few.


The USW Illustration course at our Cardiff campus offers a stimulating creative environment, with dedicated studios, industry standard Macintosh software and dedicated experienced staff.

Our teaching team is made up of industry professionals and technical experts. They will guide and push you to develop your own identity as an illustrator. You will develop all the skills and professional attributes required to succeed in design. You can expect lectures and workshop both online and in-person. Most of all, you can expect to be hands on and working from days one in our busy and active studios.

The emphasis is hands-on studio-based work, reinforced by lectures, seminars and studio workshops. Individuals will aim to graduate at industry level, demonstrating the expertise and knowledge required to seamlessly sync with today’s changing technology, expanding networks and diverse contextual positions.


Your work is assessed entirely through the submission of coursework, with the majority (80%) through a practical portfolio of work. The remaining elements integrate practice and theory through written and other forms. You will be encouraged to discuss your work critically with staff, leading designers and other students, through individual and group critiques in a supportive studio environment.

There are live projects each year, working directly with design companies and industry clients to enhance your portfolio and employability.


The USW BA (Hons) Illustration course is a professional member of the AOI (Association of Illustrators).


At USW, we prepare you for your future career from day one. You'll work with industry throughout your degree, and we'll support you to gain valuable experience through internships, work experience and placements.

We have strong links with industry partners that offer opportunities for work experience. Many of these are right on our doorstep in Cardiff, ensuring you make the most of your time in this creative capital city.

On your degree we will help to prepare you for employment as a skilled and knowledgeable employee, creative practitioner or entrepreneur.

Additionally, in year three, you have a module dedicated to work placements and working with real clients. Your placement will reflect real world working practices to prepare you for employment in the creative industries. We have a wide range of contacts, but also encourage students to look for organisations and opportunities within their own area of interest. Our students have completed placements in the UK and internationally, working with companies such as:

  • Age UK
  • Bear With Us Productions
  • Peacocks
  • Cancer Research
  • Cloth Cat Animation
  • Education Wales
  • Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
  • Hi Jinx Theatre
  • National Museum Wales
  • NHS Wales
  • RHS
  • Rowanvale Books
  • Scribbler Stationers
  • Tenovus

Field Trips

As part of the Illustration course, there will be the opportunity to attend field trips both in the UK and abroad; we may visit museums, galleries, publishers, art editors and even some artists’ studios.

Previous trips have included:

  • London
  • Bath
  • Bristol
  • New York
  • Berlin
  • Copenhagen
There may be additional costs associated with this course


Working within our creative campus, Illustration students benefit from a fully equipped Apple Mac suite and illustration studio. Our studios offer views of the city, and social spaces for generating ideas and collaborating with other students. All our facilities are purpose-built and have industry-standard software, we have a Riso duplicator machine and provide some specialist materials such as paper, drawing and painting materials, desktop printing materials and other basic equipment.

Illustration students will also have access to a life drawing studio and fabrication equipment such as laser cutting and 3D printing.


Matthew Morgan,  Illustration Course Leader
Emma Marshman, Academic Subject Manager
Sarah Carter, Senior Lecturer
Liam Barrett, Illustration Lecturer
Bett Norris, Illutration Lecturer 

We regularly revalidate courses for quality assurance and enhancement

At USW, we regularly review our courses in response to changing patterns of employment and skills demand to ensure we offer learning designed to reflect today’s student needs and tomorrow’s employer demands.

If during a review process course content is significantly changed, we’ll write to inform you and talk you through the changes for the coming year. But whatever the outcome, we aim to equip our students with the skillset and the mindset to succeed whatever tomorrow may bring. Your future, future-proofed.

Contextual offers

We may make you a lower offer based on a range of factors, including your background (where you live and the school or college that you attended for example), your experiences and individual circumstances (as a care leaver, for example). This is referred to as a contextual offer and we receive data from UCAS to support us in making these decisions. USW prides itself on its student experience and we support our students to achieve their goals and become a successful graduate. This approach helps us to support students who have the potential to succeed and who may have faced barriers that make it more difficult to access university. Here is a link to our Contextual Admissions Policy.  

Other qualifications and experience

We can also consider combinations of qualifications and other qualifications not listed here may also be acceptable. We can sometimes 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 advanced entry to year two or three of a course where this is possible.

To find out which qualifications have tariff points, please refer to the UCAS tariff calculator.

If you need more help or information or would like to speak to our friendly admissions team, please contact us here


Applicants in the UK

Selection for this course is based on a suitable application. If you do not meet the entry criteria, you may also be required to provide a portfolio of your work to help us assess your suitability for the course.

Applicants outside the UK

Selection for this course is based on a suitable application and submission of a portfolio of your work which the Course Leader confirms is suitable for an offer to be made.

Typical A-Level Offer

CCC to include a relevant art and design subject (this is equivalent to 96 UCAS tariff points).

Typical Welsh BACC Offer

Pass the Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate Diploma with Grade C in the Skills Challenge Certificate and CC at A Level with a relevant art and design subject (this is equivalent to 96 UCAS tariff points).

Typical BTEC Offer

BTEC Extended Diploma Merit Merit Merit in a relevant subject (this is equivalent to 96 UCAS tariff points).

