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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.

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 illustration, you’ll utilise both theory and practice to develop a portfolio of professional-level work that demonstrates your complex problem-solving capabilities, discipline-specific skills and creativity and critical thinking. You’ll engage and develop your skills through collaborative, multi-disciplinary practices, working together with peers and tutors to develop innovative responses to exciting project briefs.

Your core modules will promote critical thinking through visual communication practices, enabling you to work both speculatively and on fully-realised outcomes. Through illustration research methods and project development you will form and refine a project proposal, which you’ll go on to complete as your final major project in the Summer term. Your major project will be an ambitious and innovatice piece of illustration work, which can help define your portfolio and future career.

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 and illustration practice.

At London Met's School of Art, Architecture and Design we foster a lively and friendly community of practitioners and a space to collaborate with fellow creatives, as well as meeting people form a diverse range of backgrounds and interests. Recent graduates have gone on to work for clients and employers including Kong animation studio, Sky, Shotopop, Penhaligon’s, River Island, and the Life of Pi Broadway production puppet-making team.

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.

Gai professional industry practice

You'll have the opportunity to 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

Take your career prospects to the next level

This course will enable you to pursue your ambitions to work as a visual communicator with specific expertise in illustration

Learn how to create a high standard of professional work unique to you

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

Course modules

The modules listed below are for the academic year 2024/25 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

Design Project Development

This module currently runs:
all year (September start) - Thursday afternoon
all year (September start) - Thursday morning

(core, 40 credits)

This module asks you to apply research methods acquired in DN7024 Research Methods: Success in Design to the development of your Major Project. The module is core for a number of MA Design courses, in order to foster cross- and interdisciplinary working with the advantages of knowledge exchange and innovation finding that such working practices bring.

The conduct of a design development project and process will be rehearsed in the first part of the module though a set project, normally with a ‘live’ client. Through this project, you will receive a brief, research its problems, contexts and opportunities for design interventions and present a persuasive design proposition to the client. You will evidence your developing skills as a designer capable of the sophisticated and evidence-based interrogation of a problematic scenario with all its ambiguities and uncertainties. Through applied research methods and investigatory practice, you will discover, select, test, evaluate and apply design strategies through which your emerging individual approach to the design research and development process will be constructed. If carried out thoroughly, this structured process will enable and result in an effective, convincing, realistic and original design.

Opportunities arising from emerging social, environmental, economic and technological contexts will be sought, and worthwhile and defensible projects leading to an identifiable ‘good’ will be expected. You will be encouraged to engage in both evidence-led process and speculative and discursive enquiry, building a comprehensive knowledge of the current state of the context of your discipline and interests. You will be expected to show good self- and project-management throughout, planning, monitoring and reviewing progress, reframing the project as required when the iterative design process reveals new and unexpected challenges and opportunities.

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Project as Professional Practice: Graphic Design

This module currently runs:
summer studies - Thursday afternoon
summer studies - Thursday morning

(core, 60 credits)

This module asks you to present a fully developed graphic design proposal using a range of industry standard written and representational formats and techniques, including effectively collated and presented research material, to a public and professional audience. It specifically builds on research and preparatory work carried out in DN7017 Design Research for Practice, and DN7018 Design Project Development, and will address a problem or scenario approved by the course team as worthwhile and leading to successful fulfilment of the course learning outcomes.

The context for your project should be researched in the widest possible sense, and presented with a full set of supporting evidence through which you will test and prove the viability, validity and applicability of your designs, in an evidence-based audit of probable outcomes and relative success.

The module and project will enable you to prove your ability successfully to negotiate highly complex problems and situations, to engage in both speculative and well-grounded evidence-based design processes, and to generate valid, applicable and innovative outcomes. You will communicate your individual approach as a designer, your discipline-specific abilities and your professional attributes in an appropriate and convincing manner, in order to enhance your career opportunities upon graduation.

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Research Methods: Success in Design

This module currently runs:
all year (September start) - Monday morning

(core, 40 credits)

This module develops your abilities to identify, evaluate for suitability, synthesise and apply design research methods in support of your practice. It supports the acquisition of a body of research methods and a range of methodological approaches that can be adapted and applied to a wide variety of design challenges, providing the intellectual and technical skills necessary to test and validate design proposition, development and realisation through the collection, appraisal, interrogation and synthesis of bodies of evidence relevant to the design ‘problem’ and its context.

Research tools and methodologies must be carefully selected and applied, and their results appraised for validity in relation to the method and the subject of study, in order to avoid the risk of failure in design and the potentially serious or even dangerous consequences of such failure. You will therefore be introduced to a range of design research methods and asked to consider both their suitability and limitations, including ethical and environmental concerns, for application to research for practice in design.

