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Design Dominance: UC Students Win Six Awards (and Prize Money) in Prestigious International Competition

For the second year in a row, students in UC’s top-ranked interior design program beat out every other school in the number of prizes won (and in prize money awarded) in a prestigious international retail design contest.

Date: 1/10/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by students

UC ingot   Students in the University of Cincinnati’s top-ranked interior design program recently brought home more prizes – and more prize money – than any other school in a prestigious international retail design competition.

 That contest is sponsored by The Planning and Visual Education Partnership (PAVE) and B+N Industries, Inc., an innovative designer and manufacturer of products and systems for the retail, architectural, and consumer industries.

Students from UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) won three of six top awards and three honorable mentions in the 2012 contest which asked students from around the globe to take an online men’s apparel brand, Bonobos, and reinterpret it into a brick-and-mortar pop-up store in one of the most-fashionable districts in Manhattan.

In the competition, which was judged by professional designers, retailers and industry journalists, no other school won more than a single prize in the annual contest which awards $21,000 worth of grants to student winners.
Rendering by Katie Barton
Rendering from Katie Barton's winning entry.

The UC student winners were

Store Design Category
  • First Place: UC’s Katie Barton
  • Second Place: UC’s Danielle Fraley
  • Honorable Mention: UC’s Lauren Burns 
  • Honorable Mention: UC’s Holly Smith 
  • Honorable Mention: UC’s Katie Wittes
Visual Merchandising Category
  • First Place: UC’s Lucie Calise
These students created their winning designs in a fall 2012 retail design studio course led by Ann Black, associate professor in UC’s School of Architecture and Interior Design (SAID), and Brian Davies, SAID associate professor.

UC’s Barton, 24, of Modesto, Calif., won a $5,000 prize for her winning entry, a design and layout that built on “a comic-strip theme that honors Bonobos’ hero customers,” she stated, adding that it was a challenge to balance the wittiness of Bonobos’ brand with its recognized professionalism in customer service and brand quality. “In my design, it was a challenge to balance two and finding the line between a well-done concept and one that was ‘too done’ or cheesy if you will. It was important to find that balance and reflect via the physical design their brand and what they believe in,” she said.
Rendering by Katie Barton
Rendering from Katie Barton's winning entry.

Barton explained that her concept built on the existing band of brothers discounts offered by the online retailer, which offer savings to men doing good in their communities. In addition, she created a concept for a “Comic Coupon Set,” to be given to customers after a purchase in the pop-up store. These coupons could be used online and could help build brand loyalty and future online purchases.

In terms of store layout, Barton suggested a sequential physical space that followed a linear journey where a customer would first come to the placement of undergarments, then to pants, shirts, shoes and then accessories.

“You could envision the store as comic strip frames, with the hero journeying through the store. It was a concept that fit with all aspects of the Bonobos experience. It reflected the company, appealed to clientele and translated well into the built environment. And, it fit with their current brand,” she added.

UC’s Fraley, 21, of Cleveland, Ohio, won a $2,500 prize for her design, which made use of both the physical form of monkey bars (sometimes called jungle gyms) as well as the word play possible that term.

Upon entering the space she envisioned, a client would see just such a set of monkey bars with pants (on mannequin legs) draped in a variety of positions on the bars. Just beneath the jungle-gym monkey bars is a beverage bar called the Monkey Bar.
Rendering by Danielle Fraley
Rendering from Danielle Fraley's winning entry.

Stated Fraley, “Every seat at the bar would have an iPad where clients could sit, relax, talk and decide and order as to what style and size pants they’d like to try on.”

Those slacks would be obtained on the spot from a 14-foot high pants wall and taken to a fitting room by store employees. The customer would try them on, and if making a purchase, could even have the selected apparel shipped to a home address at a specific time.

“So, the customers wouldn’t even have to carry the pants purchases out of the store. And, via the iPads, the clients could select other apparel – shirts, shoes and other items – that might accompany the pants purchase,” said Fraley, adding that strength of her entry was to be found in its simplicity. “This project, plus my co-op quarters, has brought home to me that simplicity is the key to a significant and successful design.”
Rendering by Danielle Fraley
Rendering from Danielle Fraley's winning entry.

As part of their winning concepts, all six UC students attended a gala awards banquet on Wall Street, and both Fraley and Barton said that the event, and the contacts they made there, were the highlights of the competition.

According to Fraley, “The event brought together the retail design world under one roof. It was a great opportunity to discuss design in detail with leaders in the field. And, of course, it was great to share that experience with five good friends from class.”

Both also appreciated the confidence provided them from their winning efforts. Barton explained, “I think we all very much love what we do, but it’s natural to wonder if you’re on the right track sometimes. You need confirmation for what you do. After this contest, I’d say that the bottom line is that we not only love what we do, but we’re good at it.”
  • Apply to UC’s undergraduate interior design program.