Case | The Designers of the Future at The Ohio State University

Student designers at Ohio State University compete in a unique challenge each year. Their goal is to design a graphic for a Framery pod that will be placed on campus for generations to come.

The Designers of the Future Design with Framery

The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the top public universities in the USA for innovation – with leading approaches to curriculum, campus life, and facilities. 

Since 2019, student designers at The Ohio State University have been given the opportunity to leave their mark by designing and implementing Framery pods across campus. Each year, Junior interior design students design and submit their ideas for custom wrap decals for Framery Q soundproof pod. The winning students get their designs wrapped on a brand new Framery pod placed on campus for students and faculty alike.

How Student Designers are Designing the Future

Framery on Campus

Universities around the world have discovered the benefit of placing Framery pods in strategic locations on their campus. Soundproof pods become a space to gather and study that is neither the classroom nor the dormitories. Whether it’s for group meetings, solo studying, or simply taking a moment to recharge,  

By incorporating these pods into university campuses, institutions like OSU are prioritizing student well-being, productivity, and creativity. Returning to campus following the pandemic, students have an increased need for learning spaces to accommodate their new hybrid schedules.

These types of third spaces are increasingly important for students who operate in a hybrid learning environment. As the demands of modern education continue to evolve, soundproof pods serve as essential assets. The pods are integral in encouraging academic excellence and building a sense of inclusion within the vibrant campus community. 

The Ohio State University Design Program

Established in 1870, The Ohio State University is one of the top public universities in the US. The university boasts over 60,000 students and more than 200 academic centers and institutes.

For the past few years, design students at Ohio State have been participating in an annual competition to leave their own personal mark on campus through designing graphic wraps for Framery pods. Engaging students in the design process creates spaces that reflect the needs and aspirations of its diverse campus community. 

The idea for this kind of hands-on design came from Rebekah Matheny, Associate Professor of Interior Design at The Ohio State University who runs the Junior Interior Design Studio, and Ingrid Dent of MillerKnoll. The curriculum is intended to develop design strategies for extending active learnings beyond the classroom, and allow student designers an opportunity to work with professionals.

The Junior Interior Design Studio

Extending active learning beyond the classroom

Inspired by the Big Ten Design Challenge in 2018, which asked teams of students from across the Big Ten to propose an informal space redesign on their campus, Rebekah took steps to create a new curriculum for the Junior Interior Design Studio.

For Matheny, it is critical that the university experience go beyond the classroom to cultivate a campus community for learning and growing. 

They know their needs and desires better than us. By engaging them in the process the design can have a more current, relevant, and future driven solution.
Rebekah Matheny

Matheny, who aspires to bridge academia and design practice in her work as an educator, has found that having the students work with professionals makes projects like this mutually beneficial.

Designing Spaces for the Future

The Design Challenge

The primary goal is to have students design their own spaces for themselves. Students are asked to design and customize a Framery O or Framery Q soundproof pod to be placed in a public and easily accessible location  on the Ohio State’s campus. 

The submitted student designs are judged by a panel of University representatives and professionals from the world of design & architecture.  The winning designs are then custom-wrapped and delivered to campus within a few weeks.

The Student Designs

Aurora Albertone

2020 Student Design Contest Winner

Aurora’s design is based on The Oval  – a large, grassy area located at the center of the campus that serves as a focal point of the university. This iconic location on Ohio State’s campus holds profound significance as a symbol of tradition, friendship, community, and leadership. 

The wrap pattern for the pod incorporates a map of all the intersecting paths on the Oval, to represent our ever-crossing paths as Buckeyes and the community we belong to. The grassy areas between the paths in the design are filled with a graphic pattern that encompasses all the things you see on the Oval: diversity, friendship, nature, tradition, scholarship, and school pride.

Sarah Reylea

2021 Student Design Contest Winner

Sarah opted for an energetic striped pattern using the OSU brand colors. Utilizing stripes to symbolize the soundwaves of the song “Carmen Ohio,” an integral part of Ohio State tradition, Sarah aimed to evoke school spirit and encourage collaboration among students. 

To complement the connection to the lyrics of Carmen Ohio engraved in the Great Hall of the Ohio Union, the student suggests placing these pods in the small nooks surrounding the hall, providing a refuge for collaboration and enhancing the usability of the space.

Madison Hildebrand

2022 Student Design Contest Winner

Madison’s concept centers on fostering a sense of belonging amidst the vast campus community. Utilizing actual photos of students, the design features an abstract contour drawing at the center, surrounded by a scarlet outline symbolizing the heart of the university — the comfort zone for students. 

