Explore the diverse applications of illustration, tackle real-life industry design briefs and participate in international competitions with our exciting, innovating Illustration course. You’ll have the opportunity to visit design and publishing houses, be taught by experienced industry professionals and explore the diverse world of illustration.
You’ll become a creative problem solver, grasping opportunities using images, gaining the skills that have seen previous graduates gain work with the likes of Capgemini, Goodgame Studios and Hallmark.
If you’re looking to start this course in 2017, it's important to know that the content and structure are undergoing a substantial review and are likely to be different to what is outlined here. Next year’s course will also have a new name: Illustration. We’ll publish more detailed information about the changes over the next few months. If you’re starting in 2016, the course content/structure won’t be affected by the review.
Our graduates are shaping the world, achieving things they never imagined.
Michael Price gives you his top tips on how to get ahead in Visual Communication - Illustration and succeed in your chosen career.
You will gain a fundamental understanding of drawing, as well as developing your illustrative skills through traditionally craft-based practice and modern technology. You will study a range of areas, including publishing, children’s books, fashion and lifestyle, and many other design contexts. You’ll examine the role of narrative storytelling within the art of illustration.
No two creative journeys are the same, so here at the School of Visual Communication we will teach you ways to manage your creativity, and establish yourself as an individual within your desired field. The degree coexists in partnership with the subjects within the School of Visual Communication, embedding interdisciplinary practice, collaboration and flexibility.
Through studio-based experimentation, exploration and continual practice, you will develop an individual voice, methods and creative strategies to solve problems visually. You will develop creative strategies through contemporary live projects, competitions, events and exhibitions. We work with a range of industry partners, including the Association of Illustrators, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Lloyds Bank, Nobrow Press, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and many more.
We organised group drawing trips with our lecturers and went to book fairs across the country selling our work. We had the support of our teachers but we also had the support of each other. We created a great learning environment that others wanted to be part of. Daisy Whitehouse
Already got your results?
Simply fill in our quick form and our admissions team will contact you within 2 working days about a possible place.
Still waiting for your results?
We can offer help if you’re worried or want to explore other options. We’ll also let you know of course vacancies once you get your results.
Visit our School site for more student work and extra information about how we're transforming the futures of creative practitioners.
Our students have gone on to work with companies such as:
We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.
In addition to qualifications, applicants will also need a good portfolio.
280 UCAS tariff points or equivalent, see typical offers below.
|UK Qualification||Requirements 2016/17|
|GCE A Level/ AS Level||BBC at A Level, from A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels|
|Access to Higher Education Diploma||Pass overall with 60 credits, 45 at Level 3 and 15 at Level 2. Must be in a relevant subject pathway|
|BTEC National Diploma (12-units not including early years)||D*D* or combined with other level 3 qualifications to achieve a minimum total of 280 UCAS points|
|BTEC Extended Diploma (18-units not including early years)||DMM - 280 UCAS points|
|BTEC Subsidiary Diploma/ National Award (6-units not including early years)||D* or combined with other level 3 qualifications to achieve a minimum total of 280 UCAS points|
|BTEC Diploma in Foundation Studies in Art and Design||Distinction|
|International Baccalaureate Diploma||28 points overall|
|Irish Leaving Certificate||280 UCAS points - Higher Levels|
|Scottish Higher/ Advanced Higher||280 UCAS points|
|Welsh Baccalaureate (core plus options)||120 tariff points combined with other level 3 qualifications to achieve a minimum total of 280 UCAS points|
|If you have a qualification that is not listed in the table please refer to our full entry requirements on UCAS.
Further guidance on tariff points can be found on the UCAS website.
|EU/Non-EU (International) Qualifications||Requirements 2016/17|
|IELTS||6.0 overall with 5.5 minimum in all bands|
|International Baccalaureate Diploma (or equivalent, including internationally accredited Foundation courses).||28 points overall
Country-specific entry requirements and qualifications.
International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).
If you're considering applying for this course to start in September 2017 onwards, it's important to know that the UCAS tariff system is changing.
UCAS tariff points – the points system most universities use to compare different qualifications – will be introducing a new system on how points are calculated.
From A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels
If you are a full-time undergraduate applicant for 2016/17, and show particular potential, we may be able to make you an unconditional offer if you make us first choice and satisfy certain criteria.
To be considered you must hold, or be predicted to achieve:
280 points or above from three A levels (equivalent to grades BBC or above)
predicted DMM at BTEC level
You will also be required to attend an interview.
