Why study this course?
Take the next step towards your career in visual communication with this illustration-focused MA. With an emphasis on research, experimentation and creative risk-taking, our Visual Communication: Illustration MA course will empower you to enter your field with a clear vision and sense of your role as a designer in today’s world. Whilst building strong industry connections through your tutors and placements, you’ll also become more flexible and independent in your learning.
More about this course
Our Visual Communication: Illustration MA course will enable you to pursue your ambitions to work as a visual communicator with specific expertise in illustration.
Thanks to an interconnected approach to research and design, you’ll utilise both theory and practice to develop a portfolio of professional-level work that demonstrates your complex problem-solving capabilities, creativity and critical thinking. You’ll engage and develop your skills through collaborative, multi-disciplinary practices.
Your core modules will promote critical thinking through design practices, enabling you to work both speculatively and on fully-realised outcomes. Through design research methods and design project development you will form and refine a project proposal, which you’ll go on to complete as your final major project.
Throughout this course you’ll notice an emphasis on recurrent central elements such as socially-engaged design. You’ll be encouraged to explore the social, cultural, ethical and economic impacts of visual communication practice.
What's more, you'll be in good company. As you can see from our photos, visual communication students at London Met's School of Art, Architecture and Design never fail to bring unique talent and creativity to the table. Among recent successes is The Mamas Grandeur (pictured), a book illustrated and made by our alumna Sally Finning. Written by author Rob Pocklington, the story follows the journey of two women who are grounded in the being and knowledge of the woods and their experience as sudden changes occur. The book was shortlisted for the Association of Illustrators World Illustration Awards 2016 Children's Books category, and was Children's Book category merit winner for the 3x3 illustration annual no.13.
The course is full of opportunities for growth:
- professional industry practice – work on live project briefs with industry partners (such as the public realm improvements scheme with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and The City of London Corporation)
- situating your practice – how to formulate a clear direction for your practice
- improving complex problem solving and critical thinking
- collaborative and multi-disciplinary working
- building knowledge through research and development
- the challenge of expertly communicating and presenting your thinking and outcomes
- opportunities for exhibition
Alternative core module information
The School maintains a portfolio of alternative core 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 will decide which of the alternative core modules should be the core 20 credit modules for the following academic cycle. This decision is based on the project opportunities arising and the balance of students across the portfolio of MA design courses. Please note, students themselves do not choose which of the alternative core modules to take themselves. See the modular structure section below for more details.
You will be assessed via a portfolio of your written, visual and physical project work and research, all of which will directly relate to the specific practice requirements of visual communication.
The conclusion to your MA will take the form of a final major project. This will see you select your own focus to carry out an exciting detailed study, allowing you to then formulate your own argument or theoretical position and produce an independent body of work. This project seeks to challenge and test your creative ambition in an area that interests you. Your work will be exhibited at the MA graduation show hosted at our central London campus.
Fees and key informationApply now
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.
Accreditation of Prior Learning
Any university-level qualifications or relevant experience you gain prior to starting university could count towards your course at London Met. Find out more about applying for Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL).
English language requirements
To study a degree at London Met, you must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. If you require a Student visa you may need to provide the results of a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.
If you need (or wish) to improve your English before starting your degree, the University offers a Pre-sessional Academic English course to help you build your confidence and reach the level of English you require.
The modules listed below are for the academic year 2021/22 and represent the course modules at this time. Modules and module details (including, but not limited to, location and time) are subject to change over time.
Year 1 modules include:
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This module, carried out within the context of a design studio, advances discipline-specific design research, development and management skills in the context of a self-directed project development exercise. Students will test in applied practice, research methods considered in the Design Research for Practice module. Its purpose is to facilitate effective planning and development of an appropriate masters design major project under relevant subject-specialist supervision.
Through investigatory practice, students will test, select, assemble and apply design and design research methods through which an individual approach to design process can be constructed, and from which innovation can arise. Opportunities arising from emerging social, economic and technological contexts will be sought, and worthwhile and defensible projects will be identified and framed. Students will be encouraged to engage in both speculative and discursive enquiry and rigorous and valid research programmes. Students will be expected to build a comprehensive knowledge of the current state of the context of their interests and practice and be able to position their concepts and proposals as significant interventions.
Students will refine developmental work into coherent and articulate designs, which are capable of convincing clients, community or peers of the potential success and value of the proposed outcome.
