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The RSA Student Design Awards (The SDAs) are now open for submissions to their 2015-16 Awards.

The SDAs are the world’s longest standing, most pioneering design curriculum and competition for university students and new graduates.

The closing date for early bird entries is 10 February 2016 and the final deadline for entries is 5pm GMT on 10 March 2016. Submissions should be made digitally via the RSA Student Design Awards website.

The Awards challenge young designers with project briefs based on complex issues facing society, the environment and business.

This year there have been 12 briefs, with challenges ranging from designing sustainable ways to bathe and wash to eliminating the concept of waste in developed societies by promoting it as a valuable resource.

Commenting on the ‘Inclusive Cities’ brief, one of 12 categories in this year’s competition, Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said:
“I am very pleased to be supporting the Inclusive Cities competition. It’s a great opportunity to highlight the importance of accessible design which can positively impact the lives of disabled people in the future.

“I’m committed to ensuring that inclusive design is the norm in all design and building projects by embedding it in education and training. It’s not just the right thing to do, it also makes business sense to ensure disabled people can access buildings, galleries, cafes, theatres and more in their day to day lives.”

The award sponsors include Airbnb, Philips, Unilever, Fazer, GlaxoSmithKline, RBS, Waitrose, Springetts, PriestmanGoode, and The Office for Disability Issues.

Following a hugely successful pilot last year, the ‘Moving Pictures’ animation brief returns in 2016. Just as before, students will be asked to pick one of two exclusive audio files from the RSA’s world-renowned public events programme, and produce an accompanying animation to energise and illuminate the content.

Founded in 1924, the Awards have challenged generations of emerging artists, designers, thinkers and makers to use design thinking, craft and ingenuity to drive innovation.

Over their 91 years, the SDAs have evolved into one of the creative industry’s most cherished sources of new talent – a key scouting tool for a range of employers, offering a critical boost to fledgling designers’ careers across different sectors. Previous winners of the Awards include Sir Jonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple (RDI); Richard Clarke, Global Vice President of Design at Nike; Paul Priestman, founder of Priestmangoode; and Tom Tobia, founder of Makerversity.

The SDAs attract entries from all over the world, and last year’s shortlist was the most international ever, with submissions from students in Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Finland, Taiwan, Turkey and Libya.

Winning work from 2014-15 included a gender neutral playhouse, a filtration kit that produces high quality carbon from scrap wood to purify contaminated water, and a radical redesign of the London Underground map to increase accessibly for disabled users.

Entrants compete for various benefits, including bursaries from the sponsors, work placements and mentoring support to develop fledging careers. This year’s Awards include over £35,000in cash prizes and paid internships at the likes of Philips, Waitrose, GlaxoSmithKline, BuroHappold and PriestmanGoode.

Global Director of the RSA Student Design Awards, Sevra Davis, said:

There is still a common misconception that design is just about making beautiful products and things that look nice. We want to show that good design is fundamental to creating positive social and environmental change on a global scale. The aim of the RSA Student Design Awards is to help challenge society, the design industry, governments and business to think more openly about what design can do. In addition, we want to help a new generation of students focus their skills on creating genuine innovations via design thinking.

“Every year the briefs evolve to reflect contemporary challenges and issues. This year we have 12 briefs that tackle a variety of day to day problems, from how to rebrand waste in developed societies and how to make bathing more sustainable, to how to create business environments that foster innovative and creative thinking.”

Students anywhere in the world can enter the RSA Student Design Awards. This year the RSA are introducing global partners in countries outside the UK to help grow and deliver the Awards internationally, including AIGA in the US.


List of 2015-16 briefs:

1.      Title: Creative Conditions

Brief: Design and develop a vision and business case for an environment or situation that prompts and fosters creative thinking.

Sponsor: RBS

2.  Title: The Good Life

Brief: Empower people who live with long-term, lifestyle-related health conditions to take a greater role in managing their own care.

Sponsor: Philips

3. Title: Waste Not, Want Not

Brief: Design a way to encourage and support individuals, households, businesses, and/or communities to reduce food waste.

Sponsor: Fazer

4. Title: Mind Your Money

Brief: Design a way for people to improve their financial capability and manage their money better.

Sponsor: RBS

5. Title: Sustainably Clean

Brief: Design a product or system that allows people to wash and clean themselves using less water and/or lower water temperatures.

Sponsor: Unilever

6. Title: Fair Share

Brief: Design a way to keep the sharing economy fair so more people participate in it.

Sponsor: Airbnb

7. Title: AfricaPack

Brief: Improve the way medicines are protected, dispensed, distributed and/or taken in Sub- Saharan Africa.

Sponsor: GlaxoSmithKline

8. Title: Project Rural

Brief: Design a product, system or campaign that is specifically intended to help people, communities and organizations in rural areas to flourish.

Sponsors: PriestmanGoode and the Eden Project

9. Title: Inclusive Cities

Brief: Design or redesign a concept, plan, or strategy of a building, place or space so that it is easily and comfortably accessed and used by everyone.

Sponsors: The Department for Work & Pensions and Buro Happold Engineering

10. Title: One Man’s Waste  

Brief: Design a way to help eliminate the concept of waste within developed societies by promoting it as a valuable material resource.

Sponsors: The Patricia Tindale Eddie Squires Legacies to the RSA, Springetts Brand Consultants, and Natracare

11. Title: Making it Inclusive

Brief: Design a way to enable more people to enjoy the benefits of making.

12. Title: Moving pictures

Brief: Conceive and produce an animation to accompany one of the two selected audio files that will clarify, energise and illuminate the content.

Sponsor: The Bryan Foster Legacy to the RSA


Twitter: @RSADesignAwards

See the list of 2014-15 winners: 

For more information please contact:

Sarah Horner, RSA Interim Head of Media
Tel: 020 7451 6893
Mob: 07799 737 970

Notes to editors:

  1. The Early Bird deadline (with reduced entry fee) is 10th February 2016 and the final deadline for entries is 5pm on 10th March 2016. The winners will be announced on 1st June 2016.
  1. The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA) has vigorously supported design since it emerged as a professional discipline in the early 20th century, and earlier. The RSA Student Design Awards is an annual scheme now in its 91st year, which issues briefs to young designers to demonstrate how design can solve 21st century problems. The RSA Design team works with leading design educators to develop the skill and confidence of young professionals while demonstrating to others the power of a design-led approach.
  1. Students anywhere in the world can enter the RSA Student Design Awards, and we work with global partners in countries outside the UK to grow and deliver the Awards internationally. For the first year ever, AIGA is working with U.S. colleges and universities to embed the awards in their curricula across different disciplines. Local AIGA chapters are also supporting and encouraging students in their area to participate in the global competition. Whilst students from the U.S. will enter the global competition, there will be a separate U.S. Awards Ceremony and some additional prizes specifically for U.S. students.



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