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Designers to Watch

May 4, 2016

We here at i+s have had the honor of meeting so many wonderful and talented designers over the years, and now we’d like to return the favor. Every month we will be introducing design students recognized by their institution for going above and beyond. Today they’re stunning their professors in the classrooms; tomorrow they’ll be stunning the world.

For this month’s Art Nexus issue, we sought a group of special, young designers to feature as our Designers to Watch candidates—and we certainly found what we were looking for! The students profiled below were not only inspired by artwork found in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, but also turned their creativity into award-winning pieces of furniture.

As part of this year’s Cooper Hewitt Student Design Challenge, #ThinkOutside challenged high school students across the U.S. in 9th through 12th grades ages 13 to 19 years old to design an outdoor chair inspired by Cooper Hewitt’s world-renowned collection of design artifacts. The competition guidelines dictated that the entries should be functional, comfortable, and unexpected—and the esteemed panel of experts certainly had their work cut out for them.

The winner, Claire Christianson, as well as the four finalists turned in inspiring creations that belie their age and experience. “All the finalists’ designs were outstanding—the five students are all winners,” said Cooper Hewitt Director Caroline Baumann.

“Claire’s design reflects such a thoughtful parallel to the object of inspiration from the museum’s collection, and she articulated her detailed design process very clearly. The chair will be an exciting addition to the contemporary and minimalist aesthetic of the renewed Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden. Bravo, Claire!”

Cooper Hewitt will feature the designs of the five finalists and four regional honorable mentions in a special online exhibition celebrating the creativity of promising young designers. Target will produce a limited edition of seven of the winning chair design. The winning design will also be manufactured by Target for exclusive use in Cooper Hewitt’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden.

For more information on the competition and winning entries, visit www.cooperhewitt.org/education/student-design-challenge-2/.


Minnesota, age 16
Inspiration Object: Art Nouveau Vase
“I was inspired by the media of the art nouveau vase. My chair’s
form was taken from the tons of little ribbons of clay trimmings that the potter cut off in pursuit of his masterpiece.”


Illinois, age 16
Inspiration Object: USALite Swivel-Head Flashlight
“I chose the flashlight because when I saw it, my idea for a chair
was immediate. On other images I had so many sketches, all varying dramatically. On the flashlight, my sketches remained almost exactly the same. To me, this was the deciding factor.”


New Jersey, age 16
Inspiration Object: Man’s Hat (ashetu) from Cameroon
“Modern flair on cultural chair describes the style of the chair. The authenticity of the Ashetu inspires me. The triangular portion of the
hat represents the chair body, and the tassels on the hat influence
the appearance of the chair’s leg.”


New York, age 16
Inspiration Object: Poster by Mark Gowing
“I was inspired by the letters in this poster, specifically the e in ‘jones’. The angle of the letters was very interesting to me, so a major aspect of my chair is the angle of the frame. I also tried to imitate the bright, contrasting colors.”


Florida, age 18
Inspiration Object: PH Artichoke Hanging Lamp
"PH’s Artichoke lamp has ‘leaves’ that peel back away from the light. Likewise, my chair’s shape possesses a layering effect. It flows smoothly as its leaves unfold from a standard seating position. The middle piece rotates 90° for an optional desk.”

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