Illustration MA

Why choose this course?

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'.

Mode Duration Attendance Start date
Full time 1 year 2 days a week September 2024
Full time 2 years including professional placement 2 days a week plus placement year September 2024
Part time 2 years Contact Dr Leah Fusco for details September 2024
Main location Kingston School of Art, Knights Park

Reasons to choose Kingston University

  • We see the production of illustration as social and political and use our position to provoke and challenge dominant perspectives.
  • You will share two modules with students from across the design school to explore diverse disciplinary and dissemination settings.
  • 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

The Art School Experience

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.

Two students collaborate on a design project.

What you will study

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. Reading and Presenting modules are shared with Animation MA and Graphic Design MA Programmes.

Year 1

Optional placement year

Core modules

Studio: Critical Making for Illustration

30 credits

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.

Reading: Critical Positions

30 credits

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.

Studio: Situating Practice for Illustration

30 credits

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.

Presentation: Future Directions

30 credits

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.

Studio: Extended Research Project for Illustration

60 credits

This module helps you to build a space for your future practice through enquiry-led learning, conceptual depth, critical imagination, and practice-based research. You will embrace creative agency as a means of initiating, testing, and completing your research project individually or in collaboration with internal or external partners. By assimilating the learning established so far on the course, you will have built an individual critical position on graphic design, identifying real-world contexts for your practice, and innovative modes of communication in an expanded notion of the discipline.

You are expected to work autonomously as a critical agent, setting your own programme of learning. You will be supported through peer-to-peer activities, tutorials and reviews in a community of practice. Project proposals will be used to construct student-led research groups based on your chosen fields of practice and a set of specific workshops will support research methods and professional practice. At the end of the module, you will have resolved and realised your intended ideas and ambitions and made this public with and/or for chosen audiences.

The Extended Research Project (capstone project) provides a framework for you to recognise and engage with a range of transferable skills e.g., time-management, art direction, community collaboration, ethical responsibility, performative presentation, sustainable practices, convivial discourse, social and technological networks. You will consolidate your design practice by taking part in researching, reflecting on, theorising, testing, and communicating the field of graphic design and your place in it.

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.

Core modules

Professional Placement

120 credits

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.

Gallery of student work

Entry requirements

Typical offer

What you need to apply for this course

  • A 2:2 or above honours degree or equivalent qualification in illustration or animation or a related subject, such as fine art, graphic design, photography, printmaking, fashion or textiles.
  • Applicants with other academic qualifications, or relevant work experience, will be considered on an individual basis.
  • A portfolio of work must accompany your application which will be requested of you once an application has been submitted.

Portfolio guidance

We would like to understand more about you and your practice, as well as your aptitude and motivations for studying on this course. We will be reviewing your portfolio with four key values in mind: questioning, curiosity, technical ability, and enthusiasm. Your portfolio should demonstrate these values through your strengths, abilities and experiences in research, technical making, and the development of ideas through visual practice.

We are looking for your potential to succeed on the course and welcome applications from those with diverse experiences or educational backgrounds.

Your portfolio should include:

  • 3-5 projects that evidence your research process, subject interests and projects realised to an outcome.

Digital portfolio format requirements

  • A portfolio of 15-20 pages, landscape orientation and saved/uploaded as a print-based or interactive PDF file. Include project titles and a brief description of each project explaining your intentions and your individual involvement if presenting a group project.
  • Moving image works should not exceed three minutes in total and should be uploaded to Vimeo or YouTube – please supply these links in your portfolio and make sure they are active and work on all platforms.
  • Please provide a personal statement of up to 300 words explaining:
    - Your interest in the discipline of illustration
    - Your interest in the course
    - The wider social, cultural and political interests in your work
  • Ensure that images are of a high quality and at least 72 dpi.

Prior learning – AP(E)L

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.

Country-specific information

You will find more information on country-specific entry requirements in the International section of our website.

Find your country:

Teaching and assessment

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.

Guided independent study (self-managed time)

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.

Support for postgraduate students

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.

Dedicated personal tutor

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

Type of teaching and learning
  • Scheduled learning and teaching: 290 hours
  • Guided independent study (self-managed time): 1510 hours

How you will be assessed

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

Type of assessment
  • Coursework: 95%
  • Practical: 5%

Feedback summary

We aim to provide feedback on assessments within 20 working days.

Class sizes

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.

Who teaches this course?

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.


Moving Image Workshop

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.

Digital Media Workshop

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 and 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.

Printmaking, Letterpress and Book Arts

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 Technologies 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.

3D Workshops

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.

Photography Workshop

Two photographic studios for small and large photographic works. Digital imaging area for post-production. Black and white and colour darkrooms.

The Eadweard Muybridge Immersive Lab

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.

Other facilities

You will also benefit from:

  • well-equipped lecture theatres, seminar rooms and workshops
  • the library's extensive book and journal collection, including over 150,000 slides and visual references dating back to the 1600s
  • the dedicated Graduate Centre on campus – including IT facilities, seminar rooms and social spaces

The University has its own on-site galleries, including:

Fees for this course

2024/25 fees for this course

Home 2024/25

  • MA full time £11,900
  • MA part time £6,545

International 2024/25

  • MA full time £20,900
  • MA part time £11,495

2023/24 fees for this course

Home 2023/24

  • MA full time £10,900
  • MA part time £5,995

International 2023/24

  • MA full time £18,700
  • MA part time £10,285

Tuition fee information for future course years

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.

Fees for the optional placement year

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.

Postgraduate loans

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.

Scholarships and bursaries

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:

Additional costs

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.

Computer equipment

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.

Photocopying and printing

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.

After you graduate

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.

Links with business and industry

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.

Course changes and regulations

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.