Illustration | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Illustration: Degree Information

MCAD emphasizes a collaborative process and working with students from all majors. For this Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, you will take courses in several different areas, including a core focus, adding up to 120 total credits required for graduation.

Core Required Courses - These are the core courses that every Illustration student takes.

Foundation Studies - These classes help you build a solid art background to become a well rounded student.  

Studio Electives - Throughout your studies you can choose from several studio electives that will give you hands on time.  

Humanities and Sciences Electives - These classes round out your experience at MCAD, deepen your creative practice, and fulfill non-studio requirements for a degree.  

Learning Outcomes

  • Apply a strong design practice from research boards, thumbnail sketches, and refined sketches to final art.
  • Use diverse materials and media and identify their unique possibilities.
  • Interpret storytelling as well as the ability to formulate themes and concepts into pattern and surface design.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of professional ethics and practices.
  • Generate an original and individual voice presented in a portfolio, website, and gallery space.
  • Create illustrations for a variety of audiences: surface design, editorial, advertising, book, corporate, and gallery exhibition.
  • Solve creative problems for print and digital formats.

Core Required Courses

36 credits

ILL 2000 Introduction to Illustration
3 credits

This course examines the effectiveness and power of illustration through everyday images found in book and magazine illustration, web, and surface design. From the sketch process to the development of finished images, students are exposed to a variety of working methods. Demonstrations of Photoshop, large-scale scanning, acrylic, gouache, pen and ink, watercolor, and collage enable students to experiment with new media. Assignments may include creating spot images for the web, decorative surface design, educational posters, classic storytelling, and personal and explorative work.

Prerequisites: Prerequisites: Foundation: 2D, Foundation: Drawing 1, Foundation: Media 1, Foundation: Drawing 2 (Foundation: Drawing 2 may be taken concurrently)

ILL 3010 Tools of the Trade
3 credits

This course offers hands-on experience for students exploring a wide variety of media through real-world illustration projects. Students learn trade tips and expand their portfolios as they pursue acrylic painting, gouache, pen and ink, watercolor, and pastel projects. Instructional demonstrations are provided on a variety of painting and drawing techniques on papers and other surfaces.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Illustration

ILL 3020 Concepts and Metaphors
3 credits

The strength of many contemporary illustrations lies in a dynamic concept of metaphor. Through word lists, thumbnail sketches, and research, students expand their ideas to improve their illustration. Students examine art by both historical and contemporary practitioners and create individual images as well as series projects with editorial, advertising, and corporate audiences in mind. Color and media guidelines and techniques are covered via demonstrations. This course encourages further development of skills in both digital and traditional media as well as concepts, research, techniques, craft, and professional presentation.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Illustration

ILL 3030 Digital Illustration
3 credits

Through projects, discussions, and lectures, students acquire a thorough understanding of all aspects of digital illustration. Demonstrations of Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign are provided. In addition, students learn about the latest tools and file preparation standards for production, including file formats, color palettes, and image resolution. Assignments have an emphasis on technical achievement and presentation.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Illustration

ILL 3080 Illustration Topics
3 credits

Building on their initial exposure to illustration in Concepts and Metaphors, Illustration Topics students engage in a thorough examination of illustration principles with a variety of audiences, clients, and formats. Projects may include creating surface designs for an eco-friendly high school binder, an animated GIF web banner for a service or retail shop, informational maps, and a large banner print.

Prerequisites: Intro to Illustration, Concepts and Metaphors

varying Internship or Studio Elective
3 credits

Choose to pursue an internship or an additional studio elective

ILL 4000 Professional Practice: Illustration
3 credits

Professional Practice is directed toward the student’s transition into the professional world. Students create a variety of promotional materials concentrating on their book, including résumés, work samples, and project documentation. In addition to the preparation of materials, students practice interview techniques, survey employment markets and opportunities, and finalize an internship site. Visiting professionals, field trips, and individualized student research provide context for all promotional materials.

Prerequisites: Junior standing

ILL 5010 Advanced Illustration Seminar
3 credits

Advanced Illustration Seminar prepares students to become more independent and to develop a process of critical thinking and in-depth research in their practice. Through critical readings, individual and group discussions, and writings, students acquire a better understanding of illustration and the responsibilities of illustrators. Assignments include the creation of a comprehensive series of illustrations based on themes of contemporary culture and a self-directed project.

Prerequisites: successful Junior Review

ILL 5100 Senior Project: Illustration
6 credits

In consultation with a faculty member, students in this course produce a series of illustrations to strengthen and enhance their portfolio. This capstone project can take the form of a research project, an in-depth illustration problem, or the advancement of a particular strength or style. Students are required to develop an appropriate proposal, a timeline, and goals for their project. The resulting illustrations should address a specific audience and/or market.

