Illustration Emphasis - B.F.A.

Degree Information

Format: Face-to-face

Credits: ~126

As an Illustrator, you can look forward to rich and diverse professional opportunities. Faculty will help you explore a variety of media and styles to find your best professional fit. Our alumni work in areas as varied as magazines, book covers, children’s books, website design, advertising, clothing design, greeting cards, educational materials, social/political advocacy, animation, and gallery work. 

Degree Options

Students interested in an illustration education may pursue a B.F.A. in Studio Art with this emphasis, or pursue a B.A./B.S. degree in Art Education with this emphasis as well.

BFA in Studio Art, Illustration Emphasis

The B.F.A. in Studio Art is designed for students interested in a professional career in art. Aside from Illustration, seven other Emphasis Areas are available to choose from in the B.F.A. degree.

BA/BS in Art Education and K-12 certification

Students may also pursue a BA or BS Degree in Art Education in which they can choose to take Illustration courses. 


Only illustrators with broad-based knowledge, good business sense, superior research skills, technical facility, and sustained commitment will succeed. The illustration curriculum for this emphasis is designed to help students become adept in these areas and to help them learn to balance historical perspectives of the field with an awareness of contemporary practices. In addition, majors are encouraged to balance aesthetic sensitivity with professional practicality and traditional craft with individual creativity.


Studio Art (Illustration) - B.F.A. Advising Guide 2022-23Transitional Advising GuideStudio Art (Illustration) - B.F.A. Advising Guide previous years

This course will focus on the basics of illustration, including an introduction to process and ideation, visual problem-solving techniques, and professional practices. Students will research and learn about different markets within illustration, as well as historical and contemporary illustrators. Prerequisite:
Studio art and art education majors only.

Credits: 3

An introduction to materials, processes, and techniques of illustration as a means of creative expression and critical inquiry. Students will learn digital and traditional illustrative methods through demonstrations, examples, and lectures. Students will develop better understanding of the physical and technical aspects of image-making and its specific application to illustration. Prerequisite: Studio art and art education majors only.

Credits: 3

Students will explore the stages of character design and world building from written concept to visual solutions. Students will gain experience developing world design documents, silhouettes, value studies, color studies/keys, production art, and 3D assets. Students may explore topics including concept art, backgrounds, character design, storyboards, and production design.

Prerequisite: ART 281 or ART 282.

Credits: 3

This course will allow students to explore various methods and projects of illustration design. Students will integrate image, type and composition using typography, color, shape, and digital media. Through an emphasis on design, students will further develop compositional approaches to problem solving while applying professional practices and methods.

Prerequisite: ART 281 or ART 295.

Credits: 3

Students will interface with pre-arranged illustrators, art directors and editors who will supervise, guide, and encourage the development of professional quality work, creative vision, and career preparation.

Prerequisite: ART 281.

Credits: 3

Exploring the narrative as a means of both creative expression and critical inquiry. Through this emphasis on sequence and interrelated frames, students also explore writing and visual storytelling as well as penciling, inking, color, and production. Topics include exploration of book illustration, picture books, comics, and the graphic novel.

Prerequisite: ART 383 or ART 384.

Credits: 3

Students will explore their illustrative voice within a public sphere. They will learn how to research, strategically plan, recognize, and dissect trends while developing a personal world vision. Topics may include advertising, editorial, reportage, guerrilla, and gallery markets. 

Prerequisite: ART 282 or ART 383.

Credits: 3

This course will focus on a critical evaluation of the student's portfolio, while developing, refining, and defining a professional portfolio. Students will create a portfolio and identity, including creation of professional promotional materials. Discussion of current illustration markets, professional practices, and business practices will also be explored.

Prerequisites: ART 281, ART 282, ART 381, and ART 382.

Credits: 3

Development of a body of work focusing on a specific aspect of illustration in which the student wishes to specialize, culminating in a BFA exhibition. Offered fall and winter semesters.

Prerequisites: ART 281, ART 282, ART 282, and ART 383.

Credits: 3


Durwin Talon
Associate Professor
Area Coordinator

Guin Thompson
Associate Professor

Students' Works

“My education prepared me to do the actual work of illustrating these pieces but also prepared me to manage clear communication with clients, write contracts, and establish a work ethic dedicated to completing things in a proper time.”



Classes in the illustration program are held in the illustration and painting studios as well as computer labs in Calder Art Center. These diverse facilities help students cultivate the technical proficiency necessary to develop their individual artistic focus and personal approach to the field. Many students in the illustration emphasis have personal studio spaces in a common room that encourage informal discussions between peers.

Illustration Classroom
Illustration Studio

Alumni Outcomes

Graduates of the Studio Art – Illustration program possess knowledge, experience, and unique skills that are highly desirable and transferable, enabling them to seek employment in career fields both within and outside of the fine arts. Art degrees can lead to future work opportunities in a gallery, non-profit cultural organization, or museum.

Illustration Emphasis Graduates Work As...

  • Freelance artist/ entrepreneur
  • Painter (portrait artist)/ mural artist
  • Logo & Branding Designer
  • Freelance illustrator
  • Pattern Designer (wallpapers, carpets, etc.)
  • Concept Artist
  • Cartoonist/ graphic novelist
  • Community-based artist

Where GVSU Alumni Have Worked...

  • American Greetings
  • Cabin Time Artist Residencies
  • California Institute of the Arts
  • Disney ABC Television Group
  • Hallmark
  • New England Journal of Medicine
  • NPR
  • Patagonia
  • State of Michigan, Education
  • Zondervan Publishing

Professional Networking

Illustration emphasis students are encouraged to pursue professional connections from the start in the program, engaging in internship experiences, on-campus employment, and the Illustration Student Club.

SIGIL Illustration Club

Student Interest Group Illustration (SIGIL) is a GVSU based illustration group open to all art and non-art majors, including university alumni. SIGIL is Grand Valley's very first organization for students who enjoy drawing and sharing their artwork with others. We meet weekly and make art, sell art, and bring new resources to Grand Valley's artistic community.

SIGIL Facebook Page

SIGIL Instagram


GVSU Career Center

The Career Center offers a wide variety of events to help you successfully land after graduating from GVSU! 

Career Center Website

Schedule a VMA Tour

Interested in visiting VMA? Schedule your student lead tour today! 

Tours are available during open VMA Office hours:
Monday -Friday 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
(Closed on Public Holidays)
VMA Main Office: (616) 331-3486
[email protected]




Request Information

For questions about the Illustration area, please contact:

Durwin Talon
Illustration Coordinator
1108 Calder Arts Center
(616) 331-3576
[email protected]



Page last modified March 9, 2023