Pictured above, from left to right: Gavin McQuillan, Megan Qualley, Rahf Almutairi, Delaney Golden, Fabrizio Ducato, Cristiano Drescher, Anna Vacura

AMES, Iowa — An Iowa State University project was one of four finalists in the student category of the 20th Annual HD Awards competition sponsored by Hospitality Design Magazine.

“Vanguard: Beyond the Horizon” was created in an advanced interdisciplinary studio in the College of Design last spring.

Iowa State finalist team members are interior design graduate student Rahf Almutairi and 2023 graduates Delaney Golden, Gavin McQuillan and Megan Qualley, all of whom received their bachelor of fine arts in graphic design; Cristiano Drescher, who received his bachelor of industrial design; and Fabrizio Ducato and Anna Vacura, who received their bachelor of fine arts in interior design from Iowa State.

The national HD Awards competition recognizes outstanding design projects in 26 categories related to the hospitality industry. The finalist teams were honored and the winner announced at the HD Awards ceremony Tuesday, April 30, in Las Vegas.

Vanguard: Beyond the Horizon

Vanguard hotel exterior

The Vanguard team developed their project 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.

Student teams were asked to create 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. The studio was not affiliated with NASA, but the class was able to visit the space center on a field trip and gain first-hand knowledge of the agency’s exhibits and visitor experiences.

Vanguard: The Artemis Experience trailers traveling on a road
Vanguard: The Artemis Experience mobile learning trailers

For “Vanguard: Beyond the Horizon,” Almutairi, Ducato, Drescher, Golden, McQuillan, Qualley and Vacura worked together to propose a mobile learning unit, a hotel connected to the visitor complex and additional components including an app, retail spaces in the lobby and a space-themed dining experience with a rocket launch viewing area. View the video trailer the team created for the project.

“It was amazing to see how, even though our disciplines were different, we all shared a similar language of design,” Drescher said. “With a group of seven talented designers, we all had ideas and concepts we wanted to explore, but we learned how to navigate decision-making through effective communication and became really effective problem solvers.”

Drescher added, “The only hurdle I had to overcome was to let go of my over-technical side and really embrace creative storytelling and concept development. It was more about creating a memorable experience people would enjoy.”

The same team won silver in event supplies/exhibition and fair trade products in the 2023 International Design Awards and a silver in the Graphis New Talent Awards 2024.


Rahf Almutairi, Graduate Student, Interior Design, ralmu@iastate.edu
Pete Evans, Assistant Professor, Industrial Design, pmevans@iastate.edu
Mike Ford, Associate Professor of Practice, Interior Design, msford@iastate.edu
Andrea Quam, Associate Professor, Graphic Design, aquam@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Director of Strategic Communications, College of Design, hsauer@iastate.edu