The study of research methods themselves will be followed by study of exemplars that reveal success and perhaps more interestingly failure in design, seeking to understand the factors in terms of research and development (or their omission) that contributed to that success or failure. The study of these precedents will lead to a greater understanding of the potential but also the potential pitfalls of applied research methods for design, especially when they are applied without proper consideration or caveats as to the scope of their validity or applicability.

The aim is to produce design researchers who not only understand how to research for design, but whose first instinct is always to seek to find the tested and proven evidence base for designing, before embarking upon design development.

The module aims to:

• raise awareness of the beneficial impact of rigorous design research by demonstrating through examples how the quality of the design process and outcomes can be enhanced through the application of valid research methods;
• enable you to critically select and assemble appropriate research methods and methodological approaches into well-constructed design research programmes for application to practice;
• enable the achievement of original findings and proposals through the application of design research methods and methodological approaches to design development and practice;
• strengthen both your ability to work independently as a research active practitioner and your confidence to think and act critically, challenging received ideas and preconceptions.

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World Building

This module currently runs:
autumn semester - Monday afternoon

(core, 20 credits)

World Building is part of the School’s Visual Communication MA courses, including Graphic Design and Illustration. World Building examines narrative and storytelling techniques in the creative process of 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 of 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, you 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 this critical reflection you will develop a project proposal to apply world building principles to your own area of practice, adapting and extending world building in its traditional sense, exploring 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 portfolio of project development work and project outcomes.

This module aims to:

• Give you 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 you to develop innovative ideas and solutions using world building and storytelling techniques;
• Apply your learning to problem solving in considered design contexts and appropriate formats.

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Design for Change

This module currently runs:
spring semester - Monday afternoon

(alternative core, 20 credits)

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 alters and 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. You will research the numerous ways, obvious, subtle and covert, in which designed artefacts and environments affect human thinking, behaviour, emotions, relationships and wellbeing. You 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, you will be expected to research, model and test your 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 you to identify and understand the cognitive, sensory, psychological, ethical and social factors that are entailed in relationships with objects and environments;
• engage you with theories about human/ environmental relationships;
• equip you to research and analyse the impact of existing or proposed designs on people and communities;
• provide you 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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Material Culture

This module currently runs:
autumn semester - Monday afternoon

(alternative core, 20 credits)

Material Culture will examine the world of things as an important area for research as well as a way of conducting research. That is, it will consider how people design as well as use, collect, appropriate and curate material objects in a variety of environments and how they are used to help create identities. It will address why consumers desire certain commodities. At the same time, we will consider Material Culture Studies as a key methodological approach for researching design practice. The module will use objects as primary research tools to consider how we make sense of the physical world and how objects acquire a variety of meanings for their users, often in unintended ways. As such it will draw on a range of disciplinary approaches, which could include ethnography, Marxism, psychoanalysis, actor-network theory, etc. as well as social history. These ideas will be considered in our weekly meetings and you will be asked to bring in an object or image to contribute to the group discussions; these will go towards compiling a personal portfolio of examples for assessment.

A close analysis of objects and images in relation to a range of theories will enable you to develop knowledge and skills as a reflective practitioner. You will be able to take a single object and use it as the basis for a small exhibition and catalogue entry in order to consider the wider context of material culture operates in different environments and how individuals and societies value, use and curate objects in a number of different ways.

You will develop an ability to analyse your own research and writing in a critical manner with the opportunity for interim weekly oral feedback from the tutor and peers in response to objects and images produced for discussion which will eventually comprise assessment item one.

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Course details

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
  • prior working knowledge of the discipline related software, including Adobe creative suite

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.

Students are required to come to the course with prior learning in illustration related practical skills and principles. The course supports students to deepen their practice, use research to explore themes, work with a high degree of independence and create original and innovative projects. The course does not offer skills tuition e.g. discipline related software tuition.

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 (previously Tier 4) you may need to provide the results of a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. This course requires you to meet our standard 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.

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.

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.

We currently have three locations in Holloway, Aldgate and Shoreditch. As we evolve as a University, we'll be reviewing the use of these spaces to ensure all our students have access to the facilities and study areas they need to succeed. This means the campus where this course is taught may change over time.

The experience of our students will always be our top priority and we'll notify applicants and students of any changes to their teaching location at the earliest opportunity.

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. 

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.

Follow our School of Art, Architecture and Design on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with everything that's happening in our creative community.

For an insight into life in the Visual Communication cluster, you can also follow our @vc_ldnmetarts Instagram account.

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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