Notre Dame Students Fare Well at Design Competition

Author: Arts and Letters

Two University of Notre Dame seniors placed second and third in the 16th annual Student Design Competition sponsored by the International Housewares Association ( IHA ).

Second place and $1,800 were awarded to Kat Cummins, an industrial and graphic design major from Wayzata, Minn., for her design of “spice,” and third place and $1,300 went to Kaitlyn Benoit, an industrial design major from Aurora, Ill., for “slice and scoop.”

The design competition’s annual challenge to students is to redesign a current housewares product to meet future needs or to create a concept for a new product.

Cummins’ “spice” system opens with a press of the finger and includes a half-teaspoon measure, making the cooking process much easier for people with arthritis who may have difficulty opening traditional spice containers. Cubic containers can be stacked in various configurations and snapped together to stay in place.

Benoit developed the “slice and scoop” to aid the blind and visually impaired when cutting. The cutting guard instructs the user as to the correct hand placement for safe cutting while guiding the path of the knife and guarding the hand from possible injury.

“The real significance of the IHA competition is that it challenges designers to not simply design a beautiful product, but rather to identify a problem and solve that problem through a perceptive, intelligent and beautiful product,” Benoit said of her experience. “In this way, the competition aligns very well with Notre Dame’s mission. It challenges us to create with purpose—with a mind to the service of others. Purity of purpose and function create the foundation for the best product designs.”

Winning projects were selected for their innovation, understanding of production and marketing principles, and quality of entry materials. This year, 205 entries were judged and winners were selected by a jury that included designers from IHA member companies, design consultants and two educators.

“The IHA’s Student Design Competition is invaluable to the industry,” said Bill Lazaroff, who has been responsible for thousands of new product introductions for Lifetime Brands. “With this contest, the industry helps to unveil some of the most creative minds in our industrial design schools while providing the students and their ideas tremendous exposure.”

Notre Dame and the Cleveland Institute of Art each captured two of the six highest prizes, with Purdue University and Arizona State University students winning the other two top prizes. IHA granted the four schools a total of $2,500 to support their design programs and will award all-expense paid trips to the first-, second- and third-place winners to the International Home and Housewares Show this month in Chicago.

Originally published by Mollie Zubek at on March 12, 2009.