By Nina Tabios
Innovation, hard work, and resiliency were in the spotlight at the School of Industrial Design’s (IND) annual Winter Show on Thursday, Dec. 10, where students were applauded for a job well done despite the ongoing challenges of this semester.
Streamed live via YouTube, the ceremony commemorated the efforts of students in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. Part of industrial design is creating products that improve people’s lifestyles and many of the featured projects felt relevant given the ongoing pandemic: Furniture, home goods, kitchen utensils, and gardening tools were common projects and very timely.
“Part of industrial design is understanding the human condition, understanding people’s lifestyles,” said IND Director Antonio Borja. “As designers, we are addressing human needs and right now, we’re working at home and spending more time with ourselves. So, the human-centered product [design] is very timely.
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Of the 16 students included in the Winter Show, five finalists qualified for awards. To win, students were judged by a panel of industry professionals—including IND alumni Melvin Dominguez (B.F.A. 2012) and Aaron Stich (B.F.A. 2010)—on the basis of research and design process, innovation, marketability, and visual communication.
The Best Product Design award went to M.A. student Can Rong. Rong’s idea was to create an indoor gardening workstation for beginner plant hobbyists. By making the station foldable and washable, it was ideal for apartment dwellers and those working in small spaces. But by making the product out of recycled cork, plastic, and paper, this project was also completely sustainable.
“The prompt for this project was to create something simple and clever,” Rong said. Part of his research process was going to plant shops and speaking with staff and shoppers about the kinds of problems they ran into while planting at home. “It’s always a good opportunity to talk to people and find out what they want. One thing I found out is that indoor gardening can be really messy, and that’s how I started this project.”
Altino Alexandre, an M.A. student who goes by “Alex,” took home the Most Innovative Concept award for his project, Drip, a hybrid plate and food scale to help people be more health-conscious. Alexandre, who came to the Academy from Brazil, was fascinated by food culture in the United States. So when he saw the country’s 42.4% obesity rate, he wanted to find out how he could help Americans be more mindful of their food intake.
“In Brazil, it’s common for people to eat out [or order take out] maybe once a week. Here, people eat out every day,” Alexandre said. Part of his research process included working with a professional nutritionist on how to educate people about their diets. “[They] thought it would be a great idea to think of something that would help people build their knowledge about food at home and how what they eat fits into their everyday diet.”
Jenner Poulsen is an undergraduate transportation design student whose Rivian SR1 concept won Best Transportation Design. Like many automotive designers, Poulsen had his eye on the future: His concept imagined an autonomous SUV that invited wholesome interactions between passengers. Aesthetically inspired by South African architecture, Poulsen envisioned a driving experience that brought families together.
“I wanted to create a space where new interactions and new experiences can happen, something that we just would not expect in a car today,” Poulsen said. “Today, having fun with your family in the car and those little conversations you can have are often muted by the safety that’s at stake. The driver usually often isn’t involved with a family experience in the car and that was something I wanted to change with this project.”
Last, but certainly not least, was Laura Arroyave, an M.F.A. student whose orchid pot project PHALA won the Crowd Favorite award. Inspired by orchids, the national flower of her home country of Colombia, Arroyave said she was honored to be selected by her peers.
“It was so important to get that recognition from my peers,” Arroyave said. “This gives me more motivation to participate in these kinds of showcases and competitions, even if you think your project isn’t the best. It was a huge confidence boost, and I felt really proud.”
Although there were only four awards to give out, all the finalists were made to feel like winners that night. Faculty, staff, and judges praised the students for pushing through and creating outstanding work during a semester full of unexpected hurdles.
“They were able to create great projects, able to collaborate and work together and to develop these projects into show contenders,” Borja said. “Despite all of this, we [as a department] were still able to persevere, deliver good projects, and we found a way to make it work. We wanted to make sure they know we’re proud of them.”
Watch the School of Industrial Design’s Winter Show in its entirety below.