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MA Illustration at Kingston School of Art takes a critical and research-led approach to image production and visual storytelling. Visual storytelling is understood in the broadest possible terms; making connections and building relationships between images, words, situations, objects, people and places. We are interested in the potential of research-led approaches to image production to generate knowledge, and we embrace process as a mode of meaning making. Students are supported to craft thoughtful, provoking and illuminating visual stories through a carefully curated programme of study that examines discipline specific notions of rigour, innovation, positioning and inclusivity.
The diverse positions and experiences our students bring to the course are integral to our key aim of examining and challenging existing illustrative practices by fostering knowledge and generating debate in relation to the challenges, ethics, and impact of visual representation globally across professional and public territories.
We align ourselves to SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy) a collective name for social sciences, humanities, and the arts, developed by the British Academy as a tool to tell the story of these subjects as a 'powerful and inclusive way to inform, illustrate and inspire people about the value of understanding our human world'.
|Full time||1 year||2 days a week||September 2023|
|Full time||2 years including professional placement||2 days a week plus placement year||September 2023|
|Part time||2 years||Contact Dr Leah Fusco for details||September 2023|
|Location||Kingston School of Art, Knights Park|
As part of Kingston School of Art, students on this course benefit from joining a creative community where collaborative working and critical practice are encouraged.
Our workshops and studios are open to all disciplines, enabling students and staff to work together, share ideas and explore multi-disciplinary making.
Through tutorials, field trips, lectures, seminars, workshops and research projects, you will gain the technical skills, critical tools, knowledge and confidence needed to contribute to the development of the subject and its practice. You will be asked to examine your own practice and identify existing practice-based research methods, which will then be developed by introducing discipline specific notions of rigour, originality, ethics, positioning and inclusivity.
Modules have been designed and aligned to ensure that students are able to make intellectual links between practice, critical theory and real-world scenarios. In doing so, this programme prioritises the development of an individual practitioner and their creative work.
There is an emphasis on independent and self-directed learning where students are given autonomy to develop a practice that supports their aspirations and ambitions. Skills in critical reflection and analysis provide you with the tools necessary to make decisions about your practice and learning trajectory. Students are provided with the opportunity to initiate, propose, and realise an Extended Research Project (Capstone Project), that is ambitious in scale and scope.
Studio modules include development of illustration skills, concepts and practice through project work and utilise the studio as a site for making. Reading modules focus on critical and contextual theory or issues and positioning practice critically. Presentation modules orientate students within a professional landscape and include preparation for employment through development of future skills and career planning. The three Studio modules in Teaching Blocks Reading and Presenting are shared with MA Animation and MA Graphic Design Programmes.
This module recognises the diverse positions and experiences you each have in relation to contemporary illustration practice on entering the course. You are asked to examine your own practice and identify existing methods for image-making, which will then be developed by introducing discipline-specific notions of rigour, originality, ethics, positioning and inclusivity.
We frame this approach as practice-based research and enquiry-led learning. Research will be established as integral to the act of critical making through experimentation with physical, digital and virtual tools and technologies, embracing a diverse range of multidisciplinary approaches.
Throughout this module you will be encouraged to engage with fundamental concepts relating to the production of images, such as observation, curation, facilitation, interpretation, and translation. You will gain necessary critical awareness and practical understanding of illustration processes, to build confidence and develop individual and innovative approaches to practice-based research.
This module introduces ways of theorising contemporary and historical design to enable you to locate your practice within wider professional, social and political contexts and an interdisciplinary framework. You will investigate key current issues within design and participate in urgent critical debates, developing a theoretical and conceptual vocabulary with which to position what you do as a practitioner.
You will not only develop your understanding of design theory and histories but critically examine different ways of knowing about, and through, design. You are encouraged to question established norms and challenge Eurocentric models of knowledge production, engaging with discourses of decolonisation, design pedagogy, sustainability, participation, accessibility, speculation and design for social change. Exploring a range of different research methods will support you to reflect on your own position, values and ethics as a researcher, and to articulate how that underpins your practice.
