Course specification and structure
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PMVICOIL - MA Visual Communication: Illustration

Course Specification


Validation status Validated
Highest award Master of Arts Level Masters
Possible interim awards Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate, Advanced Diploma in Professional Development
Total credits for course 180
Awarding institution London Metropolitan University
Teaching institutions London Metropolitan University
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Subject Area Design
Attendance options
Option Minimum duration Maximum duration
Full-time 1 YEARS 2 YEARS
Part-time 2 YEARS 4 YEARS
Course leader  

About the course and its strategy towards teaching and learning and towards blended learning/e-learning

The course is intended to encourage independent future-facing research, practice and approaches in the field of Illustration. The curriculum focuses in an advanced and systematic way on aspects of the profession and practice that will enable students to question and enrich their practice, engage in meaningful research to further or refocus their professional specialism, and graduate with a high quality industry-leading portfolio of work.

There is an emphasis upon situating students in a real, complex and demanding context for their project work, with parameters that cover the social, political and economic as well as the creative and physical contexts. This embrace and interrogation of instability and ambiguity in visual communication problems is what will enable graduates to become flexible, resilient and successful Illustrators.

Students will benefit from a teaching and learning strategy centred around project-based learning, experiential learning and the principles of active learning. Students are challenged and guided to develop a distinctive personal voice and to understand and situate their practice in a global professional context. Students are supported to engage in discourses about the nature, practice and problems of Illustration and to engage actively in the industry and research community of their practice area. They are expected to develop a practice that makes a genuine and impactful contribution to society.

Working with a core team of academic teaching staff who have strong links to industry, students will grow their understanding of professional practices. Working on ‘real-world’ projects, students will rehearse Illustration and design processes and strategies, shadow real client briefs provided by our partners, and receive feedback from leading industry practitioners. Their studio practice is supported by formal delivery of supporting theory and research methods in dedicated modules.

The course runs from LMU’s Aldgate campus, situated in the heart of London’s creative community, with easy access to East London’s many galleries, studios and thriving design culture. Students will have access to the School’s excellent on-campus making facilities and learning resources, including print, typography, photographic and animation workshops. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to take key roles in the Visual Communication cluster’s in-house student- and graduate-led design agency.

Course aims

The course aims:

to encourage students to recognise and respond to the power and therefore the responsibility of illustration and its contribution to global culture and society;

to develop in students a critically informed understanding of and contribution to the discipline of illustration by engaging in debate and making their work public;

to embed thorough and effective advanced research skills that will ensure the efficacy of illustration work created, enable original thinking and create new insights;

to deliver advance illustration skills that are at the leading edge of contemporary practice and to encourage students to challenge accepted thinking, and to test the boundaries of convention;

to equip students with the skills, resilience and desire to constantly review their understanding of their present and future contexts and practice as visual communicators;

to ensure that graduates are ‘future-proofed’ in respect of their career ambitions and prospects.

Course learning outcomes

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

Knowledge and Understanding

1. acquire, assimilate and apply processes of investigative, analytical and speculative research and design methodologies drawn from a range of disciplinary sources in illustration and visual communication;
2. apply to the design process deep knowledge and sophisticated critical understanding of historical and theoretical frameworks and cultural traditions relevant to illustration, and the various and diverse forms of visual communication and practice through which it is informed;
3. identify and develop through project work a specific set of interests in illustration that can become the basis for professional and career development;

Cognitive Intellectual Abilities

4. develop designs through a designed iterative process that tests and communicates ideas, concepts and propositions through critical, collaborative and self‐reflective processes of evaluation;
5. critically reflect and engage in discourse on the practical, economic, social and ethical implications of illustration propositions;
6. propose a project that responds convincingly to complex conditions and demands; that navigates a feasible route through competing commercial, cultural and ethical issues, articulating a coherent intellectual position;

