MA Illustration graduates share insights into studying online

Tue 4 Apr 2023

What's it like to study illustration online and how can it impact your career? Read our interview with two graduates of the Falmouth Flexible MA Illustration.

Joan Herlinger and Hannah Pollie are both graduates of the Falmouth Flexible online MA Illustration. We spoke to Joan and Hannah about why they wanted to get a master’s in illustration, the support they’ve received during their online study journey and how the course is already impacting their careers.  

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  

Joan HerlingerJoan: I grew up in Australia, lived 24 years in San Francisco and now live in Paris. I’ve worked as a Graphic Designer and later a UX Designer, which is what I'm transitioning out of now. I have a degree in fine art and painting, and I've always loved illustration. 


Hannah Pollie PhotoHannah: I’ve lived in the Black Country in England my whole life. I got into illustration five or six years ago, just doing my own commissions through friends and family. I’ve juggled this with the course and a full-time job that recently went down to part-time. 


Why did you choose to study online with Falmouth Flexible?  

Joan: Because I live in France, I looked at going to school there, but I found that the courses were quite rigid with a lot of formal drawing, which I've already done. I chose Falmouth Flexible because I wanted more freedom with my work 

Hannah: When the pandemic hit it made me re-evaluate what I wanted to do. I had a mortgage, a full-time job and family commitments, but being able to do it online gave me that freedom to be able to access the course without having to go to a physical place on a regular basis.  

Hannah Pollie

Illustration by Hannah Pollie.

What motivated you to study illustration at master’s level?  

Joan: I had a bachelor's degree, and I was interested in getting a master's to improve my skills and have a more thorough, thought-through approach to my illustration work.  

Hannah: Similarly, I've got a bachelor's degree and I'd spent some time on my visual language, which I wanted to develop. I also wanted to learn more about the professional, commercial side of illustration.  

How did you balance work, study and social life?  

Hannah: One of the key things was setting myself boundaries. Depending on my deadlines and my workload, I would schedule certain times to work on my masters, to work on my day job, and to spend time away from both of those. That helped me balance things.  

Joan: During the course, we would have critique meet ups scheduled at different times during the week – maybe one on a weekday morning, one in the evening and one at the weekend. That helped students find one they could attend, wherever they were in the world. 

Joan Herlinger

Illustration by Joan Herlinger.

What has the support been like during the application process and your studies?  

Hannah: The application process was very hands on, and the Course Advisers gave you a lot of information. They answered any questions I had, and they were very encouraging and excited about the course. The Student Advisors have been helpful as well with any non-academic questions I’ve had during the course. The lecturers are always there at the end of an email if you have questions.  

During the Final Major Project, my supervisor was supportive, encouraging and excited about my work. When you're working in your own bubble, sometimes you forget to step back and see that. Your supervisor is there to remind you that you’re on the right path and your work is valid.  

How is the course helping with your career so far?  

Joan: I do mainly UX design now, but one thing my company got me to do was to create some guidelines for hiring illustrators globally. In the future I want to do more art direction along with illustration, which is what I did before UX design. I'm off to the Bologna Children's Book Fair with my Final Major Project and I’m hoping to learn a lot there. 

Hannah: I think the course has given me the confidence that I'm able to go out into the illustration industry. Talking to other students on the course and the academics has made me believe in myself – that I can go out and do it and be as good as anyone else out there working in illustration.   

Would you describe this course as a good investment?  

Joan: I think it's a good investment. If you're at the stage of your life where you can't move for whatever reason, I think it's a very good way of getting your education. We have people of all different ages and backgrounds on the course, from all over the world. I wanted to make sure I was in a place where it was understood that I'd already had a career. 

Hannah: You can certainly make it work around your life now. You can go on to further education while still looking after the family, maintaining a job and a home. I think education is always a good investment.  

If it's something you're passionate about and you want to pursue, the more knowledge you can get, the better. Getting to know people in the industry and making connections all helps in the long term. The face-to-face events have been key for networking. You build a relationship online but meeting in person ramps that up. 

Thank you to Joan and Hannah for sharing their insights into the course! 

Explore innovative approaches to visual communication with the Falmouth Flexible MA Illustration. Start in January, May or September:

Show me course details

You can see more of Hannah’s work on: 

Instagram: @hannah_pollie

Facebook: @Hannah Pollie Illustration 

LinkedIn: @hannahpollieillustration 


You can see more of Joan’s work on: 

Instagram: @joanherlinger




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