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Thomas Cone

May 2, 2017

Creating visual concepts that inspire and inform audiences wasn’t the career Thomas Cone had in mind.

For nearly 18 years, Cone worked in the auto body repair field. His doctor strongly recommended he find a different line of work after Cone endured two knee surgeries. He took an aptitude test, and the results showed he had a knack for visual arts.

“I had no interest in graphic design prior to my surgeries,” said Cone, a graphic designer in the Office of University Relations. “I didn’t take art in school. It was all brand-new to me.”  

Today, Cone’s designs can be found throughout the UNCW campus, from stickers to banners, the Seahawk Trolley and everything in between.

“It’s fulfilling to see people wearing one of my T-shirt designs or to see my work out on Chancellor’s Walk,” said Cone. “It gives me a sense of being a part of the university community.”

Cone began his career at UNCW in February 2001 as a graphic designer in the Division of Student Affairs. Prior to joining the university, Cone was a designer for national ad campaigns at a local advertising agency. He got his start in graphic design at a studio in Rochester, N.Y., whose clients included international companies such as Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb.

Cone doesn’t consider himself an artist, although he has sold two original paintings. He had his first painting lessons in early 2016.

“I had always wanted to try the use of watercolor,” he said. “After three months of painting, I submitted one of my first paintings to the Juried Art Show that takes place during the Azalea Festival. The painting was accepted and put in the show. At the show's conclusion, the painting could not be found. Turns out it had sold!”

Oftentimes, the simplest design has provided Cone with the most rewards, he added. The work he is most proud of are the designs he helped students create. 

“When I used to work directly with students on their projects, it was a learning experience for them and for me,” he said. “It gave them experience communicating with a client, and, in a small way, I was contributing to their overall college experience.”

When Cone isn’t designing, he’s riding his 2005 Yamaha Roadstar. He began riding in 1970 and has driven though 27 states so far.

“Whiskers in the wind, knees in the breeze and bugs in my teeth. I've seen a lot of America from behind the handlebars,” Cone said. “Every commute is a thrill for sure, but I really enjoy the open back roads.”

- Venita Jenkins

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