Meet an Oregon Design Duck: Alison Hicks

Alison Hicks Headshot

The Oregon Design Ducks (ODD) flock at the College of Design is made up of promising students, award-winning faculty, and passionate staff. The following profile is just one way our ODD flock is standing out and making its mark on the world.

Alison Hicks is currently working towards her bachelor's degree in Interior Architecture in the School of Architecture & Environment (SAE). Hicks was recently selected as a 2023 Metropolis Future100 winner – meaning she is one of Metropolis' top interior architecture undergraduate students in the US and Canada! Her passion for "loving others through design," is evident in her latest project – a concept to provide a hub that would provide farm workers in the Central Valley of California and their families a hub that includes housing, and an advocacy and resource center.

The college and SAE had an opportunity to speak with Alison Hicks and learn about her experiences at the UO, what she's working on, and what is to come.

Alison standing with a 3-legged chair she designed for furniture studio.

What made you realize that you wanted to study Interior Architecture? Was there a guiding moment for you, or is it something you've always wanted to do?

I did not know interior architecture existed until reading about it on the University of Oregon’s website. In high school, I was a “generalist.” I enjoyed every subject, but nothing felt like “Wow! I really want to study this further.” At home, I had grown up to always be crafty and my dad was a Plans Examiner for our county building department. Because of this, I grew up around floor plans, buildings, and so on.

At first, I thought, “Maybe I should look into architecture. That's a way for me to turn my craftiness into a profession!” I began researching architecture schools along the West Coast. I already had a friend going to the University of Oregon, and sure enough, I found the interior architecture program! I was immediately fascinated by the integration of humans into the built environment and the thought behind the human experience in a given space ­­­– such as the lighting considerations and the psychological and physiological aspects of how the space may make a person feel.

Ultimately, it was a path that I was interested in, and it has been great! The professors here are incredible and have helped me to see design in new ways.

Outside of the interior architecture program and having friends already in Eugene, did anything else lead to your decision to choose the University of Oregon?

There were many reasons I decided to come to the UO. When I first visited, I realized how much I liked this campus, Lawrence Hall, and the program, but ultimately what it came down to is that it felt like the university wanted me to be here.

The marketing from the University of Oregon made it clear to me that I was wanted here. I would get so many different pamphlets and letters, and my acceptance package was truly a package that was full of fun little things. When I accepted, my little box had something I could scan with my phone that displayed a VR view of our campus. I just felt appreciated by the UO, whereas, and I realized I wanted to be at a place that wanted me, too.

What would you say interests you most about interior architecture, now that you’ve been able to study it in such depth?

I really enjoy thinking about the human experience. I like to think about when someone walks into the space, what are they seeing, what are they interacting with, what materials are around them, what the lighting is like, etc. I think about how they process each aspect of the space, and how are they finding their way through the building. “Is way-finding easy? Is the circulation path clear?”

It is fun to think about buildings that I’ve visited – buildings were great and buildings that weren't so good – and getting to apply what I’ve experienced into my own designs. Overall, I really enjoy the programming, early schematic design, and thinking about the user experience. As a designer, you wield the power to make decisions that will impact people on a daily basis. These choices will decide whether a space is truly accessible and inclusive to all. Those are aspects of design that I have a great interest in, and the UO College of Design teaches them very well.

Just this week, it was announced that you were named a 2023 Metropolis Future100 winner! What did it mean to you to earn this title? 

text: Metropolis Future100

It was an honor just to be nominated. Interior Architecture Department Head Kyuho Ahn and I have had a great relationship for the past five years. He's been an amazing mentor, supporter, and someone who has desired my success in this program from the beginning. Nonetheless, it was still a surprise when he sent me an email saying, “Are you interested? We can work together to make a strong application.” It was so kind and generous of him to dedicate the time, and to truly believe in my success.

At first, I was doubtful. As a national award, I was unsure that my work would stand out. Kyuho really helped me to see my projects in a new light and to see my work with a lot of pride. When I learned I did receive the award, I was so shocked! I'm so grateful that it's being recognized by Metropolis, this recognition is really empowering, and a great honor.

I'm also so honored to be recognized among peers – UO Interior Architecture graduate students Allie Miller and Lindsay Peterson also received this award. They are incredibly talented designers, and it is a real honor to be recognized alongside them.

What is your goal once you’ve earned your degree this June?

Last summer I had the privilege of working for LPA in Irvine, California. I grew a lot as a designer and really respected the work that they do. I am happy to announce that I will be joining LPA in August as an interior designer for their education studio, working with a team to design K-12 schools.

Can you tell us about a project you’ve worked on? What would you like people to know about your work?

Several key aspects of my life inspired my project for comprehensive studio – my minor in Food Studies, my experiences driving through the agricultural fields of the Central Valley of Northern California, and my mom, who is a Spanish teacher. All of these parts of my life come together in my project for immigrant farmworker families in the Central Valley.

El Pajarito Housing Community is an advocacy and resource center for immigrant farmworkers and their families. The research and design process has been an exciting, unique experience. It has been very humbling to learn about this incredible injustice that is going on, in which people do not dignified housing. I think this project is a beautiful mission that allows me to love people through design.

Loving others through design is my main goal for my design career. To be able to provide these opportunities – a place where people can really impress themselves onto a space and make it their – would be incredible. Outside of my work, it has been inspiring to learn about my peers’ projects, the work that they're doing, and what sparked their inspiration.

Floorplans for El Pajarito

What would you say to potential students who are considering studying Interior Architecture at the UO?

Interior architecture is fun and challenging, and it is such a rewarding field of study! It’s a unique opportunity to shape the human experience. It's also been so awesome for me because, as I said, I was very much a generalist, and I was worried about choosing one major. With the Interior Architecture program, I get to wear all of these different hats and learn many different things through research, analysis, and design.

Coming from a small town, I was nervous about coming to a large university and to a program where I didn't know anybody. I was able to find community in this department and through my involvement in International Interior Design Association (IIDA). It is a fantastic way not only to connect with peers but to also connect with the professional community. The college design is so great at promoting students and their work, ensuring that we all have opportunities for internships, jobs, and development. There are so many opportunities within this program to get involved in educational and professional ways. Overall, I feel very supported as a student and I've enjoyed my community here. It’s something I know I’m going to miss when I graduate this spring.