Subject Specific Skills

7. collate, document and present sophisticated, complex and extensive research material to produce a cogent body of persuasive supporting work;
8. direct and project manage a project process, including with collaborators, to achieve a convincing and well‐worked proposition to set or self-set targets in relevant sector-specific professional ways of working;
9. communicate in an ambitious and effective way, the ideas and intentions behind an illustration project proposal through an appropriate range of techniques;
10. give verbal and visual presentations of research findings and project proposals to an appropriate standard, in a range of formats, appropriate to the audience;

Transferable Skills

11. communicate complex illustration concepts and propositions effectively;
12. demonstrate effective self-management including in roles as leader or member of a team;
13. plan, manage and audit time, progress and resources effectively;
14. learn independently, demonstrating attributes of critical enquiry, lateral thinking, the ability to deal with complex and unstable problems, and developing strategies for continuous self-development;
15. demonstrate confidence, resilience, ambition and creativity and will act as inclusive, collaborative and socially responsible practitioners and professionals in their discipline.

Principle QAA benchmark statements

QAA Subject Benchmark Statement Art and Design, December 2019

Assessment strategy

Assessment is 100% coursework, using a mix of practical portfolio design work, designed artefacts combining written and designed element, evidence of ongoing reflective practice. Assessment practices are rehearsed and a shared understanding of assessment developed through regular student presentations of work in progress, when verbal feedback is provided. This also supports an understanding of professional practices in presenting and articulating ideas and defending a position.

Self-directed project briefs are developed by students through a process of research, negotiation, reflection and agreement with tutors, who expect to be challenged with ideas that demonstrate deep subject knowledge and critical challenges to conventional practice in the discipline. Students are encouraged to actively foster and engage in a community of practice, proposing and sharing work-in-progress in the School through cluster activities and events and the School’s research community calendar.

At a formative feedback point, students engage in a self-assessment process, display of work-in-progress and a negotiation of grades with tutors. This feeds forward to summative assessment ensuring that processes for marking and moderating marks are made transparent to staff and students.

Throughout the year regular crits, tutorials or 1-to-1s provide feedback opportunities. Students are asked to respond reflectively and to create action plans for progressing work in response to feedback. Feedback is timely, constructive and developmental, delivered verbally and/or in written form. Students are thus provided with opportunities to develop an understanding of and the necessary skills to demonstrate good academic practice.

The MA is concluded with a major project in which students select an area of study, formulate their own argument or theoretical position and produce an independent body of work. The project challenges students to study a topic of personal interest, and tests creative ambition. This work will be exhibited at the MA graduation show in the School’s central London location.

Organised work experience, work based learning, sandwich year or year abroad

As part of the module Design Project Development DN7018 students work on a live brief shadowing a project with visiting tutor from industry. This embeds a professional design and illustration methodology or process in the students’ learning which the students can then utilise and adapt to develop an independent major project proposal. It provides first-hand knowledge of professional working practices and collaborative working.

Course specific regulations

PT (24 months)
Year 1
Autumn semester
Alternative Core 20 credit module DN7012 Democratising Luxury, or
Alternative Core 20 credit module DN7022 World Building
Spring semester
Alternative Core 20 credit module, or DN7013 Design for Change, or
Alternative Core 20 credit module DN7021 Experience and Environment
Autumn and Spring semester
Core 40 credit module DN7017 Design Research for Practice

Year 2
Autumn and Spring semester
Core 40 credit module DN7018 Design Project Development
Summer semester
Core 60 credit module DN7P06 Project as Professional Practice: Illustration

Alternate sequencing of the other modules may be considered with academic consent.

The course will undertake a formal academic review of student performance at the end of each semester. Students performing below threshold standard will be recommended and/or required to revise their programme of study.

DN7P06 Project as Professional Practice: Illustration module must be taken in the final year of MA study, DN7018 Design Project Development must have been completed and passed before the module is commenced.

Subject specialism (20 credit) modules:

The School maintains a portfolio of MA (level 7) 20 credit modules, two of which will be core to this course in any particular year. Prior to the start of the course each September, the course team, with Head of School approval, shall determine which of the modules should be the core 20 credit modules for the following academic cycle, based on the project opportunities arising and the balance of students across the portfolio of MA Design courses. All of the modules have been determined to make the required contribution to achievement of the course learning outcomes.

