Monique Ortman’s Keyboards Adored

Monique Ortman’s Keyboards Adored

(Provided/ Monique Ortman). 

University of Central Oklahoma Design student Monique Ortman was recently recognized as the first UCO student to receive  a ‘Commended’ ranking for her design, “ZED Keyboard Tiles” in the longest running international student design contest in the world, held by the Royal Society for the Arts, based out of London, England.


This year, Monique Ortman, a senior graphic design student was recognized as the only student from UCO to compete and win a ‘Commended’ ranking against 802 other entries from 21 countries across the world in The Royal Society for the Arts Student Competition. Receiving a highly commended or commended ranking means that the judges were particularly impressed by the standard of the student’s work, but they did not win the competition.

The Royal Society for the Arts is a global curriculum and higher education competition held annually for students and recent graduates. It challenges each emerging designer around the world to tackle pressing social, environmental and economical issues through design thinking. In each category, the RSA chooses one winner, one highly commended, and one commended individual who exemplifies environmental and social benefit, execution, research, design thinking, and commercial awareness. Ortman’s design, “ZED Keyboard Tiles,” uses recycled keyboard keys and gets it’s name from the Latin letter Z, which is the first and last letter in the alphabet.

“While doing market research for the final project, ‘Zed Keyboard Tiles,’ I discovered that e-waste and the plastics within are not only one of the hardest plastics to recycle but they also produce large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions,” she said.

Up-cycling keyboard keys refers to taking computer keyboards that have reached their life span and removing the keyboard keys. Ortman’s idea for “Zed Keyboard Tiles” enables individuals to not only take those keyboard keys and re-purpose them for decoration but also decreases the amount of carbon dioxide that would have been released into the atmosphere from throwing the keyboards into landfills.

“I narrowed down all of the possible e-waste materials into something that could be used repetitively and would eliminate large quantities of e-waste from the landfills,” said Ortman. “Up-cycling keyboard keys seemed like the perfect solution.”

E-waste, or electronic waste refers to electronic products that are nearing the end of their life cycles such as computers, televisions, VCR’s, and stereos.  The need for an up-cycling program has increased due to the growing technology age. Many of the the life spans for electronic products have continued to get shorter and shorter as technology is improved.

The RSA Student Design competition has 12 briefs to choose from, Ortman competed under the “Rework” category.  This specific brief asked her to address the surplus of redundant furniture products and materials from across the world due to the changing nature of how, when, and where we work. Although re-purposing large single desks, under-desk drawer pedestals, and metal filing cabinets were highly suggested, each student was given the opportunity to express their creativity by choosing their own item.

“The RSA Student Design competition was the most intense design competition I have ever entered, but also the most rewarding. This competition forced me to reach outside of my comfort zone and taught me very valuable skills,” said Ortman.

Ortman’s final project re-purposes simple keyboard keys into desirable building material such as back-splashes, bathroom tiles, or accent walls and can be easily customized in any color scheme and arranged in a wide array of patterns.

UCO’s Graphic Design program required Ortman to take professional prep courses called “Competition” where she submitted 12 separate briefs discussing solutions to world issues. In addition, each student was also required to develop a business case to accompany their project proposals.

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