Past Winner Testimonials

The entire experience was exceptionally cool for a college student. It was a rare opportunity to meet with other design students from different schools to discuss design and share ideas. It was my first trip to a trade show, a world that I only had a vague idea about. It was eye-opening. The sheer size and scope was amazing. I loved the combination of architecture and marketing. It left a big impression, and sparked my interest in what would become my profession as an exhibit designer.

Christopher Schwab, 1994
Designer, Czarnowski, Austell, GA

During my junior year at Arizona State University, I was one of the lucky winners in the Housewares Student Design Competition. I still remember getting that call from Vicki, how awesome it felt and how excited I was to have my design shown at the Show! It was thanks to the Show that I got my foot in the door with the Chicago design community and launched my career doing exactly what I love to do. The Show puts young students in the limelight and presents the excitement that a career in design can bring.

Sona Patadia-Rao, 1999
Lunar, Chicago

Attending the Housewares Show in 2003 was not only exciting, but also gave me a special glimpse into a profession and an industry. As a student designer, it was so encouraging to be recognized for a product concept that addressed accessibility issues for wheelchair users and so inspiring to meet professionals who valued universal design. The IHA endorsement of my project helped my portfolio stand out during the interview process and directly led to my first position as a full-time industrial designer.

Joni Saylor, 2003
Industrial Designer
IBM Hardware Experience Design

As a senior in design school, the project was invaluable for making sure that I was addressing research, problem solving, branding and design refinement at all levels of the process in order to be successful in the competition. The validation and encouragement of winning helped me land my first professional design job at Lunar Design in San Francisco, which has served as a foundation for me as a problem solver, design instructor, industrial designer and visual thinker.

Rob Swinton, 2007
Lead Industrial Designer
HUGE DESIGN, San Francisco

Success in the IHA Student Design Competition did everything from leading me to my first internship, to teaching me I didn’t have the right professional attire, to giving me confidence and resolve to keep working my tail off in industrial design. The time at the Show also gave me the opportunity to learn so much about my project through candid feedback from a range of people a design researcher could only dream about.

Nora Flood, 2009
Structural Packaging Designer
Studio One Eleven, Chicago

Participating in the IHA competition as a student and then a few years later as a judge cemented for me that this is a fantastic competition for students to enter. Winners present their work at one of the nation's largest trade shows to thousands of people who want to see their designs—I know firsthand that this can jump-start a career. What students do not see are the judges sitting at a table presenting and debating entry booklets as if they were their own projects. Every booklet is reviewed by the jury and critiqued so that each entrant gets valuable feedback, regardless of their placement in the competition. The strong organization behind the IHA competition focuses on truly benefiting the students who enter. The IHA competition was a milestone in my college career and I could not recommend it more.

Trevis Kurz, 2010
Beyond Design, Chicago

The IHA win helped me hone my ability to give a great "elevator pitch", a valuable life skill that's still paying off. Before the Show, I was pretty anxious about the whole event--but it was such a wonderful feeling when that fear started being replaced by confidence in my words and project.

Alex Broerman, 2012
Designer, Continuum, Boston

"I was honored to be selected for the 18th IHA student design award. Being a recipient of the award was an unparalleled experience for me. I had a great opportunity to present my work in front of thousands of audiences. I got my first design internship by making connections with design professionals during the show. My winning project was also recognized by Core 77 and CBS news. It really opened the door to the design professional world. I highly recommend students to take part, not only for their self-esteem but for the opportunities it offers."

Kevin Wu
2011 Third Place
University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign

"Winning the IHA Design Competition gave me a huge boost not only in self-confidence but it helped open up the doors to a design internship that eventually lead to a permanent design position at GK Design International. GKDI is the design house for Yamaha Motor Corporation. I eventually lead a team in their Snow mobile and Motorcycle division. Currently I manage a design staff of over 30 in one of the largest privately owned Home Décor manufacturers in Los Angeles.

IHA was instrumental in learning the patent process and allowed me to license my IHA winning design a couple years after the show. Unfortunately it never made it to market, but advance royalties decreased the disappointment of never hitting the shelves. I have since used these skills in patenting other products during my career.

