2023 Design Challenge

The banner for the 2023 National High School Design Competition, which features hand-drawn designs against a black background. Several branches of numbers and mathematical symbols, handwritten in white, emerge from the left of the image, eventually converging into a horizontal line in the center. From the right, thick lines of color similarly converge into the same center line. Several line drawings slowly flash across this central line, including an outstretched hand holding a globe, three raised fists, a farm, a park bench, an open book, a heart with a jagged line through it indicating a pulse, a collection of vegetables, and the words [Design with Data].
Cooper Hewitt’s National High School Design Competition will not take place in the 2023-2024 school year. Please check back in fall 2024 for program updates. To be notified of future competition announcements, email us at DesignCompetition@si.edu.


What would you design with data for your community?

Designers are creative storytellers who can share powerful information in innovative and compelling ways. They can translate complex facts and figures into beautiful imagery and captivating stories—all by visualizing data.

Data visualizations are graphic representations of information. They help people understand and retain information to support them in seeing greater trends and patterns, making informed decisions, and communicating new ideas. These visuals can come in many forms, including graphs, charts, maps, or even something more abstract. Data visualizations may tell stories about health, racial injustice, climate change, peace, gender equity, and much more. Using data as a guide, designers, data scientists, and you are crucial to designing a more equitable future.

The 2023 National High School Design Competition challenges high school students around the country to use design and data to support their community. The data can come from an official source, or you can collect information by talking to people or observing the world around you. Be ambitious, innovative, and bold! Create a sketch of your idea and describe how your design addresses the challenge. Review how to enter and use these resources to start thinking like a designer!

Who Can Enter

The design competition is open to all teens ages 13 through 19 who are high school students in grades 9 through 12, or who are homeschooled students working toward a high school degree anywhere in the United States. You can enter as an individual or as a team of up to three people. Review the competition rules and conditions for complete information on eligibility.

The Selection Process

The National High School Design Competition is organized in two stages. In Stage One, competitors will create and submit their design ideas per the entry requirements. Cooper Hewitt will select finalists to proceed to Stage Two of the Design Competition. All Stage One entries will be judged anonymously.

During Stage Two, the finalists will finalize their designs according to the requirements in the National High School Design Competition: Stage Two Brief document, which will be sent only to the selected finalists. Then, finalists will participate in a series of mentoring activities and present their designs virtually to the judges.

Mentor Weekend: May 6–7, 2023 (In-person!)

On May 6–7, 2023, finalists will attend an in-person Mentor Weekend at the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism in Cambridge, MA. Finalists will dive into the design process, learn more about how design is used to solve everyday challenges, further discuss their design ideas, and prepare for the final presentations to the judges.

Lead Mentor: Sarah Williams
Sarah Williams is an Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she is also Director of the Civic Data Design Lab and the Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism. Williams combines her training in computation and design to create communication strategies that expose urban policy issues to broad audiences and create civic change. She calls the process Data Action, which is also the name of her recent book published by MIT Press. Williams is co-founder and developer of Envelope.city, a web-based software product that visualizes and allows users to modify zoning in New York City.

More about the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism
The MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism is committed to fostering a rigorous design culture for the large scale; by focusing disciplinary conversations about architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, and systems thinking, not about the problems of yesterday, but of tomorrow. The center is motivated by the radical changes in the environment, and the role that design and research can play in addressing these.



The deadline for the 2023 National High School Design Competition has passed. To be notified of the 2024 competition, email us at DesignCompetition@si.edu.

Selection Criteria

Entries will be evaluated for overall design excellence according to the following criteria:

  • Innovation: How creative and original is the design?
  • Impact: Large or small, what is the impact of the design?
  • Relevance: How does the design use data to support a community?
  • Communication: How clear is the design idea from the sketch and question responses?

Additional criteria for the judging will be shared with finalists in the Stage Two Brief document and will include clarity of final presentation and materials, along with sportsmanship.

Awards and Prizes

Winner (1):

  • The winner will receive a custom design gift package valued at approximately $500.00 from SHOP Cooper Hewitt.
  • The winner will receive a complimentary Family Membership to Cooper Hewitt.


  • Mentor Call (Virtual): In April 2023, finalists will receive initial feedback from an assigned mentor during an hour-long virtual Zoom meeting or phone call. (Zoom’s privacy policy is available here: https://zoom.us/educationalprivacy)
  • Trip to attend Mentor Weekend (In-person): On May 6–7, 2023, finalists will attend an in-person Mentor Weekend at the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism in Cambridge, MA. (Domestic travel and accommodations provided.)
  • Judging Weekend (Virtual): On June 10–11, 2023, finalists will participate in a virtual Judging Weekend on Zoom to learn more about design and present their designs live to a diverse panel of creative experts.
  • Finalists’ designs will be featured in a special online exhibition celebrating the creativity of promising young designers on the Cooper Hewitt website.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The designs of all finalists and honorable mentions will be displayed on the Cooper Hewitt website to celebrate the creativity of promising young designers.

Finalist activities are required. Domestic travel and accommodations for the Mentor Weekend will be provided for each finalist and one parent or guardian. If finalists are part of a team, one parent or guardian chaperone will accompany the team. Review the competition rules and conditions for complete information.

2023 Special Thanks

The National High School Design Competition is made possible with generous support from Adobe, eBay Inc., Yaroslav Faybishenko and Jennie Rubinshteyn, and Cooper Hewitt’s Board of Trustees.