Team Work and Design Excellence at its Best


Last month, a team of NYSID students designed an installation for the 2017 Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids (DIFFA) Dining by Design event which took place March 17-21 at Pier 92 in New York City. An annual event held in March, Dining by Design is DIFFA’s signature fundraising event that invites local and international designers to create extravagant dining environments. Guests who attend are surrounded by stunning dining installations as they taste samples from NYC’s top restaurants.

This year, BFA students Garrett Carter, May Ghadanfar, Bonnie Hoeker, and Kwanghae Lee worked under the guidance of faculty member Rene Estacio and designer Alex Papachristidis to create a dining display inspired by a pulsating heartbeat. Using an assortment of contrasting materials to convey emotion and energy through light and color, their installation was a compelling, modern showcase symbolizing unity and progression. "Originally, the concept of our design derived from sketching vertical lines in different lengths which eventually developed into its own language of rhythm.” Says Garrett Carter. “This rhythm ultimately brought out the essence of the design: a strong human heartbeat." Additionally, the installation’s prominent red walls were one of the most striking elements of the design. "This year’s Dining By Design installation was truly special because it was DIFFA's 20th anniversary.” Bonnie Hoeker explains. “We really embraced this in our design using DIFFA's signature red for our walls to make a bold statement."

At its core, the success of the project was fueled by the group’s stellar teamwork. "We each had unique strengths and our team worked together so well.” Hoeker says. “We're all working on our thesis projects right now as well, so ultimately we served as a support system for each other during the more chaotic moments.” On the subject of team work, faculty advisor Rene Estacio could not agree more. As he has done in the past, Estacio handpicked the students for the project based on observing the way they worked in his classes throughout the semester and was impressed by their collaboration. “This year’s team of students demonstrated excellent team work skills,” he Estacio. “They also had a fantastic work ethic and a great sense of humor; which came in handy when they were faced with challenging situations.”

While the students faced a number of creative trials with the project, working under a restricted budget proved one of the most challenging for the team. “Budget is something that most design students do not have experience in dealing with when working on a design project,” Estacio explains. “This project had a strict budget of $2,500 and the only way the students could meet the budget was to thoroughly research materials that were affordable without sacrificing the aesthetics they would like to achieve.”

In the end, the materials and furniture chosen were altogether affordable, functional and chic. The walls were made of medium density fiberboard and painted with Benjamin Moore's Vermilion in a satin finish. The table was custom designed by the team, and also made out of painted medium density fiberboard. The chairs were from Ikea and served as the perfect neutral design element to make the bright red walls stand out. To elongate the walls, vertical slots were added using a circular saw and a computer generated template. The tablescape was custom designed by the team using laser-cut acrylic and was inspired by the vertical slots in the wall.

The lighting elements used in the project were central to the design. With the help of NYSID’s Masters of Professional Studies in Lighting Design director, John Katimaris, and his MPS-L students, LED light strips were aligned with the vertical slots and installed inside the walls to produce a particularly bold effect. "John Katimaris' guidance was fundamental to our installation.” says May Ghadanfar. “We worked closely with him and his MPS-L students to make our installation come to life. Most importantly, we have learned from their expertise and have acquired an important skill for future projects."

Installation day was abuzz with excitement, but not without challenges of its own. "We began with only two days for the install and then got delayed even more from a snow storm!” says Hoeker. “As a result we had just one day to install our entire booth!” In the end, not even a snow storm could stop them, and the team pulled together a tremendous installation with time to spare. At the event’s opening reception, NYSID’s creation was among the best students designs of the night, garnering an outpouring of social media buzz from across the design world and from Domino and Interior Design Magazine.

In the future, Estacio hopes to continue on as mentor for students participating in Dining by Design. “I love guiding the students with their design decisions and making sure that what they learned at NYSID is applied to the project.” He says. “My goal for NYSID’s students has always been to be continuously recognized as the best interior design students at this event.”

Phyllis Greer