Jiyeon Chun Wins IDSA Merit Award

A chair and table designed by Jiyeon Chun
Jiyeon Chun

Jiyeon Chun, a senior specializing in Product Design at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, recently won the 2024 IDSA Merit Awards. Each year, IDSA student chapters across the US nominate one undergraduate senior who exemplifies excellence within the industrial design field. Representing Carnegie Mellon, Jiyeon will compete at the IDSA district level for national recognition. Seniors Catherine Liu, John Henley and Georgia Miller were also recognized for their product design work.

Each of the candidates presented an 8-minute review of their favorite projects, skills, and lessons learned during their industrial design education at the School of Design. At the end of the presentations, a panel of Pittsburgh-based industrial design practitioners, including Chris Henley (MSA), Brandon Link (MSA), Ben Azzam (Truk’d), and Col Jones (Omnicell), chose Chun as the nominee for the district-level IDSA competition.

“It was a huge honor, and a unique opportunity to look back on and present not just the work, but my background and journey here,” said Chun about her win at the IDSA Merit Awards. I have so many people to thank for their support throughout the four years– professors, staff, fellow students– and I feel grateful to be part of a really special community.

“All of the work across the board was amazing, and I’m so proud and honored to have shared the experience with my talented classmates as well.”

“The IDSA Student Merit Awards provides a platform for our students to present their work in ways that depict the core of our Product Design curriculum and showcase their individual perspectives that drive a uniqueness in their work distinguishing them within our longstanding discipline,” said Professor Mark Baskinger, Chair of the Product Design Track and Director of the Joseph Ballay Center for Design Fusion.

The IDSA Student Merit Awards finalists
Wayne Chung, Jiyeon Chun, Catherine Liu, Georgia Miller, John Henley, Mark Baskinger, & Eric Anderson.

“The excellent work in all four of the student portfolios demonstrates their commitment to their studies and enthusiasm for industrial design,” continued Baskinger. “Each will be a great ambassador for our school into the profession whether they practice within product design or parlay their skills into other design areas.

“It was evident this year, that Catherine, John, Jiyeon and Georgia are driven by their values for society and environment and use their work to engage with issues much larger than a product itself. Their work connects to aspects of human experience that cross technological, environmental, and societal domains in compelling ways."

A prototype image of Pigeon

Chun, who has a background in fine arts, sees her approach to design as being motivated to meet needs and solve problems.

“I believe making things that really help people and resonate with them, starts with a deep understanding of and compassion for people,” said Chun. “I’m most excited when working on a project that I believe should exist in the world because of the good it can do– whether by helping us interact with technology in more meaningful ways, connecting us to our natural and built environments, or making healthcare more accessible– and to make the solution beautiful, and communicate a compelling narrative.

“Personally, I find this often leads to designing to build empathy and connection between people.”

During her presentation, Chun shared an impressive display of the scope of her work. She highlighted her experience designing for medical robotics during an internship with Telos Health and her work in a sponsored group project to re-design Industrial Scientific Company’s gas detectors, which highlighted designing to build connections to the objects that improve people’s lives.

A gas detector prototype by Jiyeon Chun

“I’m especially interested in designing to build connections between people, so I spent a little more time on projects such as Pigeon, a new kind of fax machine that allows elderly and their loved ones to communicate across analog and digital methods, and ARC, an immersive overhead projector designed with kids with language barriers in mind to help foster a greater sense of belonging for all,” continued Chun.

“I shared furniture work, where I explored the use of bent sheet metal as joinery hardware. I also gave a brief overview of my current capstone project working with production line workers of a local manufacturing company, exploring new ways of thinking about the design-manufacture workflow to inspire greater empathy between consumer, designer, and manufacturer.”

The ARC projector by Jiyeon Chun

As a senior, Chun looks back on her time in the products studio as particularly formative.

“In just two years, we went from learning the basics of how form can afford interactions and communicate meaning, to designing products that respond to self-defined research methods and insights, to even speaking to complex social, environmental, and systemic issues through the lens of industrial design,” said Chun. “Each semester equipped us with a robust research and design process to approach more and more complex problems and systems, while being rooted in hands-on making and a growing understanding of materials and fabrication processes which allow us to craft tangible solutions.”

“The school’s emphasis on research and a deeper understanding of systems and contexts, as well as the proximity to the other design tracks, gives us a more holistic approach to design,” added Chun on her School of Design experience. “In products specifically, I feel that we are makers at heart, and I believe this sensitivity to materials and making processes equips us to responsibly shape the future of the material world.

“Most of all, the people are amazing. The professors and staff really care, and you'll make friends to last a lifetime.”

Learn more about Product design at CMU.