FAQs

Answers to the most frequently asked questions

Find out everything you need to know about entering the competition.

Submission Overview

All entries must be submitted through our online entry system, which will open for submissions on our website on 18 January 2017.

For all briefs, EXCEPT the 'Moving Pictures' brief, the submission requirements are: 

  • 1 x A3 PDF Hero image with 1 sentence description

    A singular ‘poster image’ that conveys the essence of your project, plus a 1 sentence strapline or description
  • 1 x A3 PDF Big Idea Summary

    A single A3 PDF page describing your ‘Big Idea’ in less than 250 words. This should clearly explain what your solution is, the specific area of need it addresses, and how you arrived at the solution
  • 4 x A3 PDF Boards Outlining Your Proposal

    4 pages describing your proposal and demonstrating that you have met the six judging criteria. Each board should include a heading. Number each board in the top right hand corner, in the order they should be viewed by the judges
  • 10 x A3 PDF Pages of Supporting Material

    Up to 10 A3 PDFs of additional material illustrating your development process – this could include scanned pages of your sketchbook or computer modelling/sketches (if applicable)

  • Optional YouTube / Vimeo + website links

    Please note that we cannot guarantee supporting films and websites will be viewed at the shortlisting stage. If you have created digital materials, we recommend referencing them (for example by including labelled film stills or website screen grabs) in your 4 main PDF boards

For the 2016/17 'Re-Work' brief ONLY: you must also submit a business case in addition to the above. The business case should not exceed two sides of an A3 and may include diagrams and/or charts as appropriate. This can be submitted as a PDF.

For details on the submission requirements for the 'Moving Pictures' brief, please see the Moving Pictures Additional Eligibility and Entry Guidelines.

As you prepare your submission, please ensure that: you do NOT include your name, university/ college or other identifying marks anywhere on your submission; none of your submission files exceed 10MB – this is the maximum size for each individual file / board when you submit online

Deadlines Eligibility and Fees

  • 1 September 2016: open for registration

    . Register to create your competition profile and receive deadline reminders and invitations to exclusive events from our team
  • 18 January 2017: open for submissions

    You can submit your work via sda.thersa.org from this date
  • 8 Febuary 2017: early bird submissions deadline

    Entry fee reduced to £25 until 4 pm GMT on this date
  • 8 March 2017: final submissions deadline

    Entries will be accepted up until 4 pm GMT
  • March – May 2017: judging

  • 1st June 2017: winners' announced

  • Mid June 2017: winners' reception at the RSA


There are six stages to the RSA Student Design Awards scheme:

  1. 1. Briefs released – 24 August This year there are 12 RSA Student Design Awards briefs for you to choose from. The briefs tackle a range of important social, economic and environmental issues. You can view all the 2016/17 briefs here.

  2. 2. Register your interest – September onwards If you register your interest, we'll let you know when the submissions deadline is coming up, when the judging and shortlisting process starts, and when the winners are announced. We'll also send you invitations to exclusive, free events we offer participants to help you with your projects and your longer term career development.

  3. 3. Develop your project – September to March When you've decided which brief to enter, as a starting point we recommend you review the supporting materials in the online toolkit for your chosen brief. You can find the toolkits from the individual brief pages.We offer everyone working on the RSA Student Design Awards briefs access to exclusive events throughout the year too – things like workshops and industry visits – and we'd recommend you look out for these and try to attend as many as possible.As you develop your project, make sure you respond to the judging criteria:

    • Social and Environmental Benefit – How does your design benefit the society and the environment?
    • Research – Where did you go to research this issue? Who did you speak with or interview? What questions did you ask? What did you learn?
    • Design Thinking – We want to know about your thought processes and insights. Your insights might be research-based or intuitive, or a combination of both, but the judges want to see you relate the final concept clearly to these insights. What journey did you go through to get to the final result?
    • Commercial Awareness – Does your design make sense from a financial point of view?
    • Execution – We are looking for a design that is pleasing and looks and feels well resolved.
    • Magic – We are looking for a bit of 'magic' – a surprising or lateral design solution that delights.
  4. 4. Submit your work – submissions open 18 January 2017 and close on 8 March 2017. Note that there is a reduced 'early bird' entry period with a reduced entry fee until 8 February 2017. Once you have finished your project, submit your completed work to the competition through our online entry system. Make sure you submit it before the final deadline: 8 March 2017 4pm GMT final entry deadline. We will send you confirmation when we receive your application.

