Janna Budge

Janna Budge, IDSA | New Deal Design

Student Merit Award: 2011

Janna Budge didn’t plan to become a designer when she enrolled at Brigham Young University (BYU). She had always shied away from art classes. After arriving on campus, she gravitated to the art of problem solving.

“I actually applied to BYU with the intention of becoming an actuary,” Budge recalled. “When I got introduced to industrial design, I changed majors right away. While actuarial science may have satisfied my love for problem solving, design seemed to incorporate not only my love for problem solving, but geometry and aesthetics as well.”

Early in her first year, Budge struggled with whether she had made the right choice. “If it weren’t for Professor [Richard] Fry’s brutal honesty in my freshmen year, I likely would never have pushed myself hard enough to succeed,” she remembered. “Later, other professors were influential in helping me to discover and capitalize on my strengths.”

Among those strengths are empathy and tenacity.

Through a partnership with BYU, Pride Mobility asked her studio class to generate concepts for a redesign of their low end power chair. “Not being a wheelchair user myself, I immediately needed to know why someone would use a manual chair over a power chair,” she said. “Not being a wheelchair user myself, I immediately needed to know why someone would use a manual chair over a power chair,” she said.

Budge searched the BYU campus for a wheelchair user before finding a young woman who had become paraplegic in her teens following a car accident. “She told me she uses a manual chair because the cardiovascular exercise gives her a sense of well-being and pride in her upper-body strength,” Budge noted.

Janna Budge_ChairAfter confining herself to a power chair for two weeks, Budge came to know the challenges separating a user from that pride and sense of well-being. She created a hybrid-manual electric chair that works like an electric bike. It excited both the client and the woman who uses the manual chair. “I learned the power of addressing emotional needs with my product design,” she said. “While many projects focus on solving physical needs, the wheelchair was mainly focused on solving emotional needs with a physical solution.”

Apart from her studies at BYU, Budge’s personal design journey included two key internships where she extracted as much value as possible from her experiences.

She extended her first internship at Provo, UT-based Rocketship by over a year and worked part time while pursuing her BYU degree. “I got to see several of my projects go from proposal to the shelf. It helped me to put everything I was learning in school into context. I learned to trust in the design process and gained a greater appreciation for the business side of design.”

Later, she found herself nearing the end of a summer internship with Ziba. “I felt as though I was on the brink of learning so much more, so I took a semester off of school and stayed for additional four months. The second half of my internship was twice as busy and twice as rewarding. I got pushed to think harder about the ‘whys,’ and learned to not do anything unless I’m going to do it right.”

Presently, Budge is returning from a stint in Japan where she volunteered to aid in the recovery and rebuild of Ishinomaki, a northern city that was devastated by the Tsunami. She was actually born in Tokyo and is fluent in Japanese.

Janna Budge recently accepted a position as a junior designer at New Deal Design. She can be reached via janna.budge@gmail.com.