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RSID student wins international design competition

RSID is the first Canadian school selected for the prestigious Wilsonart scholarship competition
May 26, 2020

“The purpose of design is to elicit an emotional response,” says third-year Ryerson School of Interior Design (RSID) student, Amy Yan, winner of the 16th annual Wilsonart Challenges. “Design conveys a narrative, and then in turn, that narrative is able to shape the way we see the world.” 

Amy Yan, winner of the 16th annual Wilsonart Challenge

The winning chair design, created by Amy Yan

Drawing from a personal experience when Yan was temporarily separated from her family, the winning chair design -- The Not Loveseat -- interrogates human notions on the coexistence of love and separation. Is it possible to stay connected emotionally when apart? Do relationship fractures and separation have the potential to strengthen our desire for connection and intimacy? Yan’s winning design is a relevant and poignant symbol for the time we’re now living in; the perfect dialogue between artistic expression and disruptive design.   

Welcome to Canada, #WilsonartChallenges!

RSID is the first Canadian school selected for the prestigious Wilsonart Challenges. An initiative of Wilsonart, a global innovator in the future of engineered surfaces, the Wilsonart Challenges provides a one-year hands-on learning experience for design students from leading schools in North America and invites them to participate in a competition. Students not only learn how to design a one-of-a-kind chair, but also gain the entrepreneurial skills needed to prepare for a major trade show. 

"[RSID] is an exceptional school (ranked #5 globally for Interior Design),” said design historian and program director of the Wilsonart Challenges, Grace Jeffers in a release on Wilsonart’s website, external link. “Their students literally start construction from the first semester.” 

Most design schools focus on drawing and rendering in the foundational years of their programs. RSID disrupts this model, focusing first on hands-on learning. “Builders know more. They design differently,” continued Jeffers. Students also have access to the state-of-the-art Creative Technology Lab and the expertise of its director Jonathon Anderson to lead classes sponsored by Wilsonart. “This class is very difficult and we cram what is essentially a year-long course in one semester. We have to choose a professor and a school that can meet the challenge. Jonathon Anderson is precisely that kind of professor. He is a gifted designer, an exceptional professor and an excellent builder.” 

A hands-on learning experience

“[RSID] emphasized hands-on knowledge of materials more than any other school we have ever seen. The result is the outstanding quality in craftsmanship of the final chairs,” noted Jeffers.

RSID’s emphasis on hands-on construction also had a great influence on Yan. 

“I have been fortunate to be involved in several design-build projects in the past few years. These experiences have not only shaped my passion for fabrication, but also my design process,” Yan reflected. “I have come to believe that an idea truly comes to life when the design and fabrication of something is conceived as one continuous process rather than two disparate practices.”

Along with Yan, Wilsonart recognized five RSID students as runners-up, external link: Brittany Boudreau, Meredith Davis, Monica Beckett, Alice Sills and Ryan Anning.

“From a chair that explored the contrasting relationship between life and death to one which offers a playful commentary on the history of art and design, this year’s students have beautifully expressed both stylistic and functional elements of contemporary art,” said Tammy Weadock, communications manager at Wilsonart. “We are overwhelmed with the students’ creativity and the artistry used to design and build these beautiful chairs.”  

FCAD at Ryerson University

Entering its eighth decade, FCAD is a global centre of media and creative invention. As a disrupter in innovative education, FCAD is dedicated to developing creators with authentic voices who engage directly with creative industries around the world.

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Media contact:

Nicole Bartnicki

FCAD at Ryerson University

Coordinator, Marketing and Communications

nicole.bartnicki@ryerson.ca