Skip to main content
Kingston School of Art offers a stimulating environment for the postgraduate study of Illustration. Kingston University has some of the best fabrication and visual process workshops in the UK. This enables the most exciting innovations in ‘thinking through making'.
The Communication Design: Illustration MA course, offered through the highly-regarded Department of Illustration Animation, aims to develop creative professional understanding of Illustration in the context of communication design.
The course is structured to challenge you and your preconceptions about both illustration and design. It places an emphasis on the patterns of research you develop and the visual methods you employ to explore and unravel briefs. You will be expected to demonstrate how you research and develop your ideas. In this context, research is not only a working process it can also be considered an outcome in its own right.
This programme asks you to examine: what, how, why and who as key factors in design thinking. This represents a shift from the traditional definition of design and illustration as a problem solving activity to a placing the focus on problem finding. The course encourages the exploration and understanding of the methods and processes at work in contemporary illustration.
This course has been designed to enhance your long-term employment possibilities through an appreciation of the changing global, technological and social context of illustration and design. It includes the option of a one-year UK work placement, enhancing your experience and connections in industry. This type of assessed placement is not available on any other postgraduate courses.
If you are planning to join this course in the academic year 2021/22 (i.e. between August 2021 and July 2022), please view the information about changes to courses for 2021/22 due to Covid-19.
Students who are continuing their studies with Kingston University in 2021/22 should refer to their Course Handbook for information about specific changes that have been, or may be, made to their course or modules being delivered in 2021/22. Course Handbooks are located within the Canvas Course page.
Project work will challenge you to develop and enhance your existing ways of working. You will explore the importance of research in underpinning your practice and will be encouraged to build your own visual language and ‘tools' in response to set briefs within each module. In the final stage of the course, you will propose and develop your independent major project. You will be taught by experienced academics and specialist tutors from industry who encourage you to develop your understanding of the relationship between illustration, words, pictures and their means of communication and transmission.
This specialist pathway of the Communication Design MA course is part of the School of Design's postgraduate programme. The structure - shared with students from Product & Furniture Design MA and Sustainable Design MA - enables you to explore your individual specialist interests in illustration within an integrative learning environment that provides a comprehensive understanding of the value and role of interdisciplinary methods and ways of working. The influences and impact of thinking from other related design subjects on your own specialist study is an important aspect of the identity and the community of interdisciplinary practice at masters level in the School of Design.
This structure is designed to help progress and develop your independent learning, encouraging you to construct and explore projects concerned with areas of particular personal interests. The overarching course philosophy, based upon an emphasis on research, methodology and design thinking, allows individual and personal concerns to be explored through focused study in illustration and the creation of images.
The two shared modules of the School of Design's Postgraduate Framework both commence with a symposium, in which high-profile external speakers present their work and contribute to a debate on a topic of relevance to all courses in the Framework.
This module explores the fundamental and underpinning aspects of communication design and the key skills related to visual thinking and is intended to introduce you to the expected ways of working whilst undertaking study on the course. The module places an emphasis on the nature of individual enquiry and the process of questioning. The primary focus of the module is problem finding, and simply put at this stage of the course: the point of a good research question is a better research question. You will be required to revisit the fundamental aspects of your practice through the exploration of form and context and their relationship to how meaning is established and importantly, communicated. This will build upon your existing ways of working and is a building block in the further development of your field of operation as designer on the course and your future career. The focus during this first module is upon visual grammar and how the essential elements of visual communication are related to the relationships between objects, patterns, and processes: the manner in which things relate to each other and the viewer/user.
Your understanding of form and the (inter)relationship between word and image; how meaning is established and communicated (context) will be explored through a process of de-thinking and re-thinking whereby established ways of working and developing ideas are challenged and (re)built upon. You will be expected to demonstrate through the visual documentation you produce how you have explored and tested your ideas.
The aim of the module is to give you an understanding of the design research tools and methods that are available to you, to inform and support the development of your practical study, and to provide the basis of your further study on your course. Practical research methods are explored, with an emphasis on the development of creative and evidence-based approaches to experimentation, and critical reflection on practical design work.
This module encourages you to look critically at the role of storytelling within the practice of communication design, in particular the relationship between narrative and sequential thinking using visual means. Contemporary culture is influenced by rapid technological change and this has a profound effect on how we transmit, receive and understand messages and information. Increasingly the role and relationship between the single and serial image in sequential and non-sequential forms has become more significant.
