Course details

Study options

Full-time: 3 years

UK/EU fee

£9,250 per year (2020/21)

International fee

£14,045 per year (2020/21)

UCAS points

112 (September 2021 entry)

UCAS code


Course level



BA (Hons)

Start date



Markeaton Street, Derby Campus

If you do not achieve the typical entry points required, you may want to consider studying this course with foundation year.

View with foundation year optionView with foundation year option

Course description

Become an innovative, unique, diverse, and professionally distinctive illustrator.

Through a voyage of discovery and experimentation you will apply yourself to challenging projects and activities, become increasingly self-motivated and confident to strive beyond the constraints of delivering a brief. We aim to foster a confidence to discover, re-map, re-imagine and challenge traditional interpretations of the subject.

You will be encouraged to experiment and challenge what illustration is, with the opportunity to take part in live projects and high-profile competitions that will challenge you to explore problem solving, sequential image-making, characterisation, reportage and editorial illustration. 

Located in a dedicated and inspiring illustration studio you will network with your peers and forge lifelong connections. You will gain opportunities to specialise in a specific field or area of expertise in illustration and flexibility to discover and create self-authored projects.

You'll make use of our drawing room, printmaking studio and Digital Design Hub where you will be immersed in traditional and contemporary techniques such as drawing, screen-print, lino, mono-printing, drypoint, risograph, solar etching, photography, digital image making, 3D model making, painting and multi-media collage. 

An art-school experience will introduce you to exploration of craft and design skills, drawing, communicating ideas and visual concepts, developing a unique personal voice in producing illustrative outcomes for various outputs, such as, publishing, editorial, educational design, graphic novels, narrative, printmaking, moving image, children's books, and packaging.

Studio study will be complemented with history and theory modules which will enhance your intellectual development, graduate and academic skills, whilst providing an awareness of wider contexts pertinent to illustration.

In the 2020 National Student Survey (NSS), 98% of students were satisfied with the learning opportunities on the course. The NSS is managed by the Office for Students and gathers opinions of current students on the course. Additional results include:

A group of illustration students work on a large black and white drawing
A blonde female sits smiling for a portrait photo

I was creatively challenged and pushed to work to the best of my ability. The tutors offered me an abundance of guidance and support and the course provided with me the skills and motivation to progress into the creative industry.

Heather Dagless
Illustration graduate

You will be taught from a staff team of illustration practitioners who have expertise in the field, such as exhibiting artists, printmakers, and professional illustrators offering their expert advice and experience throughout your study. We also run a high-profile lecture series offering you the chance to meet exciting speakers such as Sam Arthur, founder of Nobrow Publishing and successful alumni such as Childrens book illustrator Pippa Curnick. We also offer trips to galleries and events; last year we visited the The House of Illustration, The Whitworth Art gallery in Manchester and students held a stand at “Pages” International artists bookfair in Leeds.

All students become members of The Association of Illustrators and network with influential illustrators at the forefront of the industry, gaining advice on how to set up as a freelancer, receive professional portfolio consultations, accessing resources such as legal and pricing advice.

This course allows you to have guaranteed progression to study at Masters Level on completion of the undergraduate course rather than having to apply. 

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Logo celebrating 21 years of Illustration at Derby
Artwork by 3rd year MDES students Richard Ivens.

21 Years in the Making

In January 2019, we proudly celebrated 21 years since the Illustration course was established at Derby with an exhibition titled "21 Years in the Making."

The exhibition tracked back through the 21 years and celebrated the successes of the programme alumni, staff, technicians, and current students while presenting the diverse and innovative approaches to Illustration that began at the University in 1997. 


All art and design courses are based at our Markeaton Street site where modern, purpose built studios and labs provide a modern creative space for our arts students. Markeaton Street encompasses Chandos Pole Street (home to our Fashion and Textiles courses) and Britannia Mill (home to Fine Arts and our print-making facilities). Students on any of our theatre related courses also get to study at Derby Theatre, and Dance students study at Deda.

