Illustration, BFA

Illustration, BFA

The sequential path of courses for Illustration BFA students is related to professional development and includes rigorous portfolio building and review throughout the curriculum. We stress the visual narrative and storyboarding. You’ll apply the skills we teach to your work, such as visual thinking, storytelling, visualizing environments and placing people in those environments.

Our program includes painting, cartooning, print making, collaborations with Cinema Art and Science plus business skills, such as how to write contracts, talk to clients, complete taxes and self-promote through branding and identity. Many illustrators work for themselves, and you’ll be prepared to do entrepreneurial and freelance work.

In this program, you’ll get briefs with specifications for client-specific jobs on real world-type projects with deadlines and requirements you’ll meet while we teach you illustration principles. We merge the creative aspect with the business aspect of illustration so you’ll be prepared and capable of pursuing a number of different professional paths.

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

You’ll apply the skills you’ve learned through courses in drawing for graphic novels, illustrating children’s books, commercial illustration and illustration for film and animation. You’ll also learn advanced skills in illustration motion as well as experimental techniques. Illustration Studio II will teach you which markets to pursue as you hone your skills. You’ll further build and polish your portfolio through one of two courses you can choose from in your final semester: Illustration Portfolio or Interactive Portfolio Design. We’ll also encourage you to work professionally during your senior year.

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 College, 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 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 BFA students in Illustration. 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. 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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