Senior Named Among Top Five Industrial Design Students in Nation

Author: Kate Cohorst

Alisa Rantanen

Notre Dame senior Alisa Rantanen has been named the Midwest District Merit Award winner, ranking her one of the top five graduating industrial design students in the nation. Her work will be showcased at the Industrial Designers Society of America’s (IDSA) international conference in Chicago August 21-24.

Rantanen earned this opportunity by winning first place at the IDSA’s Midwest District competition in April, competing against the best students from design programs throughout the region.

“Notre Dame has a tradition of winning these conferences,” she says, “so I was proud to be a part of that but also felt a bit of pressure from these other schools to perform well. At the end I was declared the winner, which was a huge relief and a huge honor.”

“It’s the perfect way to end the year—I couldn’t be happier about it.”

Notre Dame has won the IDSA Midwest District competition six out of the last seven years, says Ann-Marie Conrado ’93, an assistant professor of industrial design.

“To win it one year is a great honor, especially against excellent and often much larger programs than ours,” she says. “But to keep winning is really a testament to both the students and the program itself, with our emphasis on skill acquisition combined with a focus on solving significant social issues in line with our Catholic social tradition and mission.”

Past winners include Ryan Geraghty ’12, John Traub ’11, Kaitlyn Benoit ’09, Ashley Ceniceros ’08, and Mansour Ourasanah ’07. Notre Dame’s 2010 merit winner Takashi Yoshii placed third in that year’s IDSA competition.

Alisa Rantanen's winning designs

To compete at the district level, Rantanen first had to present her work to a group of professional designers that Notre Dame’s Department of Art, Art History, and Design brought in to select the top student from the class of 2013.

After winning the highly contested merit award in the University’s College of Arts and Letters, Rantanen moved on to the IDSA district conference in Indianapolis, where she had seven minutes and up to 30 slides to present her body of work and explain its significance to hundreds of professional designers.

The projects she presented included Fulfill, a lotion bottle with removable bottom jar to provide access to leftover product; Reserve, dinnerware that can also be used as a food storage system; Stratus, a split air conditioner unit that filters and collects condensate to provide a water source in the home; and Amber, a hybrid notebook and hard-drive system for saving documented experiences, both physical and digital.

“Alisa represents the very best of a Notre Dame industrial design student,” says Conrado. “She is extremely motivated, passionate, and diligent—and has natural talent and aptitude.

“But she faced as much competition from her own peers here at Notre Dame as she did representing Notre Dame against all the other schools in the Midwest—which also a testament to all the students in the program.”

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