This module focuses on how to evolve knowledge, ideas, and data through visual and/or experiential outputs that communicate complexity with empathy, audience awareness, and innovation. Expanding upon the fundamental concepts and methods explored in Teaching Block 1 (observation, curation, facilitation, interpretation, and translation), you will be supported to develop and establish discipline specific research methodologies and put them into practice in order to situate your work in different illustration contexts.
Disciplinary Spaces offer the opportunity for you select a direction for your practice by interpreting and developing content through a distinct lens. The focus of each of the elective Disciplinary Spaces will be reactive to urgent narratives and emerging issues within contemporary illustration practice, such as power and representation, imaging ethics and politics, and co-creation and impact. The projects you undertake will ask you to engage with, and question, disciplinary boundaries through the creation and situation of illustrative outcomes.
You will develop your skills in research planning and project management, enabling you to produce a proposal for your Extended Research Project, a sustained and independent project that is realised in the last module Studio: Extended Research Project for Illustration.
This module asks you to think about the role of the designer now and what it might be in the future. It takes the position that many of the jobs you may have in the future do not yet exist – it is you that will create them.
You will work on projects individually and collectively that ask you to communicate across disciplinary boundaries in diverse environments with hybrid ways of making and thinking drawn from different contexts, methods and philosophies. Real-world scenarios set by external partners will be examined through elective collaborative projects that situate your creative practice within the contemporary paradigms of precarity and uncertainty, providing a space to address issues such as climate literacy, design education and the future of work, and in doing so anticipate contexts for your practice within the cultural and creative industries and beyond.
This module establishes an autonomous and situated illustration practice through enquiry-led learning and practice-based research. You will be given creative agency to initiate and complete your research project either individually or through collaboration with others. By assimilating the learning established so far on the course, you will bring an individual critical position to your project and establish context for your practice. Situating your project in public settings is a key element of this module. This will be evidenced in a substantial and resolved body of work that could take any public facing form relevant to the project's objectives, including, but not limited to, publication, exhibition, curation, and immersive environments.
The Extended Research Project outcome will be supported and rationalised through a portfolio of process and developmental work, that is critically reflective. The Extended Research Project (capstone project) requires you to recognise, act on, and engage with a range of transferable skills in relation to visual storytelling. You will consolidate your illustration practice by taking part in fundamental aspects of professional practice. This could include project development and management, research skills such as data collection and handling, ethical and health and safety practices, event planning, publishing, networking and marketing.
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 Student Route 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.
We would like to understand more about you and your practice, as well as your aptitude and motivations for studying on this course. Your portfolio should demonstrate your strengths, abilities and experiences in idea development, visual research methods, image production, storytelling and sequential thinking. You may also want to include work that demonstrates your skills in other areas, such as moving image, sound, written works and 3D objects as well as engagement across other related disciplines and areas of interest. Consider including documentation of your research methodologies, intellectual engagement and project development.
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 no element below 5.5. 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 recognised majority English-speaking countries (MESCs) do not need to meet these requirements.
You will find more information on country-specific entry requirements in the International section of our website.
Find your country:
Students will benefit from a variety of different learning and teaching approaches including brief-led project work, workshops that encourage creative experimentation and individual critical reflection. We take a dialogic and discursive approach to learning and teaching, through peer-led learning, discussion groups and seminars as well as opportunities to co-construct the curriculum. An elective range of assessment strategies and methods allows students to take responsibility for their own learning.
Kingston School of Art has an established an ethos of Thinking Through Making, underpinned by a policy that supports equal access for all students to the 2D and 3D workshops. Students are encouraged to explore new and unfamiliar processes and techniques and use these to experiment and innovate within their own disciplines and individual creative 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.
When you arrive, we'll introduce you to your personal tutor. This is the member of academic staff who will provide academic guidance, be a support throughout your time at Kingston and who will show you how to make the best use of all the help and resources that we offer at Kingston University.
19% of your time is spent in timetabled learning and teaching activity.
