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Fulfilling Lives Project


Our illustration students each created a graphic novella on one aspect of real people’s experience of living with complex needs. Thanks to an EU European Development Fund Creative Fuse grant, these stories were then published in a printed book for Fulfilling Lives called #WhatDoYouSee?. This was published in June 2018. 

The Challenge

In 2017, in a 2nd year illustration module we assigned to our illustration students one of two Fulfilling Lives’ personal anonymised stories of complex needs, from two people who are being helped by Fulfilling Lives to get their lives back on track. Each story was an aspect of a person’s life, so the 2nd year illustration worked emphatically and sensitively (and without judgement) to interpret each personal snapshot of a complex life. The students then told each story in three different ways. Firstly, they storyboarded the story as told. Secondly, they then focused on an action point and developed a short 10-second animation of that point. Finally, the student reinterpreted the story as a short 12-page graphic novella. The five best novellas were then selected to be printed in Fulfilling Lives' Graphic Novel Anthology.

The Graphic Novel Anthology

#WhatDoYouSee? A Fulfilling Lives Graphic Novel Anthology and will be used in Fulfilling Lives’ outreach workshops with social services. There is also a social media campaign to accompany it using the hashtag #WhatDoYouSee. The anthology contains: 

  • a strip-based introduction explaining the project, 
  • five graphic novellas telling five different lived experiences, 
  • a wraparound cover using imagery inspired by an actual visual therapy aid used by Fulfilling Lives, 
  • a foreword and afterword by someone living with complex needs.

Working with Fulfilling Lives

We jumped at the chance of getting involved with helping Fulfilling Lives to challenge society’s stigma on people living with complex needs. It was important to us as educators of students engaged in visual communication to help to visually tell the personal stories of two of Fulfilling Lives’ clients. Our illustration students rose to the challenge, and created short animations and graphic novellas that were sensitive and empathic to the voices of Newcastle’s vulnerable citizens. 

The Results

This book also had an eBook version and a social media campaign using the hashtag #WhatDoYouSee? Panels from the graphic novellas will be tweeted out to provoke dialogue, and to drive the debate to the Fulfilling Lives website where they can download the eBook. Attendees of Fulfilling Lives' outreach workshops with social services can use the printed book to challenge their personal attitudes, and then using the hashtag, continue the discussion on social media. This project has been a very successful collaboration, as the students involved have since graduated (all with very good degrees) and have gone on to work professionally in various creative industries. The project has been presented at national and international illustration conferences as an exemplar of how illustration can have a positive impact on society. A short film on the project is in production by the Creative Fuse team, featuring interviews with some of the illustrators.

Course info

UCAS Code W210

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

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