The existing relationship between the image and the word has become more complex as both old and new media are (re)defined by both the means of production and transmission. These changes are creating new dialogues between users and creators in both commercial and social arenas that employ narrative/storytelling devices and techniques. Storytelling is central to the many forms of visual communication that now exist whether fixed in traditional linear and sequential ways or based in dynamic and interactive screen-based environments. This presents new challenges and opportunities to designers, in particular to develop new and sustainable ways of thinking and working that are also able to transcend the technology of the moment.
The module allows you to develop your individual practice whether you are focused on the creation of content as a key aspect of your making or whether you situate your practice in relation to the interpretation and adaption of existing 'texts' and content in the act of storytelling. It is also the understanding of the history of visual storytelling and the diverse approaches to narrativity and seriality that are influenced by culture, language and technology.
This module is based on the assumption that the best jobs/careers in the creative industries do not exist – they are invented from individual creative ambitions. The module explores how this can be approached in practical terms. The programme of study encourages you to develop a personal and critical approach to your future career, and how this can inform the development of your individual major project for the Major Project.
The Major Project – the capstone project – consolidates the knowledge gained in earlier modules, and is informed by your prior learning within the Design School's postgraduate interdisciplinary framework and course-specific specialist study.
You will extend your work on the course thus far in the form of a practical design proposal, defining and developing a substantive solution to an individually defined design-related problem. In so doing, you will demonstrate advanced understanding and application of contemporary design practice as it can be brought to bear on a specific challenge of sustainability.
Many postgraduate courses at Kingston University allow students to do a 12-month work placement as part of their course. The responsibility for finding the work placement is with the student; we cannot guarantee the work placement, just the opportunity to undertake it. As the work placement is an assessed part of the course, it is covered by a student's Tier 4 visa.
Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme.
The Professional Placement module is a core module for those students following a masters programme that incorporates professional placement learning, following completion of 120 credits. It provides you with the opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills to an appropriate working environment, and to develop and enhance key employability skills and subject-specific professional skills in your chosen subject. You may wish to use the placement experience as a platform for your subsequent major project module, and would be expected to use it to help inform your decisions about future careers.
The information above reflects the currently intended course structure and module details. Updates may be made on an annual basis and revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year. The regulations governing this course are available on our website. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, this may not be offered.
Please see our Portfolio Preparation short course for help with your portfolio.
We will invite all shortlisted candidates to an interview. You will need to bring your portfolio with you. We can make alternative arrangements for international students based overseas.
Applicants with prior qualifications and learning may be exempt from appropriate parts of a course in accordance with the University's policy for the assessment of prior learning and prior experiential learning. Contact the faculty office for further information.
All non-UK applicants must meet our English language requirement, which is Academic IELTS of 6.5 overall with at least 5.5 in each element. Make sure you read our full guidance about English language requirements, which includes details of other qualifications we consider.
Applicants who do not meet the English language requirements could be eligible to join our pre-sessional English language course.
Applicants from a recognised majority English speaking countries (MESCs) do not need to meet these requirements.
You'll be strongly encouraged to develop your own informed and creative approach, taking into account contemporary research, current industry and design practices.
When not attending timetabled sessions, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. This typically involves reading and analysing articles, regulations, policy documents and key texts, documenting individual projects, preparing coursework assignments and completing your PEDRs, etc.
Your independent learning is supported by a range of excellent facilities including online resources, the library and CANVAS, the University's online virtual learning platform.
At Kingston University, we know that postgraduate students have particular needs and therefore we have a range of support available to help you during your time here.
7.7% of your time is spent in timetabled teaching and learning activity.
Type of teaching and learning
Assessment typically comprises of project work, visual research, written project report/summary, exhibition, and final major project. The approximate percentage for how you will be assessed on this course depends to some extent on the optional modules you choose.
Type of assessment
We aim to provide feedback on assessments within 20 working days.
You'll be taught by academics who are practising designers and researchers. There is also a regular programme of professional lectures and studio visits. Postgraduate students may also contribute to the teaching of seminars under the supervision of the module leader.
There is a wide range of fantastic facilities at Knights Park, where this course is based. Teaching is mainly studio-based so you will spend a lot of your time in the illustration studios, but you will also have access to:
Find out more about the Kingston School of Art at Knights Park campus in the virtual tour.
Computer workshops include:
You will also benefit from:
The University has its own on-site galleries, including:
Kingston is just a 30-minute train journey away from central London. Here you can access a wealth of exhibitions and galleries, including the Cartoon Museum and the National Film Theatre.
If you start your second year straight after year 1, you will pay the same fee for both years.
If you take a break before staring your second year, of if you repeat modules from year 1 in year 2, the fee for your second year may increase.
Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.
Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. Accommodation and living costs are not included in our fees.
Where a course has additional expenses, we make every effort to highlight them. These may include optional field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering), security checks such as DBS, uniforms, specialist clothing or professional memberships.
Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. You may prefer to, or be required to, buy your own copy of key textbooks.
There are open-access networked computers available across the University, plus laptops available to loan. You may find it useful to have your own PC, laptop or tablet you can use around campus and in halls of residence. Free WiFi is available on each of the campuses.
In the majority of cases coursework can be submitted online. There may be instances when you will be required to submit work in a printed format. Printing and photocopying costs are not included in your tuition fees.
Travel costs are not included but we do have a free intersite bus service which links the campuses and halls of residence.
Kingston University offers a range of postgraduate scholarships, including:
If you are an international student, find out more about scholarships and bursaries.
We also offer the following discounts for Kingston University alumni:
Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs that are not covered by tuition fees which students will need to consider when planning their studies. Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, access to shared IT equipment and other support services. Accommodation and living costs are not included in our fees.
Where a course has additional expenses, we make every effort to highlight them. These may include optional field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering), security checks such as DBS, uniforms, specialist clothing or professional memberships.
Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. You may prefer to buy your own copy of key textbooks, this can cost between £50 and £250 per year.
There are open-access networked computers available across the University, plus laptops available to loan. You may find it useful to have your own PC, laptop or tablet which you can use around campus and in halls of residences. Free WiFi is available on each of the campuses. You may wish to purchase your own computer, which can cost £100 to £3,000 depending on your course requirements.
In the majority of cases written coursework can be submitted online. There may be instances when you will be required to submit work in a printed format. Printing, binding and photocopying costs are not included in your tuition fees, this may cost up to £100 per year.
Travel costs are not included in your tuition fees but we do have a free intersite bus service which links the campuses, Surbiton train station, Kingston upon Thames train station, Norbiton train station and halls of residence.
This course helps prepare you for roles in the creative industries. Some students follow a traditional path of freelance illustrators; others pursue a wide range of careers, such as:
When I visited Kingston for an Open Day I felt at home. The atmosphere was positive and friendly, the campus had a great feel with ample facilities and lots of creative inspiration.
The course was completely transformative; my thinking and approach towards illustration has never developed and matured so rapidly. This is reflected in my work.
The teaching is excellent. Tutors facilitate a supportive, open and experimental environment. Projects are extremely well structured to allow students to question and test their understanding whilst progressing their technical ability and skills base.
I have met dozens of like-minded people and made friends for life. I would completely recommend this experience to anyone looking to progress their career and carve a new path in the world.
Maisie Noble from London
If you want to develop your thought and style, this course will be right for you. Throughout the course I was able to experiment well and think more deeply. Every module allowed me to think in order to pass to the next level, which was hard at first. However, I learned through the process more than I expected.
I am very pleased that I chose Kingston and I met my lovely tutors and peers. The tutors always cheered me up and gave me suitable references to help my project. I had the opportunity to make everything in both the printmaking studio and the 3D workshop, regardless of material. It was great!
Hoyong Sol from South Korea
I came to this course with a background in film. During the previous couple of years my interest in illustration had grown and I wanted to try my hand at improving my practice. The course offered me a way to experiment with illustration that took me to unexpected places and outcomes. However, I never felt a lack of confidence due to my background. I was encouraged to build on my previous experiences and almost 're-learn' the way I worked as a designer. The experience was intensive, but I never felt a lack of support.
Ryan Dethy from the USA
I have gained so much from doing this MA at Kingston. The course has helped me deconstruct my creative practice, so that I can understand how I work and then build stronger and more effective methods for creating meaningful visuals. I developed better visual research skills, learnt to critically reflect, evaluate, question and test all the way through, while practising and improving my drawing skills.
With the emphasis taken off style and outcome and with space for mistakes, I was able to really examine content generation and how to communicate ideas visually.
Jasmine Parker from London
The MA experience at Kingston University has been precious, particularly for the chance of meeting and working with people from different design backgrounds and with varied skill sets. I found the emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and teamwork provided useful training to prepare me for the jobs market.
Chiara Sacchi from Italy
It's fantastic to study MA Illustration here! The faculties are good and the staff are helpful. In this year, I have learned a lot, especially the critical thinking methods!
Yihan Wang from China
My previous degree was a BA based on film and radio. After this I found myself moving towards image-making and illustration. I'd been considering a masters in Communication Design for a while because I felt that there was much more that I needed to learn.