We’ve created a range of advice from experts and our students, including next steps if your exams don't go that well.
|BA (Hons)||Sep 2016||FT||3 years||£9,000 per year||Apply via UCAS|
|BA (Hons)||Sep 2017||FT||3 years||£9,250 per year||Apply via UCAS|
|BA (Hons)||Sep 2016||FT||3 years||£12,000 per year|
|BA (Hons)||Sep 2017||FT||3 years||£12,000 per year|
If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form instead.
The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.
Your portfolio might be viewed when you are not present, therefore make sure it is easy to use. Think of it like a book. Your name and a title on the outside will be useful - this also helps distinguish the front from the back!
Include relevant work related to the subject area of interest. Know about the course you are applying for. Show ideas generation, experimentation and risk taking. Within your portfolio, are you able to demonstrate knowledge of the subject discipline, practitioners and individuals that have inspired you?
Show examples of paintings, drawings, photographs, three-dimensional work, time-based work and anything else relevant to the area of practice.
Try to show one full project from start to finish with the preparatory drawings included. Annotations are helpful as they show how you research and reflect on the development of your work.
Include three to four final pieces that you are able to talk about. This might include 3D models rather than photographs.
Include sketchbooks. This will give us an understanding of how you think (through your annotations) and allow us to see the development of your drawing. (If the portfolio is digital, photograph or scan some of the best pages).
Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.
The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on specific courses. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.
All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.
UK and EU students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.
There are three ways to apply:
You will need to complete our International Application Form and submit it together with scan copies of your original academic transcripts and certificates.
Our in-country representatives can help you make your application and apply for a visa. They can also offer advice on travel, living in the UK and studying abroad.
If you are applying for an undergraduate degree or a Higher National Diploma (HND), you can apply through the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
You can request a printed form from your school or nearest British Council office. You will be charged for applying through UCAS. Birmingham City University’s UCAS code is B25 BCITY.
Your personal statement is a highly important part of your application. It gives you a crucial opportunity to say why you’re applying and why the institution should accept you.
Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:
Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?
If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.
Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.
Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.
eg Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise scheme.
You should also mention your future plans – if you’re planning to take a year out, don't forget to give your reasons. Talk about any subjects you’re studying that don’t have a formal assessment and any sponsorships or placements you’ve applied for. And don't be scared to add in details about your social, sports or leisure interests.
Get more information on writing personal statements.
Search our Frequently Asked Questions for a range of information about our courses and studying here.
We offer further information on possible undergraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.
Introduction to Visual Communication
You will receive an introduction to the four Visual Communication routes – graphic communication, illustration, photography, film and animation – before studying your chosen communication pathway in more detail. Within this module you will be provided with the opportunity to undertake collaborative work. You will work alongside students across all disciplines of visual communication, learning the underlying principles of the field.
On this module, you will work alongside staff and fellow students to identify your own specialism within visual communication. You will learn new skills and techniques relevant to practice, and be prepared for tackling the issues that the creative industries face.
Practice in Action
We will teach you to think and perform as a creative practitioner, enabling you to produce innovative ideas and imaginative solutions that are essential to professional practice.
Exploring Meaning through Narrative
Within this module you will explore the appropriate theories and philosophies, which explain, discuss and challenge our ideas about creative practice. You will gain a better insight into meaningful production, and produce work that responds to a brief content for a mini-project.
Subject in Context
Within this module you will be expected to consider Illustration practice in relation to audiences, clients and markets. You will develop a range of working strategies within different illustration contexts exploring methods and materials. Applying these to underlying ideas and established principles within the illustration field.
In this module, you will experience the collaborative conditions that exist in modern practice, engaging and contributing to a variety of reflective practice. You’ll work in students from different areas, producing content shaped by collaboration.
Investigating Contemporary Practice
Within this module you will conduct research into an area of employment which is specific to your area of interest, exploring areas such as networking, freelance practice, entrepreneurship, self-promotion and introductory media. This research will be supported by seminars and lectures from industry experts and practitioners.
Identifying Personal Direction
This module is designed to help you develop and construct a clear creative direction within your on-going practice, identifying skills you wish to refine and develop, as well dealing with contexts that link to your professional direction. You will produce work that focuses on a particular area of interest and that clearly connects to your chosen professional direction as well as examining related theories. You will also be asked to prepare work, undertake presentations and present dissertation proposals in preparation for your final year.
You will conduct a study in which you’ll explore your own creative direction and show an in-depth understanding of visual communication. You will be expected to draw upon a range of analogue and digital skills and competencies.
Defining Individual Practice
This module is designed to encourage you to define your area of individual practice. You will nurture your ability to source and apply research, allowing you to work independently and articulate ideas that are central to your professional practice.
You will produce a major project portfolio, developing your negotiation and planning skills as well as showcasing your newfound range of skills and knowledge. You will exhibit a professionally presented portfolio, where you will successfully communicate ideas, information and adequate problem solving.