  5. 5. Judging – March to May Your work will be judged in a two-stage process by a panel of practising designers, Royal Designers for Industry, and other experts. During the first stage, 6-10 projects will be shortlisted for each brief. If your project is shortlisted, we'll invite you to an interview with the panel. Once the panel has interviewed all shortlisted students, they deliberate and select winners.

  6. 6. Winners awarded – 1st June The winners of each brief will be announced and publicised by the RSA. Winners will also be invited to attend an Awards Ceremony at the RSA in central London, and their work will be displayed in the Showcase section of the RSA Student Design Awards website. If an placement at a company is awarded as the prize, this will take place over the following months, but it is up to you to arrange a time that works for you and the company.

Students (full or part-time) and new graduates, of any age, from anywhere in the world.

Students need to be enrolled on a recognised undergrad, postgrad or Higher Education course to be eligible.

Graduates can apply within one year of graduating – so if you're entering the RSA Student Design Awards 2016/17 competition, you should have graduated no earlier than March 2016.


Yes, you can enter as either an individual or as a team; some projects may be more suited to teamwork than others. There is no set number of people that can be part of a team, but generally team entries comprise 2 or 3 people.


Yes - international entries are accepted from currently enrolled students and new graduates within one year of graduation, from anywhere in the world.


No - you can be studying on any course at undergraduate or postgraduate level.


Yes - all currently enrolled students, undergraduate or post-graduate can enter.


There is a reduced 'early bird' rate of £25.00 per entry (whether submitted by an individual or a team) until 8 February 2017. After that the entry fee is £35.00 per entry (whether submitted by an individual or a team). These fees are inclusive of VAT.


Fees are paid online through our submissions form, via PayPal, credit or debit card. Note that the competition is open for submissions from 18th January 2017.


There is no limit to how many times candidates can enter the same or different projects, provided the correct entry fee, for each entry, is submitted each time.


You can download the full Entry Guidelines here.

Working on the briefs and submission details

Yes - there is a 'team'


All entries must be submitted through our online entry system, which will open for submissions on our website on 18 January 2017. If you are unable to submit online, please contact us.

For all briefs, EXCEPT the 'Moving Pictures' brief, the submission requirements are:

  • 1 x A3 PDF Hero image with 1 sentence description A singular ‘poster image’ that conveys the essence of your project, plus a 1 sentence strapline or description
  • 1 x A3 PDF Big Idea Summary A single A3 PDF page describing your ‘Big Idea’ in less than 250 words. This should clearly explain what your solution is, the specific area of need it addresses, and how you arrived at the solution
  • 4 x A3 PDF Boards Outlining Your Proposal 4 pages describing your proposal and demonstrating that you have met the six judging criteria. Each board should include a heading. Number each board in the top right hand corner, in the order they should be viewed by the judges
  • 10 x A3 PDF Pages of Supporting Material Up to 10 A3 PDFs of additional material illustrating your development process – this could include scanned pages of your sketchbook or computer modelling/sketches (if applicable)
  • Optional YouTube / Vimeo + website links Please note that we cannot guarantee supporting films and websites will be viewed at the shortlisting stage. If you have created digital materials, we recommend referencing them (for example by including labelled film stills or website screen grabs) in your 4 main PDF boards

For the 2016/17 'Re-Work' brief ONLY: you must also submit a business case in addition to the above. The business case should not exceed two sides of an A3 and may include diagrams and/or charts as appropriate. This should be submitted as a PDF.

For details on the submission requirements for the 'Moving Pictures' brief, please see the Moving Pictures Additional Eligibility and Entry Guidelines.