Kingston was definitely the best choice. Being motivated into experimenting with techniques and materials has helped me discover new ways of working and thinking. The support, advice and encouragement from the tutors was amazing and made the degree a great experience. I've noticed my confidence increase but also identified how to work on any potential weaknesses.
At times the course has been challenging and intense, but that has made it all the more worthwhile. I have learnt so much in my time at Kingston.
Roxy Leaver from London
For me, Kingston offered the greatest programme, in terms of content and quality. The course covered both practical and academic elements, both of which are important for creative communication.
The modules cover many different interests, the tutors are enthusiastic and engaging, and the facilities for practical work are great. We can use all the facilities to make good structures for illustration, such as the printmaking studio, 3D workshops and the academic library.
Ran Kim from South Korea
This course at Kingston Uni has been by far the best I have ever attended! There are competent and knowledgeable tutors, great facilities and the location is close to all of London's museums, exhibition and education spaces.
Cathrine Bowitz from London
This course and the Design School have strong and well-established links to the design industry both nationally and internationally. This is significant as many of our students are from overseas. After graduating they often return to a wide range of international locations. Course modules address the changing nature of communication design in the global workplace.
The course works in collaboration with organisations and business. Recent projects include working with Illy Coffee in Italy to produce a magazine that was distributed around Europe and with Draught Associates in London who reviewed portfolios, provided professional guidance and offered internships.
Competitions are offered as part of the course, providing opportunities for students who wish to add to their portfolio.
The course has developed collaborative projects with Hongik University in Korea. This has included a focus on the use of new technologies to create professional networks and new opportunities for designers.
The experience of delivering courses in 2020/21 under the various Covid-19 restrictions has enabled us to better prepare and plan the delivery of our courses in 2021/22. We are confident the course can be delivered as planned and, therefore, we do not anticipate having to make any further changes to the course, i.e. number of modules or credits in a year, in response to issues arising from the pandemic. However, if this becomes necessary, the changes will be highlighted to students via email before enrolment.
Unless government advice instructs otherwise, Study Abroad programmes will take place in 2021/22. The safety of all our students is paramount, therefore, as per normal practice, all Study Abroad activities must also be approved by the University's insurers to ensure that students are adequately protected during their period abroad. We will provide updates as the pandemic situation stabilises and/or further government advice is released.
Changes can be made to courses as part of normal enhancement processes in order to keep our courses up to date with current developments in that subject area and in response to feedback from students and other key stakeholders. Any such changes made to the composition of the course will be highlighted to students by email before enrolment.
The experience of delivering courses in 2020/21 under the various Covid-19 restrictions has enabled us to better prepare and plan the delivery of our courses in 2021/22. We are confident the course can be delivered as planned and, therefore, we do not anticipate having to make any further changes to module titles and summaries or to the availability of modules in response to issues arising from the pandemic.
Changes can be made to modules as part of normal enhancement processes in order to keep our courses up to date with current developments in that subject area and to provide a high quality student experience. Any such changes made to module titles, module summaries and/or availability of modules will be highlighted to students by email before enrolment.
We expect to deliver the course within the planned timescales to enable successful students to progress through and graduate from the course without delay.
In exceptional circumstances the sequence of learning and teaching activities may be changed in 2021/22, e.g. moving those modules which can be delivered more effectively to the first teaching block and moving back those – such as practical modules and placements – which may be more difficult to deliver due to some ongoing restrictions.
In some cases, it may be necessary to delay placement modules which may then impact the length of the course. In these circumstances the University will guide students through the appropriate options available to ensure students are able to make informed choices.
We have not changed entry requirements as a direct result of the pandemic.
We have not changed entry requirements for international students as a direct result of the pandemic.
As we transition from the pandemic restrictions, we expect to steadily increase the proportion of on-campus teaching. We will continue to provide a proportion of online learning, as experience has shown that this enriches and supports the student learning experience.
If the pandemic affects teaching and learning activities in 2021/22 more than we currently anticipate, the proportion of online learning will increase. However, unless a lockdown is enforced, we will ensure that all courses provide a reasonable percentage of their teaching and learning activities on campus.
Should your circumstances prevent your attendance at on-campus sessions, you should still be able to engage with your course remotely in a way that allows you to progress. Where this is not possible, for example on courses with high practical content, your course team will be able to advise you on the options available to you.
The University will continue to closely monitor government announcements and advice in relation to the pandemic and, where required, will take any necessary action in order to comply with such advice.
