Illustration and Design BA (Hons)

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If you are applying for this course from outside the UK/EU, click apply now.

Course starts: 14 September 2020Apply now

If you are applying for this course from within the UK/EU, click apply now.

Course starts: 14 September 2020Apply now

Apply now

Push the boundaries of illustration. Develop your own style and release your personal creativity. Enter the inspiring world of professional illustration.

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If you are passionate about drawing and are full of creative ideas then this course will cultivate your talent. At Sunderland we encourage students to push the boundaries of illustration. The course blends traditional techniques with computer technology, such as virtual reality and 3D design.

Your first year combines an exploration of design principles, printmaking and drawing. You will then pursue a specialist study of illustration during your second and third years.

Perfect your craft alongside experienced academics, all are practicing professionals at the cutting edge of their field; they bring their industry insights and experience directly into their teaching.

Why us?

  • You can combine illustration with other areas such as animation, graphics, advertising, 3D illustration and web design
  • We are one of six institutions across the UK that is participating in The Design Council’s Design Academy Scheme. Design Academy is an interactive, four-day training programme for Design students at leading universities, helping to prepare students from a variety of disciplines for real-world design challenges by developing their strategic design capabilities
  • 93.4% of our graduates are in employment, further study or training within six months of graduating, according to DLHE 2016/17 (based on full-time, first degree, home leavers)
  • We work closely with the nearby Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, which showcases some of the UK's finest authors and illustrators for children
  • Access to the latest digital illustration hardware including Apple Mac Pros, Wacom Cintiq drawing screens and virtual reality displays
  • Industry experienced staff including published children's book author, NHS medical artist and professional freelance illustrators
  • Access to FabLab Sunderland on City Campus, part of a global network of digital fabrication spaces that provide 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters and a CNC router
  • Our Art and Design courses were ranked 2nd overall in the UK in the 2018 UK Engagement Survey
  • Our Art and Design courses were ranked 2nd in the UK for Assessment and Feedback, 2nd in the UK for Retention and Progression, and 3rd in the UK for Employability in the 2018 UK Engagement Survey

New Sunderland Culture logo

A city brimming with creative potential

Offering a year-round programme of exhibitions, events and performances, Sunderland Culture brings big-name artists from the worlds of contemporary visual arts, glass, ceramics and performance to the city, alongside showcasing the best and most exciting local talent. There is a huge range of opportunities for students to visit the venues, take part in events and get involved in the programme. Learn more about Sunderland Culture.


Course structure

Teaching sessions are made up of a combination of personal one to one meetings with design tutors and group critiques designed to encourage team working and to create a community vibe among the year groups. This is supported by lectures, seminars, workshops and independent learning. You will have access to studio spaces outside of teaching time, which facilitates reflection on work and peer evaluation.

Feedback is given regularly during teaching sessions and at the end of the semester in order for you to develop your work to the highest standard and also to reflect on how you might have approached the project differently.

Your first year of study introduces you to a range of different media and focuses on the fundamental skills of illustration including observational drawing, printmaking, animation and digital drawing and painting. You will then progress onto stages 2 and 3 where you will narrow your focus and develop your own personal style of illustration through open briefs based on real-world commercial projects.

You will have the opportunity to exhibit your work at the end of year degree show. The show is open to the public and invited guests in order for you to showcase your portfolio and meet potential employers from the design sector.

Part-time study

Students can study part-time and must pass 80 credits per year to progress to the next stage. 360 credits must be gained over the whole three years to graduate (the same number as full-time students).

View our student galleries.

Year 1 (national level 4):

  • Design Theory 1 (20 credits)
  • Illustration, Media and Printmaking (60 credits)
  • Sequential, Narrative and Concept Illustration (40 credits)


Some modules have prerequisites. Read more about what this means in our Help and Advice article.

Year 2 (national level 5):

  • Design Theory 2 (20 credits)
  • Illustration and Contemporary Practice (40 credits)
  • Printmaking for Illustration (20 credits)
  • Beyond Desktop Publishing (20 credits)
  • Computer Illustration (20 credits)

Final year (national level 6):

  • Illustrator as Professional (40 credits)
  • Design Research (20 credits)
  • Final Major Project (60 credits)

More about BA (Hons) Illustration and Design at Sunderland

Discover more articles
  • The University provides generous studio spaces, well-equipped workshops and excellent facilities for design students.

    Within our digital design suites, there are Apple Macs, PCs, HTC VIVE VR and Wacom Cintiqs with Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium. This includes software such as ZBrush, Unity 3D, Maya, Blender, Cinema 4, Dreamweaver and Adobe Creative Suites. Our specialist technical staff, including qualified Adobe and Maya Certified Instructors, offer back-up and help in making the most of the software.

    Design facilities
  • FabLab Sunderland offers a diverse range of specialist digital design and fabrication equipment. Based at the Hope Street Xchange in Sunderland city centre, it is a creative space where anyone can make (almost) anything. Our students gain free access to FabLab's machines which include:

    • Epilog laser cutter
    • ShopBot CNC router
    • The Roland Modela MDX-20 milling machine
    • Roland Vinyl cutter GS-24
    • Dimension 1200es Series 3D Printer – ABS plastic (large capacity 3D printer)
    • Ultimaker 2 (small scale 3D printer)
    • Ulitmaker 2 Extended (medium scale 3D printer)
  • The University Library has an exceptional collection of photography books and monographs and subscribes to a comprehensive range of academic journals and databases so you can access reliable and up-to-date information.