Prerequisites: successful Junior Review, Senior standing

Illustration Studio Requirements (select two)

ILL 3040 Illustrated Notebook
3 credits

The notebook is a critical tool for the illustrator to record, investigate, and play. In this course students explore the notebook as a visual journal used to gather material and also as a place to experiment and further explore ideas. Course projects include creating different formatted notebooks that include word lists, found materials, and observational sketching. Individual and group critiques, lectures, and technical demonstrations round out the course. The final project is a series of illustrations based on unexpected discoveries made in the notebook.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Illustration

ILL 3050 Editorial Illustration
3 credits

From mainstream to independent magazines, editorial art has made a huge impact on the covers and pages of modern print and web publications. Through lectures and demonstrations students acquire a thorough understanding of the editorial market and its potential for inventive and imaginative images. This course includes illustrating articles related to topics such as culture, health, finance, short story, and nonfiction. Project formats include GIF animated web images, full and half page illustrations, covers, and experimental zines.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Illustration, Concepts and Metaphors, Digital Illustration (Digital Illustration may be taken concurrently)

ILL 3060 Children's Book
3 credits

In this course students examine the elements that make up a children’s book and how to communicate to a specific audience through their art. Emphasis is placed on concepting, storyboards, dummy books, and sequencing. Demonstrations of media and discussions of process are covered. A series of projects are assigned examining the various stages of illustrating a book, from the sketch phase to final illustrations. Professional knowledge of the publishing industry is researched and discussed.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Illustration, Concepts and Metaphors, Digital Illustration (Digital Illustration may be taken concurrently)

ILL 3070 Illustration and Products
3 credits

This course explores a variety of venues for product design, including apparel graphics, sporting goods, stationery, and home products. Students create graphics that define and accompany final products from sketch to production. Beginning with research by developing concept boards, students develop their ideas and focus on placed graphics within a product line. Students learn industry-standard processes, including audience research, concepting, presentation, and production, as they create a substantial and diverse product design portfolio. Students are provided with the opportunity to explore their own interests and apply their own aesthetic style to concepts, final pieces, and their own brand of merchandise.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Illustration, Concepts and Metaphors, Digital Illustration (Digital Illustration may be taken concurrently)

Foundation Studies

19 credits

FDN 1111 Foundation: 2D
3 credits

Foundation: 2D is an introduction to creative thinking that develops students’ skills in research, observation, interpretation, and self-expression. An emphasis is placed on exploring new ways to read and see the world, as well as new ways to report on it. Students learn basic two-dimensional principles through the use of various media, tools, materials, and processes. As a result, students develop a visual and verbal language for analyzing, organizing, shaping, and communicating two-dimensional form and meaning.

FDN 1112 Foundation: 3D
3 credits

This course is an introduction to understanding of visual creation for the development of knowledge, imagination, and perception. Students are introduced to basic three-dimensional concepts as well as materials and technical production processes. Classroom activities include shop demonstrations of tools and techniques, information, lectures, and discussions appropriate to promote the balanced fusion of practice and theory.

FDN 1211 Foundation: Drawing 1
3 credits

Foundation: Drawing 1 is an introductory drawing course designed to prepare students for study in all majors of the college. Students develop basic drawing skills, including the ability to perceive and express visual relationships, organize a two-dimensional composition, and depict and manipulate form, space, and light. Students work from direct observation of still life, interior space, and landscape.

FDN 1212 Foundation: Drawing 2
3 credits

Foundation: Drawing 2 is an observationally based drawing course designed to reinforce and develop the basic drawing skills established in Foundation: Drawing 1. Students work with a variety of subjects, including a substantial amount of drawing from the figure. In addition to working from direct observation, students explore drawing as a tool for invention, conceptualization, and idea development. The course also affords students an opportunity to investigate drawing materials in more breadth and depth than in Foundation: Drawing 1.

Prerequisites: Foundation: Drawing 1

FDN 1311 Foundation: Media 1
3 credits

Students are introduced to digital resources at MCAD while exploring digital media. Areas covered include the Service Bureau, Gray Studio, and Media Center, along with other digital resources. Students use a variety of software and hardware to learn the basics of working with recorded media, including video, sound, and photography, as well as developing critical language for discussing media and media artists.