Markeaton Street is a 15 minute walk from Kedleston Road, and is serviced by regular free site shuttle buses.

Explore our facilities through our Virtual Tour:

Markeaton Street

Art and Design creative spaces

What you will study

Year 1Year 1Year 2Year 2Year 3Year 3

Code: 4VC515

Creative Curiosity

As an illustrator what makes you curious? How do we use drawing and image making? How can you visualise? What materials do we use? What new materials can we discover? And how do we use them? You will be challenged to explore a broad range of methods, making and materials, experimenting with various visual approaches. Through experimentation and exploration, you will gain an understanding of meaning and communication in creating work.

Practical projects requiring observation, experimentation and making will enable you to gain an understanding of design process and spatial awareness for layout, composition and communication.

You will discover the ability to experiment with a wide variety of methods of recording, collecting and manipulating visual material and a fundamental resource of abilities and understanding for future modules.

You will challenge yourself to create practical projects that will require you to visually investigate creative tasks, through collecting and recording visual material, using processes such as digital, printmaking, photography, found objects and drawing.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 4VC516

Understanding Illustration

What is a contemporary illustrator? How do we begin to understand the strengths of Illustration? How do we use them? What is the significance of personal voice and how do we develop it?

You will be introduced to the fundamentals of being an illustrator and gain an awareness of your own developing visual language. You will establish and identify your own strengths and interests within Illustration. Module sessions will encourage you to evaluate and redefine what an illustrator is in order to become more curious about your subject.

You will be encouraged to question and challenge the role of the illustrator? You will also be encouraged to closely consider the context of illustration outcomes through practical projects.

The module will include software introductions, as well as directed and self-directed exploration of a range of appropriate software at an introductory level, to establish familiarisation and independent experimentation. The knowledge and skills acquired will underpin and support the development of your ways of working across your practical outcomes in this module.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 4VC517

Illustration: Concepts

What are the perceived outcomes of illustration? And how can you challenge these? You will explore methods and means of visual problem solving in illustration. You will work in an active creative community developing working methods to resolve communication problems.

You will challenge the illustrative outcomes and concepts of the subject and the be encouraged to experiment and extend your developing ways of working, to understand the design process, leading to practical creative outcomes in a broad range of methods and media including digital image making and moving image, drawing, printmaking and letterforms.

The module encourages critical consideration of how images communicate ideas. You will gain an understanding of audience and purpose in devising visual communication solutions. Through experimentation, risk taking and testing, you will understand the importance of visual research.

You will complete a series of projects that explore the wide array of disciplines within Illustration. Opportunities will require you to re-evaluate the role of the illustrator, to explore subject connections and to diversify your interest in the discipline.

You will be encouraged to consider your work within an historical and contemporary context. The project outcomes should reflect your understanding of the context of the work and will require effective and appropriate research to resolve the project briefs.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 4VC518

Illustration: History and Culture

This module introduces the fascinating history of Illustration. It will help broaden your knowledge on Illustration and provide rich material for you to be considering as a developing practitioner. We consider how historical contexts have influenced Illustration, but, also, importantly, how Illustration has itself shaped culture and society. At this level, the module encourages you to embrace ways of seeing how Illustration may impact on the world, in both the past and present.

Specific historical periods are identified in which the dissemination of illustration is examined in relation to technological, socio-cultural and political contexts.

The module encourages you to consider the usefulness of the history of Illustration in relation to your own practice.

Learning will take place in the contexts of slide-lectures, gallery visits, seminars and tutorials and we will focus on the close study of illustration. Academic assignments will be set which will foster development of skills in researching, essay writing, intellectual discussion and visual analysis.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 5VC516

Illustration: Art and Theory

How may we better understand the “good, the bad and the ugly” in illustration? How might we think of the value of Illustration in culture and society? And how can we learn to analyse images and texts, in order to improve the intellectual study and understanding of illustration at a deeper level?

