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March 15, 2015

CIA student wins award in international design competition

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ann McGuire
Director of Communications

CLEVELAND (Ohio) – Competing against 245 entries by students from 34 colleges, Cleveland Institute of Art student Geemay Chia has placed second in the Student Design Competition sponsored by the International Housewares Association (IHA). Chia, of Gates Milles, Ohio, was recognized for her Clean Mate Personal Cleaning Companion. A hybrid walker, folding seat, and caddy for cleaning products, Clean Mate enables a person with limited physical capabilities to perform household duties more easily.

She traveled to Chicago to present her design at the 2015 International Home + Housewares Show, March 7-10. She appeared on Cleveland's NBC affiliate station, WKYC, upon her return on March 12.

Chia said her moment of inspiration came one day in a grocery store as she watched an elderly couple struggle to put a broom into a grocery cart. “I figured they were doing their cleaning themselves. I remembered my grandparents often have to hire someone to do the cleaning for them, because they can’t do it themselves. And a lot of that has to do with mobility,” said Chia, who is a senior majoring in Industrial Design.

She began research for her product by interviewing residents of an elderly apartment complex about their struggles with cleaning. “Since they’re older, moving around is difficult and they usually need their hands free to move around or support themselves. I really wanted to tackle that mobility problem. I thought maybe you could have this caddy that could not only support weight, but could also carry tools, and provide some resting spot for the elderly.”

Her idea was well suited for the challenge set forth for this year’s IHA Student Design
Competition: “redesign a current housewares product to meet the needs of the future, or to create a concept for a new product.” Winning projects are selected for their innovation, understanding of production and marketing principles, and quality of entry materials.

Dan Cuffaro, chair of CIA’s Industrial Design Department was proud of his student’s enterprising approach to her project.

“One of the things that impressed me the most was that Geemay was very interested in creating an ‘age suit’ to limit her mobility and blur her vision. This has been done by designers before but Geemay took the time to design and make her own version,” Cuffaro said. “She wore the suit to clean house so she could understand the experiences of the elderly. She really lived the subject matter and it shows in the final piece.”

Cuffaro also noted Chia’s interest in universal design, or design that works for virtually any user.

“I interviewed people of other age ranges, in addition to the elderly, to see if I could design something that is universally helpful to all users. I think my caddy could also benefit people who don’t have cleaning storage in the home,” she said.

The 246 entries to the competition came from students in the United States, Canada and Turkey. IHA granted $2,490 to the six winners’ schools to support their design programs.

Chia, along with the other first, second, and third place winners received an all-expense paid trip to the 2015 International Home + Housewares Show March 7-10 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. There, they and their product prototypes were presented to 60,000 visitors from over 125 countries, all focused on buying and selling the latest products at the world’s largest home goods marketplace.

Chia shares second place with Haley Pearson, a California State University-Long Beach senior who designed a weekly pill case. Sharing first place in the competition are Hyunsol Park, an Arizona State University junior for a bracelet and smartphone app to notify faraway relatives of and elderly person’s caloric intake; and Brendan Babiarz from Rochester Institute of Technology, for his design of a dog bed that collects loose dog hair.

This year's winners were chosen by a jury of product development managers from IHA member companies, a major retailer, design consultants and three educators. In the blind judging process, judges spend many volunteer hours in reviewing the submissions, which consisted of written materials, sketches, engineering drawings and photos.

Juror Kaitlyn Benoit, a 2009 third-place winner and an industrial designer with KitchenAid Small Appliances, said, “Judging this year’s competition was very inspiring. You could see the students’ passion poured out onto the pages of their submission booklets. The late nights sketching and model building...the time they spent researching and talking to’s obvious they are really ‘all-in.’”

This is the 22nd year that winning design students have been honored at the show, expanding awareness of careers in industrial design among students and highlighting the impact of design on the $314.3 billion global housewares industry. Since the competition began in 1993, approximately 4,600 college students have entered, and each has come away with an educational experience that the design profession recognizes as unique.

“Winners of IHA’s annual design competition go on to careers in many aspects of design. Some receive their first jobs in the housewares industry because of contacts they made at our show. Others become design consultants who create varied products and services. Many start their own businesses,” said Vicki Matranga, who heads IHA’s design programs and services and manages the Student Design Competition. “Winning this competition often is a predictor of future success for these young designers.”

About CIA
Founded in 1882, the Cleveland Institute of Art is an accredited, independent college of art and design offering 15 majors in studio art, digital art, craft disciplines, and design. CIA extends its programming to the public through gallery exhibitions; lectures; a robust continuing education program; and the Cinematheque, a year-round art and independent film program. CIA’s public programming is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. For more information visit

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