Modules required for interim awards

Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits):
DN7017 Design Research for Practice (40) or DN7018 Design Project Development (40) plus any 20 credit module from the course diet.

Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits):
DN7017 Design Research for Practice (40), DN7018 Design Project Development (40), plus any two 20 credit modules from the course diet.

Masters (180 credits):
DN7017 Design Research for Practice (40), DN7018 Design Project Development (40), DN7PX06 Project as Professional Practice: Illustration (60) plus any two 20 credit modules from the course diet.

Arrangements for promoting reflective learning and personal development

The School’s system of curriculum delivery embeds collaborative and reflective learning and personal development planning throughout the course.

Most summative assessment is at the end of modules, with formative assessment points formally instituted in the course of the module. At these interim formative assessment and feedback points, students reflect on their progress to date with their peers and course staff (with the benefit of feedback from professional partners), seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. The feedback and student reflection is recorded and forms an action plan for the next period of study.

This system is highly individualised, but also benefits from peer engagement in studio colloquia. The School’s programme of extra-curricular events and industry-led projects supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able, as they progress through the course, to understand the professional environment of their disciplines, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Throughout the modules and the course therefore, in this way, students build bodies of work, including reflections on progress and achievement, and planning for their future achievement of targets.

Career, employability and opportunities for continuing professional development

Graduates from the Visual Communication cluster’s courses have gone on to achieve successful careers in a range of design roles, working for well-known and highly regarded companies (including ShowStudio, Territory Studio, Manchester United Football Club, Penhaligans, Iwoca and Blow Up Media). Many graduates of the Visual Communication cluster have also set up their own independent studios and freelance practices (eg Studio Theolin, Karl Fitzgerald, Finn Kidd).

Job roles for professional employment include: freelance illustrator, scriber, in-house illustrator, editorial illustrator, set designer, storyboard designer, art director, creative director, image researcher, project manager, studio manager.

Career opportunities

Following completion of our Visual Communication: Illustration MA course, you will find yourself equipped to pursue a variety of career routes. Opportunities for professional employment may include:

  • freelance illustrator
  • in-house illustrator
  • book cover designer
  • art director
  • storyboard artist
  • creative director
  • print designer
  • image researcher
  • project manager
  • strategist
  • studio manager

Graduates from our School of Art, Architecture and Design's visual communication cluster have continued on to successful careers in a range of design roles. Whilst some are now working for well-known and highly regarded companies including Territory Studio, Manchester United Football Club, Iwoca and Blow Up Media, many graduates have taken the plunge and set up their own independent studios and freelance practices, such as Studio Theolin and Karl Fitzgerald.

Entry requirements

You will be required to have:

  • a good lower second class honours degree (2.2) in a relevant field (eg graphic design, illustration, animation, branding, photography, architecture, marketing, 3D design, multimedia, interiors) or an equivalent EU/international qualification

You will also be expected to present a portfolio and provide a statement that outlines your reasons for studying at postgraduate level and which demonstrates their ambitions in the subject area.

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

If you don’t hold one of the qualifications outlined above you may be considered based on proven related academic or work experience, a strong personal statement and/or academic or professional reference.

Official use and codes

Approved to run from 2020/21 Specification version 1 Specification status Validated
Original validation date 02 Jun 2021 Last validation date 02 Jun 2021  
Sources of funding HE FUNDING COUNCIL FOR ENGLAND
JACS codes
Route code VICOIL

Course Structure

Stage 1 Level 07 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
DN7017 Design Research for Practice Core 40 CITY AUT+SPR MON AM
DN7018 Design Project Development Core 40 CITY AUT+SPR THU AM
          CITY AUT+SPR THU PM
DN7P06 Project as Professional Practice: Illustration Core 60 CITY SUM MON AM
          CITY SUM THU AM
DN7012 Democratising Luxury Alt Core 20 CITY AUT MON PM
DN7013 Design for Change Alt Core 20 CITY SPR MON PM
DN7021 Experience and Environment Alt Core 20        
DN7022 World Building Alt Core 20 CITY AUT MON PM