Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Illustration


Read more about this program on the institution's website

Program Description

The MFA in Illustration provides the skills to develop portfolios with samples in Children’s Book, Editorial, Licensing, Package Illustration, Concept Art, Book Covers, Preliminary Art, Advertising, or Institutional Art portfolios. Both representational and stylistic approaches for print and or web are taught. Students graduate with a portfolio created in a personal style and medium of choice that is market appropriate.

Course Description

Semester 1

  • ILL 610: Clothed Figure Drawing
    Major / 3 Units
  • ILL 625: Perspective for Characters & Environment
    Major / 3 Units
  • ILL 660: Digital Painting
    Major / 3 Units

Semester 2

  • FA 630: Color Theory
    Major / 3 Units
  • ILL 602: Concept, Technique, and Illustration
    Major / 3 Units
  • ILL 645: Character Design for Children's Books
    Major / 3 Units

Semester 3

  • ILL 670: Designing for Consumer Products and Licensing
    Major / 3 Units
  • ILL 706: Editorial Illustration Portfolio
    Major / 3 Units
  • ILL 735: Children's Book Illustration Portfolio
    Major / 3 Units

Semester 4

  • GLA 629: 150 Years of American Illustration
    Graduate Liberal Arts / 3 Units
  • GLA 903: Graduate Seminar in Europe
    Graduate Liberal Arts / 3 Units / Recommended for summer
  • ILL 607: Situation & Environment
    Elective / 3 Units
  • ILL 665: Vector Illustration & Motion
    Major / 3 Units
  • ILL 903A: Study Abroad
    Elective / 3 Units / Recommended for summer

Semester 5

  • GLA 675: Professional Practices for Illustrators
    Graduate Liberal Arts / 3 Units
  • ILL 805V: Skill Enhancement: Interactive & Vector Art
    Directed Studies / 3 Units
  • ILL 810: Thesis Procedure
    Directed Studies / 3 Units

Semester 6

  • ILL 800: Directed Study
    Directed Studies / 3 Units
  • ILL 805E: Skill Enhancement: Editorial Illustration for Apps & Publication
    Directed Studies / 3 Units
  • ILL 805P: Skill Enhancement: Advanced Digital Painting
    Directed Studies / 3 Units
  • ILL 850: Final Review Preparation
    Directed Studies / 3 Units

Unit Requirements

Degree Requirements

MFA Illustration Degree Requirements

  • Successful completion of the Final Thesis Project
  • Minimum grade of C in all required 63 units
  • Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA and the following Academic Study requirements:
    • 1 Art Historical Awareness & Aesthetic course
    • 1 Cross-Cultural Understanding course

Academy of Art University / Academy of Art University

Program Learning Outcomes

The MFA Illustration Graduate School curriculum emphasizes visual communication and a mastery of technical and conceptual abilities and involves intensive education in the formulation of ideas, problem-solving and artistic skill. Students are asked to stretch their talents and refine the skills that will enhance their art, broadening the opportunities for their work. Development of the individual's style and viewpoint is a focus of graduate studies in Illustration.

Graduate students receive classical art instruction and exposure to new media. The graduate student will develop a portfolio that demonstrates a personal style and a high level of professional skills. A refined illustrative style and voice will culminate in the graduate student's individual focus for their Final Project in areas such as editorial, advertising, graphic novel and children's books. The Final Project is exhibited to the public upon approval of the Final Review committee.

MFA graduates of the School of Illustration will meet the following student performance criteria:

MFA Thesis Project

  • Plan a portfolio of works directed towards legitimate markets
  • Produce a professional-level portfolio consisting of 15 works directed towards legitimate markets

Artistic Ability

  • Demonstrate the skills necessary in the chosen medium or mediums to successfully complete their thesis project
  • Create compelling images
  • Maintain a consistent “language” or “signature style”

Research and Conceptualization Skills

  • Clearly identify their audience
  • Conduct research for reference

Presentation Skills

  • Professionally present and discuss their work with a review committee.

Professional Readiness

  • Develop both digital and print materials to market themselves and their work
  • Demonstrate an understanding of current trends and visual industry standards by describing how their work will address a specific market

Academy of Art University Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the Academy of Art University will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Produce a body of work suitable for seeking professional opportunities in their chosen field of art and design.
  2. Solve creative problems within their field of art and design, including research and synthesis of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge.
  3. Communicate their ideas professionally and connect with their intended audience using visual, oral, and written presentation skills relevant to their field.
  4. Execute technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions based on an understanding of art and design principles.
  5. Evaluate work in their field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  6. Recognize the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary, on art and design products.
  7. Learn the professional skills and behaviors necessary to compete in the global marketplace for art and design.
Last updated Mar 2020

About the School

For nearly 90 years, artists and designers have called Academy of Art University their home. Founded in San Francisco and family owned since 1929, it is the largest private art and design university i ... Read More

For nearly 90 years, artists and designers have called Academy of Art University their home. Founded in San Francisco and family owned since 1929, it is the largest private art and design university in the nation. Read less
San Francisco