Student Chair Design Competition Fosters Careers of Emerging
“We developed Wilsonart Challenges with ICFF specifically in mind,” notes
A Decade of Supporting Emerging Designers
Ten years ago, when Wilsonart worked with
Each year, Wilsonart works with Jeffers to select one university and/or design college to host the year-long program. The competition itself fosters inspiration, innovation and, unlike other student design programs, the hands-on opportunity to actually build their design. Building their chair immerses the students in the materials selection process and gives them a deeper understanding of the intricacies involved. In an age where popular 3D computer graphics and computer technology are pervasive, hands-on building provides both a heightened level of intimacy with the materials and a deeper satisfaction with the completed project.
Each student’s final design must be well-crafted and have a striking and strong silhouette. The students’ ultimate goal is to literally stop someone in their tracks as they walk through the ICFF show floor or flip through the pages of a magazine. While not intended for sale, over the past decade several of the winning chairs have been sold to private collectors.
Each year the class is co-taught by the school’s professors and Jeffers with lectures on the history and morphology of the chair. Additional content is contributed by guest lecturers and Wilsonart representatives. Schools that have hosted the program over the past decade include:
As industrial design has evolved and changed over the past decade, so has Wilsonart Challenges. In year one, students were only required to draw their designs while craftsmen handled construction. Jeffers, Wilsonart and the educators quickly realized that students who built their own design thought differently and ultimately had a different approach to both the form and to the laminate material.
Beginning year two, students constructed their chairs, using tools in their industrial design, engineering or other fine art departments. Other evolutions have included the introduction of an overarching theme for the year’s competition and, more recently, the students naming their creations. The addition of themes and a name for the chairs has helped the students articulate the problems they explored, the solutions they found and their journey from design to creation. What hasn’t changed over the past decade is that Wilsonart Challenges remains the only student design competition of its kind; intensive immersion culminating in the students hand-building their creations.
Empowering Students and Supporting Emerging Designers
At its heart, Wilsonart Challenges is an intensive exploration of solving problems through design. Students put their souls and creativity into their projects; the results are both cathartic and exuberant.
The students in the 2014 program at the
A number of alumni winners are today’s design influencers. As a
Participating schools limit the number of students taking the class to ensure that each student can fully explore the product development process. Wilsonart provides each participating school with a grant, an unlimited supply of laminate for experimentation, underwrites the lectures and provides technical staff to work one-on-one with students as they problem-solve building their design. The curriculum is refined each year, and Jeffers offers core components including the history of laminate, the history and anatomy of the chair and her proprietary “Man Made Natural” lecture, a CEU exploring natural versus man-made materials and what really constitutes “natural.”
Each year, Wilsonart flies several outstanding students and their chairs to the ICFF where their designs are showcased. This year students and their chairs will be at Wilsonart Booth #2248 and #2253 from
Wilsonart is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of High Pressure Laminates and other engineered surfaces used in furniture, office and retail space, countertops, worktops and other applications. The company operates under the Wilsonart, Resopal, Polyrey and Arborite brands and has achieved success through a combination of outstanding service, high-quality products and a focus on continuously redefining decorative surfaces through improved performance and aesthetics. For more information, visit www.Wilsonart.comor connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
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