2020 Design Competition

The 2020 Design Challenge


Inclusive design is essential for overcoming exclusion and inequality in the world. Designers today look at the breadth of human diversity and help people of different genders, languages, and cultures have a sense of belonging as they live, work, and play. Using empathy, designers think critically and intentionally about the obstacles that would make people feel excluded and design innovative solutions to empower them and create inclusion for all.

The 2020 National High School Design Competition: Belonging by Design took inspiration from
Willi Smith: Street Couture and Contemporary Muslim Fashions. The prompt challenged high school students around the country to use design to help more of us feel included.

The Selection Process

In Stage One, participants identified an obstacle that would make some people feel excluded and designed a solution that creates more inclusion. Participants created a sketch of their idea 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 finalists furthered their designs using the Stage Two Brief document and participated in a mentor phone call during July and August 2020 for initial feedback. During the virtual Mentor Weekend on August 22–23, 2020 they took a deeper dive into the design process, learned more about addressing challenges through design, explored the design field, and worked on their presentations for Judging Weekend. Then the finalists participated in the virtual Judging Weekend on October 24–25, 2020 and presented to the esteemed judges.

Design Competition Resources

Interested in using the 2020 challenge in your classroom? Explore these resources:

To be notified of future competitions, email us at

The 2020 Judges

A diverse panel of creative experts met with the finalists to review and discuss their designs, and selected the winner on October 25, 2020.

The 2020 Judges were:

  • Maurice Cherry, Founder and Host, Revision Path
  • Tiffany Edwards, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Droga5
  • Ruki Neuhold-Ravikumar, Acting Under Secretary for Education, Smithsonian
    Institution and Director of Education, Cooper Hewitt,
    Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Leah Vernon, Plus-size Hijabi model, social media influencer, public
    speaker, and freelance writer
  • Todd Waterbury, Chief Creative Officer, Target Corporation

The 2020 Mentors

The finalists attended a virtual Mentor Weekend on August 22–23, 2020.
The 2020 Mentors were:

  • Lisa N. Allen
    Textile Design Director, Target
  • Stephanie Hoffherr
    Senior Accessories Designer, Target
  • Silas Munro
    Founder and Partner, Polymode
  • Le’Spencer Walker
    Senior Operations and Strategy Manager and Product Engineer, Target

Guest Speakers

Finalists also had the opportunity to hear from guest speakers:

  • Laura L. Camerlengo, Associate Curator of Costume and Textile Arts, The Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Department of Textile Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young
  • Daniela Contreras, 2019 National High School Design Competition Winner
  • Lucas Dunoyer, 2019 National High School Design Competition Winner
  • Karin Fong, Director/Creative Director, Imaginary Forces
  • Lauren Williams, Designer, Researcher, Writer, and Educator

The 2020 Competition Winners

Congratulations to Priya Agarwal and Anika Agnihotri, seniors at the Academy for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering in Rockaway, NJ, for being named the winning team of the 2020 National High School Design Competition with Storily, a design that allows users to turn their family into storybook characters and insert them into riveting and educational picture books that reflect different cultures and experiences. Watch the presentations and explore the projects of all the finalists and honorable mention recipients.

The winners will have the opportunity to learn more about design through inspiring mentoring opportunities:

  • A virtual visit to Target’s headquarters in January 2021.

The 2020 Finalists

Congratulations to the finalists, who were announced online on July 23, 2020:

  • Priya Agarwal, age 17, and Anika Agnihotri, age 16
    Academy for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, Rockaway, NJ
  • Skye Peterson, age 18
    Communications High School, Wall Township, NJ
    Teacher: Laura Fallon
  • Yara Samad, age 15, and Naira Younas, age 16
    Henry M. Gunn High School, Palo Alto, CA

The 2020 Honorable Mentions

Cooper Hewitt announced 16 Honorable Mentions on June 11, 2020. Congratulations!

  • Heath Chancey, age 17
    Berkeley Preparatory School, Tampa, FL
  • Isabella Choi, age 16
    Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, NJ
    Teacher: Scott Lang
  • Norah de León, age 14
    Brownsboro High School, Brownsboro, TX
    Teacher: Courtney Elmore
  • Taylor Fang, age 17, and Hsar Sar Lwin, age 18
    Logan High School, Logan, Utah
  • Dara Girel-Mats, age 16
    Design and Architecture Senior High, Miami, FL
  • Julia Kacur, age 17
    Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, NJ
    Teacher: Scott Lang
  • Mohen Li, age 17
    Radnor High School, Wayne, PA
  • Lila Nathanson, age 18, and Adriana Poznanski, age 18
    Communications High School, Wall Township, NJ
    Teacher: Laura Fallon
  • Sasha Palmer, age 17, Marlea Rust, age 17, and Lucy Sheerin, age 17
    Springfield High School, Springfield, OR, Thurston High School, Springfield, OR, and South Eugene High School, Eugene, OR
  • Robin Paul, age 14, and Abel Vayalinkal, age 14
    Granada Charter High School, Granada Hills, CA
    Teacher: Jackie Ying
  • Willow Rosser, age 16
    Lakewood High School, Lakewood, OH
    Teacher: Anne McQuay
  • Meredith Rupe, age 18
    Peak to Peak Charter School, Lafayette, CO
    Teacher: Kristie Letter
  • Nicolas Sanchez, age 18
    Samueli Academy, Santa Ana, CA
    Teacher: Patricia Vining
  • Anna Sparling, age 18
    Peak to Peak Charter School, Lafayette, CO
    Teacher: Kristie Letter
  • Gabrielle Toms, age 17
    Lakewood High School, Lakewood, OH
    Teacher: Anne McQuay
  • Hannah Warmbrod, age 17
    St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School, Sewanee, TN
    Teacher: Osei Hill