Initiated in the early 1960’s, the Illustration program continues to provide its students with a resilient experience in formulating visual information, understanding its traditions, while exploring a wide variety of media and processes. Courses in general education are also studied to broaden the perspective of the contemporary illustrator.
The Illustration program follows a specific core curriculum that introduces the student to the conceptual development of artwork, the media processes, and procedures toward the completion of finished illustrations. This program of study is complemented by courses in drawing, computer aided imagery, art history, and electives. The student has the opportunity to develop a professional and marketable portfolio in preparation for a career.
As a student in the Illustration program, you’ll broadly explore the different ways in which visual information can be formulated, studying the traditions of illustration while branching out into a wide variety of media, techniques, and processes, both traditional and digital. From this firm foundation, you’ll also be immersed in the conceptual development of artwork, learning how to present a concept using different styles.
Your focused study of illustration will be complimented by courses in drawing, digital imagery, art history, and studio electives, helping you broaden both your perspective and your notions of creative possibility.
You’ll also round your education out with a wide range of general education and art history courses that will stimulate your curiosity, broaden your perspective, and inspire new creative expressions. KCAD’s flexible General Education Pathways model empowers you to direct your learning by exploring subjects you find most engaging and relevant.
As you move through the Illustration program, you’ll master multiple illustration techniques in both traditional and emerging media. You’ll become a visual thinker and communicator, equipped with a universal language that bridges cultural, social, and generational gaps. You’ll use the power of visual rhetoric to engage, enlighten, and stimulate critical thinking and visceral responses from an audience. Ultimately, you’ll emerge as an aesthetically grounded and professionally versatile illustrator, able to powerfully convey meaning and message.
The Illustration program has long been one of KCAD’s core strengths. Launched in the early 1960s, the program has a rich history of fostering professional readiness and a strong track record of alumni success. The program’s small class sizes enable our faculty to get to know you as an individual, while you’ll come to see them as not just instructors, but as mentors and professional role models as well.
There’s also the matter of place: located in Grand Rapids, a mid-sized city that values art and design, KCAD acts as an incubator for focused artistic growth and cultural engagement. Location also means you’ll enjoy mid-size city living while being only hours away from the cultural wealth of larger cities like Chicago and Detroit.
Professional versatility is a core strength of the Illustration program. While you’ll be encouraged to explore your own style, you’ll have the creative flexibility to adapt to a wide variety of styles, which opens up a world of professional opportunities.
You’ll be well positioned to succeed as a freelance illustrator serving a broad spectrum of clientele, but you’ll also be prepared to pursue a more specialized career as an editorial illustrator, art director, cartoonist, storyboard illustrator, mural designer, or fashion illustrator.
As an Illustration student, you’ll have the opportunity to plug into the close-knit creative community of the KCAD Illustration Society, a student organization that nurtures collaborative potential and facilitates a powerful exchange of ideas among artists working in a variety of different styles and spheres.
You’ll learn and experiment in spacious classrooms with plentiful natural light and extensive studio equipment, including a program-specific computer lab containing powerful Mac Pro towers.
Elsewhere on campus, you’ll have access to The Fed Galleries @ KCAD, an exhibition space featuring the work of nationally and internationally-recognized artists and designers; The Dow Center FlexLab, KCAD’s state-of-the-art digital fabrication facility featuring 3D printers and scanners, laser cutting and vinyl cutting machines, wide format printers, and more; KCAD’s Material ConneXion Satellite Library, which offers direct access to more than 1,000 physical samples of advanced, innovative, and sustainable materials as well as online access to over 7,000 more; the KCAD Library, which provides access to millions of books through the MeLCat shared library catalog as well as access to specialized research databases and subscriptions to scholarly journals; KCAD’s Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), an innovative cultural institution hosting exhibitions of such contemporary artists and designers as Nick Cave, Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker, Nari Ward, Carrie Mae Weems, and Judi Werthein; and much more.
KCAD also offers a number of summer travel/study experiences as well as internships during the academic year and the summer. You’ll have the opportunity to pursue work in a variety of settings, such as professional studios, museums, and community arts organizations, to name a few.
Ready to get started? Apply now!
Students will be introduced to digital drawing, coloring, compositing and image manipulation techniques for both print and digital delivery systems.
This course focuses on gesture drawing, rapid visualization skills, movement and expressive content, composition, structure, skeletal anatomy, and engaging in critiques.
