A Platform for Joy: RSA Student Design Awards winners announced

by Sophia de Sousa

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of sitting on one of the judging panels for the 2019/20 RSA Student Design Awards.

The RSA Student Design Awards is an annual competition for higher education students and recent graduates run by the RSA. Each year, the RSA challenges emerging designers to engage with a range of design briefs centred on social and environmental impact. This year’s briefs tackled a range of issues; from services for displaced people, active travel for the ageing population and economic security, to reimagining community spaces through food. Winners are rewarded with cash prizes, and a range of other benefits to kick-start their careers. The RSA Student Design Awards have helped identify talented early career designers that have had a huge impact in the world, with over 100,000 students entering the competition since it began in 1924. Previous winners include Sir Jony Ive, Former Chief Design Officer of Apple; Kate Dundas, Director, City Strategy, City of Melbourne; Richard Clarke, Former Head of Innovation at Nike; and Bill Moggridge, Co-founder of IDEO and designer of the first laptop.

The category I was judging was called A Platform for Joy, and was sponsored by Network Rail. The brief for this design challenge posed the question, “How might we unlock joy for people at train stations?”

There were a great many entrants, and some fantastic ideas, but two proposals stood to us on the judging panel out as particularly engaging and imaginative, and each representing important areas of design thinking for young designers. We unanimously agreed that they should share the top prize.

Hello Hampton!, by Ella Kenyon, Chay Reuby & Saffron Lee of Kingston University, involves the residents of Hampton Court in a process to co-design themed stained-glass windows to be displayed and fitted to the structures of Hampton Court Station whilst providing a unique sense of identity and joy. We were particularly impressed by the project’s engagement of members of the local community in creative co-design activities, and the very beautiful artwork created that both celebrated and enhanced the local area.


DOT-+SUM, by Magdalena Boudova of University of Derby, is a way-finding system that uses responsive visuals which evolve with the station environment to provide passengers with real-time information about the transport service. This was a fascinating exploration of the use of live data not only for way-finding, but also to create quite a poetic and playful visual installation.

To find out more about the awards, visit the RSA Student Design Awards website.

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