This module focuses on ways we may theorise Illustration (the discipline) and illustration images. We will consider how “critical theory” can help us analyse illustration practice with intellectual rigour. Furthermore, the module considers how theory and practice within your own work may enmesh and be mutually complementary.

In contemporary culture Illustration is a significant vehicle of ‘representation’. Taking illustrated images as ‘texts,’ we consider how they both produce and reproduce ideologies of culture, society, politics, economics, and so on. Illustration may challenge or resist dominant social and cultural values. We will study the ways in which visual practices represent race, gender, ethnicity, class and further categories of identity, thus, reflecting on critical and ethical concerns which have contemporary significance. We will work towards applying various theories to analyse works by visual practitioners, so as, to better understand their work, evaluate it, and consider what may be learned from it.

There will be an emphasis on undertaking scholarly research on critical theory alongside detailed research on specific visual practitioners. Working in this way will help you to explore the relationships between theory and practice.

Learning will take place in the contexts of slide-lectures, seminars and tutorials and we will focus on the close study of illustration. Academic assignments will be set which will foster development of skills in researching, essay writing, intellectual discussion and visual analysis.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 5VC517

Visual Narratives

How can you adopt, adapt and challenge the use of narrative in its broadest sense to create Illustrations? How do we use narrative? Working independently in a studio environment you will explore how narrative illustrations can be created and manipulated to communicate concepts effectively within a range of possible formats, such as books, exhibitions, graphic novels, and editorial.

You will experiment with methods of controlling the experience of the viewer, holding the viewer’s attention, taking the viewer on a journey and communicating feelings and sensations through controlling atmosphere, timing and visual information.

You will explore narrative form, in depth, and will have the opportunity to express your own concepts as appropriate to your developing personal direction, through a substantial illustration project.

In response to given themes, you will be challenged to self-author, to work independently and to take control of the concept from the initial intended communication, to the fully resolved outcome. Audience, purpose and your concept will be central defining factors and you are expected to explore, challenge and experiment with formats, such as, the book, graphic novel, moving image or other sequence, in response to the project theme.

Illustration studio-based project work will be supported by peer support, seminars, workshops and personal tutorials. A portfolio of practical work will be produced evidencing an increasing understanding of contemporary Illustration.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 5VC518

Illustration: Voice

How do I apply my personal Illustration voice? How do I apply this to an audience? This module offers you the opportunity to apply your developing working methods and design processes to a range of practical projects and externally set live projects, within the specialist subject of Illustration. Working Independently and engaging fully with the module you will aim to challenge and extend your knowledge of the subject of Illustration.

Through experimentation with methods and media, the projects are designed to help you to apply your work to the many forms that illustration can take. You will be encouraged to push the boundaries of the subject, to challenge what has gone before and to develop your own personal agenda, concepts and ideas in making work.

The module will provide practical workshop sessions and supported experimentation with focus on audience, problem solving and further refinement of your personal voice. Enabling you to explore in greater depth processes and working methods relevant to the development of your approach to your practical work and personal voice.

Studio based project work will be supported by peer work checks, seminars, workshops and personal tutorials. A portfolio of practical work will be produced and your outcomes should evidence an increasing understanding of contemporary Illustration through your research and visual development work.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 5VC519

Illustration: Connections

What kind of Illustrator could I be? This module asks you to explore the creative industries in relation to your subject discipline and introduces you to the professional external world of Illustration. You will begin building a network with individuals, student peers, local businesses, creative practitioners, organisations, studios and agencies in order to broaden your internal and external contacts. These links once developed may become future collaborative partners in your final year of study, or beyond graduation.

There will be short information gathering projects, liaison activities, social events and practical workshops that encourage your promotional and networking skills in your subject area.

You will challenge yourself to increase your initiative, confidence and autonomy as a creative practitioner to prepare for a career in the design industry.

