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Design teams compete for Arizona Museum for Youth project

The 2012 Junior Cluster Project competition winning team created an algae farm that could help in the future to reduce Arizona's reliance on fossil fuels.

Photo by Tom Story

January 14, 2013

Thirty-five teams of students from The Design School in the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts showcase their ideas for the Arizona Museum for Youth’s major renovation on Jan. 16 as part of the school’s annual Junior Cluster Project design competition – a major interdisciplinary, collaborative project for undergraduate design students.

This year’s design challenge, called Interdisciplinary Cluster Project 2013: 35 Ideas for the Next 35 Years, marks the first time student design teams have worked with an actual client. The Arizona Museum for Youth’s board of directors embarked on a major rebranding and renaming initiative in conjunction with its 35th anniversary this year. The downtown Mesa fine arts museum for children and families hosts several world-class exhibitions annually and offers art classes, workshops and programs to teach basic art principles and techniques and to introduce children to the life-changing quality of art.

“We are excited to have the design students help us develop ideas to improve, enhance and redesign interior and exterior spaces at the museum,” said Sunnee O’Rork, the museum’s executive director.

The student teams had 10 days beginning Jan. 7 to tour the Mesa museum, study recent marketing research that the museum had conducted, interview staff and create design plans that could address any one or more of these broad areas: creating indoor or outdoor installations, visual engagement, spatial improvement, digital interaction or branding issues.

“In terms of it being a wicked challenge with no single answer, this year’s project has that and it is exciting for students to interact with their client,” said Milagros Zingoni, a member of the architecture faculty and lecturer in The Design School, who coordinates the competition, with William Heywood, clinical assistant professor in the school's visual communications faculty.

“Understanding and developing skills in the collaborative process will serve our students well in the workplace whether they are architects, visual communication, interior, or industrial designers or landscape architects,” said Heywood.

Zingoni was contacted earlier this summer by a member of the museum’s board of directors for her ideas for the non-profit organization’s major initiative. Zingoni saw the project as an ideal opportunity for design students to have a real-world experience with a client whose needs could tap all the design disciplines equally. “This wasn’t a bricks and mortar project,” Zingoni said. “Students could design apps, installations, even a mascot that could be sold in the gift shop.”

The student teams, each representing at least four of The Design School’s five disciplines: architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, industrial design and visual communication, display their projects ideas for the initial judging by members of The Design School faculty beginning at 11 a.m. on Jan. 16 in Red Square (Design North ground floor).

Faculty members, members of the museum’s board of directors and ASU students, faculty and staff through a popular online vote will help narrow the 35 projects to seven finalists by 3:15 p.m. Beginning at 4:30 p.m. in Red Square, each team gives up to a 10-minute presentation to the judges, explaining their projects and answering questions. A panel of judges including O’Rork; Glenn Blackmore, museum board member; Jeff Morris, museum curator; Heather Landes, associate dean for the Herberger Institute; and Craig Barton, director of The Design School, selects and announces the winner from among the seven finalists.

Members of the winning team have the opportunity to help develop their idea with the museum staff during the summer. In addition, each member of the team gets to spend a day with a prominent professional in his or her discipline.

The museum plans to display all the project ideas during an exhibition later this year, according to O’Rork, and the museum will help publish a book containing the 35 teams’ ideas.

“We would like to be able to incorporate some of their ideas very quickly as part of our rebranding strategy,” O’Rork said. “For those ideas requiring capital expenditures, we plan to be able to raise the funds through donations and grants.”

For more information about The Design School, visit and for more information about the Arizona Museum for Youth To see the videos each team prepared visit this Vimeo site. Projects will be posted by 11 a.m. Jan. 16.

Public Contact: 
Susan Felt
Coordinator communications and marketing for Herberger Institute

Media Contact:
Susan Felt
Coordinator of Marketing and Communications