RIT students take Manhattan again with strong presence at Design Week

Industrial design program will be part of two exhibits in NYC

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Judging for Metaproject 04 was held in December inside RIT’s Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s industrial design program will have a significant footprint spanning two major venues at Design Week in New York City.

Twenty undergraduate industrial design students in RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences are exhibiting eight projects from Metaproject 04, an interdisciplinary and collaborative design project between RIT and Zeeland, Mich.-based Herman Miller—a leading American manufacturer of office furniture, equipment and home furnishings—which selected the projects.

RIT students will exhibit Metaproject 04 work as part of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), held in conjunction with Design Week, beginning Saturday. RIT will exhibit in booth 1276 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, 12 graduate-level students will be represented by five projects selected by Loll Designs—a designer and manufacturer of outdoor furniture made with recycled plastic—as part of a May 16-19 exhibit at WantedDesign, a popular creative destination for the international design community during Design Week. WantedDesign is located in the landmark Terminal Stores building on 11th Avenue. Josh Owen, associate professor and industrial design program chair, will also be showing two new professional projects alongside his students’ work at WantedDesign in booth 17.

Now in its fourth year, Metaproject was developed by Owen in 2010 as an industrial design course with an industry partnership placing student output into a global venue. Judging for Metaproject 04 was held in December inside RIT’s Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“This year students were tasked with addressing the challenges associated with interactions in the workplace such as face-to-face, digitally mediated or human-to-tools,” Owen said. “The projects consider how furnishings and space can empower and enable interactions that extend beyond a simple point of connection.”

According to Daniel Rucker, a design and technology strategist at Herman Miller, the company seeks out a college design program each year to collaborate with during Design Week, and “RIT submitted a compelling proposal in addition to already having an established ‘brand’ around Metaproject.”

“Every year we involve ourselves in the conversation around design on an academic level,” Rucker said. “It’s important that we continue to inspire young talent and educate them around the privilege and responsibility held as a product designer. It is not often that we encounter a project with a distinction similar to Metaproject. It felt like a fit.”

Rucker added that “all 20 RIT students showed immense growth in their thinking and went deep with the problems they chose to address.”

“This is an ideal outcome of the project, to see students work like professional designers, addressing problems of a professional caliber,” he said. “The end-resulting products act as commentaries on a much broader, deeper conversation around human-centered design and problem solving.”

At WantedDesign, Owen said, first-year graduate students developed products suitable for inclusion in Loll’s product catalog in consideration of the architectural context “entryway.”

“Students utilized Loll’s recycled plastic as a primary material to explore this condition,” Owen said. “This course introduced industrial design students to a working relationship with a client using a combination of seminar and workshop formats.”

Owen added that the output was framed by “the tenets of the Vignelli design philosophy, the teaching tools available from RIT’s Vignelli Archives, and molded by the brief set forth by Loll Designs” under his guidance.

Loll has chosen to exhibit the projects of RIT student designers Austin Fagot, Brendan Gordon, Lei Hong, Casey Kelly and Bridget Sheehan together with Owen’s professional projects. Other participants in the project are industrial design students Boyuan Ling, Qi Liu, Erica Nwankwo, Zimo Pan, Bijal Patwa, Abhishek Swaminathan and Henry Tao.

In addition, the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) hosted its annual Northeast District Design Conference at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City on May 15. Alex Bennett, RIT’s Student Merit Award Winner, presented on behalf of RIT’s industrial design program. Bennett also was the winner of Metaproject and his work is the focal point of RIT’s exhibit inside the Javits Center, Owen said.

ICFF is one of the most visible annual international design-related events in the United States, featuring more than 500 exhibitors displaying such things as contemporary furniture, lighting, outdoor furniture, kitchen and bath accessories for residential and commercial interiors.

RIT is among a select few universities and design schools showcased at the event, which also includes numerous lectures and presentations held onsite during the fair and hundreds of off-site events taking place at venues throughout New York City and Brooklyn.

Go to http://www.icff.com/exhibitor/rochester-institute-technology-rit for information on Metaproject 04 and RIT’s presence at Design Week.