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Art Institutes


I don't just draw pictures. I tell stories.

You rarely go anywhere without your sketchpad. But if you’ve been wondering where your talent for expressing yourself visually can take you, think about a career as a professional illustrator. There’s an opportunity for creative thinkers with the technical skills to communicate ideas through painting, drawing, and design in markets including publishing, advertising, and the web. You'll work hard, but you'll reap the rewards of that effort as you see your ideas take shape and come to life. If you’re ready to commit yourself to your craft, the place to start is here. Illustration will find you surrounded and inspired by other talented, creatively driven students. And you’ll be taught, challenged, and pushed by experienced faculty* who’ll also support you every step of the way. It won’t be easy. But it could be the best decision you ever made.

*Credentials and experience levels vary by faculty and instructors.

Degrees Offered

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration & Design

Quarter Credit Hours:
12 Quarters

Gainful Employment


Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration & Design


See for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

1. Technical Skills: Graduates manipulate a variety of hand tools and art materials to draw, paint, or otherwise render an illustration from concept to finished product. They prepare illustrations for display in a variety of forms including print.

2. Design: Graduates apply the design elements and principles, concepts, media and layouts to their illustrations. They produce illustrations that demonstrate a concrete ability to communicate a clear and powerful idea or message using formal elements. They cultivate a design process that is solution driven, flexible, and well informed.

3. Technology: Graduates demonstrate the capability to produce layouts, scans, mechanicals, color separations, digital files, and other forms as required by a particular project.

4. Context: Graduates examine the broader context of the illustration field including art and design history, literature, and the commercial uses of illustration and how the illustrator functions in diverse environments.

5. Planning: Graduates use self-discipline and clear thinking to set professional goals and work on them without outside direction. They work efficiently and possess the time management skills to meet deadlines.

6. Professionalism: Graduates work effectively as an employee or as an independent contractor, with knowledge of business practices, accounting, legal issues, marketing, and self-promotion.

7. Communication: Graduates communicate their creative vision clearly using graphic and technological means. In addition, they listen effectively and communicate clearly in both oral and written formats.

Classroom Experience

It's not my style to take the easy way out.

For you, illustration isn’t a hobby. It’s a serious expression of your artistic vision—and a possible pathway to a career where you can do what you love. And our Illustration degree program is just as serious. You’ll start with a solid foundation in drawing, painting and illustration techniques for traditional and emerging media, along with the basics of graphic design production. You’ll need to develop other critical skills like photography, project management, print production, typography, and layout. The focus extends focus to the commercial aspects of illustration, including marketing, self-promotion, career planning, and communication. You’ll have the opportunity to learn to build your own website, where you can showcase their work to a wide audience, including potential employers. See our gainful employment pages for possible careers that match the program that interests you.

What Will I Study?

Illustration Study Section Image

I have the talent. I want to put it to use.

Many full-time faculty* who deliver the Illustration curriculum are professional illustrators who not only teach the skills you need to compete, but bring the real world in to the classroom so you can enter the profession with your eyes open. You’ll study:

  • Design Fundamentals
  • Digital Illustration
  • Layout Design
  • Typography
  • Life Drawing
  • Illustration
  • Drawing
  • Conceptual Illustration
  • Internship --OR-- Professional Practice
  • Advanced Painting
  • Illustration Studio
  • Portfolio
  • Photography

I'm looking for my proving ground.

The Art Institutes system of schools, creativity is our core, our calling, our culture. Our Illustration degree program is built on that creative foundation. It’s also built on our knowledge that a creative career is not for the faint of heart. Because it’s tough out there, it’s tough in here. But we temper that toughness with all the support you’ll need to prepare for a career in this competitive profession. That’s why we provide the mentoring and real-world experience to help you prevail, with faculty* who’ve worked in the field, along with opportunities to learn that go far beyond our kitchens. You’ll be encouraged and expected to be bold. To take risks. To push yourself and the people around you. It won’t be easy. In fact, it’ll be the hardest thing you’ll ever love.

*Credentials and experience levels vary by faculty and instructors.


The Art Institute of Michigan alumni Calvert Griffin [My education] helped me to learn how to be an effective teammate and work well with others. Calvert Griffin
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, 2014, The Art Institute of Michigan