FDN 1411 Ideation and Process
3 credits

Everything we make has its beginning as an idea, which takes form as an artist/designer makes a series of decisions to guide its creative evolution. This course is designed to help students explore the development of new ideas and their own process of making. Students also create visual tools to track their creative process from idea through construction and then to post production analysis. The course consists of discussions, critiques, exercises, and visual logs.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

FDN 1412 Sophomore Seminar: Contemporary Practice
1 credits

Practice is more than working methods: it’s the context, marketing, and creative space that maintain creative work. Contemporary Practice introduces students to the foundations, variety, and tools of a professional practice. Students upgrade websites and documentation, enter contests, and create professional presentations of their work. Classes consist of lectures, student presentations, and guest speakers from a wide range of disciplines.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

Studio Electives

26 credits

varying BFA Studio Electives

Choose BFA studio courses to take as electives; amount determined by your major.

Humanities and Sciences

39 credits

AH 1701 Introduction to Art and Design History 1
3 credits

The objective of this course is to familiarize students with the major stylistic, thematic, cultural, and historical transformations in art history from prehistoric times to the nineteenth century. This course helps students develop critical tools for the interpretation and understanding of the meaning and function of art objects, architecture, and design artifacts within their original historical contexts. Class sessions consist primarily of lecture with some discussion.

AH 1702 Introduction to Art and Design History 2
3 credits

This course introduces students to issues in modern art, popular culture, and contemporary art and design. Topics may include the expanding audience for art, the transformation of the art market, the impact of new technologies, the changing status of the artist, and the role of art in society. This course is taught as a seminar with some lecture.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design History 1 or faculty permission

EN 1500 Writing and Inquiry
3 credits

Key to the creative and critical growth of the engaged, successful artist is participation in a culture of writing and inquiry. Students in this course focus on the kinds of writing they will encounter and produce in their coursework at MCAD and as creative professionals. Regular writing workshops allow students to concentrate on experiential and practical approaches to writing. Students explore a variety of texts and objects through class assignments, and then develop clear compelling essays employing a variety of rhetorical and narrative strategies.

varying Creative or Professional Writing
3 credits

Creative or professional writing elective

varying Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning
3 credits

Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning classes increase students’ appreciation for the power of scientific and quantitative approaches to knowing the world.

varying Histories, Places, Philosophies
6 credits

6 credits of histories, places, philosophies electives

HS 5010 Liberal Arts Advanced Seminar
3 credits

The Liberal Arts Advanced Seminar enables students to pursue their own research and writing goals within a seminar setting. Projects are student-originated and consist of both a written piece and a public presentation. Class sessions are discussion-based and interactive. Group learning is emphasized

Prerequisites: Completion of Cultural Awareness Requirement (4000-level course), Junior standing

Cultural Awareness Requirement (select one)

AH 4731 Art in the Age of Empire (1789-1949)
3 credits

Using a global and historical perspective, this course examines the rise and spread of European colonialism and its impact on artistic practices in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Through a series of case studies, students will explore the ways in which European forms of image-making underwrote and facilitated the colonial project and the multiple modes through which picturing practices offered a venue for both colonizer and colonized to articulate, define, and forge political and social relationships. In each case, indigenous and hybrid forms of art-making will be highlighted alongside European forms in order to understand how the visual arts served as an expression of identity, cultural belonging, and self-fashioning. Topics will be explored by urban centers: Paris, Algiers, Shanghai,
Mumbai (Bombay), Cairo, Istanbul, Port-au-Prince, New Orleans, and other sites.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and a 3000-level AH or HU course, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4325 Native American Art
3 credits

Most Native American tribes do not have a word in their languages for “artist,” yet the arts are a living part of both daily life and ceremonial tradition. Focusing on the works of selected tribes, students in this course look at Native American art, architecture, and aesthetics. Emphasis is placed on the nineteenth century to the present. The impact of outside forces on continuities and changes in traditional forms is also explored. Classes are primarily lecture with some discussion. 

Prerequisites: Prerequisite: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4722 Asian Art History
3 credits

This course examines the art of Asia from its beginnings to the present day. It involves a regional approach, focusing on representative works from India, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. While regional characteristics are emphasized, cross-cultural influences are also studied. Through a variety of media, including sculpture, architecture, and painting, students gain an understanding of the broad themes and concepts that run throughout Asian art. Students consider the role of religion, for example, and gain a basic comprehension of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, Taoism, and Shinto. The structure of the class includes lectures, large and small group discussions, and visits to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4725 Islamic Art
3 credits

This course will examine Islamic art and architecture through religious, historical, political, and cultural practices from the seventh century to the present. Combining a thematic approach (such as kingship, gift exchange, identity, etc.) with the more traditional chronological and geographical approaches, this course will trace the visual and material culture of Islam and its global influence

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HU 4728 African American Art
3 credits

