It’s only been four years since Judy Leung, IDSA, crossed the globe at the age of 17 in search of better opportunities. Now she has joined the ranks of the first all-female group of winners of IDSA’s Student Merit Awards (SMAs) and become the first person in her family to earn a college degree. In summer 2017, she is scheduled to intern at San Francisco's fuseproject, founded by IDSA member Yves Behar, whose designs have garnered dozens of IDSA International Design Excellence Awards (IDEAs). Leung won the SMA at the IDSA West District Design Conference 2017 held in April at the University of Oregon in Portland. She expressed gratitude to her peers, instructors and family.
The California College of the Arts (CCA) senior presented Chillex Series, wearable, cooling gel packs that target a runner’s pain points; Food Pop, a Renault-sponsored project that transforms electric vehicles into platforms for spontaneous experiences in cities; Bini, a disaster evacuation helmet; and Go Poncho, an everyday use garment that can provide emotional relief in disasters. “What fascinates me is how we're integrating technology into the materials we use and wear to create more meaningful solutions,” observes Leung. “I'm interested in the blend and integration of soft and hard goods, utility and fashion, where both the emotional and rational aspect of the solution is considered and woven into our everyday lives.”
She recommends IDSA and its SMAs to designers-in-training “not only to represent your school and connect with others, but also as a great opportunity to learn about yourself.”
Leung was born and raised in Hong Kong. Design caught her attention in high school. “Back then, industrial design was a subject called ‘design and technology.’ Design was condensed to an exam paper-like format.” But her teachers opened her eyes to the many possibilities in design and it was then that she decided to study in the United States.
She also learned that design is much more than appearance. “It's as complex as our relationships to objects, our relationship to materials, our relationship to the people around us. That's what got me interested in industrial design,” says Leung. “There's a lot of thought, communicating and understanding that goes into a solution that’s often invisible until you hold it, feel it, use it.”
Her family taught her to be reflective—and conscious and engaged about everything outside the design world. “We take inspiration from our everyday lives, so we should be equally passionate about people and issues around us. Sometimes there are problems that can’t be solved through design, but as designers we should actively participate in creating dialogues and looking for better solutions.”
Leung feels fortunate for many things, such as the help and support of her family to experience college abroad. “I’m also happy to be among the first all-female group of SMA winners,” she says, “and equally happy to be recognized as an international student representing CCA. I’m grateful to be recognized for my work.”