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Each RSA brief is judged in person by a different panel of designers, industry experts and social innovators in two stages: anonymous shortlisting, followed by interviews with finalists.

judging session SDA


  • Judges view all the entries submitted for a brief and agree a shortlist to interview.

  • Entries with a majority of votes are laid out for discussion by the whole jury until the shortlist is agreed.

  • The shortlist is usually 6-8 entries, but can be as many as 10 or as few as 5.

  • The RSA team contacts all competition entrants to let them know whether or not they have been shortlisted.


  • Shortlisted candidates are invited to a 30 minute interview at the RSA.

  • Entrants are asked to spend 5 minutes presenting their project to the jury and then answer questions about their work and career aspirations.

  • Once all interviews have been completed, the panel deliberates and selects winners.

  • Students can also be Highly Commended or Commended. Reaching the final shortlist is seen as an achievement in itself, and can enhance their CVs.

Judging Criteria

There are six criteria that your entry will be measured against – make sure that your submission materials demonstrate that your solution meets these criteria:

  1. Social and environmental benefit – how does your design benefit society and/ or the environment?
  2. Research and insights – how did you investigate this issue? What were your key insights?
  3. Design thinking – how did your research and insights inform your solution? How did you develop, test, iterate and refine your concept? Demonstrate the journey you’ve been through to the end result
  4. Commercial awareness – does your journey make sense from a financial point of view? What is the competitive environment your solution would sit within?
  5. Execution – we are looking for a design that is pleasing and looks and feels well-resolved
  6. Magic – we are looking for a bit of ‘magic’ – a surprising or lateral design solution that delights


One of the purposes of the RSA Student Design Awards is to offer practical and financial support to young designers starting out on their careers.

What awards do you get?

  • The award for the winning submission/s varies from brief to brief, depending on what sponsorship is available. Some briefs carry cash awards, while others carry a mixture of cash awards and paid industry placement awards. These are distributed at the jury's discretion.
  • All winners are invited to the Awards Ceremony at the RSA - which includes a keynote talk by a high profile figure, the presentation of the awards and a drinks reception with networking.
  • All winners also receive a year's complementary RSA Fellowship, which means they can access the RSA's networks and resources.
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