North America’s Largest Woodworking Event | Tuesday–Friday | August 6–9, 2024


The Management Committee of the International Woodworking Fair is pleased to announce Design Emphasis 2024, the industry’s most prestigious furniture design competition for college and university students. The competition will take place at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta, Georgia, August 6 – 9, 2024.

The Design Emphasis Showcase is a “must see” at the International Woodworking Fair. Furniture pieces designed and built by students from colleges and universities throughout the United States are on display at IWF. Over $10,000 in prize money is awarded and presented during a special ceremony on the show floor.

How the Competition Works

During the spring prior to the IWF show, students submit images and a written description of their projects to be judged by a preliminary judging panel in early May. Finalists chosen during preliminary judging are invited to display their projects on the exhibit floor in the Design Emphasis Gallery in Exhibit Hall C during IWF, where final judging by a panel of industry experts takes place. The winners selected will be announced, and prize money awarded during show hours in the Design Emphasis Gallery.

Design Emphasis 2022 Winners

2022 IWF Design Emphasis Student Competition winners.

The competition recognizes and rewards advanced level designs in five categories:

  • Seating
  • Case Goods
  • Commercial/Office/Hospitality Furniture
  • Accent Furniture/Accent Tables
  • Design Creativity

Judges for Design Emphasis 2022:

  • Jackie Hirschhaut – VP of Public Relations & Marketing, American Home Furnishings Alliance
  • Kelly Peterson – Creative Advertising Director and Digital Thought Leader, Hearst Integrated Media
  • Gat Caperton – CEO, Gat Creek
  • Ethan Abramson – Owner, Ethan Abramson Furniture
  • Leigh Kivowitz Spencer, LEED GA – Managing Partner, Alabama Sawyer
  • Cliff Spencer – Founding Partner, Alabama Sawyer
  • Hoa Vo, PhD, DEC, IES, ACM – Assistant Professor, Welch School of Art and Design, GA State University

Schools Who Participated Design Emphasis 2022:

  • Appalachian State University
  • Art Center College of Design
  • Auburn University
  • Bucks County Community College
  • Buffalo State
  • California College of the Arts
  • Columbus College of Art & Design
  • Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
  • Fox Valley Technical College
  • Haywood Community College
  • Hennepin Technical College – Brooklyn
  • Herron School of Art & Design
  • James Madison University
  • Massachusetts College of Art and Design
  • NC State University
  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • Savannah College of Art & Design
  • The Krenov School, Mendocino College
  • University of Hawaii-Manoa
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of New Hampshire
  • Vermont Woodworking School at Northern Vermont University

What the Judges Say about Past Competitions

“The caliber of . . . Design Emphasis entries was, unquestionably, the highest quality overall that I’ve observed over the past decade. These rising furniture designers delivered products developed with a keen awareness of today’s consumer lifestyle in outstanding execution. The attention to detail in the finished samples as well as the presentation boards are superb.”Jaclyn C. Hirschhaut, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing, American Home Furnishings Alliance Design Emphasis Chair

“. . . Design Emphasis was a real showcase of the talent, fresh ideas and energy of the young people we need to move forward in the wood working industry. The thought, heart and soul they put into their presentations is the kind of work ethic and creativity that bodes well for our future.”Hank Long, Senior Vice President Merchandising and Design, Hooker Furniture Corp.

“Many of these students’ designs would be right at home in high-end showrooms. It’s reassuring to know that the future of furniture is in such capable hands!”Heather J. Paper, Senior Editor at Large, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles

For more information about Design Emphasis, call IWF at 404-693-8333, or email

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Show Hours & Location

International Woodworking Fair
August 6–9, 2024

8:30 AM–5:00 PM
8:30 AM–2:00 PM

Georgia World Congress Center
285 Andrew Young International Blvd
Atlanta, GA 30313

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