In the event that a further lockdown is enforced in 2021/22 the University will aim to deliver the course fully online once more. The majority of our courses are prepared to be delivered fully online if the situation requires it. Where the quality of the student experience may be compromised, or the course is unable to be delivered fully online, the University may need to suspend the delivery of that course until a time that it can be delivered. Students will be supported in these situations to ensure they are able to make the right choices for their particular circumstances.
Changes to the overall breakdown of scheduled learning and teaching hours, placements and guided independent study hours were not and will not be made as a direct result of the pandemic.
‘Scheduled learning and teaching' includes teaching delivered online, either live or recorded/on demand.
Your individualised timetable for teaching block 1 (i.e. up to December 2021) should be available by the end of August. Timetables for teaching block 2 (i.e. from January 2022) will not be available until the autumn. We make every effort to ensure timetables are as student-friendly as possible.
In 2020/21 it was agreed that scheduled learning and teaching could take place on any day of the week between 9am and 9pm, to maximise the time available for teaching in order to accommodate smaller group sizes and social distancing. This meant we sometimes had to use Wednesday afternoons and enrichment week for additional teaching slots. If we need to accommodate smaller group sizes and social distancing in 2021/22 we expect to adopt a similar approach. Timetables for part-time students will depend on the modules selected.
The experience of delivering courses in 2020/21 under the various Covid-19 restrictions has enabled us to better prepare and plan the delivery of our courses in 2021/22. We are confident the course can be delivered as planned and, therefore, do not anticipate having to make any further changes to the course, i.e. to the overall methods of assessments, in response to issues arising from the pandemic. However, if this becomes necessary, the changes will be highlighted to students via email before enrolment.
Changes are made to modules, including how they are assessed, as part of normal enhancement processes to keep our modules up to date with current developments in that subject area and in response to feedback received from students and other key stakeholders. Any changes to the overall methods of assessment for Year 1 of the course will be highlighted to students by email before enrolment.
If social distancing or lockdown restrictions are in place in 2021/22, online alternative options to formal on-campus examinations, including practical examinations, will be made available to students where possible.
No changes are expected to the general level of experience or status of staff involved in delivering the course.
Staff are engaged in Continuous Professional Development activities to develop their teaching expertise, as part of the normal enhancement processes, to ensure that course teams have the required breadth of expertise.
There will be no changes to published tuition fees for 2021/22.
As we transition from the pandemic restrictions, we expect to be able to increase student access to on-campus facilities. Students will therefore have access to University computers and library facilities.
If, due to an increase in social distancing requirements or the enforcing of a lockdown, it becomes necessary to significantly increase the proportion of teaching delivered online, students will need a personal laptop or computer and access to the internet to participate in online teaching and learning activities. Students who are able to travel will have access to computers on campus, however, it should be noted that access to on-campus facilities might be restricted if social distancing requirements are enforced.
The University is committed to supporting students who are unable to access suitable technology to ensure equity of access in a blended delivery mode.
There will be no changes to any existing University funding arrangements for 2021/22. Currently there are no indications from the UK government that there will be any changes to government funding arrangements.
There will be no changes to published tuition fees or funding arrangements specifically relating to international students for 2021/22.
We are anticipating that placements (including work and clinical placements) and field trips included as part of the course will go ahead in 2021/22. However, to ensure students gain maximum value from placement activities, it may be necessary to reschedule them to later in the year, when any impacts from the pandemic restrictions are minimised.
Any proposed changes to placements or field trips would go through the University's agreed processes where the impact of the change will be carefully considered.
In the interests of the health and wellbeing of our students, all placement arrangements must be approved by the University's insurers and the appropriate risk assessments made before students are sent on a placement.
Courses which require placements or field trips to be completed in order to pass relevant modules will have contingency plans in place in the event that a placement or field trip cannot be completed due to another lockdown or more stringent social distancing measures.
No changes will be made to the qualification awarded, e.g. BSc (Hons), MSc, etc., as a direct result of the pandemic.
Changes can be made to courses, including the qualification awarded (although very rare), as part of normal enhancement processes in order to keep our courses up to date with current developments in that subject area. Any changes made to the qualification awarded for the course will be highlighted to students by email before enrolment.
The experience of delivering courses in 2020/21 under the various Covid-19 restrictions has enabled us to better prepare and plan the delivery of our courses in 2021/22. We are confident the course can be delivered as planned and in accordance with any professional body requirements. We do not anticipate making any further changes to courses in response to any issues arising from the pandemic and which would put at risk any professional body accreditation status.
International students should maintain awareness of the UK government's and their home country's government's advice on possible travel restrictions. The University will closely monitor advice and guidance published by the UK government and assess its impact on our international students. Appropriate advice and guidance will be provided as and when required.