The module aims to:
• develop capacity to plan, undertake, present and evaluate complex professional design projects in response to set and self-set briefs, in preparation for a Master’s major/ thesis project;
• extend students’ ability to position design projects in professional, social, technological, ethical, theoretical and conceptual contexts;
• guide students to a fully integrated synthesis of research and design development in their working processes;
• ensure students equip themselves with a working understanding of the essential requirements of practice and legislation concerning such issues as intellectual property rights, health and safety, product liability, ethical practice and consumer law;
• consolidate students’ ability to work independently as critical professional practitioners, able to accept and address complex and unstable problems and partial solutions;
• use strategies for problem finding, idea generation, inter-disciplinary working, lateral thinking, integrated research methods and process experimentation to drive innovation.
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This module, carried out within the context of a design studio, develops abilities to identify, evaluate for suitability, synthesise and apply design research methods in support of practice. It supports the acquisition of a body of research knowledge and abilities that can be adapted and applied to design challenges (within the course and beyond into professional practice) according to a set brief and future demands. It provides the creative, intellectual and technical vocabulary necessary to validate design experimentation, development and realisation. Students will examine key principles and methods in design research essential for undertaking postgraduate study and advanced research practice.
Through research allied to studio practice, students will explore new opportunities emerging in the field of design and production, applied to set and self-set briefs. Students will be introduced to a selection of design research tools and methods through which innovative approaches to design are explored. They will consider contexts and constraints as they affect practice, related to the production, distribution and consumption of designed artefacts and environments, and their ethical, sociological or cultural, environmental and technological aspects, and test and critique existing and developing research skills and methods within a defined discipline- related context.
Lectures on the fundamentals of research methods will help to identify connections to design research interests that will underpin studio practice. As students become more secure and rigorous in their handling of research methods, they will become increasingly self-directed in their modes of practice, consolidating the theoretical and methodological approaches employed in design.
The module aims to:
• equip students for postgraduate level study in design through the development of knowledge, understanding and ability in design research and the application of research to practice;
• raise awareness of the beneficial impact of rigorous design research by demonstrating how the quality of the design process and outcomes can be enhanced through the application of valid research methods;
• strengthen students’ ability to work independently as critical researchers and practitioners;
• enable students to critically select and assemble appropriate research methods into well-constructed design research programmes;
• enable the achievement of original findings and proposals through the application of design research methods to design development and practice.
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This module completes your master’s projects, enabling you to balance creative and intellectual ambition with the rigours of professional expectations and academic research requirements. The module moves beyond the context of the collaborative design studio, building upon and extending skills and knowledge developed through design research and project development. You will complete and deliver an approved self-set design project, applied to and tested against a defined research and professional context.
Comprised of a significant project of independent research practice, produced under supervision, the purpose of the project is to demonstrate applied learning through a sustained, independently devised period of design research, development and production. The project marks the summation of the programme of studies and demonstrates your ambition for your future in your discipline and professional sector.
This module aims to:
• support students in the design, management and delivery of design projects at an advanced, postgraduate creative and professional level;
• encourage and facilitate, through provision of supervisory guidance and structured feedback, evidence of highly developed design research and development capabilities through the completion of the major project;
• prove students’ abilities successfully to negotiate highly complex problems and situations, to engage in both speculative and well-grounded design processes, and to generate valid, applicable and innovative outcomes;
• enable students to communicate their individual approach as a designer, their discipline-specific abilities and their professional attributes in an appropriate and convincing manner, in order to enhance career opportunities.
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This module engages students with fundamental and seemingly contradictory human impulses towards ‘luxury’ and ‘democracy’, as these are expressed in designed artefacts and environments. Hardly any products are marketed or understood as having the characteristics of neither of these properties; their apparent incompatibility is often understood as problematic in the design and production of goods. The concepts have different meanings for varied people and communities; these will be explored as students develop a personal position in relation to the concepts of luxury and democracy.
Progress in knowledge and technology has the capacity to advance and improve the human condition, including health and wellbeing, happiness and equality. Students will investigate how designers can harness knowledge and technology to make artefacts and products that enrich peoples’ lives by making those products more widely accessible, and in doing so, discover if they can provide themselves with opportunities as designers. Market relevance is crucial: no benefit to designer, consumer or society can come from a design that nobody wants.
