Iowa State graduate places second in national design competition


Iowa State interior design graduate Hannah Halvorson has placed second in the  Sherwin-Williams tenth annual Student Design Challenge. Halvorson entered the competition as an assignment for her graduate and senior level course Advanced Color. 

Avery Staker

Students from all over the country submitted digital color renderings to the Sherwin-Williams Student Design Challenge and an Iowa State graduate placed second overall. 

Iowa State interior design graduate Hannah Halvorson placed second in the Sherwin-Williams tenth annual Student Design Challenge. 

The challenge had students submit digital color renderings of their designs and include detailed project statements on their design and use of color. 

A panel of professional designers chose a first, second and third place design in both of the competition’s categories: residential and commercial.

Halvorson’s placement is not the first time an Iowa State student has been recognized in the Sherwin-Williams Student Design Challenge. In 2019, Samantha Kragel won second place in the residential design category for designing a boho-style bungalow and in 2017, Elizabeth Bixenman won the residential category’s fan favorite title for a modern home in the mountains.

Halvorson entered the competition as an assignment for her graduate and senior level class “Advanced Color.” 

“I’m always looking for something additional that students can get out of an assignment,” said Julie Irish, assistant professor in interior design and Halvorson’s professor. “I am keen for students to have extra projects they can add to their portfolios […] I also think competitions can be good to promote competitions, encourage best work and showcase accomplishments.”

Irish said she was not shocked to learn of Halvorson’s success in the competition.

“I was incredibly proud and thrilled for her,” Irish said. “In some ways, it was not surprising because she had done a standout project and yet was competing with stellar programs from around the U.S.”

Judges chose Halvorson’s lively design of a boutique hotel for second place in the competition’s commercial design category. As a reward, she will receive $1,000 and a feature in the 2020 issue of STIR, the Sherwin-Williams magazine for design professionals.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of color, so I knew I wanted to do something really out there and fun,” Halvorson said. “I’m also a big fan of [French artist] Henri Matisse’s paintings.” 

Halvorson detailed how her love of Matisse and historical art movements like fauvism and maximalism are the main inspirations for her designs. 

“It’s about creating fun, wild designs that people think are absolutely crazy […] I really wanted to take that idea and put it into an interior space,” Halvorson said. 

Throughout high school, Halvorson cultivated her skills and knowledge by taking every art class possible. Her first time studying the artist and movements that inspired her winning design was in these classes — from here on, Halvorson said she developed her interest in art history.

As excited as she is to have won the recognition of a popular design brand like Sherwin-Williams, Halvorson said she is also extremely proud to represent Iowa State at a national level.

“I have entered other design companies’ competitions for classes,” Halvorson said. “It’s always really challenging because there are lots of other good design schools out there. I was just really excited to get Iowa State’s name out there.”