AMES, Iowa — Four Iowa State University student projects were recognized with 2023 International Design Awards. The interdisciplinary teams won a total of 12 awards in eight categories. 

They developed their winning projects in the NASA’s Innovative Mission Through Design experiential learning studio taught by Pete Evans, assistant professor of industrial design; Mike Ford, associate professor of practice in interior design; and Andrea Quam, associate professor of graphic design, in spring 2023.

Soluna: Hotel App Mock-Up

Projects and awards include: 

Soluna (Oanh Bui, Sailesh Gautam, Lucy Hawblitzel, Cole Keenan, Megan Pfohl, Lin Pizzo and Caden Tennison)

Vanguard (Rahf Almutairi, Cristiano Drescher, Fabrizio Ducato, Delaney Golden, Gavin McQuillan, Megan Qualley and Anna Vacura) 

Stellar Design (Carley Hagan, Megan Harms, Ashtyn Hutcheson, Farah Khaleel, Mia Marco, John Marquis and Will Schuemann) 

Odyssey (Landie Brown, Forough Elahi, Rachel Hoeft, Tien Huynh, Jack O’Connell, Paige Ruzicka and Hannah Sweeney) 

  • Honorable Mention: Hospitality Interior Design/Restaurant 

In this elective studio, students majoring in architecture, graphic design, industrial design and interior design worked together in teams to develop a spaceport-themed hotel, a space camp experience, a learning/training exhibit and/or a mobile learning unit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

Early in the semester, the class visited the space center to better understand the environment and inform their designs. Students were encouraged to roam the campus, interact with informational displays and study the landscape. 

Emphasizing user experience

Odyssey: Hotel Restaurant Interior Design

After their observations at the site, the “Soluna” team put user experience at the forefront of their concept. Their IDA Gold-winning project is a luxury hotel, spa and event venue with a mobile education unit. The design was inspired by the Greek goddess Artemis, who represents the moon, and Greek god Apollo, who represents the sun. 

The mock app the group created for their hotel allows the user to have access to the many amenities at the location and enjoy a virtual reality experience that teaches them about “the final frontier.” 

“The app gives you a personalized VR experience,” said Lucy Hawblitzel, who received her bachelor of fine arts in graphic design from Iowa State in May 2023. “I wanted people to be able to experience the hotel even if they’re not there. I created adventures and tasks people can do in the app to win fun little badges.” 

Odyssey group critique

Hawblitzel, who now works as a visual design analyst for Avanade in Chicago, said, “We wanted to be sure people didn’t just walk by all of the fun elements of our hotel like how we did during our visit at the Kennedy Space Center. We want all elements of our spaces to be interacted with and enjoyed.”  

For Lin Pizzo, who received his bachelor of fine arts in interior design in 2023, this was his first experience working on an interdisciplinary team. While winning Gold in the “Identity” category was rewarding, he says the most valuable skill he gained from the project was learning how to work productively with others.

“We met three times a week during this project to bounce ideas off each other and give feedback,” said Pizzo, who now works as a designer for LS Group in Denver.

“This was such a collaborative environment working with students from different majors. It was rewarding to see what were able to come up with after putting our egoes to the side.” 

Class at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Preparing for the real world 

This comprehensive interdisciplinary project allowed students to add a more unique item to their portfolios, something Ford says sets Iowa State design students apart in the job search as they approach graduation. 

“We try to model the real world here,” Ford said. “We’ve learned from past students that employers really want to talk to them about this final project when they are interviewing.”

During the semester, industry professionals visited the class to review and provide feedback on the work in progress. Quam says those interactions gave students the confidence to create remarkable projects, which results in a competitive edge. 

“Understanding how to present your work is everything,” she said. “Hearing those critiques gave our students an opportunity to look at their work from a different perspective. Of course you want to like what you create, but you also want it to make sense to a larger audience.” 

Vanguard group critique

This is the fifth year in a row Iowa State student work from the spring studio Evans, Ford and Quam co-teach has been honored in the IDA competition. 

“This class truly performed at a high level,” Evans said. “I think having the students interact with NASA teams at Kennedy Space Center who were working on designing exhibits helped inform their decisions. We aren’t surprised they were able to take home so many honors.”  


Pete Evans, Assistant Professor, Industrial Design,
Mike Ford, Associate Professor of Practice, Interior Design,
Andrea Quam, Associate Professor, Graphic Design,
Lauren Johnson, Communications Specialist, College of Design,