    A dedicated Academic Liaison Librarian supports students and staff in the arts, design and performing arts disciplines.

    The key resources for your course include:

    Discover: The Library’s multi-disciplinary search tool

    Art Full Text: A major resource for media and arts information

    JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’): Giving access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences

    Lexis: A major resource on full-text newspaper articles and legal information

    Library Services - arts and design
  • Map and directions


This course is based at the Priestman Building, the main base for art, design and performance on City Campus. Thanks to a major renovation programme, the Priestman Building provides state-of-the-art teaching space and resources as part of a vibrant and creative learning environment.

Entry requirements

Our typical offer is

  • GPA 3.0 or above from High School Diploma along with one of the following at the required grade - SAT I and SAT II, ACT or Advanced Placement

If your qualification is not listed above, please contact the Student Administration team at for further advice.

We also require three passes at GCSE grade C or above, which must include Mathematics and English Language, or an equivalent qualification, for example; a minimum of Level 2 Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number. If you have studied for a new GCSE for which you will be awarded a numerical grade then you will need to achieve a grade 4 or above.

If English is not your first language we will require an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with an overall score of 6.0 and at least 5.5 or higher in each component: reading, writing, listening and speaking. An alternative approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) can also be considered if the applicant's element scores are equivalent to those required for IELTS.


If the above criteria is met you will be asked to attend an interview. For this interview please prepare a portfolio of work, which should be simply mounted and accompanied by preparatory work. Sketchbooks are an important feature of your preparatory work and should be included. Where possible, 3D and large 2D work should be photographed. Digital and screen-based work should be saved on a CD or memory stick.

If you are an international applicant, please supply your portfolio on a CD.

Suitable items for a portfolio include:

‡ Drawing: examples of observed drawing and exploratory drawing

‡ Projects: evidence of project work together with your sketchbooks and development work

‡ Self-initiated work: that you have done out of personal interest

‡ Research: examples of various forms of investigation undertaken for projects

‡ Writing: examples of reports, essays or journals

Fees and finance

The annual, full-time fee for this course is:

  • £9,250 if you are from the UK / EU
  • £12,000 if you are from outside the UK / EU

The part-time fee for this course is £6,935 per 120 credits.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or international student, find out more in our Help and Advice article.

Take a look at the Your Finances section to find out about the scholarships and bursaries that may be available to you.

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This information was correct at the time of publication.

City Campus by night


Throughout the course you will build a creative and industry ready portfolio that will help you launch a career as an illustrator or graphic designer, or take up any other roles where creative skills are important. You'll exhibit your work at our final year Degree Show, visited by industry professionals and creative employers and may have the opportunity to take your work to London.

Our graduates have gone on to work in a variety of illustration and design roles, such as freelance illustrators for Oxford University Press, The Guardian newspaper, Hallmark cards, design studios at the Open University and Virgin's design department. Other students have gone on to be employed in design companies throughout the UK and many choose to progress onto our MA Design course.

Career options

Our graduates go on to have diverse careers. One of our graduates works for a publishing house in Japan, dealing with the design and illustration of children's wildlife books. Another was offered a three-book contract at a New Designers Graduate Show and has subsequently won further contracts for illustrations.

Many graduates also operate as freelancers as part of a 'portfolio career' alongside other creative work. They create illustrations for advertising, packaging and editorial purposes. Whatever route you choose, your course will put you on a fast track to getting work published and recognised.

Placements and visits

You will have opportunities to apply for internships and other live projects where you can work alongside professional illustrators and designers. 

In addition, our academic team organises visits to arts and design venues and companies in London and across the UK. This is to provide you with the opportunity to travel around London and visit illustration agencies, design studios and experience private viewings of famous artwork at the British Museum.

Employability days and guest speakers

We hold specific 'employability days' to help give you that essential cutting edge. We invite former graduates and employers to come into the University to look at student portfolios and give advice. 

Through our connection with the Association of Illustrators and strong links with professional illustrators, we are able to attract a range of top names to give guest lectures. The input of these internationally-known speakers helps broaden your learning and provide fresh perspectives.



Meet the students

  • The course allows you complete freedom to explore the discipline fully, cultivating originality.
    Adam McDade

    Adam McDade

  • I’m hoping to go on to create more books after I have finished my degree.
    Chloe Violet Sandy

    Chloe Violet Sandy

  • When I graduated I started working straight away as a graphic designer.
    Katie Chappell, Illustration and Design graduate

    Katie Chappell

  • The tutors are just like friends who are very approachable and helpful.
    Melissa Bailey, Illustration and Design graduate

    Melissa Bailey

  • My course has definitely shaped what I would like to do in the future.
    Rachel McKenna, Illustration and Design graduate

    Rachel McKenna

Meet the team

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