This article was originally published in the July 5, 2011 issue of AATCC News.
Competition Winners Share Tips for Success
By Diana A.Wyman
This spring, AATCC awarded more than US$5,000 as part of its Concept 2 Consumer® Design and Materials Research Poster competitions. Click on any of the photos to view the complete winning entry.
Participants in the design competition focused their creativity on the growing market for reusable shopping bags. Besides presenting attractive designs, entrants had to explain how their bag fit the “Eco Chic” theme. Winners received up to US$1,000 in cash, a copy of the brand new Pantone Cotton Planner, and one of their bag designs printed and constructed by the Textile Technology Clothing Center ([TC]2).
Entrants in the materials competition chose from three subject categories, presenting their research ideas as a poster. Two winners in each category received up to US$1,000 each. Posters were judged on concept originality, research quality, clarity, and results/discussions/conclusions.
New competitions will be launching this fall. For the inside scoop on what it takes to win, read what this year’s winners had to say about their experiences.
Real World Experience
Abigail Scheer successfully met some of the same challenges that professional designers face—understanding the customer and working within specified design boundaries. “I learned a lot about thinking in terms of end use, as well as really understanding the needs of a consumer. The most difficult part was sticking to the chosen color scheme for original drawings, as well as creatively pushing the environmental theme while trying to [appeal to] a wide audience.”
Ellen Johnson also had to focus her ideas toward consumer needs. She took her inspiration from Dr. Seuss’ book The Lorax, but toned down the colors to make her bag designs attractive to adults as well as children. She adds that her target customer’s everyday color palette is very muted. “They want a bag that won’t clash with their style.”
Jessica Salazar learned some of the same lessons in the course of the research poster competition. “I believe I learned how to express myself to a potential consumer or someone who is new to the product. If the producer does not know how to get his or her idea across to a customer, it will not work.”
Another aspect of real-world assignments is teamwork. Michael David Sieber and Narendiran Vitchuli benefited from the experience of working on the research poster as a group. Vitchuli says, “It was a team effort during every part of research discussion, experimental work, and testing.” Sieber explains, “Each of the group members performed different aspects of the research, though we all collaborated on a daily basis.” He encourages others that group collaboration may be beneficial for this challenge/competition, but it is "even more...beneficial and critical...with any challenge presented to us in life.”
Qiuran Jiang and Wei Li agree that the competition taught them a lot about teamwork.
Doniece Bolds was also part of a winning team. “As a team, we divided the tasks based on group strengths and interests. No one person worked on the project any more than the other.”
Talent and Technology
Scheer successfully combined her own talent and creativity with high tech design tools for a winning result. She explains that she used Photoshop CS5 and NedGraphics software extensively. "I learned a lot about the two software programs and how to integrate them into my design process,” she says. Despite the advantages and efficiency of technology, Scheer warns students, “Never lose your hand to the computer.”
Christina Assuncao also blended old fashioned artistry with modern technology. “I went outside...photographing trees, flowers, and just about everything in nature. I then came home and sketched from these images, giving them a more modern feel. I scanned these sketches into the computer, and using Photoshop and Illustrator, completed designs I thought really captured nature's focus.”
A Perfect Fit
Helan Xu struggled to communicate complex ideas in a single poster. She says, “I reorganized the different sections and selected the most important figures to describe the whole work in a simple way.”
She believes it was a good learning experience. “I used to concentrate on how to do the research itself but not on how to present my research to the public. After participating in this competition, I learned a lot on how to present my research in a simple and friendly way.”
Yue Zhang agrees that “the most difficult part is how to select our materials and put them into limited space on the poster…I learned from this competition how to organize research work in a direct and simple way.“
Li says, “To describe all the details in one poster was impossible. The difficult thing for us was to select the most important results and figures to show what had been done during the research program.”
Ryan Toivola acknowledges the challenge, but says, “It is possible to put a large amount of information on a poster, but it should be interesting information and visually striking for the poster to be effective.”
Johnson also had to narrow her focus in the design competition. “I had tons of original motifs and of course I wanted to use all of them but I really had to sit back and ask myself what were my strongest ideas.” She offers other students the benefit of her experience: “even if you like something a lot it may not be the best thing for this project. You can always save it and use it for something else in the future.”
Salazar says the most difficult part was not fitting content into the poster, but fitting the poster into her busy life.
For Toivola, the most difficult part had nothing to do with the poster at all. His biggest challenge was obtaining permission to release the research results. He advises other students to consider this early in the process. “Learn who has to approve your submission (advisor, industry and research partners) and get in contact with them as soon as possible.”
Xu found the competition website useful, not only for reviewing the guidelines, but to see past winners’ work. Her advice to future competitors: “Great passion and proper preparedness matter most!”
Jiang’s advice is to start with a solid foundation. “Good research work is the base of a good poster.” Li agrees that careful research is important, but adds “Research itself is not the most difficult thing.” Instead, the challenge lies in learning “to concentrate ideas and make others understand your way of thinking.”
Alicia Hinz stepped outside her comfort zone for the design competition. “As a designer, I tend focus on creating garments with unique silhouettes, shapes, and details. I am naturally drawn to solid colors and color blocking. This competition was an interesting challenge for me because it forced me to turn my attention directly on prints. It really made me see textile prints in a new light.”
Exploring new ideas is an important theme among the winners. Bolds suggests that students “Look at problems that are generally overlooked in society.”