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Industrial Design Program Impresses in International Housewares Association Design Competition

Posted March 21, 2014 in FacultyAlumni

In a crop of 191 student entries, recent Industrial Design graduate Joseph Parr (’13) and current ID sophomore Justin Burton rose to the top in the International Housewares Association (IHA) 21st annual Student Design Competition.

Joseph Parr (left) and Justin Burton (right)

According to Vicki Matranga, IHA’s Design Programs Coordinator, “Industrial designers are now being trained to become empathetic observers who see and then solve problems people have with daily tasks.”

Burton’s design, the minimalistic, space-saving PEEL Dish Rack, earned him $250 and a place among the competition’s five honorable mentions.

Justin Burton's PEEL Dish Rack design, named an Honorable Mention

Parr, who was inspired by the difficulties his grandmother faced in finding a walker that worked for her, won third place and $1,000 with an innovative reimagining of the walker, Pathos Home Healthcare Mobility Assistance. Unlike traditional designs, Pathos caters to disabled individuals’ diverse and specific needs. It supports the user from the back and sides rather than the front, improving balance, posture, and ease of navigation, while a slim seat and fully adjustable height settings and other controls enable a personalized fit.

“When I first approached this project, I looked for a need,” said Parr. “Doing a range of market research is important, but the richest information came from speaking with people directly, observing their environment, and looking for the successes of what works along with where the problems occur. Once an understanding of what you are solving for is gained, the iterative process can begin.”

Rendering of Joseph Parr's "Pathos" design

Parr’s design also calls for sensors, embedded in the walker’s handles, that are capable of collecting and transmitting vital information to the patient’s healthcare provider. The provider would maintain the device and allocate it to another user after the patient’s recovery. Constructed of aluminum and magnesium parts that could eventually be recycled and repurposed at the end of its life cycle, Pathos is designed for a sustainable future in which patients and healthcare providers are synchronized through technology.

The competition’s panel of ten judges was comprised of educators, new product development managers from IHA’s member companies, and design consultants. Judge Rachel Sandoval, an industrial designer for Chicago-based Radius Product Development, noted that Parr’s design “fits the current trend of effortless data collection. It treads the fine line between housewares and a completely different market category. However, it ultimately won over the judges because of how the project has been taken to such a visionary level.”

Parr posing next to his display at the 2014 International Home and Housewares Show. Included is a prototype of his "Pathos" design

As a part of his award, Parr received an all-expenses paid trip to the 2014 International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, the world’s largest homegoods marketplace, where he presented Pathos to 60,000 visitors from over 125 countries.  As a recent graduate looking to make a name for himself in the industry, Parr relished the opportunity.

“Some [winners] receive their first jobs in the housewares industry because of contacts they made at our show. Others become design consultants who create varied products and services. Many start their own businesses,” said Matranga. “Winning this competition often is a predictor of future success for these young designers.”

Read all about Joesph Parr’s experience at the 2014 International Home and Housewares Show over on the KCAD blog!

Learn more about the IHA Student Design Competition