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Illustration is a powerful visual language that defies boundaries and extends across all art and design disciplines. Traditionally, it was associated with bringing words to life in the publishing industries and in advertising campaigns, however, through the explosion of new technologies and media, illustration has never enjoyed such currency and is now encountered in every aspect of our daily lives.

What will I study?

In a culturally-rich and dynamic environment, students will be encouraged to develop their image-making skills and problem-solving abilities throughout the programme; whilst constantly being challenged to create original work that is strong in content and aesthetically engaging. Thorough re-search is an on-going necessity so that students will be able to respond to diverse and demanding project briefs, guided by enthusiastic and experienced staff.

Year 1

The First Year experience for Illustration students begins with a Semester of interdisciplinary Art and Design research, observation and analysis. During semester 2 students work on a project in collaboration with students from other areas in the Design School. The second half of Semester 2 focuses on further developing core Illustration skills such as mark making, colour, perception, draughtsmanship and literary interpretation, providing opportunities for you to experience a range of mediums, processes and concepts.

Year 2

The fundamentals of illustration, drawing, printing, composition, narrative and sequence are studied through intensive research and development strategies. Students will begin to harness a wide range of techniques and methodologies, through an exploration of image-based visual language. Projects include: ‘real-world’ commissions; opportunities to collaborate with students from other disciplines; and an extended visual research study trip.

Year 3: Studio+ & International

Studio+ is an optional year open to all Design students allowing you to engage with the world beyond NCAD by gaining practical work experience in the form of internships and industry placements on live commercial, social or community projects. Studio+ can also include a work placement abroad or a study abroad period through the Erasmus programme with internationally recognised design faculties partnered with NCAD. Students who choose Studio+ will complete a 4 year BA in Illustration or a 4 year BA Illustration (International). Please see page 16 for further information on Studio+ / Erasmus and International Study.

Final Year

Building on the experience acquired in Year 2, students will be well-placed to devise their own programme of study. They are also required to participate in live competition briefs from leading international organisations, and consolidate their awareness of working methods and practices within the creative industries with particular reference to contemporary illustration. This year culminates in a substantial body of work primed for exhibition at the degree show and a portfolio ready to be presented to prospective employers and clients.

How will I be assessed?

Coursework, essays, practical design projects and assessments take place at key points throughout the programme. Formal assessment results are issued at the end of each academic year.

Critical Cultures

A key component of your curriculum in every year is the study of Critical Cultures. This is where you study the connections between history, theory and practice in modern and contemporary contexts in order to become a critically engaged, reflective and effective practitioner.
Find out more

Opportunities to engage

Although illustrators generally execute their actual artwork individually, they very rarely work alone in its origination and application. The best illustrators have a solid working knowledge of the general principles of graphic design (typography, layout and colour, in print, screen, 3D and interactive), so there are many opportunities to engage with the Graphic Design degree programme as well as options to work with students from other disciplines and utilise the technical facilities that these departments offer.

Opportunities after graduation

The applications of illustration are now infinite! Illustrators work: as freelancers; with design studios; in advertising agencies; alongside website developers; in animation studios; with publishers; and indeed contribute to all sections of the creative industries. Illustrations are required everywhere from: tiny postage stamps to giant advertising hoardings; album covers to zines; food packaging to film titles; animation to book covers; art galleries to gifs. New possibilities are constantly evolving and the harder students work on this programme the more prepared they will be for rewarding careers in illustration or better equipped for the creation of their own as-yet undiscovered spheres. Increasingly, graduates progress to further study at postgraduate level to refine their creative abilities and approach. The School of Design offers a range of innovative masters programmes, as well as a practice-based PhD programme.


BA Illustration
NFQ Level 8

3 or 4 Years


Course code/s:
AD217 Illustration
AD101 First Year Art & Design (Common Entry)

Entry Requirements:
Leaving Cert: 6 subjects, 2xH5 and 4xO6/H7
Subjects must include Irish, English and one of the following: A 3rd Language or Art or Design Communication Graphics (DCG)

QQI/FETAC Level 5/6:
5 Distinctions, Full Award

A Level / GCSE: 2 x A Levels at C+ and 4 x GCSE Ordinary or AS level
Subjects to include English and Art or a 2nd Language

Portfolio Requirement:
Portfolio submission by Friday 10th February 2023 in line with NCAD Portfolio Submission Guidelines. For further details please go to:

Degree awarded:
BA Illustration/BA Illustration (with Critical Cultures)
BA Illustration (International)

Find out more on the Critical Cultures Pathway
Find out more about Studio+