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News . Feature Stories . CIA grad shines in international design competition

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May 29, 2013

CIA grad shines in international design competition

Interior Architecture major wins $1,500 prize for her family-friendly restaurant concept

CIA grad shines in international design competition

A 2013 Cleveland Institute of Art graduate has placed second in an international student design competition sponsored by the Retail Design Institute. The competition drew 128 entries from students studying at 20 different colleges in three countries.

Natalie Benos, who majored in Interior Architecture, won the $1,500 cash prize in recognition of her detailed concepts for a family friendly restaurant she titled CHERRY: Wholesome Family Eatery.

Benos was part of the CIA team that won first place in the group category of this competition last year. During her student years at CIA, she served internships at WD Partners and The Little Tikes Company. In June, she begins a full-time job as an environments designer at Interbrand Design Forum in Dayton.

"I am very proud of my accomplishment and the CIA Interior program,” said Benos, a native of Parma, Ohio, who graduated from Padua Franciscan High School in 2009.

This year, the Retail Design Institute gave students the challenge of designing a new American-fare restaurant brand with a healthy menu located in the Midwest. In developing Cherry, Benos drew inspiration from the 1950s and 1960s, incorporating mid-century modern furniture, textures, colors, accessories, and even fonts used in signage.

“RDI really looks for creating a brand in their projects, not just creating beautiful renderings. They look at what the consumer experiences,” Benos said. She said her CIA education prepared her well for that challenge. “CIA teaches us not only that we have to draw and render well, but that we have to think about all the other things that make up a brand and the experience that the user has.”

Benos designed the floor plan of her restaurant to accommodate family and large-party seating, with a central bar where children to create custom drinks, in a call-back to the days of malt shops. Her menu would feature sharable dishes instead of strictly individual plates, and a complimentary bowl of fresh cherries brought to each table when guests arrive.

While her major was Interior Architecture, Benos has also excelled in graphic design and product design. She is a freelance product designer for a Northeast Ohio manufacturer. “I feel very well rounded, kind of like a triple threat coming out of CIA,” she joked.

The Retail Design Institute represents the retail industry's creative professionals including architects, graphic designers, lighting designers, and interior designers. The organization’s International Student Design Competition, now in its forty-third year, simulates the real-world development of a retail or restaurant environment, starting with a request for proposals (RFP) issued to students. The goals of the competition are to help students develop a process for solving design problems, and to recognize emerging design talent, according to the organization’s website. This year, Retail Design Institute awarded $10,000 in prize money. Sponsors were stylmark and Toshiba.

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