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IDSA Student Merit Award Winner

Submitted on June 22, 2019 - 1:58pm
Grace Budgett

Grace Budgett, who just completed her Bachelor of Design degree, was selected in May by the Industrial Designers Society of America as the 2019 West District Student Merit Award Winner. She will attend and be recognized at the International Design Conference that takes place in Chicago during August. Below is what Budgett has written about her experiences as a student.


Early 2018, in the depths of winter, I sat thinking hard about the path I had chosen as an industrial designer. In class, I was facing real critique for the first time, and outside of class I was in the midst of my first professional pursuits. Right around that time — with projects mounting up and the reality of my future setting in — was when my professors in the University of Washington industrial design program gave me the knowledge that has continued to drive my passion for design. This industrial design program is well known for a few things, the most notable for me being the emphasis on forward-thinking design and deep research around problems. Essentially, we are encouraged in the program to consider the true stakes of our designs and to find solutions with inherent value that solve real-world problems. What drove me during my remaining time as a student in the program was this understanding that industrial design can have immense, positive impact on the world if we use healthy practices and get as close to true empathy as possible.

I’m utterly joyful and honored to have been recognized nationally for my work in the IDSA Student Merit Award competition, and, without the UW industrial design program, this competition wouldn’t have even been on my radar. When I first started out in the program three years ago, I began learning the importance of telling excellent stories and designing around poignant issues with the help of my professors. My best guess is that those skills proved decisive in the results of this competition. My professors, who have been there for me and my classmates from the moment we stepped into the studio, have been great teachers in the classroom and our biggest cheerleaders for our endeavors outside of school. In the past three years, there have been a whole slew of experiences that I would count as some of the most powerful in my education and career. In 2018 and 2019, I was lucky enough to complete a brief internship at Ceramiche Rometti — a ceramic company in Italy — as a result of being a finalist in a competition coordinated by Rometti and the School of Art + Art History + Design; I experienced the total surprise and thrill of having one of my designs honored in the Gray Magazine Design Awards alongside my teammates Perry Burke and Andie Niebling; and I was immersed into studio classes where we were able to work closely with Tactile (a high-touch consulting design firm) and Hightower (a high-end workplace furniture company). While I’ve had beneficial experiences that helped me garner new skills and honored the work that I’ve put in, I’d now say after reflecting on the last three years that the most incredible part of being in the industrial design program is the tight-knit community and personal relationships I was able to have with my classmates and professors. The kind of support and investment that comes with having such a small program of nineteen students and three professors is unlike any other.

Over the past few years, I’ve focused on designing for unique user groups with needs that are often unaddressed. At the International Design Conference (IDC) in Chicago later this summer, I’ll be speaking about three different team projects: a holistic design system to ease the burdens of traveling for type 1 diabetics; a product designed to help women in water-scarce areas carry water over rough terrain; and my capstone project completed this June, a universal fall harness design inspired by the lack of design for the bodies and needs female construction workers. During this summer, while I develop my presentation for the IDC in August, I will be working as an industrial design intern at Tactile and working under one of my professors on a federally funded medical product. As I look back on the last few years, I am acutely aware that I won’t have another experience like the one I’ve had in the industrial design program. In the years to come, I’ll keep calling up my professors and friends just to bug them and reminisce and hope to help create more communities like the one I’ve had.

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