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WSU Interior Design Students Win Top Honors in National Competitions

Drawing on a cornucopia of talent and inspiration, WSU students won the top three honors in a recent national competition. Challenged by the Retail Design Institute to design a grocery store that would compete with businesses like Whole Foods Markets, Chung Yung (Simon) Ho, Gwen McConn, and Natasha Palewicz won first, second, and third place honors while Meagan Phillips received one of the two honorable mentions.

Another WSU Interior Design student, Cassidy Lange, placed second in the International Interior Design Association Sustainable Design Competition.

Chung Yung (Simon) Ho
Chung Yung (Simon) Ho

Ho received a $4,000 prize in the RDI competition, while McConn won $2,000, Palewicz $1,000 and the Interior Design Department at WSU received $1,000 for being the alma mater of the first place recipient.

Gwen McConn
Gwen McConn

Judy Theodorson, WSU assistant professor at WSU Spokane’s Interdisciplinary Design Institute and director of the Integrated Design Lab, used RDI’s competition as a final project for capstone interior design studio class.

Theodorson’s class of 18 students, including five graduate students, spent three weeks researching on the food system, grocery store design trends, and retail behavior. Her students read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma as part of their research. Pollan’s book is WSU’s 2009 Common Reading book for all incoming freshman.

“We studied the growing of food, its quality and how it’s transported,” Theodorson said.

Students discussed issues and topics surrounding food in order to grasp the background of the grocery store industry.

From there, students came up with their individual design proposals. After Theodorson gave students critiques of their proposals, they began developing designing building interiors and facades.

A page from Ho's winning design proposal.
A page from Ho's winning design proposal.

“We were able to utilize local experts to help us get further in the project,” Theodorson said.

All 18 students in Theodorson’s class entered the competition. There were a total of 72 entries from across the nation.

This was the fourth year Theodorson’s class entered the Retail Design Institute’s competition. Every year someone has placed, she said, but this year the most students placed with WSU Interior Design students taking all three of the of the cash awards, as well as one of the two honorable mention slots.

“The class was uniformly strong,” Theodorson said. “It was a great class.”

Cassidy Lange was another one of Theodorson’s students from this design class. After Lange submitted her grocery store design to RDI’s competition she tweaked her design and submitted it to the International Interior Design Association Sustainable Design Competition, bring home a second-place win.

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Media Contacts

Judy Theodorson, Assistant Professor, 509-358-7901