This course develops concepts introduced in Figure Drawing I with additional emphasis on the development of volume and mass through structural application of line and value; heads, hands, and feet; figure in environments; anatomical focus on musculature; and engaging in critique.
Freehand drawing using basic perspective principles and quick sketch techniques.
Advanced freehand drawing and sketching with the addition of color media.
A problem-solving course covering the principles of composition and modular design systems. Uses predominately abstract shapes and black, white, and achromatic gray ranges.(Students who have earned credit for VISC 110, Design I, may not use credit earned in KCPA 110 to meet graduation requirements.)
To explore the elements, principles and aesthetic concepts integral to three-dimensional design and to consider relationships between concept, process, materials, tools and technical skills. (Students who have earned credit for ARTS 120, 3-D Design, may not use credit earned in KCSF 11 to meet graduation requirements.)
A problem-solving course which studies the properties and interactions of color and its resulting perceptual effects in pictorial space.
An introduction to the fundamentals of photography using both manually adjustable 35mm film cameras and digital cameras. This course includes black and white film development and darkroom printing as well as digital camera use and basic image manipulation controls using PhotoShop. The aesthetics of photography will be discussed in terms of its history, and artistic and technical advancements. Students must own or have use of a digital camera (prosumer grade or above; camera phones are not acceptable).
A survey of contemporary and historical illustration techniques and movements. Career options will be covered, along with the fundamentals of composition and color, the application of media, and the basic elements of picture making.
Exploration of color media and processes within specific illustration assignments.
A drawing and painting course in super realism using various media.
Develops an entry level of digital illustration painting experience using Adobe Photoshop, utilizing basic Photoshop concepts, principles, and tools applied to the sequential development of illustrations.
An indepth study of watercolor techniques. This will include a study of transparent to opaque watercolor. Different styles of paper will be used from rough to hot press and board.
Painting illustrative subject matter using fundamental water-based painting techniques.
Students will study current illustration markets, learn essential business practices and create the printed collateral necessary for doing business as an illustrator.
Advanced study of the human figure, especially in relation to the needs of the illustrator, with emphasis on construction, composition, movement, and interpretation of the clothed and costumed figure in various media.
Personal expression as a means of figurative illustration. Color, form, and light will be explored through various media and methods.
Concept development and creative problem solving using relevant illustration media and techniques.
Students will learn graphic design and production processes for print media, using a combination of traditional and digital techniques.
An intermediate to advanced digital illustration painting experience using Adobe Photoshop, applying cutting-edge Photoshop concepts and principles to the development of digitally based illustrations. The work created in this course should be portfolio quality.
Preparation of a professional quality illustration portfolio based on individual style and market research.
An overview of the Western Art tradition from prehistory through the Renaissance using a socio-cultural methodology in a chronological framework. (Students who have earned credit for ARTH 110, Prehistoric through Middle Ages, may not use credit earned in KCAH 111 to meet graduation requirements.)
A survey of Western art from the Baroque to the present, this course will continue building upon the foundation of Western Art I; Prehistoric through the Renaissance, using a socio-cultural methodology in a chronological framework. (Students who have earned credit for ARTH 111, Renaissance through 20th Century, may not use credit earned in KCAH 112 to meet graduation requirements.)
This course focuses on using writing to develop ideas, hone critical thinking skills, and express ideas clearly and appropriately according to audience and purpose. Students write in a variety of modes and spend a portion of the semester engaging in scholarly research. Students also develop their public speaking skills.
This course provides a core understanding of effective storytelling. It examines the ways in which storytellers-both past and present-craft, organize, and convey ideas to successfully impact audiences, doing so through both inquiry into established narratives, as well as students' own experiments with narrative forms.
This course examines what it means to be a member of a particular society and how individuals both form and are formed by society. It will provide students with a better understanding of the social and cultural worlds they inhabit.
This course is an inquiry into the nature and power of philosophy to transform the way we experience the world around us and understand our place within it. Through a selection of readings representing various philosophical traditions and perspectives, critical discussion, and writing, students will examine some of the great questions that have intrigues philosophers from antiquity to present.
Download the catalog for the most recent course listings and prerequisites.
As a graduate of the Illustration program, you’ll be well-equipped to find employment with magazines, periodicals, book and software publishers, manufacturers, or working with various types of electronic media.
There are also opportunities in the motion picture, video, and computer game design industries. Or, you may decide to be a self-employed, freelance illustrator, and do work in several of these industries on a contract basis.