Student Work to be Displayed in Two Exhibits at the Prestigious International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York

Philadelphia University industrial design students will exhibit their work in collaboration with two project partners at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York City from May 14 to 17.

“To be invited to present at this prestigious venue is always thrilling,” said Götz Unger, program director of industrial design. “But to be invited to show sophomore and senior work in two locations in the same show is really remarkable. It speaks to the consistent high quality of our students’ work across the years.”

The ICFF is billed as the “premier showcase for contemporary design,” drawing 24,000 designers, architects and other industry professionals annually for a four-day fair in New York City. More than 500 exhibits will be set up over 145,000 feet of display space.

The industrial design program will showcase its work with “mbrela,” a “design and build” collaboration with San Jose State University and Lincoln University in England, and it will show the “Plyboo + PhilaU” project, sponsored by Smith & Fong, Eco Supply and Fessenden Hall.

The mbrela alliance was developed to teach students the methods and the meaning of design development in the global environment. Separated by eight time zones, students from all three universities were simultaneously issued a brief to design products that discuss the theme “PLAY” in October 2010. Students in the three programs began to exchange ideas and many formed teams to develop designs together. Their collaboration played out, partly in the traditional ‘brick and mortar’ style, when the three cohorts met — first in Philadelphia and then in San Jose — but mostly through Facebook, e-mail and other virtual methods. 

Eventually the products and their components were fabricated according to the students’ specifications in various locations to be shipped to Milan, Italy. The prototypes were assembled there for display at the SaloneSattelite in April, one of Europe’s most prestigious display venues. Designs included a floor lamp that you hug to turn on and a children’s rug that expands into a play tent, among others.

Other design programs on campus were part of the project: textile design students displayed light bulb socks that mute light coming from CFL light bulbs — an option that was not available with incandescent lighting technology — and graphic design students in the Philadelphia University Design Workshop course developed a logo and branding platform for the ‘mbrela’ alliance.

Experiencing the typical problems and opportunities associated with designing, developing and prototyping product designs in different locations around the world is invaluable to students as it simulates the issues they will encounter in their careers. PhilaU was grateful to Jamie Siminoff, as well as other supporters of the project, who helped fund the fabrication of the prototypes. Without their support, the project would not have been possible.

Mbrela products are being catalogued under www.mbrela.com and are “for sale” to potential manufacturers.

In addition to the mbrela exhibit, the work of PhilaU industrial design sophomores will also be displayed at the ICFF as part of the “Plyboo + PhilaU” exhibit.

Plyboo, manufactured by Smith & Fong Co., is a type of sustainable bamboo plywood used primarily in flooring. Smith & Fong challenged Philadelphia University professors Lyn Godley and Mark Havens’ 25 sophomore industrial design students to design artifacts that capture the specific qualities of Plyboo. The corporation was so impressed with the quality of the designs that, on short notice, it dedicated space at its ICFF exhibit to display the student work.

The representatives from Fessenden Hall and Eco Supply visited the studio various times to review and evaluate the students’ progress; with each review the students were able to reassess their direction, their process and their expected outcome. The variety of designs, from seating and lighting, to wall covering and interactive environments allowed for a wide range of production methods, both done in house and subcontracted out.

The educational benefit of working with companies that sponsor materials, feedback and opportunity is critical for an industrial design students’ progress.  It is the blend of classroom theory and real-life application that educate students who are able to thrive in the design world.

“This is a tremendous honor for our program,” said Lyn Godley, associate professor of industrial design.  “Our sponsor was thrilled with the quality of our students’ work, and we are excited to be able to reveal their creative process on an international stage.”

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