During the Illustration course, you will gain hands-on experience and produce relevant, innovative work. We encourage you to challenge yourself and produce work that sees you step outside your comfort zone. You’ll also experience high-level industry engagement through creative, practice-based learning.
Image: / Tm Armstrong
You will undertake an Introduction to Visual Communication alongside students from the other Visual Communication degree paths. You will begin to formulate knowledge and understanding of the subject’s key visual and intellectual principles.
With the support from staff within the School you will start to develop a real depth of knowledge of Illustration practice, as well as other design related areas. Towards the end of your first, and into the second, year you will receive guidance, helping you to select your chosen area of practice within illustration and possible career progression.
Your modules will cover the processes of production within the field of illustration. You will develop entrepreneurial and collaborative skills through the Introduction to Visual Communication module, as well as developing connections across the four different subject disciplines, preparing you for the life of an illustrator.
In your second year of study you will develop your practice, producing successful commercial outputs through a wide range of different projects and context. Your studies will focus on contextualising your chosen discipline within specific aspects of contemporary practice.
Live projects, industry links and competitions form a key part of the curriculum from this stage of the course. We will encourage you to reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses, and advise you to build upon achievements in order to improve your performance. Active participation through various workshops and masterclasses are a key part of the second year.
During your second year, you will begin to focus on a specific area of illustration, preparing you for your final year of study. Working alongside a specially assigned tutor, as well as small groups you will identify and research a specific area of illustration practice. This will be supported by seminars and lecturers from industry experts.
You will develop sustained and original work, which will demand a lot of independent study. This will culminate in a dissertation, where you will develop and refine your specialist knowledge of a particular area of practice.
Your final year focuses on your professional future, ensuring your project work provides you with the research and skills you need to prepare yourself for after graduation. You will have the opportunity to showcase your final year project at our Visual Communications graduate show, as well as having the chance to be nominated for a Visual Communication Graduate Award. In the past we have had award sponsors such as illustrator Dave McKean, photographer Brian Griffin and Trevor Beattie.
Graduate portfolios showing the breadth and depth of work developed through the course can be viewed on We Grow Cherries, the Schools online talent pool: www.wegrowcherries.com.
A recent graduate has won the prestigious Cheltenham Award for Illustration. William Elliston was named as the winner of this year's award with his piece 'Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity'.
The illustration is a speed painting - a digital drawing created in around an hour - watch him creating the winning entry in the video above.
|27||Time in lectures, seminars and similar||MidnightBlue|
|73||Time in independent study||RoyalBlue|
Sarah’s professional portfolio boasts work for clients such as Macy’s Department Store, New York and the Co-Operative supermarket, among many others.
The Creative Skillset Tick is the quality mark for excellence in training courses and education in the Creative Industries. It identifies the UK’s most industry-focused courses and apprenticeships enabling universities, colleges and employers to recruit the brightest talent.
Our Creative Skillset accreditation shows that we will provide you with industry-relevant skills and good links with companies and potential employers.
The accreditation also assures employers that students graduating from our course have the levels of knowledge and skills they need.
If you are interested in undertaking part of your studies abroad, the Erasmus scheme may be of interest to you. It allows higher education students to study for part of their degree in another European country.
It is open to undergraduates in their second year (or above) and offers a unique opportunity to enhance your CV and experience new cultures. If you study with us you will have access to an Erasmus co-ordinator, who can provide information about which institutions we have links with.
Our course is designed to develop your transferable skills and widen your industry knowledge so if you wantto progress into postgraduate study you will have developed the ability to plan and produce research that is innovative, original and challenges the field of visual communication.
After finishing this course, you will be able to apply for postgraduate study here within the University, which includes our research-based MA in Visual Communication.
Business Development Manager for Primeworks Studios
Currently I am the Business Development Manager for Primeworks Studios in Malaysia. My department is called Content and Industry Development. Here we develop TV shows, primarily for terrestrial channels, for the company I work for, Media Prima.
Visual Communications helped me see things in a different perspective. I had the ability to assess why certain TV shows worked for certain demographics by analysing its production quality and content. I’m happy to say that I’ve always been able to apply what I’ve learned in Visual Communications to a lot of my work – from producing TV shows to developing concepts and events. I would say Visual Communications was the most relevant course I could have taken, as it helped me move with the times better.
Throughout the course you will have the opportunity to learn and develop your skills by visiting new, creative environments. In the past we have organised group drawing trips, encouraged students to attend national books fairs (where you’ll be able to sell your work) and have also presented students with the chance to visit Thailand’s prestigious Chulalongkorn University.
