2018 Design Competition

The 2018 Design Challenge


Nearly 56.7 million people in America are challenged by the environments in which they live and work.* While great strides have been made to design for accessibility, many of our everyday tasks and surroundings still remain a challenge for people of varying abilities. This is where designers (and you!) step in. Designers are creative problem solvers who work to improve all aspects of daily life. They design solutions that eliminate barriers and improve access for all.

The 2018 National High School Design Competition: All Access was inspired by the exhibition Access + Ability and challenged high school students around the country to make the everyday—place, process, or object—accessible for all.

*According to a 2010 US Census Bureau Report

The Selection Process

In Stage One, participants identified a place, process, or object that they use often; identified a problem that makes it less accessible for people with disabilities; and designed a solution for this problem. Participants created a sketch of their ideas and described how the design addressed the challenge. Cooper Hewitt selected three finalists to proceed to Stage Two of the Design Competition through an anonymous judging based on the criteria of innovation, impact, relevance, and communication.

During Stage Two, the three finalist teams furthered their designs using the Stage Two Brief document, and participated in a mentor phone call during April 2018 for initial feedback. Finalists then traveled to Austin to attend a Mentor Weekend on May 5–6, 2018, where they took a deeper dive into the design process, learned more about solving challenges, visited the University of Texas and IBM to learn more about the design field, and worked on their presentations for Judging Weekend. The three finalist teams traveled to New York City for Judging Weekend on June 2–3, 2018 to visit Cooper Hewitt and present in person to the esteemed judges.

Competition Teacher Resources

Interested in using the 2018 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!

Sign up here to stay connected to Cooper Hewitt.

The 2018 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 June 3, 2018.

2018 judges were:

  • Caroline Baumann, Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Keith Kirkland, CEO and Co-founder, WearWork
  • Mike Milley, Director of Creative Consulting, LA Studio, Designworks, A BMW Group Company
  • Eleanor Morgan, SVP Experience, Casper
  • Elise Roy, Inclusive Design Strategist
  • Davin Stowell, CEO, Smart Design
  • Todd Waterbury, Chief Creative Officer, Target

The 2018 Mentors

The finalists attended Mentor Weekend at the Austin Center for Design on May 5–6, 2018. The 2018 mentors were:

  • Jon Kolko, Founder, Austin Center for Design
  • Ruby Ku, Director, Austin Center for Design
  • Mari Anderson Bogdan, Principal Technical Designer, Target
  • Amelia Kennedy, Principal Designer, Target

The 2018 Competition Winner

Congratulations to Emily Bryson and Natasja Enriquez, seniors at Design and Architecture Senior High School in Miami, FL, for being named the winning team of the 2018 National High School Design Competition! Watch the presentations and explore the projects of all the finalists and honorable mention recipients below.

The winning design was featured at Cooper Hewitt and at cooperhewitt.org. The winner had the opportunity to learn more about design through inspiring mentoring opportunities:

  • Trip to New York City during National Design Week to attend Cooper Hewitt’s Teen Design Fair.
  • Trip to visit Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis in summer 2018.

The 2018 Finalists

The finalists were announced online on March 12, 2018. The finalists are: Emily Bryson and Natasja Enriquez, of Miami, FL; Yunru (Daisy) Chen and Adam Margolis, of Miami, FL; and Will Compton, Sean O’Neil, and Eddie Smith, of San Luis Obispo, CA. Congratulations!

The 2018 Honorable Mentions

Cooper Hewitt announced 13 Honorable Mentions whose designs were featured with the finalists in a poster exhibition at the museum.

  • Ellis Carter, age 14, Avi Goel, age 13, and Henry Pham, age 14
    Silver Creek High School, San Jose, CA
  • Nathan Childs, age 17, and Brandon Dockery, age 18
    Bel Air High School, Bel Air, MD
  • Joseph Consolo, age 17, Lourdes Garcia, age 17, and Karen Pena, age 17
    Design and Architecture Senior High, Miami, FL
  • Daniela Contreras, age 17, Diego Macias, age 16, and Marisol McEwan, age 16
    Design and Architecture Senior High, Miami, FL
  • Saniya Drake, age 15, and Dzifa Searcy, age 16
    Lindblom Math and Science Academy, Chicago, IL
  • Erik Gomez, age 17, Luanna Montes, age 17, and Faith Sabar, age 16
    Design and Architecture Senior High, Miami, FL
  • Garrett Heskett, age 17, and Madelene Stacey Villena, age 18
    John F. Kennedy High School, Granda Hills, CA
  • Lilah Lichtman, age 15
    The Park School of Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
  • Mason Ross, age 15
    John F. Kennedy Catholic High School, Burien, WA
  • Paulina Sanchez, age 17, and Ruth Suarez, age 17
    Design and Architecture Senior High, Miami, FL
  • Ian Shang, age 16
    University High School, Irvine, CA
  • Sydney Strawn, age 15, and Leah Weiser, age 15
    La Jolla Country Day School, La Jolla, CA
  • Isabel Zischkau, age 18
    Father Lopez Catholic High School, Daytona Beach, FL

Featured Image: National High School Design Competition Judges and Winners at Judging Day at Cooper Hewitt on June 3, 2018. From left to right: Judges Mike Milley, Keith Kirkland, Elise Roy, Caroline Baumann, Todd Waterbury, Eleanor Morgan, and Davin Stowell. Seated from left to right: Winners Natasja Enriquez and Emily Bryson. Photo: Dana J. Quigley Photography