Student Design Challenge #ThinkOutside

The challenge

Design an outdoor chair inspired by Cooper Hewitt’s world-renowned collection that will be functional, comfortable, and unexpected. The winning design will be manufactured by Target for exclusive use in Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden. Cooper Hewitt is located in New York City in the historic Carnegie Mansion. The enclosed garden was an original feature of the mansion and is directly across the street from New York’s famed Central Park.

awards and prizes

Cooper Hewitt will feature the designs of five finalists and four regional honorable mentions in a special online exhibition celebrating the creativity of promising young designers.
Target will produce a limited edition of seven of the winning chair design. Five of the chairs will be installed for exclusive use in Cooper Hewitt’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden. The winning designer will receive the other two chairs for his or her personal use.

who can enter

The Cooper Hewitt Student Design Challenge is open to all teens ages thirteen through nineteen years old who are high school students in ninth through twelfth grades anywhere in the United States.

Entry deadline

3pm (EST) on February 21, 2016

finalists travel to new york city

A leading Target designer will speak with each of the five finalists via videoconference to answer questions about the design process, make helpful suggestions for each finalist’s chair design, and provide insight into the presentation stage of the challenge. Each finalist will receive travel and accommodations to come to New York City the weekend of April 1 for a workshop with Target designers and to present his or her design to the Student Design Challenge judges.

How cooper hewitt will select the winner

The winning outdoor chair design will be a clear, inventive, and compelling design that combines beauty and functionality. Your submission will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Overall design excellence
  • Creativity
  • Clarity of your design’s connection to the inspirational object
  • Functionality
  • Outdoor durability
  • Safety for public use

The winner visits Target’s headquarters!

The winner will receive travel and accommodations to visit Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota to review his or her design prototype. The winner also will receive travel and accommodations to return to New York City for National Design Week in October 2016 to participate in the chair’s formal installation in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden.

Your chair design inspiration

Every designer has an inspiration to help guide them. As part of this challenge we are asking you to design a chair inspired by one of twelve Cooper Hewitt collection objects. This object is an inspiration guide; your final design does not have to look like your chosen object. What object attracts you? Is it the shape, color, texture, story behind the object, or something else? What ever your answer is, use that quality as the inspiration to guide your design. In your submission you will be asked to describe the connection between your design and your inspiration object.

Inspiration Objects

1. 17th Century Silk Purse

Purse, early 17th century. Silk and metallic macramé.

2. Wrapping Cloth (Pojagi)

Wrapping cloth (pojagi), sewn and pieced silk, ca. 1900.

3. Murano Glass Vase

Vase; ca. 1960; Made by Salviati & Company (Murano, Italy); Blown and cased glass

4. PH Artichoke hanging lamp

PH Artichoke hanging lamp, designed by Poul Henningsen (Danish, 1894-1967)



6. Sugar Bowl and Creamer

Sugar bowl and creamer; ca. 1928; Designed by Ilonka Karasz


Cane with pull-out map. Manufactured by In-A-Cane Display Co., 1940

8. Rialto Bridge birdcage

Rialto Bridge birdcage, Italy, late 19th- early 20th century

9. 18th Century French Coat

Coat, France, ca. 1790. Embroidered silk

10. Art Nouveau Vase

ase, 1903; Painted by Samuel Schellink (Danish, 1876-1958)

11. Poster by Mark Gowing

Poster, Jonathan Jones: untitled (the tyranny of distance), 2008. Designed by Mark Gowing


Man's Hat (ashetu) (Cameroon), mid- to late 20th century

DESIGN TIPS and requirements


People of all ages and sizes visit the museum’s garden and will be using your outdoor chair. Some will be museum visitors; others will be neighbors and city explorers using the garden to enjoy a cup of coffee, take a break from a bike ride, relax, or read a book. Think about where people like to sit in gardens—some prefer to sit in the sun; others prefer a shady nook. Think about what people like to do in a garden and how your chair will enhance their experience. Check out our images of the museum and the garden to help you imagine what your chair would look like in the outdoors.


  • Easy to use
  • Comfortable
  • Movable
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Safe


Your outdoor chair may be made from any, some, or all of these materials :

  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Wrought iron
  • Wood
  • Faux wood
  • Wicker
  • Rattan
  • Rope
  • Outdoor fabric
  • Sorry! Molded plastic is not allowed.

The student design challenge judges

A diverse panel of creative experts will meet  with the finalists in New York City to review and discuss their designs. The judges will then confer to choose the winner.

Competition Advisor: Susanna Sirefman, President, Dovetail Design Strategists LLC