Earlier this year, sixteen-year-old Claire Christianson entered Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s first nationwide Student Design Challenge #ThinkOutside thanks to encouragement from her high school art teacher. A few months later, a panel of experts, including Todd Waterbury, chief creative officer at Target and Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt, selected Claire’s design—an outdoor chair inspired by a painted porcelain art nouveau vase and her love for pottery—as the competition’s winner.
Claire’s prize? Not only would she partner with Target to produce her design, the limited-edition chair would also be placed in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum garden!
“Target has supported and partnered with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for the past eight years,” said Todd. "Our participation helps enable the museum’s mission through numerous programs that educate, inspire and empower families and students through design.”
“I can’t think of a better educational partner than Target,” said Caroline. “Our Student Design Challenge inspired hundreds of high school students, who are our country’s future designers and leaders, to engage in design thinking and develop design solutions. Claire’s winning design—beautifully realized by Target—will be an exciting addition to our Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden next month.”
Claire’s experience throughout the competition yielded some words of wisdom for any budding designer.
"Here are three things I’ve observed and learned over the years,” Todd said. “One: Make your passions your priority. Find any way you can to discover what your passions are. Make time for them, make room for them and learn everything you can about them. Two: Hybridize your thinking. The best definition of creativity I’ve come to know is that it most often occurs by studying two or more quite different disciplines and bringing the framework from one to think in new ways about the other. Three: Autobiography is inspiration. One of the great benefits of design is that it can improve the quality of everyday life for millions of people, yet its origins are often from an individual experience in our own lives. Never forget your story and always find ways to bring it into your work.”
We caught up with Claire during her visit to Target’s headquarters, where she had the chance to take a full tour, meet with a range of designers and engineers and review a prototype of her chair. Follow along with us below and hear firsthand about her experience!
I was so excited to come back to Target for this second visit. I’ve been looking forward to it for months! I’m from Minnesota, so there’s a lot of hometown pride.
It was interesting to learn that a lot of the team members bounce around from field to field and department to department, so they’re never bored.
I went into this experience open to everything and everyone and got the affirmation that I can do this as a real job!
I was inspired just by walking down the halls. The different art installations—including the Bullseye made out of LEGOs—were so cool!
I loved seeing the chair I designed out on the lawn. It was the first time I got to see the idea that I came up with in my mind translated into real life!
The official unveiling of Claire’s winning design will take place during National Design Week from Oct. 15 – 23. Target will manufacture seven chairs in total, with five going to Cooper Hewitt’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden and two going to Claire and her family.
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