KCAD Product Design Student Spencer Hope Named Student Finalist in 2024 International Society of Furniture Designers INNOVATION+DESIGN Competition

Posted April 17, 2024 in Student, Product Design

Spencer Hope, a Product Design major at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, earned a place in the finalist stage of the 2024 International Society of Furniture Designers (ISFD) INNOVATION+DESIGN competition.   

headshot of a young man with long hair, a bushy moustache, and a nose ring wearing a black beanie KCAD Product Design student Spencer Hope

Open to both design students and industry professionals on a global level, the annual competition promotes the outstanding work of the world’s finest designers/makers. This year, a record number of entries was judged by a panel of ISFD board members and other industry professionals who evaluated each product’s innovation, construction, function, construction technique, and aesthetics.  

Hope’s entry, a scone dubbed “Empyrean,” was one of eight student finalist designs for 2024. Finalists’ pieces were judged while on display at the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame in High Point, North Carolina from April 4-17, in conjunction with Spring High Point Market, a trade show that stands as the pinnacle of the home furnishings industry.   

A sconce hanging on a wall"Epyrean" sconce by Spencer Hope (image courtesy of the designer)

While he may not have won, Hope found plenty of value in the opportunity to take part in the prestigious event and enlarge his network.  

“Getting to connect with other students and professionals, listen to people who are far better than I can be right now, and be a part of the greater design world is just an amazing opportunity,” he said.  

“Empyrean” was inspired by the awestruck emotions people feel when coming face-to-face with something that takes their breath away. The layered lighting fixture embraces its emitted light as a design element, using organic shapes and repeated geometry to cast a celestial glow onto the wall above.  

“I wanted to convey the sense of beholding something,” Hope said. “There’s a higher energy that comes with this angelic light that I tried to capture in a material sense.” 

hand drawn sketches of a wall sconceSpencer Hope's initial sketches for the "Empyrean" sconce (image courtesy of the designer)

The sconce began with a series of sketches, which helped Hope focus ideas for refinement in a CAD program. After finishing the design, he crafted a custom plywood form, vacuum-molded a black walnut veneer over that, and sanded the finish—all in the KCAD woodshop. Next, he cut the outer form, making a custom jig to guide the slots that would hold the lamp’s acrylic fins.  

A wood form on a table
(above and below): process shots of Spencer Hope creating the "Empyrean" sconce (images courtesy of the designer)

a wooden form sitting on a table

Once the wood form was ready, he clear-coated it to create a glossy finish on the surface. He then used the laser cutter in the KCAD FLEXlab digital fabrication facility to cut out the fins from 1/4" acrylic. Each fin was sandblasted to create a frosted look that would diffuse the light, then glued into place. Finally, he cut the stamped aluminum base, assembled the lamp, and added the wiring, lightbulb, and wall mount.  

“There were a lot of challenges in this piece, specifically creating those slot cuts,” Hope said. “When I got to that point in the design, I was tens of hours into my development, and it's all behind a jig so you really can't eyeball anything.” 

wood form and acrylic fins on a tableProcess shot of Spencer Hope creating the "Empyrean" sconce (image courtesy of the designer)

One of the questions with any piece of art or design is deciding when it’s complete. Hope explained, “There comes a point where everything's adhered, everything's together, and any more finishing is going to upset whatever surface treatment I've done. But in a more abstract sense, is a piece ever finished? I don't know. I think it becomes finished in what it can do and what happens when it lands in front of people's eyes. For my work to be finished, it has to be felt and received.”  

In the case of “Empyrean,” it’s safe to say that goal was achieved. Not only did Hope’s inspired and meticulous design process lead him to a place among the most promising young designers on the planet—with the Spring High Point Market drawing between 70,000 and 80,000 attendees each year, his creativity has now reached new heights of visibility. 

View the complete list of finalists in the 2024 International Society of Furniture Designers INNOVATION + DESIGN competition on the ISFD website.  

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