There are rich opportunities for designers in this field - the demographic of the luxury consumer is broadening. In developing economies, young consumers demand ‘luxury’ products (often not the same products sold to the traditional luxury goods buyer); in some cases, factors such as superior ethical and environmental values have become luxury signifiers. Corporate ethical policies and environmental targets have begun to address this; however, more democratic access to luxury products would deny the fundamentally aspirational nature and image of luxury brands. Luxury brands cannot be ‘democratic’, but perhaps luxury itself can be.
This module aims to:
• examine historic and emergent notions of ‘luxury’ and the design of artefacts in relation to these factors;
• formulate the student’s personal position on definitions, relevance and concepts of ‘luxury’ and ‘democracy’ as applied to designed artefacts;
• scope and analyse current and emerging technology and products, market conditions and drivers; and the ethical, social and economic factors informing them;
• enable students to design and fabricate proposals and/or otherwise present ideas that represent, challenge or synthesise these issues.
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Design for Change focuses on the interaction of people with the designed environment and material culture, and the design characteristics that create meaningful relationships and affect thinking and behaviour. The title of the module recognises that a working definition of what a designer does is, fundamentally, to effect change.
People, objects and environments mutually influence each other, the purpose of this module is to create scenarios through which strategies for understanding these dynamics, and testing and refining design that enhances these experiential relationships can be developed.
When change is deliberately intended or accidentally effected on people in any way, the responsibility to act with care, sensitivity and secure knowledge and information and within an ethical framework is clear. Therefore, the projects undertaken in this module will be founded in deep and rich research into the impact of design on users. Students will research the numerous ways, obvious, subtle and covert, in which designed artefacts and environments affect human thinking, behaviour, emotions, relationships and wellbeing. Students will adopt well-established research methods, and where appropriate, construct or synthesise their own. Data will be evaluated and analysed before becoming the foundation for a design process that will be collaborative and consultative at its core. People, whether they are clients, consumers or members of society in general, do not necessarily have the means to express, understand, safely and ethically design or construct the answer to their needs. The role of the designer is to expertly mediate between all the parties, conflicting objectives, needs and desires at play in any given project and ensure the best possible outcome through all the constraints imposed on the project.
Different projects might seek to allow, enhance or transform thinking, behaviour or experience. Whatever the brief, students will be expected to research, model and test their design development, always seeking to design while holding the interests of the various parties involved in an ethical balance. Innovation is expected, as is the creation of an individual approach to design. This will arise through a personalised application of sector-specific industry standard research methods to the briefs set. The challenge will be to fulfil the task set while expressing creative identity in solutions for complex and sometimes ambiguous situations.
The module aims to:
• enable students to identify and understand the cognitive, sensory, psychological, ethical and social factors that are entailed in relationships with objects and environments;
• engage students with theories about human/ environmental relationships;
• equip students to research and analyse the impact of existing or proposed designs on people and communities;
• provide students with the opportunity to design a collaborative, human-centred design research process;
• test understanding of the issues and abilities in design research in practice and present process and outcomes convincingly.
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The Experience and Environment module is part of the Visual Communication MAs, including the Graphic Design and Illustration courses. On the Experience and Environment module students investigate and design spaces and experiences as part of visual communication. Building on learning about storytelling and narrative students apply an understanding of human responses to character and narrative to propose, design and implement a workshop, event, installation or performance. Students are challenged to respond to a problem or need and use design thinking and principles of human-centred design and socially responsible design to create encounters and interactions between people or communities.
Learning on the module will explore the power of human encounters to respond to changes in technology, culture and society. By engaging in research, discussion and analysis, students are encouraged to develop and bring a personal viewpoint to identifying themes for their project. Through a process of discovery, defining a response to a need and developing solutions, students will work in an iterative way to propose, test, prototype and deliver a physical environment or experience that addresses any number of purposes: to educate or inform, to overcome divides, create relationships or conversations, communicate a message, sell a product or service.
As well as exploring visual communication, narrative, storytelling, art direction, set design and branding techniques, students will learn how to use a range of materials, objects, sound, an understanding of space to realise their project outcome. The module is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, talks from visiting lecturers and practitioners, studio-based and specialist workshops, visits and group activities. The module is assessed by submission of documentation of their experience or environment, along with a critical report.
