Two design students from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)—Alice Huang and Eric Yates—are among the finalists in the 2012-13 PAVE the Way 3D Design Challenge, which offers students a chance to see their designs come to life, gain exposure at a major industry trade show and win cash awards.
Huang and Yates teamed up and were selected as finalists for their design of a functional headphone display and 3D rendering for Psyko Krypton, an over-the-ear surround sound gaming headset. In all, this year’s competition attracted 209 submissions from 12 countries, but only the top 12 projects were chosen to move on in the contest by the Planning and Visual Education Partnership (PAVE).
“I feel very honored by something quite unexpected,” said Huang, who expects to complete her bachelor’s degree in industrial design in spring 2014. “This recognition gives me a good sense of encouragement and reassurance for all the work, thought and dedication we put into this challenge.”
Her teammate agreed that the recognition was unexpected. “I was surprised because the competition is quite large, and there were a lot of really impressive projects entered into the competition,” said Yates, who expects to graduate with his B.A. in industrial design this year. “I was also impressed by the number of submissions.”
In addition to CSULB, the top 12 projects were from institutions as far away as the International School of Design in Maharashtra, India. Other campuses with finalists included Virginia Tec, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom, ENSAN in Rouen, France, and faculty members from Serbia and Montenegro.
Huang and Yates and the other finalist teams are in the process of having prototypes of their entries produced at full scale by Van Stry Design. These prototypes will displayed April 16-18 in Chicago at GlobalShop 2013. GlobalShop is the world’s largest annual trade show and conference dedicated to store design, visual merchandising and shopper marketing.
Sponsored by Van Stry Designs, the PAVE the Way 3D Challenge is in its fourth year. College students enrolled in accredited store design, interior design, visual merchandising and industrial design programs are invited to enter the contest. This year’s judges included Scott Carter, director of visual merchandising for Brookstone; Kristine Finizio, manager, store design, Saks Fifth Avenue; and Rachel Zsembery, senior associate, Bergmeyer Associates, Inc.
This year’s challenge was to design and create a 3D model or rendering of a store fixture that communicates an existing brand of headphone. The design was meant to invite customers to walk up to it, try on headphones and walk away informed by the interaction. The product’s footprint was limited to a maximum of 36-by-36-inches wide and 84 inches high. Entrants could choose from any headphone manufacturer currently on the market, including in-ear, noise-canceling, over-ear, wireless and gaming.
“What I like about this competition is that it is modeled after real-life design constraints and challenges,” said Wesley Woelfel, CSULB assistant professor of design whose Design 356 course—Advanced 3D Computer-Aided Design Course—was the campus home for the contest. “In my mind, these types of constraints help make the project fun. It is almost like a very interesting riddle but it is a design project.
“Alice and Eric incorporated many different design systems into their solution including production, aesthetics, logistics, functionality and markets,” added Woelfel, who applauded the students’ design strategy. “Everything just seemed to work well together, and most importantly, expressed their brand’s uniqueness. Finally, the deliverables were well executed into an integrated set of information.”
Yates believes his team’s choice of product helped. “The product that we chose was pretty wild and had some great features. Those features allowed us to create a unique display that would stand out in a competition,” he said. “We also designed our stand to be producible (meaning it could be built in the real world), and that extra attention to detail and uniqueness probably led the judges’ decisions.”
Huang felt one reason for their design’s success was how the team found its product’s essence. “We really tried to extract the essence and uniqueness of the headphone into our design,” she pointed out. “By understanding what image the company wanted to communicate through its product that helped us capture the message and translate it into our final design. So I think it was the success of the translation.”
She also thought that keeping with the style and image of the headphone within the display was more of a challenge than the functional part of the display. It was important, she said, for them to be able to justify their design decision every step of the way.
Woelfel said the working with Van Stry Designs and actually building what they have created contributes to their learning the craft and building their skills. The experience helps them assess their design in the real world.
“In the 2012-2013 PAVE the Way 3D Design Challenge, the top 12 finalists get to have their designs realized and built by professional fixture design and manufacturers. This is normally a very expensive process, costing thousands in materials and production time,” he added. “By running competitions such as these, our students have the opportunity to see their designs professionally produced, something that most students do not have the resources for.”
One of the most valuable aspects of the competition for Huang has been that real-world cooperation with the contest sponsor. “We’ve just started communicating with Van Stry and we look forward to working with them to build a fully functional model of our design,” she said. “We are very excited to be competing against design students across the globe and happy to be among one of the top 12 finalists.”
Yates expressed his thanks to the Design Department and Woelfel for his use of the design brief for the PAVE project as their second class assignment. “Wesley looked over our project several times and made suggestions, helped us sort out details and made sure that we finished the project,” he said. “He also encouraged us to submit our projects in the competition. I am really thankful for his help and I don't think that we would have finished the project if it were not for him.”
Woelfel feels Huang and Yates showcase what’s best about design at CSULB. “It is such a pleasure to have students such as Alice and Eric as they do represent what’s best about CSULB design majors,” he said. “Firstly, they are very dedicated to their craft and fun to work with. They are very inquisitive and also somewhat perfectionists. Great designers are lifelong learners. They become consumed in, and think about, design 24-7, and Eric and Alice have had amazing results.”
Competition winners will be announced at GlobalShop, and the awards will be presented at the Association for Retail Environments (A.R.E.) Design Awards on April 16 at Chicago’s Hard Rock Cafe. The first-place winner will received a cash prize of $5,000, second place $2,500, third place $1,500, and all honorable-mention designees will receive $500.
Founded in 1992, PAVE has grown into the retail design, planning, and visual merchandising industry’s premier educational foundation and a recognized advocate for design students. These students are the future of the industry—PAVE’s mission is to help them gain exposures and funds to further their educations, as well as their careers.