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GRAY’s 2018 design pitch competition kicks off in Portland

by GRAY Editors

Event photos by Ian Whitmore

HOT NEW NEXT is a dynamic design pitch competition that plays out in front of a live audience. The series consists three preliminary rounds, with the winner of each moving on to the finals where one contestant will emerge as the design champion of the year! Preliminaries are held this year in Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle. The final round will be held this September on the GRAY stage at the Interior Design Show in the Vancouver Convention Centre West.


The 2018 HOT NEW NEXT series kicked off on April 16 during Design Week Portland. Design Within Reach hosted 150 guests for the first preliminary round. Guests mingled in the showroom and sipped Browne Family Vineyard wines and snacked on Portlandia gourmet popcorn to the musical stylings of DJ Gregarious. We raffled off a $250 gift certificate to Crosswater restaurant courtesy of Chown Hardware, and an Eames Hang-It-All, courtesy of Design Within Reach.

Then, five pre-selected designers pitched their compelling new design-related concept or product to our esteemed panel of judges and live audience, covering the overall concept, business plan, marketing, manufacturing, sales viability, and more ... all in 2 minutes or less, and then endured a series of rapid-fire questions from judges.

The judging panel (from left): Liz Boscacci, buyer and product developer for Design Within Reach; marketing and communications pro Amy Golden, co-owner of Paxson Fay; Kim Kovel, Nike’s senior material and color innovator; entrepreneur and business consultant Linda Lowry; and sales guru Jeffrey Valles of Chown Hardware.

interior acustic panels Rainier Clouds in white suspended from the ceiling in industrial style office

The judges chose to advance Rainier Industries to the championship round. The design team gave an impressive pitch of the "Rainier Cloud," an acoustic hanging sculpture that can be custom configured to suit a myriad of spaces that require sound attenuation. The marriage of form and function, plus the design’s scalability gave it the edge to pull off the win.

The audience voted for its favorite, too—a  modern rocking chair by Mark Hanson. The dearth of modern rocking chairs in the market makes his design something we want to see more of.

The other very worthy contestants all brought something different to the table, starting with a sleek chair design by architect Quang Truong that uses carbon fiber technology, typically only used in the automotive, aerospace, nautical, and energy industries until now. Zenvans got the audience into a #vanlife state of mind by showing off the bentwood, modular and modern van systems that they have developed to retrofit Sprinter vans. On the conceptual side, architect Emi Day from Mahlum showed off an initiative to put digital screens in schools that encourage in-person interaction and learning, rather than escalating social isolation among school-age kids.

The Rainier Cloud team will receive mentorship from the judges offsite, and go on to pitch against the winners from the upcoming Vancouver and Seattle Hot New Next events. The grand prize is $1,000, coverage in GRAY, and the distinction of being the next big thing in design.

After Hot New Next, guests were invited to Hotel Lucia for the exclusive after party—a cool, low key but lively gathering featuring DJ Rachael Balancephotobooth by The Original Photobooth, and food and drinks from Imperial.  A thoroughly GRAY way to end the night.

Thank you to our presenting partners:


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