Typical Access to HE Offer

Pass the Access to HE Diploma with a minimum of 96 UCAS tariff points

Additional Requirements

GCSEs: The University normally requires a minimum 5 GCSEs including Mathematics/Numeracy and English at Grade C or Grade 4 or above, or their equivalent, but consideration is given to individual circumstances

International Entry Requirements

In general, international applicants will need to have achieved an overall IELTS grade of 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component.

However, if you have previously studied through the medium of English IELTS might not be required, but please visit the country specific page on our international website for exact details. If your country is not featured please contact us.

English Requirements

We also welcome international applications with equivalent qualifications. Please visit the country specific pages on our international website for exact details.

Full-time fees are per year. Part-time fees are per 20 credits. Once enrolled, the fee will remain at the same rate throughout the duration of your study on this course


August 2024 - July 2025 Fees

  • Full-time UK:  £9000

  • Full-time International:  £14950 

August 2025 - July 2026 Fees

  • Full-time UK: TBC

  • Full-time International: TBC

Student Perks

At the University of South Wales, you’re investing in so much more than a degree. We strive to provide our students with the best possible experience, no matter what you chose to study. Whether it’s access to top of the range mac books and PCs, state-of-the-art facilities packed with industry-leading equipment and software, masterclasses and events led by industry experts, or a wide range of clubs and societies to meet likeminded people, better tomorrows start with extra perks.

Each course also has their own unique student benefits to prepare you for the real word, and details of these can be found on our course pages. From global field trips, integrated work experience and free course-related resources, to funded initiatives, projects working with real employers, and opportunities for extra qualifications and accreditations - at USW your future, is future-proofed.

Click here to learn more about student perks at USW.

Additional Costs

As a student of USW, you’ll have access to lots of free resources to support your study and learning, such as textbooks, publications, online journals, laptops, and plenty of remote-access resources. Whilst in most cases these resources are more than sufficient in supporting you with completing your course, additional costs, both obligatory and optional, may be required or requested for the likes of travel, memberships, experience days, stationery, printing, or equipment.

* Obligatory

Item Cost
Kit (Uniform and Equipment) * £250
Materials. Per year
Field Trips £100
Field trip UK
Other: Printing & Exhibition Costs £100 - £200
Per year
Trips £100 - £1000
Extra-curricular trips (all academic years)


Funding to help pay for (or cover) course tuition fees and living costs

Whilst you’re studying, you’ll have two main financial obligations – tuition fees and living costs. There’s lots of financial help available from the University of South Wales and external funding sources, that may provide loans (which have to be paid back) and grants, scholarships and bursaries (that don't).

To learn about course fees, funding options, and to see if you are eligible for financial support, visit our Fees and Funding pages.

UK students

Apply via UCAS if you are a UK residing applicant, applying for year one of a full-time undergraduate degree, Foundation Year, Foundation Degree or HND and you have not applied through UCAS before. If you are applying to study part-time, to top up your Foundation Degree or HND, or to transfer to USW from another institution, please apply directly

International and EU students

Apply directly to the University if you live outside the UK. 

Admissions statement

At USW, we help you start your career before you even graduate, with relevant industry placements, opportunities with live clients, competition briefs, BA Illustration is a degree that is 100% focused on what employers need in the future. The teaching environment at USW offers an unparalleled experience when it comes to developing professional illustrators for the real world.

By working with a wide range of industry professionals and charities, our graduates have an extensive portfolio of skills; these skills cover all aspects of Illustration and design. They are rounded, focused and confident professionals, who are ready to begin a successful career. Our students have won paid commissions from the work created during their modules, ranging from published illustrated books to illustrated giant Snoopy sculptures as part of an arts trail.

Many USW alumni go on to become freelance illustrators, independent business owners, independent artists, storyboard artists, children’s book illustrators, animation & games pre-production, character designers, concept artists, background artists, prop makers, educators and also work as illustrators and designers with creative companies such as:

  • Hachette book group
  • Avery Hill Publishing
  • Hallmark Cards
  • Ancestry UK
  • Scribbler
  • Cloth Cat Animation
  • The Dogs Trust
  • Music Declares Emergency
  • Sugar Creative
  • Welsh National Opera
  • WEN Wales
  • Anorak Magazine
  • Bristol Zoo
  • National Museum of Wales
  • Bear with us productions
  • Hoho entertainment
  • Candy jar publishing
  • Rowan vale publishing
  • Gwasg Carreg Gwalch
  • Tantrwm Media

Our Careers and Employability Service

As a USW student, you will have access to advice from the Careers and Employability Service throughout your studies and after you graduate.

This includes: one-to-one appointments from faculty based Career Advisers, in person, over the phone or even on Skype and through email via the "Ask a Question" service. We also have extensive online resources for help with considering your career options and presenting yourself well to employers. Resources include psychometric tests, career assessments, a CV builder, interview simulator and application help. Our employer database has over 2,000 registered employers targeting USW students, you can receive weekly email alerts for jobs.

Our Careers service has dedicated teams: A central work experience team to help you find relevant placements; an employability development team which includes an employability programme called Grad Edge; and an Enterprise team focused on new business ideas and entrepreneurship.