This module aims to:
• give students an understanding of developing, pitching and presenting a design concept for a spatial /interactive event or experience;
• apply visual communication skills and techniques in communicating a message, solving a problem, meeting a client’s needs or facilitating resolutions;
• examine the role of human encounters and interaction as part of problem solving in design and visual communication;
• equip students to think critically and theoretically about human-centred design and its application as part of visual communication;
• apply their learning to design, execute and document a spatial / interactive project to a professional standard.
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The World Building module is part of the Visual Communication MAs, including the Graphic Design and Illustration courses. World Building examines narrative and storytelling techniques in world building and applies them to visual communication contexts, such as sequential narrative, editorial illustration, character design, user journey mapping and branding strategies. The module draws on ideas about comparative human experience and fundamentals of story structuring and applies these to a range of design processes and outcomes. This is done through case studies about world building both in literature and human sciences in parallel with examples of how these principles are demonstrated by significant visual practitioners, addressing different approaches to and techniques within the practice of world building. There is an emphasis on the importance of a comparative understanding of ‘worlds’, identities and global communities in relation to visual communication.
By engaging in discussion and analysis, students will study and research world building and the significance of views from outside the traditional canon of visual communication, responding creatively and critically to it. Through critical reflection students will develop notions about how to apply world building principles to their own practice area, adapting and developing their learning to extend from world building in its traditional sense, to its use as a design approach and problem solving method.
The module is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, talks from visiting lecturers and practitioners, studio-based workshops, visits and group activities. The module is assessed by submission of a designed artefact visually mapping research carried out, with written annotations and a speculative design / illustration portfolio of an original visual presentation of a ‘world’.
This module aims to:
• give students an understanding of world building techniques in a visual communication context;
• examine key concepts in world building and storytelling, and explore how they can be applied in design;
• examine global visual communication cultures and assert their position in the canon of visual communication;
• equip students to develop innovative ideas and solutions using world building and storytelling techniques;
• apply their learning to problem solving in considered design contexts and appropriate formats.
Where this course can take you
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
- 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.
About visual communication at The School of Art, Architecture and Design
Visual communication at The School of Art, Architecture and Design is a diverse community of staff and students from a range of backgrounds and skills areas who share a genuinely collaborative approach to working and a track record of successful multi-disciplinary projects and initiatives.
You’ll find the permanent teaching staff for this course bring their own high-profile professional practices to the modules, including practising illustrators Emily Evans and Kieron Baroutchi and author and former editor of Grafik magazine Angharad Lewis.
You’ll also benefit from industry-revered visiting lecturers, speakers and workshop leaders. Industry speakers qho have previously visited our students include Isabel Greenberg, Sarah Boris, Alistair Hall (We Made This), Astrid Stavro (Pentagram), Regular Practice, Kate Moross, Josie Tucker and Nik Hill (TWENTYTHIRDC).
The cluster has excellent specialist printing facilities – including screen printing, risograph printing, etching, lithography, a range of relief printing equipment and a fully equipped letterpress print studio. We also have high-quality photography, making and digital design facilities including photography lighting studios, darkrooms, the full Adobe Creative Cloud package, laser-cutting and 3D printing, digital printing, fabrication and finishing facilities.
Opportunities and placements
Our guest lectures from industry leaders include lunchtime lectures after which you may receive feedback and advice on your own work from the speaker. Some events are curated in collaboration with other creative arts institutions, such as the Comics Jamboree with Kingston University and Camberwell College of Arts.
Previous students in our visual communication courses have undertaken successful work placements with companies including Pentagram, The National Theatre Graphic Design Studio, Studio Hato, Stack Magazines, SEA Design, Studio Moross, Super Union and the St Bride Foundation.
Our staff and students have also participated in and contributed to industry events including Glug London, ‘Daylighting’ at The Wellcome Collection and The Graphic Design Educators Network annual conference.
How to apply
Use the apply button to begin your application.
If you require a Student visa and wish to study a postgraduate course on a part-time basis, please read our how to apply information for international students to ensure you have all the details you need about the application process.
When to apply
You are advised to apply as early as possible as applications will only be considered if there are places available on the course.To find out when teaching for this degree will begin, as well as welcome week and any induction activities, view our academic term dates.
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Meet the team
Course leader for Visual Communication: Illustration MA at The School of Art, Architecture and Design and principal lecturer in Visual Communication