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Graphic design grad wins excellence award

Kim Pham

24 May 2017: Twelve months after being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that left him struggling to get out of bed, University of Canberra graphic design graduate Timothy Fulton has been named the winner of a Design Institute of Australia Graduate of the Year Award.

The 23-year-old was thrilled to win the Graduate of the Year for Visual Communication Design in the NSW/ACT category. He is now in the running for an Australian Graduate of the Year Award (AGOTYA) which will be announced later this month.

“It was really exciting to see how I ranked against graduates from other Universities in the NSW/ACT field. It is incredibly humbling and pretty moving to win this award,” Mr Fulton said. “It’s testament to the University of Canberra and the teachers who put in a huge amount of work and really take the time to invest in its students.”

It’s the first time a University of Canberra graduate has won a GOTYA award in the Visual Communication Design category. Alumni Tom Skeehan, Sam Tomkins and Dylan White have previously topped the industrial design and object design categories.

Mr Fulton received a number of awards during his studies including the Faculty of Arts and Design Best Graduating Undergraduate Student Prize for best academic performance, scoring a grade point average of 7, but said this particular one holds special significance to him after he was diagnosed with Still’s disease in February last year.

The autoimmune condition, which affects one in 500,000 people, left the former Australian ice hockey player housebound and forced to withdraw from the final unit of his degree.

“Six months after my diagnosis, I decided I wanted to get that last unit done even though I was still undergoing therapy and treatment in hospital,” he said.

“I contacted the University and they provided a tremendous amount of support and flexibility. It’s been a huge journey. All students go through a challenging time to get a degree and to come out the other end and have people say ‘you’ve done a good job’ is wonderful.”

The GOTYA is a portfolio-based award that recognises the highest standards of excellence in final year undergraduate design students or recent graduates.

For the awards, Mr Fulton presented three pieces of his design work from his degree: a prototype app for the University’s library, a book cover submission and a book concept.

He created a new wayfinding system for the University’s library, where the prototype allows users to add books to a list and they are shown the shortest route to collect them. He also created signage and bay ends that were consistent and complemented the new technology.

His second project was a proposed book cover for the 2015 edition of FIRST, an anthology of creative writing produced each year by University of Canberra students. The theme was ‘Flesh and Blood’ with Mr Fulton reflecting the contrasting ideas of dark and light, life and death and harmony and chaos in his artwork of a shattered, itemised being coming into a soft, elegant image.

The final piece was a book chronicling his experience of being diagnosed with Still’s disease.

Mr Fulton is still learning how to manage his condition while balancing his work as a designer at Canberra-based Swell Design Group.   

“This time last year I was struggling to get out of bed,” he said. “My goal now is to mentor others and use the skills and gifts I have in a positive way.”

Associate professor of Creative and Cultural Practice Lisa Scharoun described Mr Fulton as an exceptional student who took every opportunity to learn.

“I am honoured to have been able to teach Tim and to see him develop into an accomplished and confident designer.  We are very proud of Tim's achievements as it reflects not only his hard work and determination but also the quality of the our graphic design program and its ability to produce designers that are top graduates - on par with all the leading Australian design schools.”