Julia Cutajar

BFA | Industrial Design


Hello! My name is Julia Cutajar and I am an Industrial Design BFA student here at the University of Notre Dame. I am from Long Island, New York where I grew a love for nature and crafting. Between making figurines out of the shells from my hometown beach or flipping old furniture I found at flea markets, I always yearned to create. Volunteering with younger children has been a passion of mine for years; I enjoy being part of the formative years of someone’s life – driving me to design products for children.

Industrial Design is the ideal outlet for me to exert my creativity and love for problem solving. Through my studies, developing a product that mitigates burdens in people’s lives is what motivates me in the design process. As I transition from academia to industry, I will continue to keep the user-centered design approach at the forefront of my work – making the world a more accessible and inclusive place, one idea at a time.


Remember the excitement of creating fantastical forts when you were little, that feeling of pride in creating your own space, and the thrill of unrestricted imagination? This is the essence of childhood play. Creating forts is a generational retreat into a magical world where one feels free to explore without pressures. Forts are not only a valued form of play-based learning in an educational sense, but also in a socio-emotional one. When children have stress at home and/or school and lack proper coping skills, they yearn for solace. Forts and hidden secluded spaces are highly attractive to children because they offer the comfort and freedom that children crave. When adolescents are overwhelmed they need a break – they need an opportunity to take a step back and process their emotions in a space they trust.

I wanted to create a product that seamlessly transitions from a spacious play area to a cozy little area for a child to find solitude in such settings as a home, classroom, camp and daycare. Nook encourages children to admire play and solace in the same vein. Children should be able to customize their own little space to help them refocus and see situations with more clarity. My known purpose was to create a fort kit that didn’t short change the light-hearted enjoyment of fort building nor the potential socio-emotional benefits that can be boasted. 

Nook is a fort kit at the intersection of construction and creative storytelling. Whether it’s playtime or quiet time, Nook provides a versatile space for every child’s imagination to thrive. Nook features flannel-wrapped panels which contain eight posts to connect to one another. Built into these post-connection pieces are different textures to stimulate childrens’ sensory development and help them regain focus in times of distress. With the four connector types, Stand, Stack, Spin, and Section, children can explore infinite fort layouts that fit in any sized space. Part of Nook’s magic includes the detachable and soft felt shapes for storytelling. Even if a child does not want to build an entire fort, they can feel just as satisfied decorating a singular panel to their liking. Nook has the ability to be anything a child needs it to be at any moment in time.