UW senior wins design challenge with organic elements, bold colors

July 12, 2017 By Mike Klein

Christensen on her design: “The goal for the design for the University of Wisconsin Credit Union E-Commerce Center was to re-imagine the building’s second floor and transform it into a fun yet functional office for its employees. The use of organic elements, maximization of natural light, and bright colors were key in the design and used to hint at an urban rooftop garden. Color psychology was used when selecting the colors for the space. Orange, which is energizing and associated with positivity, and blue, which is soothing and linked to higher rates of productivity, are the two main colors dominant in the space. Color was integral in defining specific areas in the office like the open workstations, flexible meeting spaces and respite destinations. The private offices are wrapped in orange, and respite destinations have navy ceilings which allude to the night sky of a rooftop garden.”

UW-Madison senior Courtney Christensen won the commercial category of the Sherwin-Williams Student Design Challenge with a design of the UW Credit Union E-Commerce Center that combined organic elements with bright colors.

Christensen, an interior architecture major who is originally from Wheaton, Illinois, has long been passionate about interior design — as a girl, she used to design the rooms inside her dollhouses.

Courtney Christensen

Christensen, one of three winners, was awarded a $2,500 cash prize, and another $1,000 went to UW–Madison. In addition, she’ll be featured in an upcoming issue of Sherwin-Williams STIR magazine and other publications. Celebrity designers Cynthia Rowley and Vern Yip, along with Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams, selected the winners.

“We continue to be impressed with the caliber of work that these up-and-coming designers create,” said Wadden. “The winners stood out this year because of the risks that they took to bring color to life in unexpected ways.”

Christensen answered some questions by email:

How did you get into interior design, and where did you learn how to do it well? I’ve always been passionate about interior design even before I truly understood the full extent of what it entailed. For as long as I can remember, when asked what I wanted to do when I grew up I always answered that I wanted to be an interior designer. The first spaces I designed were those inside my dollhouses growing up.

Were classes at UW–Madison involved? Entering my freshman year here at UW I had an instinct for design, but with immense help from my professors and through all of the classes I’ve taken for my major, I have refined my design instincts, I’ve developed new talents, and learned about a realm of design I didn’t know existed. (The interior architecture major is part of UW-Madison’s School of Human Ecology.)

Where did you get your inspiration for your winning design, and what do you think impressed the judges? My initial inspiration for the design came from seeing the footprint of the building space I was given for my class project along with talking to the clients about their needs for the space. One of our clients repetitively stated that she wanted the space to be “fun.” Right away the large windows and bright space sparked my imagination and the colors became my jumping off point. I think my use of colors to create a “fun” atmosphere along with using the colors’ meanings in color psychology is what led the judges to select my design.

What do you hope to do for a career? After I graduate in May 2018 I hope to join an interior design and architecture firm. I would like to start my career at a job where I can follow my passion and use my talents for interior design, while also branching out and learning more about the architectural side of design.

Do you have any plans for the $2,500 you won? I plan to use the $2,500 towards my education expenses while hopefully using part of it to travel around Europe after I graduate.