Judging - RSA

Student Design Awards judging

Student Design Awards Judging

Our judging panels

Each design brief is judged by a panel of judges who have specialist knowledge and experience. See our 2023-24 judges.

Judging process

Your work will be evaluated per brief by a curated panel of judges against the judging criteria in a two-stage process: shortlisting and interviews. The panel includes a diverse range of expertise related to the brief topic and the design industry. All judging sessions are facilitated by the RSA.

During the first stage of shortlisting, the panel marks all the submissions anonymously and shortlists five to eight projects per brief. If your project is shortlisted, you are invited to the second stage, an interview with the panel, to present your work in more detail referring to the judging criteria. Once the panel has interviewed all shortlisted students, they deliberate and select the winners.

A graphic showing the different phases of the judging process

Judging criteria

Your entry should demonstrate a design thinking approach to the brief and clearly communicate the following principles:

Briefs one to five:

Social and environmental impact:

  • Social: How is your approach benefiting people and generations to come? How have you considered diversity and inclusion in your proposal? How have you brought in different voices and perspectives?
  • Environmental: How does your proposal make a positive difference for the natural world in your chosen context? How have you considered effective use of resources including materials and processes that can do more good short and long term for people and planet?

Rigorous research and compelling insights: How have you combined your own first-hand research with a review of existing research and wider trends? How are your insights and proposal grounded in people’s needs and desires? How have you considered the potential of your chosen place and the local context? How did you get feedback and incorporate new ideas through prototyping and iterating?

Systems thinking: What’s the bigger picture? How have you considered the root causes of the challenge you’re exploring? How does your idea connect to a wider set of issues? What might be some unintended consequences of your proposal?

Viability: Have you considered potential models for how your proposal could work in the real world? How could it be funded and sustained financially with the resources and skills needed? What are potential barriers? How would you measure success? How could your proposal be adaptive to changes over time?

Creativity and innovation: How is your idea different from existing interventions? Are there unexpected or surprising elements in your proposal? How is it an imaginative and hopeful alternative for the future? 

Brief six: Centenary celebrations

Rigorous research and communication: How did you investigate the source material? How did you go about the process of iteration, gathering and incorporating new ideas and feedback? How did you apply your research insights to most effectively communicate the messages from the source material and enhance the viewer’s understanding of the issues explored? Consider the different ways in which you could tell the story of the SDAs that will enrich its content and increase accessibility. Try to avoid any stereotypes or obvious visual references. Instead use your insights to create deeper links between the content and your output.

Aesthetic quality and originality: How does your textile or animation engage and capture the viewer? What did you consider to make your work striking and memorable? How have you applied a distinctive style, concept, storytelling approach or choice of metaphors to make sure your work stands out in a crowded landscape, and connects with the audience? How do you expect the audience to interact with your concept? If invited to an interview, you will be asked to share ideas for expanding your proposal’s reach.

Execution: How did you approach the planning and design of your work? What have you considered and implemented to ensure the work is executed to a high technical standard? Have you considered how your idea will live on, and stay relevant, for the next 100 years into the future. Is there a call-to-action or next step you hope would come from them interacting with your work?

Your submission should combine clarity, with and attention to detail, aiming to make the content come alive and introduce a wider audience to our rich awards history and the work of the RSA.


The winners of each brief will be announced publicly by the RSA in June 2024. Winners will also be invited to attend an Awards Ceremony and their work will be displayed in the winners section of the RSA Student Design Awards website.

More information on the Student Design Awards

  • Student Design Awards

    We invite young designers from across the globe to answer design briefs that focus on the most pressing social and environmental challenges.

  • Information for students

    By getting involved in the Student Design Awards you will be elevating your learning experience as you apply your creativity and innovation to a real-world problem.

  • Information for educators

    If you work in higher education and you’re using the RSA Student Design Awards briefs in your curriculum, you can request a briefing from the RSA team.

  • The design briefs

    We're challenging students and recent graduates to tackle pressing social, environmental and economic issues through design thinking. See this year's design briefs.

  • Student Design Awards judging

    Find out about the judging process and criteria for the Student Design Awards.