SIGD Grad Named IDSA Student Merit Award Winner

Derek Tucker, a May 2021 graduate of Auburn’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design (SIGD), has been named the South District Student Merit Award Winner by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA). This annual competition recognizes the top five undergraduate industrial design students from around the United States.

The first round of the competition takes place at each school, where a panel of design leaders and educators reviews the work of graduating seniors and chooses the top student to advance to the regional competition. In round two, design educators and practicing professionals review the portfolios of finalists to choose one winner from each of IDSA’s five regions. In addition to a trophy and awards presentation, winners are profiled online and in a print feature in IDSA’s Innovation magazine.

Tucker originally entered Auburn University as a chemical engineering major, then switched to mechanical engineering. “Industrial design was never the plan,” Tucker explained. “I was pretty good at math and science but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. That led me to search for something that fulfilled the purpose of problem solving for people” Luckily, he realized that industrial design would allow him to create solutions for people utilizing both his engineering skills and his creative abilities. As a student at Auburn, Tucker was employed in SIGD’s Design Prototype Fabrication Laboratory and also worked assisting faculty in the Summer Op program.

Tucker credits the industrial design faculty members with helping him to develop his skills and interests as a designer. He remembers working with Associate Professor Shu-Wen Tzeng on a sponsored studio with Smucker’s where he was assigned to design a new dog treat. “My naive designer brain thought dog treats would be easy since dogs eat anything,” Tucker said. “I was met with a rude awakening when the client was not impressed with the first round of ideas.” He said that Tzeng was a great mentor who helped him to think outside the box, and with her guidance he eventually won the semester’s Studio Merit Award.

Having developed an interest in healthcare design after an inspiring studio class with Associate Professor Chris Arnold, Tucker will spend the next year completing a remote internship at medical device company Medtronic. He will be working as a UX (User Experience) and Industrial Design intern for the company’s Diabetics Operational Unit. Tucker said that he’s excited for the opportunity to learn more about user-centered design in healthcare but is amenable to working in other areas of the field as well. “That’s the beauty of design, there are so many avenues it can take you,” he stated. “I’m open to whatever happens in the future. I am just looking forward to the journey and will continue to work hard no matter where I end up.”

Tucker’s work can be viewed at his online portfolio.