The winner of the third Index Student Challenge, in association with Interior Services Group (ISG) and design organisation Tasmena, is Manipal University.
The young adults won the competition after creating a chair out of polyurethane foam bottle liners and backer rod, in line with the theme of the challenge ‘reuse’. The eight team members who won the title were Franzita Fernandes, Tooba Sarfaraz, Sakina Juzer, Tasneen Mustafa, Insia Shabbir, Jamila Hassanali, Ummu Habeeba and Shazia Fazllulah, who were led by faculty member Bhakti More.
Their prize is to redesign the Sound Chair by Italian furniture company, Natuzzi, which will sell the finished product with all profits going to a local charity.
The runner-ups of the competition were American University of Sharjah (AUS) for building a light fixture using CDs (second place) and Zayed University (Dubai campus) for creating a light fixture using EPS containers (third place).
“The Index Student Challenge is the only competition of its kind in the region for design students,” said Yunsun Chung-Shin, Tasmena. “Through the theme of reuse, these students have been given a platform to introduce environmentally friendly and sustainable designs into our industry.
“With the creativity and dedication we have witnessed through these students, the future of the design industry here in the region is very bright.”
Competitors were asked to design items using local waste material from the region, including plastic, paper or wood.
In keeping with the environmental theme of the competition, ISG will make sure the Student Challenge exhibition stand is recycled and reused after the show, which finished at the end of last month.
“We are trying to use the materials that were used at the stand to tie in with other projects,” said Stephen Taylor, head of retail, ISG.
“We’re thinking of using the material at our staff canteen and joinery workshop. The exhibition stand was in use for the duration of the four day tradeshow at Dubai World Trade Centre so it would be a crime to let it go to waste and throw it in the bin.”
The young interior designers created projects to fit one of six product specific shows at this year’s exhibition: InRetail, Textiles, Lighting, Furnishing, Outdoor Living or Kitchen & Bathroom.
Finalists were then asked to execute their designs at Index. Along with creating a prototype, students had to create an instruction manual and challenged students from other universities to replicate the design.
The challenge also consisted of a costing phase, in which teams were asked to prepare a budget for their prototypes. To develop the students’ communication skills, they had to present their concepts and designs to Index exhibitors for endorsement. As part of the final stage, teams prepared a 15 minute presentation, taking judges through each step of the process.
“The Index Student Challenge is an exciting opportunity that links academia and industry,” said Kristina Keutgen, Tasmena.
“It is an invaluable experience as it exposes the students to the actual design process, with an emphasis on teamwork, leadership, working to budgets and deadlines. The industry benefits by gaining new talent that comes up with a fresh approach, an understanding of the industry and what’s expected of them as professionals.” Keutgen added Tasmena partnered with ISG in 2009 for the same event and has continnued to show its support to the organisation ever since.
“We advocate community activity and action through design and see the competition as an opportunity to engage students of local post-secondary academic institutions in socially conscious design,” she said.
“What’s more, Tasmena aims to support the professional development of these budding designers by developing a collaborative competition with an emphasis on teamwork, providing an opportunity to network and an introduction to the working experience.”
She said reuse was chosen as the theme for the 2011 contest to encourage consideration of sustainability in design. “Sustainability is, without question, a pressing global social concern,” she added.
“Exposing students to industry and world-working experiences early on in their careers contributes to their learning perspective and prospects,” said Keutgen. She said it’s challenging in an academic setting to create a learning environment simulating industry, although institutions aim to achieve industry integration.
“Exposure to the actual design process involving clients, budgets, teamwork and timelines in a dynamic and supportive environment like the Index Student Challenge, proves an invaluable experience for students.”
The industry benefits by recruiting fresh graduates with a better understanding of what’s expected of them as professionals.
Among the universities participating in the competition, Manipal University, Dubai promoted the interaction of its students with the design industry.
“This is a platform where the participants get an opportunity to interact with the professional world. The competition has made the show an active event, with the theme of sustainability, which is important in the global scenario for students who are the designers of the future,” said Bhakti More, senior lecturer, department of interior design, Manipal University. She added that by entering the competition and actively participating in the design process the results will reflect well on the students’ academic ability.
As part of the preparation prcoess before the event, the teams visited various recycling plants in the UAE for research.
“The interesting phase is exploring the materials to fit into the exhibitor grouping. Students worked extremely hard to identify materials which could finally be turned into an innovative product. Everyone was actively involved from day one and the feedback we got and the sense of enthusiam for the project was overwheling,” added More.
Fernandes, a third year student, Bachelor of Arts in interior design, said to prepare for the theme ‘reuse’, she tried to understand the process behind recycling.
“I did a lot of reading on the science behind this process after we visited a recycling plant recently, so this theme definitely got me thinking,” she added.
Kay Ann Sousa, another third year student, from another team at Manipal University, said the theme was appropriate for the current climate, as it made them think about the challenges of waste reduction and how to environmentally support a productive economy.
Fernandes has been to Index before and said she enjoyed seeing quirky designs on display. “This time round, I wanted to see a quirky revival of classic styles with a contemporary twist, and new technology to blow my mind away,” she said. “Last time I came across the Quantum glass by Saint-Gobain; I have never seen anything like that before.”
Oonagh McDonnell, lecturer, Al Ain Women’s College, said the university had participated in the Index Challenge last year.
“Lots of students participated and Tasmena was impressed with what they produced,” she said.
“The competition is great for our students. They are Emirati and, as a result, do not get a great deal of opportunities to integrate with other young people. With this, they fly in terms of their imagination and confidence,” she added.
Taking a different approach to the challenge, their diploma was tailored to the competition’s theme. The whole curriculum is involved with a recycling and design project and looks at the impact of materials on the environment.
Sharifa Al Hussaini, a second-year student, said there is a lot of research involved in the preparation and groups were formed to increase brainstorming.
“I visited Index last year. It’s a great place to visit to see different companies and get inspired by what they do. I definitely want to see more designers next year and get inspired,” she added.
Another second-year student, Muna Al Luqubaisi, said it was great to be able to select old materials, put them together and create something completely new.