Chris Owens

2009 Southern District Student Merit Winner - North Carolina State University

Chris Owens’ design career started in a garage. It was there that he helped his father tinker with various crafty projects throughout his childhood.

“One year, when I was around seven years old, we turned my bicycle into a police Harley for a neighborhood parade,” Owens recalled. “It had working sirens and a megaphone.”

The elder Owens—a graphic illustrator,  woodworker and draftsman at different turns during his career—passed on a fascination with artifacts, and an inventor mentality to complement it, to the 2009 Southern District Conference Student Merit Winner. The younger Owens is also an unapologetic gadget geek.

Chris Owens Chair  “I’m naturally drawn to consumer electronics and anything that can apply a new technology—including materials and methods, not just bits and bytes—in a way that solves a problem,” Owens offered.

He added, “Blue-sky conceptualization is fun and extremely important for innovation, but I always get excited about putting effort into pulling concepts back into a form that can be executed in the near term.”

A good example of Owens acting on this approach is Grasp, a wall mounted cradle he designed in 2007 during his second year in North Carolina State University’s ID program that stores and charges a notebook computer through wireless inductive charging. “I knew that the technology existed, but it was still being engineered into a form that could be introduced to the market,” Owens reported.  “Now Palm is shipping a cell phone that uses the same technology to charge from a base station without a physical electronic connection, and I feel like it's inevitable that the same technology will make its way into our notebook computers.”

The Grasp is not the only example of Owens trying to peer around the corner. “In early 2008 I looked at emerging trends in the cell phone market and explored what a next step may look like,” he noted. That next step—which was a key piece of his award-winning portfolio—incorporated existing technology in capacitive touch-sensitivity, sliding mechanisms and LED lighting.

Chris Owens Phone  The resulting Edge cell phone concept features a transparent touch-sensitive keypad that slides out for numeric and text input. “The concept of a transparent screen on a phone isn't new,” Owens said. “But I felt like I had a realistic design that was executable with technologies currently on the market. In early 2009 I was excited to see LG announce a cell phone with a slide-out touch-sensitive transparent keypad with characters that are edge-lit. I felt like it was validation that my concepts were on track with how current technologies could be pushed in new ways.”

“I’m really interested in ‘augmented reality’,” Owens added. “Bringing interactions with software into the physical realm to apply them to real life contexts is very exciting to me.”

Owens is living in Austin, Texas during the next three months while he completes an internship with Dell’s Enterprise Group. For more information about Chris Owens, visit


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