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UTAR Grad Wins US$7K As Champion Of Adobe's Global Design Contest, Beating 65K Contestants

The Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) World Championship is a global competition that tests students’ design skills in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign. Presented by Certiport, students are invited to represent their respective countries at the World Championship. 

Recurring for its 8th year in a row, the 2021 competition attracted more than 65,000 contestants from 65 countries to prove their design skills. From the pool of contestants, a 23-year-old Malaysian has claimed first place, receiving a US$7,000 prize.

Meet Danny Tse Wei Chun

Currently a coordinating producer at Omens Animation Studios, Danny was born in Alor Setar, Kedah. In an interview with Vulcan Post, he shared that his design knack took off when he joined his foundation programme at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR).

Taking on a Digital Animation degree, he dove deeper into the ins and outs of Photoshop and developed his skills in animation which included character design and illustration.

It was in his 2nd year of university that Danny became more active and joined as a member of the school’s editorial team for events. There, he had more exposure to creating posters.

“That sparked my interest as I was glad to see the capability of visual design to grab someone’s attention,” Danny told us. However, poster design isn’t necessarily where his main interest lies—it’s in illustration.

If the opportunity arises, Danny hopes to be a great illustrator in the future.

Championing through the stages

Danny learnt about the ACA design competition from a lecturer in UTAR before graduating in August 2021. He took it as an opportunity to test his skills in the national version of the competition first, the ACA Championship Malaysia 2021.

Hosted by Acestar, a known local IT provider, the national competition narrows down its top 30 students who will sit for an 8-hour Live Test without access to internet references for design inspiration. Acestar told Vulcan Post that Malaysia is the only country to conduct this Live Test to simulate the actual competition, and that only 3 winners can emerge. These 3 will then be prepared for the world stage.

This year, Malaysia managed to produce 2 design students that made it to the Top 5 at 2021’s ACA World Championship. With Danny in 1st place, Sze Ting Teo from Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TARUC) came in 5th.

During the global competition, students were given 6 hours to design a project for Limbitless Solutions, a US-based bionics manufacturer that was chosen as this year’s non-profit client. And if you’ve ever used Adobe Creative Cloud software, you’ll know that a lot can go wrong when you’re rushing for a client.

A lot can go wrong in 6 hours

Going into the competition with no prior knowledge about Limbitless Solutions, Danny was only provided with the client’s logo, a few illustrations of its Bionic Kid comic characters, and its title. The rest had to be designed from scratch with either of the creative software provided via the competition’s virtual computer, which was where he entered deep waters.

Danny shared that he and most participants took more than an hour logging into the virtual computer at the start of the 6-hour competition. Furthermore, all participants should be given a unique login link, but Danny and another Malaysian participant were given the same one, and it took them a while before they realised that.

It was beyond the designers’ capabilities to solve the issue, so they had to call in the competition’s tech team.

Furthermore, Danny, who’s most proficient in Adobe Photoshop, reported that the Pen tool in the virtual computer’s software was malfunctioning.

“This affected my performance in the competition because [the Pen tool] is an important feature to create good illustrations in Adobe Photoshop,” said Danny who had to snap out of a momentary sense of defeat to focus his attention on his secondary strength, Adobe Illustrator.

But just when he thought he was out of the woods, the software began lagging when effects were applied. With it slowing down after every new edit, Danny decided to export each layer from Adobe Illustrator and arrange them in Adobe Photoshop. 

Whether intentional or not, Danny’s quick thinking and ability to solve problems within the creative suite suggests his high proficiency in using them. 

It is unknown whether or not judges were aware of his design process. However, Danny still produced a design that won in the areas of visual appeal, ability to meet the client’s requirements, brand aesthetics, and his usage of Adobe Creative Cloud applications. 

Now armed with a total of US$7,000, Danny plans to use the prize fund to treat his family and lecturers to thank them for their support. He will then keep the rest for his future to hopefully use it as living expenses in the US, where he hopes to work as an illustrator.

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