Student & Teacher Resources

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


Start by reviewing the design process. Remember, this process can vary and is not always a linear path. Designers often move between stages and even circle back to the start at different points.

Use these resources to learn more about data visualization:

There are many ways to approach this year’s challenge. Take a look at how designers use data to tell stories about health, racial injustice, climate change, peace, gender equity, and much more:

How might design and data raise awareness?

  • Black Lives Matter Street Mural Census by Kim Albrecht and Stephen Larrick: This visualization shows the locations and dates of Black Lives Matter street murals. It raises awareness of the fight against racial injustice and highlights differences in regional support for the movement.
  • Bruises—The Data We Don’t See by Giorgia Lupi and Accurat with music composed by Kaki King: This project shows clinical data about King’s daughter’s autoimmune disorder and the emotions she felt after the diagnosis. It highlights some parts of life for those who are disabled (either visibly or non-visibly) that aren’t generally shown.
  • Years With a Female Head of State by Mona Chalabi: This hand-drawn bar graph illustrates how many years a woman has held a position of power in different countries around the world.
  • Data Vandals by Jen Ray and Jason Forrest: This project presents non-traditional data visualizations for people in New York City, including through performance.
  • The Game of Life by Alexandra Davis: This project shares the data behind systemic racism in the form of a game. It creates a more engaging experience for the reader/player to understand and learn about the many injustices people of color face every day.

How might design and data reveal hidden patterns and trends?

  • CityDigits: Local Lotto by Laurie Rubel and Sarah Williams: This visualization shows how lottery affects neighborhoods differently.
  • 2022 Positive Peace Index by The Institute for Economics and Peace: This simple map measures the level of peacefulness in 163 countries using 25,000 datasets gathered over multiple years.
  • City and rural population. 1890. by W. E. B. Du Bois and students of Atlanta University: This graph shows the number of Black Americans living in small and large cities compared to rural environments.
  • Map, WorldMapper Project: Global Internet Use 1999 and 2007 by the Social and Spatial Inequalities Research Group: This project measures internet use around the world by changing the size and shape of countries based on data.
  • Climate Crisis Font by Helsingin Sanomat: This font visualizes the urgency of the climate crisis. The font weight begins to disappear based on a sliding timescale using real Arctic Sea ice data.
  • UCSF Health Atlas by Stamen: These interactive maps show how the environment influences health in California.

Explore previous competitions to be inspired by high school students who have responded to design challenges:


    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 charts, graphs, maps, or even something more abstract. They can be simple or elaborate, still graphics or videos, created on paper or with physical objects, or even something interactive—you get to choose! Remember, the sketch you submit will be in a 2D form showing your design idea, but you can reference any additional elements in the question responses.

    It’s important to consider what type of format will most effectively tell your story. Does your data visualization need a key or legend to help explain your story? You should also consider how you will use color, shapes, or symbols to visualize your story. Remember, you don’t have to use every data point in your visualization, just enough to tell your story.

    Data visualizations can tell all kinds of stories. They can share experiences, but they can also display research and statistics. Data visualizations tackle topics such as health, racial injustice, climate change, peace, gender equity, and much more. Some designers choose to share their own experiences through their visualizations to help others. The world of data visualization is vast—you can choose to investigate something that is personal to you or something more widespread.

    You can start by thinking of a topic or theme that is important to you or your community or something you want to learn more about. Is there existing data about this topic? Will you collect your own data? What about this data is interesting to you? How might you share this in your data visualization? Most importantly, consider why you want to tell this story.

    Keep in mind that data can only tell the story of the information that is collected. Make sure to consider where your data is coming from and think critically about the data you find. If your data is coming from a source, is that source trustworthy? How was the data collected, and who collected it? Is there information that may have been excluded from the data set? You might need additional information to support your story. You can even collect your own data by talking to people or observing the world around you. Remember, your story can be broad, but you can also focus on something specific.
    Designers are constantly sharing their ideas and prototypes with their intended audience(s) for insights and feedback throughout the design process. If possible, share your data visualization with others.

    Your audience could include your family, friends, classmates, teachers, community group, or anyone that might benefit from learning about your story. Were they able to understand your story through your data visualization? Were there any unclear aspects that you could refine to have a larger impact? Sharing your work and talking with your audience(s) may lead to new ideas that you hadn’t considered before. Remember, data alone doesn’t always tell the full story—you are helping the data come to life!



Email us at to let us know that you’ll be entering the design competition or are planning to introduce it to your students. We’ll notify you of competition updates.