Conner Buel bridges the gap between design and engineering at CDME

Posted: April 10, 2022
Conner Buel

For Conner Buel, connecting the dots between the arts and engineering was a natural blueprint. She grew up interested in graphic design while living in a household of engineers. However, when researching companies early in her academic career, she noticed the design and engineering departments were often kept separate. 

Buel’s intuition led her to seek opportunities to bridge the gap between design and engineering while an undergraduate student assistant at The Ohio State University Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME). As she prepares for graduation in May, Buel is ready to bring her unique perspective and skills into the workforce.  

At Ohio State, Buel has studied both industrial design and mechanical engineering. At CDME, she put that knowledge into practical use while working directly with customers to “provide a better, more well-rounded perspective for product design.”  

In August 2020, Buel started her work experience at CDME and had an immediate impact. In her role, she fostered relationships with some of the top innovators in the state while supporting their progress with digital product sketches and design strategies.  

“At CDME, I have learned how to apply my skills in software and design to projects that could improve the world,” Buel said.  

Buel helped CDME partner companies and inventors translate their technology concepts into digital sketches. These sketches can be a valuable and efficient way to explain an emerging technology better.  

While working at CDME, Buel worked on grant proposals alongside CDME Executive Director Nate Ames. These tasks were among her favorite and most impactful, Buel shared. She found it particularly rewarding watching initial ideas come to life.  

When CDME began renovating and expanding core facilities last summer, Buel worked alongside Ames to prepare visuals of how new square footage would be utilized. Her visuals have been put into place and are reflected today in the office space that CDME students and staff leverage in Bevis Hall.  

Conner Buel

“CDME does an excellent job integrating students into industry projects right away to help them gain hands-on experience,” Buel shared.  

Student employees at CDME are often assigned to client projects, which allows them to meet with industry leaders one-on-one and build relationships. For Buel, it was helpful to have this direct engagement, especially when collaborating on product design. 

Additionally, Buel also collaborated closely with her supervisor and mentor, Charlie Young. Young is the director of business development at CDME and helps facilitate the connection between industry, government, faculty, and students at CDME.  

“Conner has had the opportunity to work internally with OSU experts and engineers but also externally with CDME partners,” Young said. “I quickly knew I could trust Conner with large tasks, and I value how well she embraced all her projects.”  

As she prepares for graduation, Buel reflects on her ability to manage her time and seek opportunities to learn and grow. Along with her job at CDME and academic studies, Buel also held positions with Kobolt Design Studios and Nationwide Insurance  

Columbus-based Kobolt Design Studios works with retail designers and architects to create branded environments for museums, restaurants, retail stores, libraries, hospitals, and offices around the world. 

At Nationwide Insurance, Buel interned in the user experience (UX) department, working closely with researchers and user interface (UI) experts to create the framework for placements within the company’s app and website. Placements refer to where a drop-down menu goes or where a payment button goes. The framework recommended by UX designers then transitions to the UI team – they can create the visual effects that customers see.  

The goal of leveraging UX and UI design is to create a seamless digital customer experience.  

A role with the UX department was not initially what Buel applied for. She first sought out an internship with the UI team. After meeting Buel, however, the team felt she would be a natural fit for the UX department. The role was not only an impactful opportunity for Buel but also for Nationwide Insurance, which had never welcomed an intern in UX design before Buel.  

In her time with Nationwide Insurance, Buel worked on a new sitemap for a website rollout, analyzed user feedback, and researched user demographics. Her roots at CDME helped prepare her for this unique role.  

“At CDME, I was in contact with about 30 different businesses, so it didn’t feel as overwhelming going to Nationwide Insurance,” Buel shared. “Ultimately, CDME helped prepare me for the professional world.”  

Buel emphasized the value of connections when considering the advice she would give fellow student workers at CDME.  

“Make all the connections you can,” Buel advised. “Take advantage of all the events CDME offers and make connections within the staff at CDME.”  

Buel will continue to leverage those connections as she navigates post-graduation life and draw from the practical experience and educational opportunities she has gained at Ohio State.  

by Alexandra Veneck, CDME undergraduate marketing assistant

Category: Students