Type of teaching and learning
Assessment typically comprises practical (e.g. presentations, performance) and coursework (e.g. essays, reports, self-assessment, portfolios, dissertation). The approximate percentage for how you will be assessed on this course is as follows:
Type of assessment
We aim to provide feedback on assessments within 20 working days.
To give you an indication of class sizes, this course normally enrols 25 students. Seminars and reviews are usually 12-25 students and group tutorials usually 6-12 students. However this can vary by module and academic year.
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.
This workshop provides students with access to a dedicated animation and motion graphics studio, for hand-drawn, stop-frame, 2D and 3D animation. Two post-production studios feature 14 edit suites and 4 edit stations, with facilities that support editing and effects technology. Disc production and streaming facilities are also sited here. Filming facilitates comprise a large studio enabled for broadcast-quality filming, a range of film recording equipment, flexible lighting rigs and controls, and a cyclorama facility. There are also specialist sound recording facilities, including sound and audio booth.
The Digital Media workshop gives students access to a wide range of current design-related software with 128 iMac workstations for 2D and 3D design with two teaching rooms used for course-specific software tutorials. There are locally-installed Adobe Suite CC 2017, Vectorworks and Microsoft office, with Avid Media Composer and Cinema 4D in selected teaching rooms. Digital printing facilities are also housed here with large format scanners and two wide format printers for poster printing and large photography and canvas prints as well as standard A3 and A4 multi-functional printers with scanning, bypass and booklet printing capabilities.
The printmaking and letterpress studios house extensive equipment across a diverse range of printing technologies including intaglios, relief and Screenprinting. The workshop is also equipped with specialist Technolgies such as an A2 Risograph, a darkroom for UV photographic applications like cyanotypes, Empson Large format inject printers and a laser engraver. Letterpress and bookbinding equipment is found in the newly-opened Noble Press. The workshop offers a good range of tools and presses from the 19th century to the 1960s.
The 3D workshops comprise a ceramics studio, metal workshop, model making, plaster room, forge and foundry, welding bay and a woodworking mill. We also have a digital suite which houses digital equipment and a hackSpace with 3D printers, 3D scanners, CAD and Arduino stations. The hackSpace enables students to learn, explore, experiment, invent, innovate and transform the 2D into 3D, bringing ideas to life using cutting-edge technologies.
Two photographic studios for small and large photographic works. Digital imaging area for post-production. Black and white and colour darkrooms.
Our new Immersive Lab for Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality technologies (VR, AR and XR) is based in KSA and is open to all KU students, researchers and staff. Immersive technology brings with it huge potential for interdisciplinary, collaborative, and inclusive research as it is not affiliate with any one discipline or methodological approach. The Eadweard Muybridge Immersive Lab will accommodate 10 workspaces for students and researchers across KU, opening up new pedagogic, research funding and knowledge opportunities.
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 starting your second year, or if you repeat modules from Year 1 in Year 2, the fee for your second year may increase.
If you choose to take a placement as part of this course, you will be invoiced for the placement fee in Year 2. Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme and the costs for the placement year.
If you are a UK student, resident in England and are aged under the age of 60, you will be able to apply for a loan to study for a postgraduate degree. For more information, read the postgraduate loan information on the government's website.
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 Wi-Fi 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.
The course interprets professional activity across a broad spectrum. This ranges from established remits for illustration practice such as publishing and commissioned based work to emerging areas in research and public engagement. By approaching visual storytelling as a transmedia practice, students can work flexibly and responsively. We are interested, too, in the value of illustrative strategy beyond production. Project consultancy, direction and management, for example, is a key area for the application of skills in innovative storytelling.
Our graduates work in publishing, curation, exhibition, and engagement in the cultural sector and beyond. They also teach and lead higher education initiatives in the UK and internationally that develop the potential of how images can contribute to global culture and societies.
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 information on this page reflects the currently intended course structure and module details. To improve your student experience and the quality of your degree, we may review and change the material information of this course. Course changes explained.
Programme Specifications for the course are published ahead of each academic year.
Regulations governing this course can be found on our website.