You will also benefit from our multiple industry partnerships. You will have the chance to attend workshops, experience guest lectures and receive multiple chances to network. Networking will allow you to enhance your contacts with industry, and you will be able to form professional relationships that could lead to further employment, or experience-based opportunities.
You’ll be encouraged to explore Birmingham’s creative sector. By immersing yourself within the industry, whether it’s through volunteering or taking on research roles, you will be able to add to your skillset. Birmingham is a diverse and vibrant city, with a thriving creative industry, so we advise you make the most of your time here and engage in as many activities as possible.
Throughout the course you will discover and refine a portfolio of practice which best suits your motivations and aspirations. Through this you will develop as a creative individual, equipped not only for a career within the illustration spectrum, but with the transferable skills to benefit a whole range of professional contexts.
This degree is designed to enhance your skills and aptitude, preparing you for a career within a landscape that is continuously changing. You’ll develop specialist knowledge and understanding within the field of illustration. As a creative practitioner and graduate of this course you will be able to generate a range of potential ideas and visual solutions. You will have the ability to produce creative work that demonstrates sound judgements in accordance to the theories and concepts of illustration and visual communication subjects, responding to the demands of industry.
You will develop an in-depth understanding of the relationship between theory and practice through research, allowing you to create meaningful, well-informed work and preparing you to take on further study. You will gain an understanding of the underlying concepts and established principles that govern creative practice.
Alongside this you will establish a range of working strategies, methods and materials, learning how to apply these to production. You will also discover, and respond to, the influence of audiences, clients, markets and other participants in relation to visual communication practice.
As a Visual Communication (Illustration) student you will be encouraged to develop your professional networks. We strongly believe that creating relationships with industry will enable you to develop your profile and enhance your professional networks. Networking is vital to furthering your opportunity to undertake work placements and paid jobs.
While placements are not a compulsory aspect of this degree, you will be encouraged to engage with industry, incorporating this throughout your work. Engagement with industry is a core focus throughout this programme.
You will also be presented with the chance to attend trips and visits which will widen your insight into the working-practices of industry. In addition to this, as a School we have multiple working-relationships with organisations, allowing our students to take on professional roles and gain experience.
OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.
It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.
Through our courses we give you the skills and experience needed to get a head start when applying for jobs. But we offer something extra too – Graduate+.
Our unique programme gives you the chance to develop valuable skills outside of the more formal classroom learning. We award points for Graduate+ activities (including firewalking!) and these can be put towards a final Graduate+ award.
Our Visual Communication (Illustration) graduates are highly imaginative, inter-disciplinary creative practitioners. Popular destinations for our graduates include publishing, design-related organisations, art directions, teaching, marketing and web companies.
Graduate Marini Ramlam works as the Business Development Manager for Primeworks Studios, based in Malaysia. Marini has taken on a variety of roles, from producing TV shows to developing concepts and events. Another graduate, Jessica Goodall, landed her dream job in the art department at Shepperton Film Studios, working on projects such as a recent Marvel movie.
Sarah Coleman has gone on to become a globally successful illustrator, with a portfolio that boasts work for clients such as Macy’s and the Co-Operative. , After graduating, Vernon Lee ventured into the field of games design, a passion and ambition which he nurtured while studying the Visual Communication (Illustration) programme. He went on to work in Germany for games design company Good Games Studio.
Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.
The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.
Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:
Illustration attracts many students from overseas, in particular from South East Asia (attracted by the ideas based philosophy of our subject, from a pure design craft education available in SEA), complementing our international cohort of students from across Europe, UK and the West Midlands region.
Illustration has a wealth of experience of teaching and learning through international partnerships and top up degrees from Lasalle SIA in Singapore, SHAPE in Hong Kong, SUIC in Bangkok and ICAT in India.
International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.
BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.
Our visual communication degrees are housed in the state of the art £57 million Parkside Building, part of our City Centre Campus.
We offer extensive studio and workshop space and cutting-edge equipment such as Vicon 3D (an external tracking motion capture facility) and Gypsy (an exoskeleton-based motion capture system). Both of these systems extend the possibility for production of 3D animation and films.
You will enjoy access to our Hollywood standard MILO unit. We were the first School of Visual Communication in Europe to offer MILO motion capture technology, now one of only two owned by Universities in Europe.
We offer cutting-edge provision such as digital print centres and Sonny Ross became the first student on the Visual Communication course to master the art of the RISO machine. He has since used this to produce many successful RISO publications including “Rojo & Baxter” which has been a success at various zine and book fairs across the country.
Helen is a commercially successful artist, working with the BBC, Paperchase, Waterstones, House of Fraser, WH Smith, Boots and Next. Within her work as a freelance illustrator, she has expanded her practice to character development for CBBC.