Inspire + Innovate: Celebrating the next generation of designers - RSA

Inspire + Innovate: Celebrating the next generation of designers


  • Design
  • Education

Sir Jonathan Ive RDI

‘This promises to be a life changing experience for you’  - Sir Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple and Royal Designer for Industry.

Last month we celebrated  two impressive feats: the 90th anniversary of the RSA Student Design Awards (SDA), and the achievements of the 18 outstanding winning projects from this year’s competition, at our 'Inspire + Innovate' event, a memorable evening that recognised the power and necessity of design thinking in a rapidly changing world.

200 guests joined us for the unique opportunity to meet the movers and shakers of tomorrow and hear from some of the most influential designers of our time, one of whom was Sir Jonathan Ive, a past SDA winner himself. Jonathan delivered a special message to the winners and paid tribute to the RSA as a major catalyst in his incredible journey from London to Silicon Valley.

‘Careers will be launched tonight’ tweeted designer and educator Fred Deakin, as the audience filled the Great Room at the RSA. (Check out this Storify to see more of the action from Twitter.)

Before the other guests arrived, the 2014 award winners received a special reception and a tour of the 18th century RSA House, alongside a warm welcome to the RSA from our co-Director of Design Nat Hunter:

‘At the RSA, we strongly believe that design is a superpower – and you are the superheroes of the future.’

3. Awards and Sevra resized 
2014 Award, designed by Robin Levien. Right: Sevra Davis,
Manager of the SDAs

The event then kicked off with an address from Sevra Davis, Manager of the RSA Student Design Awards:

‘Tonight is a celebration of 90 years of dedication, passion, and a bit of serendipity…’ We’re celebrating when critical issues meet playful, often witty design thinking, when emerging designers combine their skills with a desire to improve lives and communities, and when the power to create meets the power of design.’ 

Sevra unveiled the ‘stepping stone’ award (above) to be given to the 2014 winners – a special 90th year award offering designed by Robin Levien, one of the RSA’s esteemed Royal Designers for Industry and long-time friend of the SDAs.

4. Richard Howarth and Adrian resized
Richard Howarth, in conversation with designer + writer
Adrian Shaughnessy

‘I can’t imagine what direction my life would have taken if I hadn’t won an RSA Student Design Award’
– Richard Howarth.

Richard, also a past SDA winner, was introduced through the virtual appearance by his renowned colleague Jonathan Ive, who opened by saying thank you to the RSA for the 'enormously important role it’s played in my life’. His RSA Student Design Awards (Jonathan won awards in two consecutive years) enabled him to travel to California and start his relationship with Apple, and it was Jonathan’s passion for the company that inspired Richard to join its small industrial design team.

Nearly 20 years later, Jonathan described Richard as ‘incredibly, absurdly talented…and also a great friend’. Richard’s talent, success, and his affable yet humble nature certainly shone through in his conversation with Adrian Shaughnessy, as he shared his personal journey as a designer with the audience and spoke of how winning an RSA Award shaped his life.

5. Vikki Heywood, Paul and Jess resized
Vikki Heywood. Right: 2014 winners Jess Lockhart + Paul
Moran with Richard Howarth

RSA Chair Vikki Heywood then presented the 2014 Awards as Richard handed them out on stage.

Paul Moran and Jess Lockhart’s project ‘Water sculptures in the home’ was one of 18 winning entries this year. They responded to the brief ‘Water Water Everywhere’ which asked students to use design to address water management in urban areas. Their water sculptures work in conjunction with home water meters to let residents know how much water they’re using in an elegant, simple, analogue way.

6. Winners - group shot on stairs resized
RSA Student Design Awards Class of 2014!

'We are over the moon withexcitement. This project has been an incredible journey for us - we have both learned so much about ourselves and the field of social design, and feel we have gained skills that will remain with us in our future design careers.'  - Amy Webster + Jade Kent, 2014 award winners

8. BF - Ashley Pickford, Chris Redford, Victoria Newman resized
Left: drinks receiption. Right: 2014 winner Ashley Pickford,
2013 winner Chris Redford, and RSA sponsor respresentative
Victoria Newman from Springetts

Formal bit over, next up: drinks and revellery downstairs in the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin Room.

Ashley Pickford from Northumbria University responded to the brief ‘Innovation in Giving’, which asked students to design something that would encourage people to give either their money or their time to good causes. Ashley won a paid placement with Springetts for her project ‘Breakfast for Two: a volunteering initiative that connects two groups of people in need – isolated older people and children who suffer from food poverty – through a breakfast club model’. Victoria Newman (above, right), Creative Group Head of Springetts, attended the event with Chris Redford (above, centre) who won a paid placement with Springetts in the 2013 RSA Student Design Awards and has since been employed full-time there.

9. BF - Michael Ive, Joss Bailey, Vikki Heywood, Clive Grinyer resized
Michael Ive with RSA judge Jocelyn Bailey, RSA Chair Vikki
Heywood and RSA Trustee Clive Grinyer


Left: Alex Barker and Erin Deighton. Right: Margarita Ktoris
Left: Alex Barker and Erin Deighton. Right: Margarita Ktoris


Alex Barker from the RSA Fellowship team was on hand to tell people about the different ways they can engage with the RSA. As well as receiving cash awards and paid industry placements, winners get a year’s complementary RSA Fellowship - which means they can join the RSA’s networks and get involved in things like our Kickstarter platform and Catalyst Fund.

Margarita Ktoris also announced on behalf of the Design Council  that this year’s RSA winners are being scouted as ‘Ones to Watch’ – a showcase of future design leaders as part of their 70th birthday celebrations.

11. John Carter, Kevin and James resized
John Carter, RSA sponsor representative from RBS Group,
with 2014 award winners Kevin Glynn and James Donnellan

With the 2014 awards now handed out, the 2013-14 RSA Student Design Awards programme has wrapped up – so what’s next? We’re full steam ahead preparing for the launch of the 2014-15 RSA Student Design Awards briefs, which will be available to download via our website on 1st September.

And our 90th anniversary celebrations don’t stop here… On 17th September we'll be hosting our annual launch and tutor briefing day at the RSA, and this year it will followed by an RSA Design Lecture at 6pm in the Great Room as part of our 90th series. Save the date, and sign up for our newsletter on our website to receive further event updates from us.

For now, a final congratulations to the 2014 RSA Student Design Awards winners and to all the winners from years’ past, and a huge thank you to everyone who’s supported us over the last 90 years – here’s to many more years of design innovation for social impact.

Rebecca Ford, Assistant Manager of the RSA Student Design Awards


Connect with us: | @RSADesignAwards | [email protected]

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