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the visual art of African Americans from the Colonial period to the present. The course examines a variety of visual media from painting, sculpture, and photography to popular culture objects and mass media images. In addition, students critically examine the ways in which the constructed meanings of "blackness" intersect with representational practices of gender, sexuality, and class, as well as the training and education of artists, public and private patronage, and the history of arts criticism and art history. Class sessions include both lectures and discussions.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 and any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

AH/HS 4729 Art and Globalization in the Atlantic World
3 credits

This course examines the impact and effects of globalization on the visual culture of the Atlantic world (defined by Europe, Africa, and the Americas) from the period of the Columbian encounter to the contemporary moment. Students examine the circulation and exchange of goods, ideas, knowledge, culture, and peoples across the Atlantic world through an investigation of visual representations, performance, and collecting practices. The course narrative is guided by thematic issues of gender, race, the politics of display, and national and cultural identities, tracing the movement of visual cultures across the Atlantic through individual case studies. This course fulfills a Histories, Places and Philosophies requirement for Humanities and Sciences.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently), a 3000-level AH or HS course, or faculty permission

HU 4511 History of Jazz
3 credits

Duke Ellington once said, “the pull of jazz music in American culture is so strong that no one can resist it.” Jazz is truly an American treasure that has influenced other cultures around the globe. Yet most Americans know very little about its history. This class explores jazz from its roots to its most current forms. Hear the music, study its contributions, and explore the cultural patterns and trends that surround its development. Class sessions are a mix of lecture and discussion, with some demonstrations of performance styles. 

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HU 3627 Queer Media
3 credits

This course uses standards for information and media literacy (from the Association of College and Research Libraries and others) to explore issues related to queer identities, representations, methodologies, theoretical applications, and interpretations. Using the framework of literacy as a benchmark, students learn how to read "for and from the queer" in a variety of media.

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HU 4630 Race and Ethnicity in the United States: A History
3 credits

Race and ethnicity have played significant, complicated, and more often than not misunderstood roles in the United States’ history. This course surveys the ways race and ethnicity have been constructed and understood by Americans from the colonial era to the present, focusing on the ways that class, gender, culture, and politics, as well as biology, have defined race and the way race and ethnicity have supported ideologies that have been used to both empower and subordinate the peoples of the United States. 

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

HS 4916 Literature of the Americas
3 credits

This course offers students a hemispheric perspective on the study of literature, focusing on a range of works from underrepresented, marginalized, and outsider authors in the Americas from the nineteenth century to the present. Students have an opportunity to challenge conventional categorizations of writers from across the Americas—not just in the United States—by fostering transnational and transhistorical perspectives while considering concepts including identity, race, citizenship, hybridity, and nationhood.

Prerequisites: Any 3000-level AH or HU course or its transferred equivalent, or faculty permission.

Art Historical Contexts Courses (select one)

AH 2101 Interrogating Post Modernity: The Fine Arts Since 1945
3 credits

This course introduces students to global fine arts production (drawing, painting, sculpture, artists’ books, performance, public, and socially engaged) since 1945. Using a series of case studies this class examines the historical, theoretical, and aesthetic developments in and relationships between fine arts media. Students engage with a combination of primary and secondary texts, apply visual analysis skills, contextualize artworks, and investigate various political and aesthetic points of view. 

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission

AH 2103 Applied Arts and Designed Objects
3 credits

This course traces the history of applied arts and designed objects through furniture, products, packaging, and multidimensional forms of graphic design. Students examine applied arts and designed objects as part of an evolving human culture of habit, convenience, and status. Various movements and styles within the histories of design genres, as well as the processes and manufacturing of consumer objects are considered.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission

AH 2105 Print Culture, Art, and Communication in the Age of Mass Reproduction
3 credits

Since the advent of print and the printing press, text, image, graphic design, comics, and advertising have played significant roles in cultural formation. This course examines the history of mass reproduction of printed matter from the advent of modernity, including books and periodical designs, to the present. 

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission

AH 2107 Photography, the Moving Image, and Digital Culture
3 credits

The production and reproduction of static, moving, and digital images have grown from work produced by an exotic technology used only by specialists to a socially ubiquitous representational form that generates millions of images, clips, cartoons, gifs, shorts, and films daily. This course surveys the development of (re)produced and moving images from their commercial applications, entertainments, and art to the all-pervasive media in which our popular cultures and artistic cultures exist. Individual artists and makers, as well as their works and contextualized movements within changing technological, economic, and institutional frameworks, are considered. 

Prerequisites: Introduction to Art and Design: History 2 (may be taken concurrently) or faculty permission
Total Credit Hours
120