Illustration is one of three pathways within the Visual Communication programme, alongside Graphic Design and Experimental Communication, and explores an expanded approach to the practice of illustration as a discipline. Fundamental to the work we do in communication, is an understanding of the context of our work and in how ideas can be framed, transmitted and received by our intended audiences. For us as illustrators, practice is integral to what we do – i.e. being and doing, thinking and making, moving beyond mere enquiry or discussion. Form and medium are flexible and appropriate, and the fabrication of image encourages the exploration of diverse ranges of technique, technology, medium and material.

There are two main subject clusters within the pathway. Narrative Contexts focuses on fundamental subject thinking and making that is relevant to illustration and image-making within the communication context. Situated Illustration explores the relationship between illustrative practices and spatial practice. The pathway is supported by critical making workshops shared with the Experimental Communication and Graphic Design pathways.

Narrative Contexts 

Narrative illustrators understand the personal mechanics of their own storytelling abilities whether this is the interpretation of existing stories or the creation of their own. They understand that storytelling is semantically complex, and that it depends on the interplay between text and image, and a viewer’s ability to reinterpret. This area looks at ideas of personal origination with the medium of illustration; cultural, social or political understanding of subject matter through the lens of illustration; and considers opportunities that are offered by hybrid practices and digital contexts and their influences on the way we gather stories, listen, pass on information, share or speculate on our lives. Key areas of study within Narrative Contexts include the Illustrator as Author, Illustrator as Commentator and Illustrator as Speculator. 

Situated Illustration

Situational Illustrators create work to exist in and respond to a certain location, space, museum or archive. They take the ‘site’ into account while researching, planning and creating the work, and are interested in the connections that surround the work and ‘site’. The way these complexities are understood and are reflected in the work demonstrates a contextual awareness, and considers the effects that the work has on the locality, spatially and psychologically. This area explores the artistic, social and cultural issues surrounding place; engaging and persuasive interactions with the public; and work that revisits ‘museums’ and ‘archives’ and seeks to expand their relevance to wider groups of people, often explores their significance beyond traditional academic notions. Key areas of exploration within Situated Illustration include Site-Responsive Practice, Illustrative and Interactive Spaces and Museum Commissions.

First Year

At the outset, students are introduced to the scope and depth of the programme and, facilitated by tutors, co-design an individual journey and frame their academic pathway to reflect their individual concerns, aspirations and context for their learning on the programme.

When students enter Year 1, they are introduced to interdisciplinary thinking via a choice of one of the School of Communication electives, which are provided by each subject in the School. Within Visual Communication, these electives form practice frameworks for thinking through creative practices in communication. These ‘frameworks’ are: Collaborate, Dismantle, Engage, Intuit and Narrate.

The electives are designed to focus on particular ways of working within communication practice. Each elective is experienced through a series of integrated projects, events and talks delivered using interdisciplinary ideologies while making use of the programme’s professional contacts. Hands-on workshops provide support with the methods and skills required for translating ideas into practice. Visual Communication electives have a ‘published’ end in the last week of the spring term that takes the form of an exhibition, symposium, book launch or other appropriate output.

Parallel to their choice of elective, students also work on subject-specific (i.e. pathway-led) projects set by visiting or programme tutors, which align to the key clusters in each of the pathways. Students have a choice of which project they sign up for based on their individual interests. Here, students are expected to explore and advance their own individual practice through self-initiated and set projects, lectures and individual tutorials, supported by both subject-specific and interdisciplinary workshops. This is supported by visual research sessions, which are a dynamic series of visualisation projects that explore materials/subject matter/working methods and platforms, while reconsidering the art of looking.

Second Year

In Year 2, on completion of their dissertations, students are facilitated through workshops to outline their final projects. Further to this, they are assigned to subject-specialist tutors who can support their individual studies within their selected pathway. As in Year 1, teaching in Year 2 is balanced between interdisciplinary teaching (through mixed group forums) and subject-specialist teaching (delivered in subject interest groups and personal and group tutorials).

Students build on their expanded notion of practice from Year 1 and critical approaches arising from the dissertation to develop a substantial body of work evidencing their rationale and priorities as a creative practitioner. Expanding on the threads/themes in their work, students consider commercial and non-commercial contexts within which they intend to locate their work and to shape it in relation to their intended audiences and environments. Students are supported by subject-specific and interdisciplinary workshops and tutorial groups, lectures and individual tutorials.

In the second year, students are expected to work independently and/or in collaboration with their peers, while setting their own aims, objectives and deadlines. Many students take the opportunity to work in collaboration with others, often from different areas of the College. A final body of work will evidence a considered process of selecting, testing and making use of appropriate materials and technical processes and must be concluded in an accessible way, in any publishable form, presentation, performance or installation and/or other appropriate output.

Links between the two years are maintained by the programme lecture series, shared workshops and opportunities to work on live (College and external) projects.