Stronger Than You Think

There's no lackadaisical millennial stereotyping necessary when it comes to this year's I Like Design winner.

by AnnMarie Martin

At 5’4” and only 110 pounds, Christina Tuong is not afraid to get her hands dirty.

Our 2015 I Like Design winner—a junior at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., and employee with a local construction company—beat out more than 115 students (including five of her own classmates!) to grab this year’s top prize: a summer internship with Studio3877 in Washington, D.C., and paid housing costs for the duration of it.

For the 2014-2015 competition, Studio3877 asked entrants to design the next great lobby concept. Tuong decided to go with a hyper-local focus, integrating a pop-up shop where various vendors can rotate their wares, a children’s play area to accommodate families, and a Wi-Fi corner for business travelers.

“It’s constantly changing,” she concluded, as Tuong’s class based their precedent study for this project around the question: “What makes a city?” She wanted to provide an answer for another all-important question that many guests enter a lobby with: “What does this city offer?” She hopes her pop-up shop gives them that.

So we turned the question on this budding designer to find out what she has to offer now, as well as in the future, in order to get to know our winner better.

Tuong always knew she was interested in design and more recently decided it was time to get a little messy with it. She started working at the construction and interior modeling company owned by her boyfriend’s father in Fairfax, Va. And she actually does the manual labor on everything from flooring to walls, painting, and even electrical and plumbing work.

“I know I don’t look like it, but I do,” she said with a laugh. “I always get two reactions: ‘Who is she?!’ and ‘Girl, you’re stronger than I thought.’”

Before that, she was obtaining her associate’s degree at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). There she realized that design involves far more than just interior decorating when she dove into such subjects as schematics and programming, while learning Autocad, Revit, and Photoshop. She continued these studies after transferring to Marymount in 2013. Now that she’s established a good foundation in the creative side of design, she’s looking forward to the fall where she’ll take part in a business procedures class to get acclimated with that aspect.

But more than anything, she’s ready for this—her first internship, where she’ll get to apply everything she’s already learned to an actual job with an A&D firm.

To see a full listing of our 10 finalists, please visit If you are interested in learning more about the I Like Design competition or would like to serve as a host firm, please contact Senior Editor AnnMarie Martin at