O’More and Watkins Students Band Together for Unconventional Design Competition

O'More and Watkins students sit and await the unboxing demonstrations
O’More College of Architecture & Design

O’More and Watkins Students Band Together for Unconventional Design Competition

September 14, 2023 | by Emma Johansson

Students from both the O’More College of Architecture and Design and Watkins College of Art participated in Belmont’s second annual Collaborative Design Competition from August 25 through September 1. Keeping artistic experimentation and interdisciplinary teamwork at the forefront, competitors were challenged to create their own five-step unboxing experience in groups composed of sculpture students, painting students and architecture students across both colleges. 

“This competition was a really unique way to start off the school year,” said Esther Kuperus, a sophomore Design Communications major who placed second with her team (Team 12). “Watkins has done an awesome job through this opportunity and many others giving us as students practice working with other people and learning how the ‘real world’ works in terms of projects, critiques, etc.”

A few of the entries stand side by side while a jury member examines one of them

The second-place winner from Team 12 (Delaney Kelly, Jeremy Jerkins, Esther Kuperus, Maddie Crowder) who were tasked with unboxing a pickle.

One week prior, the students came together to receive their assignment, teams and some special instructions. At this meeting, each of the 18 teams drew a letter at random that corresponded with what food item they would unveil during the unboxing (A: chips, B: pickles, C: cookies, D: soup). 

The unboxing requirements specified that teams could not use the item’s original packaging in the final design, the physical object must remain intact with the edible item still viable and the project must include a minimum of five moves (twist, spin, tear, unlock, slide, pull, push, fold, etc.)

Students prepared by looking at iconic unboxings in popular culture, such as the 2022 film “Glass Onion”, and examining all aspects that would go into this assignment – such as materials, movement and momentum, difficulty of opening, motivation for whoever is doing the unboxing, connection between layers and meaning. How can their project engage the five senses? What story is it going to tell? On top of an exceptional unboxing, students were to create a compelling video that enhanced the product and took sound components, setting and camerawork into consideration.

The project was a test in remaining diligent in the face of multiple challenges, as they drafted timelines, utilized each individual’s strengths and exemplified showmanship while presenting their creations. Robertson, a second-year architecture student who placed third with her team (Team 8), said, “working with professionals outside of architecture is something I will always be doing, so working with those in Watkins was an eye opener of how artists/designers would approach different situations. It was an adjustment at first to get on even ground with how we each approached the prompt, but we quickly fit together very well in the roles we were accomplishing.”

Student and employee examine the unboxings

Wooden boxes as a part of the unboxing of third-place winner, Team 8 (Riley Rhodes, Sidney Robertson, Ethan Landes, Hamilton Nichols) who were tasked with unboxing chips.

Once the video submissions were examined and evaluated by a jury panel (including Dan Brawner, professor of illustration for Watkins, Shari Fox, interim assistant dean for Watkins and member of the Board of Advisors for O’More and Sam McCullough, bar manager at Patterson House) the projects were narrowed down to a top five that were presented during the live unboxing at the competition reception on Sept. 1 where the final round of adjudication occurred.

The winning team (Team 15), consisting of students Lucy Buell and Kaitlyn Hix, were tasked with unboxing a cookie. “We went for a simplistic Oreo theme that combined hard and soft textures while being sleek and to the point,” said Hix, a freshman nursing student with a studio art minor. “I loved the entire process, but the most rewarding part was the ceremony because everyone was able to see the effort that we put in and it really paid off. This being my first project as a part of Watkins college has made me very excited for what's to come.”

The winning team's unboxing, white cloth covering layers to reveal an Oreo cookie

Team 15's first-place winning unboxing