There will be study visits to exhibitions, visiting speakers, conference opportunities and related networking events as appropriate, that will help you develop and broaden your perspective.

You will discover and discuss with your peer group the professional skills necessary to have a successful career in your chosen subject and you will begin to discuss options that may be open to you on graduation.

You will be encouraged to reflect on your strengths, your weaknesses and transferable skills, in relation to Illustration and your emerging practical portfolio. This reflective analysis will help you to express your personal identity and to define your future ambitions as a creative professional.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 6VC500


In this module Graphic Design, Illustration and Animation final year students come together to apply the knowledge and skills from the specialist programmes to one visual communication problem. You will be challenged to respond with individuality to the specific theme to demonstrate the focus of your approach to your practice. The project will evidence the resolve you have achieved at this point in your career as an artist or designer in readiness for your next ‘destination’ as a graduate.

Emphasis will be placed on identifying, understanding and applying the experience and knowledge you have gained throughout your study and you will be encouraged to clearly define your individual direction as a Graphic Designer, Illustrator or Animator. Within the specified theme topics and tasks will include portfolio presentation, self-promotion, and design solutions for your graduating degree show exhibition.

The project will be set under the conditions of a ‘live’ brief and will aim to be as close to a professional situation as possible. It will be an opportunity for you to demonstrate your professionalism as a visual communicator demonstrating your personal approach to your practice area.

The work produced should clearly evidence a good knowledge of methods and media within your own specific area of working in visual communication.

More information
20 Credits

Code: 6VC503

Negotiated Study in Illustration

This double module will enable you to select from a range of illustration projects, including competitions and live briefs. The selections you make will enable you to refine the focus of your practice, to build a portfolio that represents your strengths and to begin to direct your own learning in the areas that most interest you. You will be expected to challenge your abilities, processes and methodologies in addressing the projects selected and to refine your ways of working to achieve professional standards in preparation for employment and/or further study.

You will negotiate your project selections with your assigned Personal Tutor and with your Module Tutors, who will support and advice on identified strengths and the balance of the projects chosen. Your goal will be to express your personal voice and extend your individual direction within graphic design.

All of the projects offered will be challenging visual communication problems across a range of issues offering a wide choice of options to respond to in your own way, within your practice focus. Collaborative or joint projects may also be negotiated.

You will be required to produce a portfolio of your practical work responding to the projects set. You will also be required to evidence the application of a high level of research and understanding of historical and contemporary practice in the subject area in responding to and developing your selected projects.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 6VC506

Specialist Practice in Illustration

This double module will support you in developing an individual illustration project devised by you, for sustained in-depth study in an independent enquiring manner. You will be required to define yourself as an Illustrator, in presenting a body of work which expresses and forms the basis of your professional potential.

You are encouraged to work with independence, originality, initiative and confidence, to develop further your abilities of research, critical analysis and self-organisation. You will also be expected to extend your practical abilities through continuing to create and manipulate sound and image in an experimental and questioning manner to communicate. Your methodologies, time planning, scripting and visual solutions should extend and further resolve your personal direction.

You will be required to critically evaluate, analyse and reflect on the development and success of your outcomes, on the basis of the effectiveness of their communication to your intended audience. You will be encouraged to develop your practice with consideration of sustainability and ethical perspectives.

Emphasis is placed on independent learning but throughout the module your work will be supported by seminars, lectures, small studio group work-checks and individual tutorials with an appointed member of staff with specialist knowledge of your specialism. There will also be large peer group review days. Assessment is by presentation of practical work, which includes a reflective journal of your research and planning.

More information
40 Credits

Code: 6VC507

Visual Culture: Extended Essay

In this module you will produce an extended essay on a topic determined by you with the support of your tutor. While the topic will be of your own choosing, it should relate to your own discipline and practice.

The topic selected should offer enough depth to allow you to identify issues for research, investigation and analysis. You will be encouraged to build on and apply the theories and historical knowledge explored in the modules “Visual Culture: History” and “Visual Culture; Theory.”

