Best of Design Student Competition 2023

From right to left: Derek Chen, Jill Potts, Thomas Ventura, Caroline Ferann, William Bouche, Vannie Nguyen, Karin Ross and Jimmy Arakelian

The annual IIDA Best of Design Student Competition was held at the Gensler Newport Beach office on Saturday, February 11, 2023.  The 5 students competing that day were selected from a pre-screened online application and recommendation process. 

Every student arrived on time (or early!) ready to present a project they had worked on for a class or competition in school.  There were two categories of competition this year – Social Relevance and Innovation – which would award $10,500 in prizes.

Social Relevance in Interior Design – $5000 awarded for the presentation that best addresses social or cultural issues through creative design.

Innovation in Interior Design – $5000 awarded for the presentation that shows the highest level of innovation through design solutions.

Students present their work to a panel of esteemed judges:

  • William Bouchey, Design Director for Gensler
  • Karin Ross, Design Director for Kamus + Keller 
  • Caroline Feran, Design Director for Gensler
  • Thomas Ventura, Design Director for Gensler
  • Vannie Ngyun, Senior Job Captain for saa 

Students delivered enthusiastic digital presentations of their work and some included physical models as an added bonus.  The judges asked many questions and carefully deliberated after each presentation.  Ultimately, they decided to provide one Honorable Mention Award in addition to the 2 top prizes.

And the winners are…

Elle Yanez, Saddleback College
Social Relevance Category – $5000 prize + award presentation at Calibre Design Awards

Avery Salleh, California State University Long Beach
Innovation Category – $5000 prize + award presentation at Calibre Design Awards

Donald Wong, UCLA Extension 
Honorable Mention – $500 prize

Congratulations to our winners and to all who participated! The awards will be formally presented at the Annual IIDA Calibre Design Awards on Friday, May 12th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Jill Potts from Interface and Derek Chen from Gensler  – IIDA SoCal VPs of Student Affairs – thank the students, judges and sponsors for making this event a huge success.  

A special thank you to:

Event Host
Gensler – Newport Beach 

Volunteer Day Of
James Arakelian, IIDA So Cal Regional Student Affairs Director from ECC 

Event Sponsors


Environmental Contracting (ECC) has a long-standing reputation for providing excellent interior construction services from project commencement to completion. This reputation is attributable to the execution of our core values in everything we do: Integrity, Honesty, Commitment. Located in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles, ECC was founded in 1984 by Aram Arakelian to deliver high-quality tenant improvement construction to Los Angeles businesses. For nearly 40 years, the ECC team has successfully built some of the most iconic commercial spaces throughout Los Angeles. Our reputation has been built on the commitment to deliver the highest quality service at any budget, on schedule, and with unparalleled attention to detail.


Interface is a global leader in modular flooring, offering an integrated collection of carpet tiles and resilient flooring that includes luxury vinyl tile (LVT), vinyl sheet, rigid core and nora® rubber flooring.

It began in 1973 when our founder, Ray Anderson, saw a carpet tile in Europe and recognized its future potential in modern offices. He introduced the concept to America and started a commercial flooring revolution that would spread around the world.

See more photos from the event here.

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