Meryl said she was “in complete shock” about the award, which recognised her Honours project – an arresting graphic novel about her life with Asperger’s Syndrome.
“I didn’t think I even had a chance,” she said.
“It took me a while to process – I think it’s the first thing I’ve ever won.
“I put so much into this project, but it came as such a shock that other people liked it.
“I’m beginning to believe in myself and my work, and this award is proof that I’m on the right track.”
Art with a purpose
Meryl was diagnosed at the age of 18 with Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) which affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
“I always felt different to everyone else, and I felt ashamed of it for many years,” she said.
“I think there is a lot of stigma attached to being on the autism spectrum – you are perceived as an outcast or a weirdo.”
“Part of doing this project was attempting to come to terms with it, and learning to accept myself for who I am.”
“I hope my work inspires other people with ASD to share their diagnosis and feel comfortable with the gifts it presents.”
An outstanding talent
Meryl’s supervisor, Dr Mike McAuley, said she was an outstanding student.
“As well as her strong analytical and critical thinking skills, she is also highly creative,” he said.
“She talks the talk with theory, but also walks the walk with her creative practice.”
“Meryl embodies what we want to achieve with the Bachelor of Design, in terms of theory and practice integration, and her work is very appealing.”
Designing the future
Fellow QCA Design graduate Troy Baverstock won the Industrial / Product Design category for a diverse range of cutting-edge designs, ranging from a 3D printed prosthetic limb to a minimalist sound system.
Troy, whose innovative limbU design was featured in Griffith’s recent Remarkable campaign, said it was an honour to be recognised by the industry awards.
“It feels good that the work itself is being recognised,” he said.
Troy said studying design at the QCA had allowed him to pursue projects that he was passionate about.
“The degree allowed me the freedom to spend time in the studio developing my own work, and the skills to make my vision a reality,” he said.
Troy’s mentor Dr Sam Canning said his dedication to design had produced spectacular results.
“Troy is a very good all-rounder, but I think it’s his absolute passion for design that makes him stand out,” he said.
“He’s got a very bright future and awards like this are a great way to gain professional recognition.”
A world-class design destination
Queensland College of Art Director Professor Derrick Cherrie said the success of graduates at the awards reflected the high calibre of teaching and learning in the Bachelor of Design program.
“We are thrilled that our graduates have been recognised as among the best in Australia,” he said.
“Our Design students are mentored by faculty members who are academic scholars and industry leaders. They also enjoy outstanding opportunities at our world-class studios at South Bank and the Gold Coast.”
Design that makes a difference
According to the QCA’s new Head of Design, Professor Ming Cheung, the Bachelor of Design program revolves around three central tenets: human-centred design, a critical thinking approach, and an emphasis on employability.
“Our QCA finalists produced high quality, innovative work that used sustainable, human-centred design practices. These designs have the potential to influence change and make a real difference in peoples’ lives,” she said.
“Awards like this provide emerging designers with a great platform to present their work to industry leaders both domestically and internationally,” she said.
The DIA Graduate of the Year Awards (GOTYA) is a portfolio-based program that rewards the highest standards of excellence in final year or recent design graduates.
The Queensland finalists will be in the running for the national awards, held in Melbourne in June.
Find out more about Design at the Queensland College of Art.