Competition graphic image showing the 2020 challenge question in different languages


What would you design to help more of us feel included?

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 challenges high school students around the country to use design to help more of us feel included. 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 three finalists to proceed to Stage Two of the Design Competition. All Stage One entries will be judged anonymously.

During Stage Two, the three 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 travel to New York City to present their designs in person to the judges.

Mentor Weekend

On August 22-23, the finalists will participate in a virtual Mentor Weekend with lead mentor Silas Munro, partner at Polymode. Finalists will dive deep into the design process, learn more about how designers use design to solve everyday challenges, further discuss their design ideas, and prepare for the judging.

About the lead mentor

Silas Munro is a partner of Polymode. His studio has collaborated with clients in the cultural sphere including Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, MoMA, and The New Museum. Munro’s writing appears in Slanted, Walker Gradient, and the book, W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America published by Princeton Architectural Press. He has been a visiting critic at MICA, RISD, and Yale University. Munro is an Associate Professor at Otis College of Art and Design and Advisor, and Chair Emeritus at Vermont College of Fine Arts.


FEBRUARY 10, 2020, 11:59 P.M. (Eastern Time)

The deadline for the 2020 National High School Design Competition has passed. To learn about the requirements for 2020, review How to Enter. To be notified of the 2021 competition, email us at

Selection Criteria

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

  • Innovation: How creative and original is your design?
  • Impact: Large or small, what is the impact of your design?
  • Relevance: Does your design create inclusion for your intended user(s)?
  • Communication: How clear is your design idea from your sketch and question responses?

Awards and Prizes

Winner (1):

  • Trip to New York City during National Design Week to attend Cooper Hewitt’s Design Career Fair in October 2020, where the winner will explore college and career opportunities in design with some of the country’s leading designers and representatives from design colleges and universities.
  • Trip to visit Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis in Summer 2020 to learn more about Target’s role in design.
  • If the winner entered the competition as part of a class assignment, the winner’s teacher will also receive the opportunity to participate in one of Cooper Hewitt’s nationwide design thinking professional development workshops.

Finalists (3):

  • Trip to attend Mentor Weekend in Spring 2020 for a dive into the design process, finalize designs with mentors, and review presentations before meeting with the judges. Mentors will speak with each of the finalists via phone to provide initial feedback prior to Mentor Weekend.
  • Trip to New York City to participate in Judging Weekend on June 13–14, 2020 to visit Cooper Hewitt and present designs to the judges.
  • Finalists’ designs will be featured in a special online exhibition celebrating the creativity of promising young designers on

Honorable Mentions:

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

Finalist trips are required, and domestic travel and accommodations will be provided for each finalist and one parent or guardian. If finalists are part of a team, one parent/guardian chaperone will accompany the team. Winner trips are optional, and domestic travel and accommodations will be provided for the winner and one parent or guardian. Review the competition rules and conditions for complete information on eligibility.