Industrial design students get feet wet with fountain design competition

Humber 1st place

Humber’s second-year Industrial Design students flooded Crystal Fountains Inc. with innovative ideas thanks to an industrial design competition.


Crystal Fountains, an international leader with elaborate decorative fountains around the world and with offices in Toronto, the Middle East and Europe, was seeking new design concepts that would make their fountain systems more aesthetically pleasing when not in use. Dubbing the competition “Off can be beautiful,” Humber was challenged to redesign or enhance the appearance of Crystal Fountains’ nozzles, LED light fixtures, even hoses and wiring with this thinking in mind. Having already partnered with Humber on several successful collaborations, they approached Humber’s School of Applied Technology with this challenge in the summer of 2015.


Odin Cappello and Glenn Moffatt, instructors in the Industrial Design program, decided a design competition would be the best way to gather and present new ideas. Crystal Fountains agreed to host a six-week long competition during the fall term – their first project with Humber’s Industrial Design program. Though excited and enthusiastic, none of the students had ever been involved in the commercial fountain industry. “This was not the type of product that was on their radar,” said Cappello. “Typically, second-year design students are keen to dream up concepts for sports cars or athletic shoes, rather than a fountain.”


The class visited Crystal Fountains’ headquarters, which includes a warehouse and testing facility, to get a sense of the company’s current products and designs. “They saw that Crystal Fountains is a modern and progressive company that is excited about what they do, and that energy trickled down to the students,” said Cappello.


Following the instructions of Jongmu Lee, Crystal Fountains’ Senior Art Director, who asked for “outside the box” thinking, the students rolled up their sleeves and got to work. “We could use our imagination but still think about real world problems,” said student Usman Dulatov. Twelve teams of students presented nearly 100 ideas. These were eventually narrowed down to one concept per team. Lee along with John L’Heureux, Crystal Fountains’ Product Supervisor, and George Ayer, Chief Innovation Officer, gave valuable feedback. They covered aspects of design, manufacturing, product installation, and branding, making the students’ already strong ideas even stronger.


“Being my first industrial design competition, this was more than I could have ever anticipated,” said student Fiona Lo. “The people from Crystal Fountains were amazing, and the feedback had great substance.”


“We also learned how to interact with actual clients, rather than just our professors,” said Alexis Gago. “That gave us experience on how to communicate with people who aren’t industrial designers.” With their ideas polished, the student teams presented their designs in a formal slideshow, supported by detailed models. The panel of judges included Lee, Ayer, and Crystal Fountains CEO, Paul L’Heureux. “They were absolutely blown away by what the teams accomplished in just six weeks, with no prior understanding of commercial water feature products,” said Cappello.


“The students were well prepped…well equipped,” said Lee, adding, “If the students were ready to graduate, I would hire them instantly.”


So many strong ideas were put forward, the judges couldn’t narrow down the winners to just three teams and chose to award five teams instead. These winning teams were invited to present at Crystal Fountains corporate headquarters to show the sales team and other staff the quality ideas. “And maybe to get buy-in to put some of these ideas into the pipeline sooner rather than later,” noted Cappello. One such idea was the competition’s final winner, called Blume. Four students designed a nozzle that mimicked flower petals opening and closing, giving the nozzle a visually pleasing shape when not in use. “Crystal Fountains showed real respect to the students, provided incredible support and showed genuine interest in the winning team’s ideas,” said Cappello. “At the same time, all the students gained valuable insight into product manufacturing, brand identity, client presentation, design thinking, and human-centered design.”


“You don’t think, ‘fountains would be a great thing to design,” said Sam Parker“But it really opens your eyes to the industry, as well as what there are in terms of job possibilities afterwards.”


Winning Teams:

1st Place: Blume – $2,100
Aaron Bavle
Thomas Cusimano
Kenny Nguyen
Olivia Sementsova


2nd Place: Ripple – $1,750
Asa Couture
Marc-Philippe Gange
Alexis Gago
Stephani Martinez Belmonte


3rd Place: Chameleon – $1,400
Mitchell de Moor
Jintai Liu
Kelechi Aekua Onyeije
Stefano Tocco


4th Place: Morphosis – $1,050
Fiona Lo
Quinn Lo
Samuel Parker
Bonnie Zeng


5th Place: The Dyad Series – $700
Ian Buckley
Adara Dillabaugh
Usman Dulatov
James Stonehewer