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A window wonderland

December 21, 2018

Ohio State students gain credit with a holiday learning experience.

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Student explaining window design

Working with a fashion retailer pushed industrial design major Tiffany Lau out of her comfort zone — and into a rewarding new experience.

On a frigid night in November, residents and retail representatives mingle in front of shop windows on a quaint section of High Street in Worthington, Ohio.

They gaze through the glass at intricate decorations while learning about the ideas, design and construction of the holiday displays from the actual creators:

Ohio State students.

“In one of the very first classes, I said to the students: ‘This is not a typical class. I am not your professor; I’m your creative director. I need you all to understand that it doesn’t matter whose idea ends up sticking. We need the best work for the retailer. We need the best idea for the town.’”
-Faith Bartrug ’01, volunteer director of the independent study course, and senior associate vice president of CallisonRTKL, a global retail design firm
“It was so different working with a fashion retailer. I had never interacted with that major. It was amazing to work on something outside my comfort zone. It helps you not just as a student, but as a human (to learn) not everyone is like me. That’s something Ohio State does really well — because it’s such a large community, you’re able to learn from and appreciate different perspectives. That makes you a better person.”
-Tiffany Lau (center), senior studying industrial design
“A lot of what we do in class is theoretical, but with this project, we had real-life application. We had to talk to retailers about what they wanted, what’s their aesthetic, what their existing space looks like. We had to design around that. It was so much more real-world experience than I thought I’d have. We do a lot of digital rendering, but getting to really see it in a space is so different.”
-Sammy Bonner (left), senior studying interior design
“It was really cool. We got to work with business owners and design students. There’s completely different thinking between the design students and fashion students. So collaborating as a team to make a cohesive design – and doing what the business owners wanted – was just such a different perspective. Getting real world experiences was a great learning experience.”
-Taylor Burke Melaragno (right)
Third year, Fashion and Retail Studies
Team leader“
“We were all so very, very proud when the windows were done. We were all taking pictures. We were just like, ‘Wow, this is what we’ve worked four or five months on.’ It was great to see it all done. It made me feel very good.”
-Ashley Gentis, senior in fashion and retail studies

“We produced these in real life,” says Tyler Hatton, a junior studying interior design. “There is something so crucial and beneficial from an experience like this.

“A lot of work we do, we put hours and hours into it, but who ends up seeing it at the end of the day? It’s our fellow classmates and our faculty. This is a very rare instance where you get to actually work on something that others can enjoy, look at and critique.”

Hatton is among 23 students from two departments — fashion and retail studies and the department of design (students are in the interior design, industrial design and visual communication design majors) — who worked to create and install the displays as part of a semester-long independent study course.

By partnering with the community, Ohio State provided students a unique opportunity for real-world experience from working with local small businesses while learning from a retail professional. The result was public design displays that will boost the students’ portfolios in job searches.

“It was the most rewarding project I’ve ever been a part of, for sure,” says Taylor Burke Melaragno, a junior in fashion and retail studies.

Learn more about this distinct Ohio State experience from the College of Education and Human Ecology.