The Design Emphasis student furniture design competition held in August at IWF 2012 was not only an impressive addition to the show floor, but a great opportunity for emerging designers. The event, which started in 2002, gives college-level furniture design students a chance to have their work professionally critiqued and noticed by potential industry employers.
IWF programs and marketing manager Liz Hosp says 108 entries were submitted from colleges across the country.
“I hear a lot from the instructors that they really like this competition because it is so good for the students. We focus on design, but also the marketability. By bringing them to the show where employers of the future are concentrated, it allows them not only to meet and mingle with other students and design professionals, but our board members, attendees and buyers and manufacturers in the design community who may be hiring,” says Hosp.
The program starts with IWF officials visiting furniture, industrial design and wood products departments at qualified schools throughout the nation. They inform students and instructors about the contest and its entry criteria and encourage them to enter. Students submit photos and drawings of their works in progress and, if accepted as a finalist, IWF pays for shipment of the piece to and from the show and for hotel accommodations.
The competition’s five entry categories include seating, case goods, design creativity, accent furniture and tables and commercial/office/hospitality. Three pieces are selected in each category (first place, merit and honorable mention recipients). The judges focus on design, but also on the workmanship of the piece and whether it can be mass-produced.
This year’s Best in Show winner was Eugene DuClos of Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., for his “Wright Bench”. Featured in the seating category, the piece is named after the Wright Brothers because its seat and back are reminiscent of airplane wings.
Interviewed after the show, DuClos said his philosophy on design is constantly evolving, but still requires equal parts function and form.
“With the Wright Bench, I combined my take on contemporary and unique styling with my understanding of the needs of a modern society and I believe this is why the design has been so successful. I am excited to have a role in the world of design and aim to use my skills to contribute to the needs of our ever-changing society,” DuClos says.
“This competition gave me the ability to produce my bench along with tons of advice about doing so,” says Steven Sander, an honorable mention pick in the design creativity category and student at the Herron School of Design in Indianapolis. “I also received tons of compliments on my design so because of that I am going to try and start producing them.”
Kyle Emme from Kansas State University in Pittsburg, Kan., didn’t place but had high spirits about being a finalist in the accent furniture category.
“I had a blast at the show. It was an honor just to be a finalist and a fantastic experience. The competition was filled with high quality projects. In my opinion, the best part about the whole ordeal was meeting other designers and students. It was great to discuss design and craftsmanship with the other finalists. The competition was also a good introduction into the profession of furniture design and woodworking,” Emme says.
The first-place winners were:
• Seating: Josh Goldstein of Kansas State University for “Pivot Chair”.
• Case goods: James Ellis of Western Piedmont College for “Twisted Console”.
• Design creativity: Ini Archibong of Art Center College of Design for “Stargazer Lounge”.
• Accent furniture and tables: Brandon Skupski of Haywood Community College for “X-Flat Table”.
• Commercial/office/hospitality: Samantha Mallard of Haywood Community College for “Courting Chair."This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue.