Student Member Spotlight: Elizabeth Burns

Name: Elizabeth Burns
School/Year in School: Oregon State University/Senior
IDA Member since: 2018

Favorite IDA Event:  
My favorite IDA event is the student design charette. In the moment, it definitely felt a little stressful, however, I’ve reflected back onto the event and even a year later I can recognize the
valuable things I learned. Last year, my team did not place well in the rankings due to our lack of a cohesive concept. For my next class project, I spent a large chunk of my time forming and solidifying a concept. In addition to receiving a high grade, I entered the OSU Design Network showcase with this project and won first place for the design. The judges explained that a large factor for this win was due to my cohesive concept shown in both my project and my presentation. I don’t know if I could say the same outcome would have occurred had I not attended the design charette. Plus, it’s a fun way to challenge your brain and learn to listen to your instincts!

What does being a designer mean to your life?
For me, being a designer is such a beautiful and valuable career. It is based so strongly on
empathy and placing yourself in the user’s shoes to understand the way they function. This
empathy allows you to problem-solve in such a personal way that better helps that user to
complete the desired tasks. It’s also a humbling career because poor design results in
frustration and therefore recognition, whereas good design simply improves the life and
wellbeing of the user without drawing attention to itself. Being a designer, to me, is about
providing a service based on personal connection that improves the lives of all the people it

What project have you worked on that you are most proud of? Why?
The project I have worked on that I am most proud of is a design I am currently in the process
of designing. It is a phased-design for the Catholic campus ministry building at OSU’s campus. This project came up at the perfect time in my career path as it started shortly after I began my
internship. It has been one of the best learning experiences for me as I have been able to
combine my design knowledge learned in school with the practical knowledge of construction
learned in my internship/job. I am proud of this project not only for the way the design has
turned out and affected the space, but also for how I confidently took on the role of being the
only designer for the first time. It was the first time I got to see what I had envisioned in my
head come to life.

What is your personal mantra?
My personal mantra is: “Do small things with great love.”

What gets you excited about design?
I get so excited and energized in design when I collaborate with others and come up with an
awesome solution I never thought of before. I love when another designer and I start a trail of suggesting different ideas that build of each other and eventually lead to the perfect solution.
Recently at my work when I was creating a design for my client, I worked out a wheelchair
turning radius problem with my co-worker, and we collaborated on a solution. When I
presented the idea to my client, she was extremely excited about the idea and how she hadn’t
thought of that before. Those moments are both so exciting and fulfilling.