The bold pattern of the pod seamlessly blends with the bustling crowd, offering a safe and inviting space. As a constant reminder that students are not alone, the pod becomes a hub that nurtures connections and empowers students to embrace the vibrant diversity of their campus community.

Morgan Vereb

2023 Student Design Contest Winner

Morgan’s goal was to represent the diversity of Ohio State’s student body. She achieved this by highlighting qualities like boldness, boundless pride, compassion, and a strong sense of community. This led to a colorful, geometric design fostering a vibrant and dynamic energy on campus. 

The design aims to inspire collaboration and excitement while providing a peaceful sanctuary for focused work. This invigorating pod offers both motivation and tranquility amid the bustling campus.

The Student Designers

For the winning student designers, the opportunity to see their designs come to life has been a transformative experience. 

The 2023 contest winner, Morgan Vereb, recognizes the transformation happening post-pandemic. “I think students yearn for a sense of belonging in the communities and activities they are involved in. We are starting to witness this post-pandemic transformation of students wanting to feel seen and to feel a sense of connection in the place they’re in.” 

Sarah Relyea, the 2022 contest winner, expressed how exciting it was to have her design realized on campus. “This experience was the first time that I had ever designed something that was actually built, so it was a really exciting connection to the idea of starting my career.”

It was really exciting to see my Framery pod being used on campus – every time I walked past there would be someone using it.

Sarah Relyea
2021 Contest Winner

Since graduating, 2021 winner Aurora Albertone, does a lot of graphic design in her professional role. “This experience helped me sharpen my skills to prepare me for the work I do now. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn the ropes of applying custom designs to existing products and working alongside a furniture manufacturer to create something special.”

Inspiring the Designers of the Future

Future Designers and the Education Industry

Ohio State’s dedication to nurturing the designers of the future sets an exemplary trajectory for design education. By providing students with hands-on opportunities like the Framery pod design challenge, the university instills a mindset of innovation, collaboration, and forward-thinking among its students.

More and more institutions are beginning to recognize the value of engaging students in real-world design projects. The success stories of these student designers resonate throughout the design community and the world of design education.

The opportunity to meet and work with design professionals has been a great experience.

Morgan Vereb
2023 Contest Winner

Students emerge from the design studio more prepared for the real-world than in a traditional classroom. They are involved throughout the entire project. From an introduction to the history and legacy of design excellence, to research insights and how to design with furniture.

The Impact of Student Engagement

Matheny and her students are creating spaces that address students’ desire for a sense of connection and belonging. Engaging students in the design process is incredibly valuable for the design students, the University, and all other students on campus. Actively involving students in the design process results in more relevant, future-driven solutions. 

Witnessing their designs being used by real students brought an overwhelming sense of fulfillment to these young designers. Sarah Relyea, in particular, found it exciting to see her Framery pod constantly in use on campus. These experiences have not only added value to their student journey but have also significantly impacted their professional growth.

The entire campus benefits from these initiatives as well. The positive reception from students using the designed spaces further proves the effectiveness of the student-centered challenge. The pods have become popular hubs for students seeking a sense of belonging and connection on campus.

Preparing for Working Life

Working with experts and professionals in the field gives the students incredibly valuable insights and feedback about the world that awaits them after graduation. 

This experience helped me sharpen my skills to prepare me for the work I do now.

Aurora Albertone
2020 Contest Winner

As these students prepare to enter the working world, they carry with them experiences that have shaped their perspectives on design. They now expect a workplace that encourages creativity, collaboration, and a sense of community. All of the same principles they embraced during their time at Ohio State.

Hands-on experiences like this provides these students with adaptability and a forward-thinking mindset to face whatever the future holds. Equipped with these qualities, these emerging designers are set to make a positive impact in the design profession and beyond.

Soundproof Pods and the Future of Design

The Junior Interior Design Studio at The Ohio State University has inspired and nurtured the designers of the future. These student designers enter the working world with a fresh perspective and a passion for innovative design.

This opportunity absolutely set me up for success in the design profession by changing my way of thinking about design.

Sarah Relyea
2021 Contest Winner

Students with access to soundproof pods at their university tend to carry their preference for these versatile spaces into their future workplaces. With an appreciation for the value of such environments, these students will expect their future offices to provide similar spaces.

Students are calling for changing teaching practices, activating their learning, and reevaluating the spaces in which learning happens. Rebekah Matheny

And the student designers who have designed with soundproof pods hold a unique advantage going into their careers. Armed with firsthand knowledge of the impact these pods make, the designers will incorporate these innovative spaces into the offices they design in the future. 

As a result of projects like this, the workplace of the future will be designed for the needs of the people who work there. And designed by people who truly understand those needs.