Illustration, BA

You’ll learn the core skills every illustrator needs through the program’s required courses. As a BA student in Illustration, you may also choose additional illustration classes as electives based on your interests. You can become a more well-rounded illustrator by pursuing other creative interests through college-wide electives or by pursuing a minor. If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field, the Second Bachelor of Arts in Illustration is available.

The program includes painting, cartooning, digital illustration and figure drawing or figurative sculpture, plus a business class teaching essential skills, such as how to write contracts, talk to clients, complete taxes and self-promote through branding and identity. Many illustrators work independently, and this course of study will prepare you for entrepreneurial and freelance work.

What to Expect Your First Year

You’ll learn why, and how, to think more creatively and collaboratively in a hands-on way. You’ll participate in Columbia’s innovative and shared Foundations Program, which will provide you an opportunity to explore different areas and techniques, meet students in a wide variety of programs, and prepare you for major-specific experiences. Through five-week, one-credit courses, you’ll hone your existing skills and learn new ones. You’ll choose three foundations skills courses each semester from more than a dozen offerings.

You’ll apply what you’re learning right away to develop solutions to problems presented in Making I and Making II, co-taught by faculty who are designers and artists. You’ll work in teams and learn to develop, present and document your work. Your classes will also include Introduction to Visual Culture, in which you’ll learn to see your own work through the eyes of an art historian across disciplines.

What to Expect Your Last Year

Due to the customizable nature of the BA in Illustration program, you’ll have flexibility in your choice of courses and an opportunity to use elective credits to explore outside your major and draw on the inspiration of this coursework to advance yourself as an artist. You’ll also take Business of Design and potentially gain work experience through an internship. You may also take classes that fulfill a minor.

BA vs. BFA: What’s the Difference?

Bachelor of Arts (BA) programs feature a flexible curriculum that allows for exploration and the ability to tailor elective coursework beyond your major. Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs feature more focused, required coursework in the major.

If you wish to pursue entry to a BFA program, you must first gain admission to Columbia College Chicago. If eligible, you will be evaluated individually by your academic department sometime during your first or second year of enrollment.

Detailed Program Information

Download a Four-Year Plan

For More Degree Requirements and Transfer Plans, Visit the Catalog

Real-World Opportunities

What experience will I get outside the classroom?

As an Illustration student at Columbia, you’ll have the opportunity to study illustration in our Design Department, so you’ll be collaborating with other creatives on client-focused activities in Chicago, one of the world’s major design cities, which also hosts numerous comic book and publishing conventions.

You’ll have the opportunity to use our state of the art computer lab, digital print center and print-making studio. Our print lab staff are trained artists who can offer you tips and provide quick turnaround on books, prints and posters. 

Joining our student group IC3 (Illustration at Columbia College Chicago) presents an opportunity to connect to an illustration-minded community, share knowledge, network with other creatives and benefit from the group’s excellent social media platforms that promote student work and opportunities.

What are my internship options?

Internships are not required for Illustration students. It’s rare to work under an illustrator, although some students have pursued internships in design firms, advertising agencies and at galleries (or gallery exhibitions) that may include an aspect of illustration. An internship may be helpful if you’re pursuing a minor or looking for specific work experience. Internships can be taken for credit as college-wide electives.


Ready to Apply?

We’re happy you’re thinking of joining our creative community. We work hard to make our application process as simple and fast as possible, but should you run into any concerns, we're here to help at any time.

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