2020 was an unprecedented year. But creativity and design continued to thrive in the world.

Here are some of the projects that inspired us this year. They will be featured in the upcoming exhibition Design and Epidemics: Innovation in the Face of Crisis.

Woman in blue and white striped scrubs standing in front of a solid pink background

Danielle Elsener created an open-source design for zero-waste scrubs, eliminating textile waste and addressing the shortage of this crucial Personal Protective Equipment in the United Kingdom.

White temporary structure with CURA written on the side and medical facilities visible inside housed in a larger warehouse space

CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati developed CURA (Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments), a working prototype for intensive care units utilizing shipping containers.

Man stands in a workshop facing the camera holding a ventilator

Italian engineering firm Isinnova designed a 3D-printed valve to retrofit commercially available snorkel masks for use in emergency assisted ventilation in hospitals around the world.

Render of a schoolbus parked in front of a translucent structure with the words COVID-19 Mobile Lab on the side

Perkins&Will Architects, in collaboration with NYC Relief, prototyped mobile COVID-19 testing units that repurposed underutilized school buses to extend rapid testing into New York communities.

Now more than ever, we need to use the power of design to build a better future.

Voice of James Burnett, OJB Landscape Architecture, 2020 National Design Award Winner

In 2020, Cooper Hewitt explored the importance of inclusivity in design and storytelling.

Mannequins wearing colorful printed clothing inside a Cooper Hewitt gallery space

1.2 MVISITORSNearly 1.2 million unique visitors to Cooper Hewitt’s website in 2020

Outfits, videos, and ephemera hung on gray structures within a gallery space

26,000ParticipantsNearly 26,000 participants in virtual and in-person education programs in 2020

In February and March, we opened Contemporary Muslim Fashions and Willi Smith: Street Couture, highlighting design pioneers who have helped drive the fashion industry towards greater inclusivity.

Scroll through of the home page of the Willi Smith Community Archive site

The Willi Smith Community Archive, launched in conjunction with the exhibition, contributes to a greater understanding of the late designer’s life and work through the collective memory of friends, collaborators, and members of the public.

“How fitting that the man who wanted to be ‘the designer of the people’ should be celebrated with an exhibition with a ‘for and by the people’ component.”Vogue

National High School Design competition flyer placed next to a screenshot of a video conference

The 2020 National High School Design Competition challenged students around the country to design inclusive solutions to obstacles that currently exclude people. Out of 597 entries by 951 students, three finalists were selected to participate in virtual mentoring workshops with experts in the field.

“Cooper Hewitt taught us so much about how design works and the impact it has on all aspects of everyday life.”– Priya Agarwal and Anika Agnihotri, winners of the 2020 National High School Design Competition

We convened discussions about the role of design in creating a healthier and more equitable future.

Clip from episode 9

1.3 MVIEWS1.3 million views of Cooper Hewitt’s virtual programs in 2020

In May, Cooper Hewitt began co-hosting Designing on the Front Lines, a weekly series exploring the intersection of design and medical practice with doctors and designers at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Screenshot of a digital note board with a colorful array of notes

Also in May, Cooper Hewitt’s Interaction Lab held its first Pandemic as Portal program, where participants from around the world collaborated in an interactive whiteboard session to explore what we want to leave behind in the pre-pandemic past and what we want to carry with us into the post-pandemic future.

Cover graphic for Health Design Thinking with text and line drawing on light blue grid backgroundDesign Journal cover graphic with drawing of the globe in a room and the text Give Earth a Chance

From Health Design Thinking: Creating Products and Services for Better Health to the climate issue of Design Journal, our publications captured important conversations about the responsibility of design in facilitating lasting change for the world.

We created new distance learning tools.

Sketch of man standing at the opening of a wall outdoors Detailed embroidery of a tree in a patterned frame Iridescent vase on gray background Detailed abstract brown katagami pattern Cream-colored fabric envelope with pink ribbon and floral embroidery Japanese print of waves and a mountain in the distance Simple dark gray mask with rabbit ears Tureen with floral detailing and a sphinx heads on both sides Cross section drawing of a domed building wooden chair with decorative back and red floral silk seat Print of three people on a horse Silver bowl with decorative detailing

Selection from the most viewed Cooper Hewitt objects on Smithsonian Open Access

5.5 MVIEWS5.5 million views of Cooper Hewitt objects through November 2020

In February, the Smithsonian launched Smithsonian Open Access. More than 3 million 2D and 3D images have been released into the public domain so far—including 42,000 (and counting!) assets from Cooper Hewitt’s collection of historical and contemporary design— allowing users everywhere to download, share, and remix ideas.

3D model of the Cooper Hewitt Mansion

In April, we launched the Digital Mansion, where visitors can experience Cooper Hewitt remotely—from online exhibition content and virtual programs to the history of the museum and design stories from our archives.

Grid of 18 different learning lab graphics on light purple background

23,000UsersOver 23,000 unique users of Cooper Hewitt lesson materials in 2020

Our growing Smithsonian Learning Lab collection provides teaching tools for educators and caregivers, including design case studies that apply core areas of study to real-world problems.

Flip through of design at home activity book

38,000Activity BooksOver 38,000 free activity books distributed through November 2020

In June, we published the Design at Home Activity Book in both English and Spanish, partnering with various community organizations throughout the United States to distribute free education resources that do not require internet connection.

And we celebrated innovation and impact.

Teal, purple, and red overlapping lines form the National Design Awards logo

“[The 2020 winners] are democratizing creativity and design… and they are dedicated to designing a brighter, kinder, and more connected world for all of us.”– Arem Duplessis, Jury Chair, 2020 National Design Awards

Cooper Hewitt presented the 2020 National Design Awards at our first-ever virtual gala on October 1, bringing over two thousand people across the world together to celebrate the winners and the power of design.

Clip from Design Salon: Social Impact

5,000ParticipantsOver 5,000 participants from 38 countries throughout October

We celebrated National Design Month throughout October, offering free virtual programs for all, including workshops, talks, studio tours, career fairs, and more with National Design Award winners and guest designers.

We couldn’t have done it without our frontline workers, who continued to care for the collection and its home, the landmark Carnegie Mansion.

Exterior shot of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design from the garden

And we couldn’t have done it without you.

Screenshot of video conference for National Design Awards

Friends and supporters of Cooper Hewitt celebrate the 2020 National Design Awards

Thank you for supporting Cooper Hewitt and the power of design.