Erin Rice, IDSA


IDSA Midwest District Student Merit Award winner Erin Rice, IDSA, joined Walt Disney Imagineering’s Professional Internship Program in Orlando, FL, after graduating from the University of Notre Dame in May 2017. “I’m excited to dive head first into a world of design I’ve never considered—theme park design,” she says. “To my surprise, I recognized an overwhelming amount of similarities between Imagineering and industrial design. Both rely on user-driven research to design experiences for the betterment of their consumers through reliance on multidisciplinary collaboration and problem framing.”

Rice studied industrial and visual communication design to receive her BFA, emphasizing that studying both disciplines was imperative in her growth as a well-rounded designer. “I believe design will change the world,” she forecasts. “I’m enthralled to be a part of a field that has the ability to touch so many lives. Studying industrial design has given me the unique opportunity to be an advocate for the things that I care about.”

Rice led a multidisciplinary team of students that placed second out of more than 340 submissions in the 2017 Walt Disney Imaginations Competition. The week-long experience at the Imagineering headquarters in California led to an offer to intern with Disney Imagineering’s design team in Orlando this summer. In April, Rice won the IDSA Student Merit Award at the IDSA Midwest District Design Conference, held at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

Among her other designs are a cage to aid animal control officers in safely handling stray dogs (a design recognized at the 2017 International Housewares Competition), and a magnetic bracelet to aid people with manual dexterity impairments in controlling their smartphones.

Rice credits her education at Notre Dame, unending support from her parents and mentorship from her peers and professors as the top reasons for her success. She specifically recognizes Notre Dame professors Scott Shim, IDSA, chair of IDSA’s Education Symposium 2017; Michael Elwell, IDSA; and Ann-Marie Conrado, IDSA, for their commitment to helping her—as a person and designer. “The design professors are adamant about the importance of networking with professionals and gaining internships,” she says.

Rice completed five internships, two of them facilitated by the Notre Dame study abroad program in London. “Industry experience is invaluable and helped me develop a better understanding of who I want to be and what I want to do,” she explains.

“My proudest moment as an industrial designer was not the moment I found out I won the IDSA SMA—but that in which I found out that all of the other District-level SMA winners are women for the first time in history,” she declares. “I feel overwhelmingly honored to be part of something that transcends far beyond myself as an individual. It's exciting to see women emerging as leaders, creative thinkers, builders and designers,” she enthuses. “I want to encourage every child aspiring to chase their dreams to get their hands dirty, welcome failure, build from criticism and shoot for the moon.”