2016 Design Competition

The 2016 Design Challenge

Design an outdoor chair inspired by Cooper Hewitt’s world-renowned collection that will be functional, comfortable, and unexpected. The winning design will be manufactured by Target for exclusive use in Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden. Cooper Hewitt is located in New York City in the historic Carnegie Mansion. The enclosed garden was an original feature of the mansion and is directly across the street from New York’s famed Central Park.

Launched in January 2016, Cooper Hewitt’s first annual National High School Design Competition: Think Outside challenged students to use collection objects as inspiration to design a functional, user-friendly outdoor chair. Ideas considered materials, challenges of the outdoor space, and the range of users coming to the garden.

The Selection Process

Stage One submissions included sketches of the chair design, and a description of how the collection object inspired the design. Submissions were evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Overall design excellence
  • Creativity
  • Clarity of your design’s connection to the inspirational object
  • Functionality
  • Outdoor durability
  • Safety for public use

Cooper Hewitt selected five finalists to proceed to Stage Two. During Stage Two, the five finalists furthered their designs according to the requirements in the Stage Two Brief document, and participated in a phone call with an assigned mentor during the week of March 7, 2016 for initial feedback. Finalists traveled to New York City to participate in a workshop with their Target mentors on April 2, and to present in person to the judges on April 3, 2016.

Competition Teacher Resources

Interested in using the 2016 challenge in your classroom? Explore these resources:

Design skills aren’t just for designers! To find new ways to incorporate design into your classroom, visit our free online Educator Resource Center (ERC). The ERC hosts over 400 design-based lesson plans written by teachers like you.

Get Information on the current Design Competition here!

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The 2016 Judges

A diverse panel of creative experts met with the finalists in New York City to review and discuss their designs, and select the winner on April 3, 2016.

2016 judges were:

  • Caroline Baumann, Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Walter Hood, Principal and founder, Hood Design Studio
  • Steven Keating, Head of Performance Footwear Design, PUMA
  • Rachel Shechtman, founder, STORY
  • Tana Smith, YouTube star “TanaMontana100” and Author
  • Todd Waterbury, Chief Creative Officer, Target
  • Tony Whitfield , associate professor of Art and Design, Parsons School of Design

The 2016 Mentors


Five experts from Target partnered with students for videoconferences in March to refine their design ideas, and a day-long workshop prior to judging on April 2, 2016 to finalize their presentations. 2016 mentors were:

  • Chad Bogdan, Manager Design
  • Katie Larson, Designer
  • Jillian Lustig, Senior Designe
  • Tim Martell, Designer
  • Justin Williamson, Product Engineer

The 2016 Competition Winner

Congratulations to Claire Christianson for being named the winner of the 2016 National High School Design Competition!

The winner traveled to visit Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota to review her design prototype. The winner also returned to New York City for National Design Week in October 2016 to participate in the chair’s formal installation in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden. The chair is now found in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden for museum visitors to enjoy!

The 2016 Finalists


Finalists for the competition were announced on March 4, 2016. The 2016 finalists are: Claire Christianson, of Minnesota; Lauren Schrempp, of New York City; Valerie Taranto, of New Jersey; Ryan Thompson, of Illinois; and Tanner Wall, of Florida. Congratulations!

The 2016 Honorable Mentions

  • Clifton Askew, Florida, age 17
  • Amanda Clark, Kansas, age 17
  • Oliver Hsu, California, age 17
  • Vivian Jiang, New York, age 16
  • Featured Image: The winner of the #ThinkOutside Student Design Challenge pictured with Cooper Hewitt Director Caroline Baumann on her left and the competition jury. present their chair designs to a panel of judges at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City on April 3, 2016. Photo by Angela Jimenez for Cooper Hewitt www.angelajimenezphotography.com