Please note: your submission must not have your name, university/college name or other identifying marks to ensure that work is judged fairly. If any entries do contain entrant, university/college or tutor names, we will contact you and ask you to re-submit your work without these.


If you are a currently enrolled student, then when you complete the online submission form you will need to enter your tutor's name and email address. If your work gets shortlisted, then we may contact your tutor and ask them to comment on your project.

If you are a new graduate then this does not apply.


Unless previously arranged with the RSA under exceptional circumstances, no late entries will be accepted.


In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint, we ask that you submit all materials digitally using our online entry system. This system asks you to upload scans of your physical sketchbooks or other supporting work. It also allows you to upload films if you wish, which means you have the option to capture and share 3D physical materials via film.

In exceptional circumstances, we will consider accepting submissions or supporting materials via post – please contact sdaenquiries@rsa.org.uk if you would like to discuss this with the RSA Student Design Awards team.

Judging process and awards

Yes. Here are a few of the most frequent reasons for disqualification:

  • Incorrect, missing or uncleared payment
  • Work submitted incorrectly, such as in the wrong file format
  • Submitting more than the required deliverables stated in the brief (such as sending in more than 4 x A3 PDFs describing your proposal)
  • Two different responses to a brief submitted as one entry (in this case you would need to enter twice with a separate payment for each entry)

Each year a different jury is organised for every brief. Judging panels are made up of practicing designers, Royal Designers for Industry, representatives from sponsor organisations, and other academic and industry experts.


Judging for the 2016/17 competition will begin on 20 March 2017 and continue throughout April and May 2017. Winners will be announced on 1 June 2017.


The judging process for the RSA Student Design Awards is a 2-stage process.

Stage 1: Shortlisting 

The judging panel for each brief anonymously selects a short-list of approximately 6-10 (usually around 6) submissions to go to the next stage, based solely on the Hero Image, 4 A3 PDFs, the 250-word written statement and any scanned work or additional digital materials you entered. The number of students shortlisted can vary depending on the total number of entries in that particular category and if the judges feel there are more or less that they would like to see at the next stage.

Stage 2: Interviews 

The second stage is an interview stage: all short-listed candidates are invited to the RSA to present their work to the judges and to discuss their development as a designer. All candidates are allotted a 30-minute time slot, 5-minutes of which consists of a short presentation to the judges. At interview, candidates are invited to bring along further development of their design idea and their portfolio / examples of other projects.


You will receive a letter from the RSA via email informing you of the date and time of your interview (an email will also be sent to your tutor, if you are a currently enrolled student). This will be sent out to you 2-4 weeks before the scheduled interview.


Generally 6-10 entrants are chosen as the short-listed from all the entries in a particular category. It is up to the jury members to decide how many winners there will be, selected from the short-list. Often, there is one winner and several commendations, including 'Highly Commended' and 'Commended.'


Winning and Commended work is shown on the RSA Student Design Awards Showcase page and some may appear in the media, subject to press coverage.


The award for the winning submission/s varies from brief to brief. Some briefs carry a cash award, whilst others award a paid placement. These are distributed at the jury's discretion.

All winners receive a year's complementary RSA Fellowship, which means they can access the RSA's networks and resources. Find out more about the benefits for winners here.

To see the award for a specific brief, go the Competition page of the website and click on the brief in question for more information.


There are no 2nd or 3rd prizes in the RSA Student Design Awards. Students are either awarded as a winner and therefore receive a cash award or an internship, or are awarded a commendation, which is an accolade in itself, but does not come with a cash award or internship. Other students who have been short-listed may not be a winner or commended, but short-listed entrants are encouraged to note that they have been short-listed on their CVs.


Short-listed students may be Highly Commended or Commended where the jury deems it appropriate. Being short-listed for interview is also widely recognised as an achievement, and should be put on your CV.


Any more questions?

Email us at sdaenquiries@rsa.org.uk

Or get in touch on Twitter: @RSADesignAwards