IHA was such a great and fun experience. It was my first time to Chicago and I have been back several times, both for work and personal events."

Christopher Kimbro
2001 First Place
California State University—Northridge

"Seeing the Housewares Show for the first time was overwhelming! This Show is expansive and brings in companies from all over the world. It was a great experience, talking to many people from different markets and trades. Discussing my project from different angles gave me a lot of confidence and exposure. After graduating from Cleveland Institute of Art, for the past 6 years, I’ve been working on major innovation programs at Nottingham Spirk, including Fortune 500 companies, in markets such as beauty care, baby care, food and beverage packaging, to name a few. My experiences at this Show contributed to my abilities when presenting to clients, expressing my ideas when working with a team, and working effectively with suppliers."

Rachel Nottingham Colosimo
2006 Third Place
Cleveland Institute of Art

"Winning the IHA award helped open doors indirectly. At the end of it, I knew I had experience most other students did not have. I had a glimpse of the real design world. The experience solidified my choice to be a designer."

Michelle Cheung,
2006 Third Place
San Jose State University
Now a designer at Mercedes-Benz Research and Development

"Attending the Housewares Show in 2003 gave me real insight into professional industry. As a student designer, it was so encouraging to be recognized for a product concept that addressed accessibility issues for wheelchair users. While still in school, I applied for my first and only ID position with nothing but my housewares design project--it worked, I'm still here! "

Joni Saylor
2003 Second Place
IBM Industrial Design
Arizona State University

"The Housewares Show was the icing on the cake, regarding my college career. It gave me the opportunity to display the talents and perspectives I'd gained over 5 years of class work and internships to perspective employers, clients and peers. Ultimately, my participation at IHA directly led to my first full-time position at one of the world's top design firms (IDEO). The Show is a great barometer for young design talent. I would encourage any student looking for exposure and experience to enter a concept and visit the Show."

Geoffrey Baldwin
2006 Second Place
University of Cincinnati

"Congratulations on 18 years and going strong!  I have to say that in many ways winning the first prize at the NHMA Student design competition was a great start in my career.  At the moment the newness and excitement of being at the Show was a great reward for the effort I put into this competition but what I did not know then was the long term impact on my career. I met people whom I am still friends with and have cultivated relationships with people that today are clients.  In many ways Ii opened doors to an exciting future doing what I love:  design."

Manuel Saez
2000 First Place
Manuel Saez, Ltd.
University of Bridgeport

"As a student, winning the competition was so important because it gave me exposure to thousands of industry professionals at the Housewares Show, and many more in the publications I was featured in.  I was able to get feedback on my design and some job and internship leads.  Many people were interested in manufacturing my product.

Now that my product has been commercialized, I am collecting royalty checks every quarter.  That extra income really helps now that I am in graduate school and on a fixed income.

It has all come full-circle, now that I instruct students and judge the competition.  I feel that I have a unique perspective on the entire process.  I believe that the key to winning is being able to prove that your concept is based on a real problem and that your solution is unique and well thought-out. 

The International Housewares Association Student Design Competition is the most important competition that students participate in during their undergraduate studies.  It can launch careers."

Michael Elwell
2005 Third Place winner
University of Notre Dame Instructor

"It was an honor and exciting to receive the award. To be honest I was not enthusiastic to work on a housewares project at the time (I had a bit of a cynical and idealistic streak for a while in college) but I did take the design task seriously. Winning the award changed my attitude. It was an honor to be recognized by my peers, industry professionals and the faculty at the college( I was invited to speak to foundation level design students about the ID program) I also grew into a bit of a leadership role as well. I organized a trip to a regional IDSA conference in Chicago as well as a gallery show at KU featuring work by the ID department. The award and my project, in large part enabled me to get hired by Ziba Design, one of the preeminent design firms on the west coast.  As an educator I continue to draw on that experience and exposure and encourage my students to pursue design competitions as a means of building a portfolio."

Patrick Myers
1997 First Place
Industrial Design Shop Supervisor Adjunct Faculty, The Art Institute of Portland
University of Kansas