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News . Feature Stories . CIA Students Take First in International Design Contest

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July 03, 2011

CIA Students Take First in International Design Contest

Four interior design students work together to create a winning design for an upscale, theater-inspired retail store.

Interior Design students Natalie Benos, Julianne Rodriguez, Jeff Poole and Lawrence Liptak, under the direction of Associate Professor Michael Gollini, closed out their junior year with a five-week blast of work for theRetail Design Institute's International Store Design Competition.

Their concepts and drawings for a store called Excelsior Toronto Couture topped the group-project category. The four will share a $1,500 prize, and CIA will receive $500.

RDI is a 50-year-old professional organization for designers, architects and students involved in creating spaces for the retail and business market. Details of its annual student competition vary, but this year's challenge was to introduce a U.S.-based retailer of high-end handbags and accessories into a two-story space in downtown Toronto.
RDI explained that the flagging economy makes this a good time for companies to try to capitalize on the "lipstick effect," in which buyers denying themselves big purchases will still treat themselves to smaller luxuries.

The winning CIA team took its creative cues from Toronto's robust theater district. They chose Excelsior in a nod to a realty company key to the city's history, and liked that the word "excelsior" evokes connotations of excellence, Benos said.

School projects tend to be individual assignments, she added, so the team approach seemed like a good challenge.

"It definitely pushed me, I had new respect for my classmates," she said.

Rodriguez agreed.

"At first, it was a bit of a struggle to come together as a group and figure out how to divide and conquer this project, especially with everyone's different schedules, personalities, strengths and weaknesses," she said. "Thankfully, we eventually figured it out."

Rodriguez says she's most proud that the CIA team pulled off the win against more than 200 teams, most of which started their work months earlier when the competition was first announced last fall.

RDI has chapters scattered across the United States, as well as in Spain, Brazil, Canada and Australia.

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