Your topic will be carefully selected and honed to ensure that it helps inform your understanding of your discipline and practice. For example, you may focus on a specific practitioner whose work successfully responds to a set of problems, which are pertinent to your own concerns.

There are indeed other approaches to identifying a topic focus and research question; for example, one method is to compare and contrast, while another may be to focus on a narrow historical period or a narrow genre of visual texts. Your tutor will help guide you in refining your approach and in establishing your title for the extended essay.  

You will identify, negotiate and assume responsibility for conducting your research and producing the extended essay.

You will work towards developing a coherent argument, informed by your research, which will drive the structure and logic of the extended essay. You will work towards producing coherent academic writing, which adopts the scholarly conventions of referencing according to Harvard procedures.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  1. Initiate, generate and research an individual topic relevant to your subject, with reference to cultural, theoretical and historical influences
  2. Articulate an analytical and critical written presentation on that topic establishing a considered argument
  3. Engage in critical discussion, articulating ideas effectively and contributing to current debate within your specialist subject

Module content

In consultation with tutors, you will define and research an area of study, which will reflect and complement your particular individual practice.

Tutorials will provide advice, direction and additional sources of research and visual material where appropriate. The tutorials will also provide a framework for ensuring coherence of the topic, and direction for the methods and planning of research, draft versions and final presentation issues.

More information
20 Credits

Please note that our modules are subject to change - we review the content of our courses regularly, making changes where necessary to improve your experience and graduate prospects.

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Campus Tours

Campus Tours are a great way to explore our campuses, facilities and halls of residence. We’ll be running the tours in two-hour timeslots, giving you the best possible experience while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

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Virtual Open Day

Delve deeper into the course with our Virtual Open Day, packed with subject and course information to help you make your choice, including tours of facilities, 360° views of award-winning accommodation plus advice and insight from students and academics.

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How you will learn


The illustration studio provides you with an excellent environment to be curious, experimental and independently motivated. It is a location for both individual and group tuition, a creative space for the practice of sharing ideas and peer-learning, exercising creative skills, imagination, vision, innovation and ambition. This environment will be used to explore and undertake group work, peer evaluation, critiques and seminars as a means of complementing more individualistic and autonomous work. You will learn the importance of this creative space and utilise it to build networks, be open to new influences, and become part of a creative community, which encourages you to work both independently and cooperatively.

You will also benefit from using our dedicated drawing studio, printmaking studio and creative workshops spaces where you will create collographs, screenprint, drypoint, risograph, mono print, letterpress and lino& cut.

Through drawing workshops, you’ll explore experimental and traditional observation and refine your visual skills. You will explore using software appropriate to your subject, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, In-Design, After Effects.

You’ll also develop your skills in the Digital Design Hub which provides a variety of print finishing processes such as laser cutting, and book binding giving you the opportunity to create editions of books which you can promote at bookfairs and events run by the programme team.

Teaching Methods

We use a variety of teaching and learning methods including project work, workshop practice, lectures, demonstrations, seminars, group critiques, work checks, individual tutorials, reports and assignments.

Our students are expected to attend on a daily basis, with periods of time allocated to self-directed study. You’ll be assessed by 100% coursework relevant to each module, which may include artwork portfolios, exhibitions, sketchbooks, research, essays, reports and presentations.

Degree Show

Every year students from the School of Arts celebrate their time at University by showcasing their work at an end of year Degree Show at Markeaton Street and across the City of Derby. The Show usually runs throughout June and is a fantastic opportunity for potential employers, friends, family, industry and members of the public to see exciting creations by the next generation of artists, designers, creators and makers from Derby. The Show takes the form of:

Take a look at highlights from the 2019 Degree Show.

Personal academic tutoring

Your personal academic tutor will work with you to help you get the most out of your time at university. Having someone to talk to about your academic progress, your university experience and your professional aspirations is hugely valuable. We want you to feel challenged in your studies, stretched but confident to achieve your academic and professional goals.

