Interior architecture and design students win prestigious industry award two years in a row

Students in the Interior Architecture and Design Program in the Colorado State University Department of Design and Merchandising have been recognized by the Annual International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Rocky Mountain Chapter BEST awards two years in a row.

The BEST award is a nationally recognized excellence award program that celebrates the hard work of incredibly talented individuals that exemplify Brilliantly Executed Spaces and Thinking in their work. The student award category is featured among the other 15 professional award categories for extraordinary interior design projects completed in the industry. CSU students have won the student BEST award in 2019 and 2020. Elly Wieber won for her capstone project entitled Unleashed in 2019 and Jessica Merritt won for her capstone project entitled Click Technologies in 2020.

Unleashed, Animal Adoption and Community Center Design showing seating area

Elly Wieber was first inspired for her project based on her love for animals and Japanese culture, specifically the Japanese cat cafes that are very popular in the country of Japan. “By creating a fun enriching environment where animals are happy and a place that people are excited to explore makes the perfect combination for increasing pet adoptions.” This beautiful synthesis of Wieber’s two passions proved to be a combination that resonated with the industry judges earning her the BEST award in 2019. The thought process behind the design was to create spaces that enhanced connections between animals and people. To do this, Wieber included places where animals had lots of free roam capabilities to encourage people to learn about the animals and educate themselves on the right products to take care of the animals.Design showing a large space where people and animals can interact

Due to receiving the BEST award, Wieber says, “it helped get my name out in the professional field. It was awesome to see design professionals applauding my work at the award ceremony!” Wieber is currently working at Lingle Design Group where they do architecture and design focusing on retail and restaurants designs. “I am happy with this company and plan to stay there awhile. Wieber hopes to get her NCIDQ next year.

Elly Wieber completed Unleashed in her capstone studio INTD 476 with the mentorship of, Associate Professor Laura Malinin.

Click Technologies, Corporate WorkplaceDesign for large open workspace

Jessica Merritt knew she wanted to focus her capstone project on workplace design as it is something she is extremely passionate about. While researching the project, the term “Activity Based Working” (ABW) kept coming up and it was an idea she knew she needed to incorporate. ABW is a concept that is specifically driven by the unique needs of the employees and creating a space that embodies those needs. For this reason, each workplace that incorporates ABW will be completely different as it caters to the needs at hand which will differ from workplace to workplace.

In Merritt’s design she incorporated a 58,000 sq. ft. headquarters office for the tech company Click Technologies ( a theoretical company she made up). Merritt spent a lot of time building up the theoretical company’s profile as it would be critical to realize the specific needs and implement ABW. Due to this “The concept for my project was “Locality” which is defined as: an area or neighborhood, especially as regarded as a place occupied by certain people or as the scene of particular activity. I wanted my project to be based on the idea of creating a “central hub” where many populations cross paths and then becomes compartmentalized into private sectors.” Overall, Merritt focused on implementing brand identity, the successful implementation of ABW and finally promoting productivity and wellness in the workplace. Comments from the judges (and were read out when the award was given out) indicated how impressed they were with the use of color and texture to define spaces, calling the design “smart, modern, and playful”.Design of open walkway of workplace headquarter

Receiving the 2020 student BEST-award was a much needed ray of hope for Merritt, at the time of receiving the award she was finishing all her program and projects remotely, away from her professors and friends due to the pandemic. “Receiving recognition for this award was a pat on the back that I so badly needed. It felt good to have a panel of professionals think so highly of my work!” Due to this, receiving the award was extra special.

Design of conference room in workplace headquartersMerritt has had excellent experience at a residential design build firm in Fort Collins where she started as an intern and was hired as a full-time designer. Recently, Merritt accepted a position as an interior designer at Winters Griffith Architects.

Jessica Merritt completed her Click Technologies project through her capstone experience with the mentorship of  Assistant Professor Jain Kwon (INTD 410) and Associate  Professor Ryadi Adityayarman (INTD 476).

Experiential learning

Both Merritt and Wieber spoke about how the longstanding CIDA Accredited Interior Architecture and Design Program and the use of certain technologies helped prepare them for their future careers. To be successful in these projects both had experience and training using industry platforms like Revit which is a building information modelling software that is used to help create structural design, detailing, engineering and construction. Additionally, the project allowed both to gain experience in other computer-aided design software as well as the use of Photoshop in their creations. This experiential learning in the capstone studio and the IAD program has proven to be a great professional development experience for its students. This year, the capstone has done a virtual Senior Show where you can view Merritt’s work and other applications of experiential learning.

The department is extremely proud of both Elly Wieber and Jessica Merritt for there hard work and passion projects. Their professional design industry recognition for their brilliant designs from the IIDA Rocky Mountain Chapter  and their respective professional accomplishments is incredible ambassadorship for the IAD program.

The Department of Design and Merchandising is in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.