IDSA Student Merit Awards Advice

Hey Guys,

I’m one of the students from selected to compete for our schools Merit Award spot. There are 4 other students competing for the same spot, so I’d really like to put my best foot forward so I can present at the regional conference.

I was thinking of showing 3 projects. Focusing around the three biggest things I’ve learned while that UC.
Design Passion/Career Goals through the co-op program.
Interdisciplinary Collaboration.
Beautiful yet Manufacturable design.

Just wondering if anyone here had any advice on what they have seen work or fail at past merit awards presentations?
Whether you were a judge, student presenter, or just an observer any advice would be awesome.

Thanks guys.

Shoes, bike, chair? The last conference I attended (outside our region) the students seemed to just present a condensed portfolio. Also, what’s the competition. I like the spin of “what UC has done for me” instead of just presenting projects even though you do a lot of work outside our curriculum just for fun.

Yup, those are probably the three projects. Need to figure out better wording for the chair project. Emphasis on Materials and Process, perhaps.

Definitely dont want to present just a shortened portfolio. Trying to at least create some sort of flow and tie everything together to a central story. Was going to talk about my path of becoming a designer, but that seemed a little cliche.

As for outside work, no idea how to put that in without it feeling cheesy/forced. So as of now, its not in there.

I think the journey would be more interesting to the larger audience at the conference. I’m sure they’ve sat through a lot of student projects and as a senior I think it’s the appropriate time and circumstance to use your work to highlight the process you’ve gone through.

Another idea, bring in the toy project and the shoes you just made. You could talk to how you brought in your own perspective of what design could be in that stage (yours was the only true product) and how you’ve taken your passion and made it applicable to your education (shoes/independent study). This might show the interaction between you and the program and how you were shaped by it and how you also influenced it in a specific way. Though I think they’ll want to see something along the lines of a traditional product story (ideation to final product). You’ve also got work from the past 3 years so that’s good too. If you are truly set on the journey aspect/direction, that could be one way to tie in those personal projects (lets face it the toy was a personal project for you).

In a way I think you’ll end up with something that contains what a shortened portfolio would, but wrapped in this story you are trying to tell. I don’t remember who else is competing, but this sounds unique enough to make an impression. I guess PChambs, Doehler, Raphel and the likes are judging?

We can chat more in person, possibly over a grill out.

Try to use your work to tell the story of your life and intersperse insights that you learned along the way both professionally and personally. The winners of these things tend to have a compelling personal story as well as the best work in the class.

Also, you can always go Tanya Harding the competition… you might be too young for that to joke to make sense:

Since your still at your schools level I think it’s going to be a combination of great work + great presentation skills.

Some designers do great work, but don’t necessarily present it well. Making sure you have a really sharp presentation is going to count as much as the work you’ve put behind it. You want to figure out a way to keep the audience very engaged, without it becoming a list of your projects.

Of course having great work makes telling that story much easier.

Good luck.

Hey, first of all congrats! I was a Student Merit Award presenter back at the NorthEast District Event in Cambridge 2009, and attended the 2010 edition in Newark as well so I’ve seen my fair share of these things…

First of all, like others have said, you need a story, and yes everyone has one! 90% of students treat it essentially as a portfolio review. I was guilty of that too but a lack of time for preparation, combined with a lack of experience at the time certainly didn’t help. It’s taken me a while to fully appreciate the need for a story in your work. Frankly, those that treat a presentation or portfolio as “I did this, then I did this exercise, then I did these sketches, then I did a rendering of this” have an extremely tough time captivating anyone unless their skill level is just astronomical. Like “Yo” was saying, tell people what motivated you personally. Give them an opportunity to learn about who you are, and give them a reason to care rather than text or scribble.

Alternatively, you may be able to get your hands on one of those collapsible police batons if you do in fact decide that the Harding route is up your alley…

I appreciate the advice. I’ll try and work in my personal story a bit more into my presentation. Hopefully I can get the presentation recorded and I’ll post it up for everyone to see. Thanks everyone.

I had a great adviser when I did this in 2002.
Practice speaking out loud over and over again. Not just muttering in front of your PPT slides on your laptop sitting on the couch, but actually stand up and look at yourself in the mirror and present. The cadence of telling a verbal story can really inform where you might need more slides or less slides, or where you need visual transition slides. You should know your talking points and keywords you want to hit, but don’t write a speech. Learn to read an audience and present to people who are engaged and look enthusiastic.

Wohoo! We had our school competition today and I was chosen as our schools representative. Now I really need to dial in my presentation.

Thanks again everyone for your advice, really helped me out.

I think someone recorded my presentation today. So I might be posting that up here for some feedback.