Find out more about personal academic tutoring

Who will teach you

Richard Levesly at our Markeaton Street site.

Richard Levesley
Programme leader

Drawing is at the core of Richards practice. He is particularly interested in sketchbooks, gathering ideas exploring various drawing processes and illustrative outcomes. His research practice explores drawing, digital process and printed in relation to commercial Illustration and directly informs my teaching.

View full staff profileView full staff profile

Entry requirements

September 2021 typical entry requirements

RequirementWhat we're looking for
UCAS points112
Specific requirements at A-level

No specific subject requirements

Specific requirements at GCSEGCSE Maths and English Grade C/Grade 4 (or above) or equivalent qualification
IELTS6.0 (with 5.5 in each skills area)
Interview / AuditionYes - see interview details

Alternative entry qualifications:

We usually consider an A-level in General Studies as a supplementary qualification. A good application/performance will be taken into account if you do not meet the criteria/offer conditions.

Offers will be made initially based on your application, including predicted grades and/or grades you have already achieved. Following this, if you submit a strong portfolio we will make you an unconditional offer, to reflect the quality of your work and your potential.

Our entry requirements for this course should be read together with the University's general entry requirements, which details subjects we accept, alternative qualifications and what we're looking for at Derby.

Fees and funding

2020/21 Fees


£9,250 per year



£14,045 per year


Further information about our fees and support you may be entitled to.

Additional costs and optional extras

How to apply

UK/EU students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for EU students post-Brexit

International students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for international applicants applying for an undergraduate degree


This course prepares you for an exciting career in illustration, with opportunities in newspaper and magazine editorial, education, publishing and book artschildren’s books, graphic novelsprint productionadvertising and the wider design industry. Some of our graduates also pursue careers as writers, educators and picture/research editors. With a large number of illustrators working on a freelance basis, the course also equips you with business skills and an entrepreneurial outlook.   

Whatever branch of illustration you aspire to, you’ll graduate with a professional portfolio that is personal and distinctive, alongside a wealth of promotional material to launch your career. Many of our students are talent-spotted through the hands-on work they undertake during live briefs for employers, or through the competitions and exhibitions which form an integral part of your studies.  

As part of the course, you’ll join the Association of Illustrators (AOI) which advances illustrators’ rights and encourages professional standards. You will have access to notable industry practitioners, workshops, support and professional advice, including one-to-one portfolio surgeries by the AOI for our final year students.  

For aspiring entrepreneurs, we also provide business support through our incubation unit – Banks Mill. Several of our graduates have taken advantage of its studio workspaces and business development activities, all within a vibrant and thriving community of artists, designers and makers. Others have developed collectives working in illustration for fashion, art direction and the music industry.   

You could also consider our MA Visual Communication if you would like to take your studies to postgraduate level.   

Contact us

If you need any more information from us, eg on courses, accommodation, applying, car parking, fees or funding, please contact us and we will do everything we can to help you.

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Additional information about your studies

Teaching hours

Like most universities, we operate extended teaching hours at the University of Derby, so contact time with your lecturers and tutors could be anytime between 9am and 9pm. Your timetable will usually be available on the website 24 hours after enrolment on to your course.

Additional costs and optional extras

We’re committed to providing you with an outstanding learning experience. Our expert teaching, excellent facilities and great employability prepare you for your future career. As part of our commitment to you we aim to keep any additional study costs to a minimum. However, there are occasions where students may incur some additional costs.

The information below is correct for entry in the academic year September 2020 - August 2021 only. Entry for future academic years may be subject to change.

Included in your fees

Mandatory costs not included in your fees

Optional costs not included in your fees

Please note: Our courses are refreshed and updated on a regular basis. If you are thinking about transferring onto this course (into the second year for example), you should contact the programme leader for the relevant course information as modules may vary from those shown on this page.

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