About the Competition

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum launched the National High School Design Competition in collaboration with Target in 2016. In the inaugural year, high school students around the country were challenged to design an outdoor chair for Cooper Hewitt’s garden that is functional, comfortable, and unexpected—and inspired by an object from the museum’s world-renowned collection. In 2017, students were challenged to design a solution that improves a community’s access to healthy, fresh foods. Read more about this year’s competition below and learn about the winner and finalists. Be sure to sign up to stay in touch with Cooper Hewitt and learn about future opportunities.


What would you design to improve a community’s access to healthy, fresh foods?

Nearly 30 million Americans nationwide are affected by the lack of access to affordable, fresh foods.* Problems with the availability of food are not specific to one group; they occur in both rural and urban communities and pose challenges to people of all ages, races, and household structures. Unavailability can be physical or economic, and is unique to each community, while potential solutions can benefit farmers, families, and local economies alike.

Cooper Hewitt’s second annual National High School Design Competition: Good For All is now open! Be ambitious, innovative, and bold! Your idea can take many forms: it might be a product, a campaign, a space, an experience, or even a system. You will be asked to submit a sketch of your idea and to 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 years old who are high school students in 9th through 12th grades anywhere in the United States. Review the competition rules and conditions for complete information on eligibility.

Entry deadline

March 20, 2017, 11:59 p.m. (ET)

Learn more about how to enter.

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 announced on April 7, 2017. Each finalist will participate in a mandatory individual videoconference or phone call with an assigned mentor during the week of April 10 or 17, 2017 for initial feedback. Finalists will travel to Boston to attend a Mentor Day on May 13, 2017 with mentors, who will assist in finalizing their designs and review their presentations before meeting with the judges. Finalists will travel to New York City to present their designs in person to the judges on June 4, 2017.

Domestic travel and accommodations will be provided for each finalist and one parent or guardian to attend the required activities. Please review the competition rules and conditions for complete details.

*According to a 2012 USDA report

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 address the obstacles faced in the identified community?


Awards and Prizes

Winner (1):

  • Trip to New York City during National Design Week to attend Cooper Hewitt’s Teen Design Fair on October 17, 2017, 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 2017 to learn more about Target’s role in design within the health and wellness space.
  • Winning design will be featured at Cooper Hewitt during National Design Week (October 14–22, 2017), at the Target Fenway store in Boston, and on cooperhewitt.org.

Finalists (3):

  • Trip to Boston to attend the Mentor Day on May 13, 2017 to finalize their designs with mentors and review their presentations before meeting with the judges. Mentors will speak with each of the finalists via videoconference or phone to provide initial feedback prior to the Mentor Day.
  • Trip to New York City to participate in the final judging on June 4, 2017 to visit Cooper Hewitt and present their designs to the judges.
  • Finalists’ designs will be featured in a special online exhibition celebrating the creativity of promising young designers on cooperhewitt.org.

Finalist trips are required, and domestic travel and accommodations will be provided for each finalist and one parent or guardian. Winner trips are optional, and domestic travel and accommodations will be provided for the winner and one parent or guardian. Please review the competition rules and conditions for complete details.


Designers are creative problem-solvers. Cooper Hewitt’s exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America presents 60 designs that examine real-life challenges and engage the public in revitalizing communities based on their needs. Below are a few of those projects to inspire you:

go where people are:

Fresh Moves Mobile Markets: Using decommissioned transit buses converted into mobile farm stands, Fresh Moves Mobile Markets brings healthy, affordable, locally grown produce to underserved neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides.
Fresh Moves Mobile Market

Use what’s available:

Collinwood Community Center: In Cleveland, Ohio, an abandoned big-box store was turned into a thriving community center that is helping rejuvenate the surrounding neighborhood.

Consider multiple groups of people:

Las Abuelitas Kinship Housing: In South Tucson, Arizona—a low-income, largely Hispanic, culturally rich community—a delegation of grandparents envisioned a new kind of collective housing for grandparents raising grandchildren. The complex includes a community building that offers after-school activities, civic-leadership training, and supportive classes for elders, youth, and the rest of the neighborhood.
Las Abuelitas Kinship Housing

Big challenges can have simple solutions:

Vroom: The Vroom campaign gives low-income parents the tools they need to give their children the best start in life. Family products packaging feature prompts for brain-building activities during shared moments.

Browse more projects here and get started!