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Design and develop a vision and a business case for a new product and/or service made from disused office furniture.

Challenge and scope 

This brief asks you to think about how we can address the surplus of redundant furniture products and materials from offices around the world due to the changing nature of how, when and where we work. Technological developments, societal changes and environmental imperatives have changed – and are continuing to change – work patterns and environments more rapidly than ever before; as a result, many workplaces have mass quantities of redundant office furniture in desperate needof a ‘new lease of life’.

As businesses address changing work patterns and attempt to reduce their own environmental footprints, they discard old office equipment and furniture and then send millions of tonnes straight to landfill or to sit in warehouses while they figure out what to do with it. 

You are asked to pick a redundant office product and design a way of repurposing it for a new use to fulfil a need and create new prospects and opportunities, as well as change perceptions of waste and how we address it. You may choose any product you like, but strong suggestions include:

  • large single desks originally designed to accommodate much larger pieces of office equipment such as deep LCD monitors and keyboards
  • under-desk drawer pedestals, generally designed to keep small office and personal supplies – may be mobile or fixed in one location
  • metal filing cabinets designed to store papers in file folders

For detailed information and dimensions of the three standard products above, see the ‘Re-work’ Toolkit on our website. 

You are asked to consider how we can use and reuse existing materials and products in their entirety or their component parts in new ways. It is important to remember that existing manufactured products in the buildings and environments around us represent limited resources that we have already extracted from the earth as well as sunk costs for the businesses that invested in them. Thinking of these products as ‘waste’ when they reach the end of their current life is both environmentally and financially damaging.

Successful submissions will articulate the full journey of the product from its current form (as a desk, under-desk pedestal, filing cabinet, or whatever it may be) through to its new use/s and any support services, as well as its eventual end of life. You are encouraged to think beyond just finding a ‘home’ for old furniture that will see the same problem repeatitself and more about how we can truly repurpose physical material through a combination of manufacturing and service models.

As part of your response, you must also develop a business case to accompany your project proposal. The business case will be judged separately, but the best solutions will be those where the business case has informed the solution and vice-versa.

Your solution should be a new piece of furniture, product or piece of equipment and may also be accompanied by a proposal for a new system, service or business model. For the purposes of illustration only, the following would all be viable responses:

  • a new product (or product suite) made from the component parts of old office furniture 
  • a new material made by disassembling redundant materials and reassembling or recycling them in new ways 
  • a product and service model that creates new business opportunities for companies that have already invested in now redundant office equipment 
  • a new product combined with a communication solution that promotes the idea of waste as a valuable resource 
  • a new design for a future-proofed product or furniture design solution that anticipates and responds to people’s needs made from a product that hasn’t 

… and many others are possible.


There are two awards available for this brief. 

RBS Award of £2500  for the best design project/s RBS Award of £1000  for the best business case 

The judging panel may decide on more than one winner and will allocate the awards accordingly. The judging panel may also award commendations. 

RBS will also consider a possible placement for the winning student/s and may help the winning student/s to have their project prototyped; this will be decided at RBS’s discretion. 

In addition, all short-listed entrants will receive mentoring on their project and may be invited to the annual RBS Executive Team Lunch, Exhibition and Industry Networking Event in Summer 2017. 

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Judging criteria 

There are six criteria that your entry will be measured against – make sure that your submission materials demonstrate that your solution meets these criteria: 

  1. Social and environmental benefit – how does your design benefit society and/ or the environment? 
  2. Research and insights – how did you investigate this issue? What were your key insights? 
  3. Design thinking – how did your research and insights inform your solution? How did you develop, test, iterate and refine your concept? Demonstrate the journey you’ve been through to the end result 
  4. Commercial awareness – does your journey make sense from a financial point of view? What is the competitive environment your solution would sit within? 
  5. Execution – we are looking for a design that is pleasing and looks and feels well-resolved 
  6. Magic – we are looking for a bit of ‘magic’ – a surprising or lateral design solution that delights 

Submission requirements 

All entries must be submitted through our online entry system.

As you prepare your submission, please ensure that: 

  • you do NOT include your name, university/ college or other identifying marks anywhere on your submission 
  • none of your submission files exceed 10MB – this is the maximum size for each individual file / board when you submit online 

The submission requirements are: 

  • 1 x A3 PDF Hero image with 1 sentence description A singular ‘poster image’ that conveys the essence of your project, plus a 1 sentence strapline or description 
  • 1 x A3 PDF Big Idea Summary A single A3 PDF page describing your ‘Big Idea’ in less than 250 words. This should clearly explain what your solution is, the specific area of need it addresses, and how you arrived at the solution
  • 4 x A3 PDF Boards Outlining Your Proposal 4 pages describing your proposal and demonstrating that you have met the six judging criteria. Each board should include a heading. Number each board in the top right hand corner, in the order they should be viewed by the judges 
  • 10 x A3 PDF Pages of Supporting Material Up to 10 A3 PDFs of additional material illustrating your development process – this could include scanned pages of your sketchbook or computer modelling/sketches (if applicable) 
  • 2-page A3 PDF Business Case You must also submit a business case in addition to the above. The business case should not exceed two pages and may include diagrams and/or charts as appropriate. For more information on how to write a business case, visit the ‘Re-work Toolkit’ page of the RSA Student Design Awards website 
  • Optional YouTube / Vimeo + website links Please note that we cannot guarantee supporting films and websites will be viewed at the shortlisting stage. If you have created digital materials, we recommend referencing them (for example by including labelled film stills or website screen grabs) in your 4 main PDF boards 

Eligibility + entry infomation

Download entry guidelines

Download this brief

18 January 2017

Competition opens for entries

8 Febuary 2017

4pm GMT
£25 early bird deadline

8 March 2017

4pm GMT
£35 final entry deadline

20 March 2017

2-stage judging process begins

1 June 2017

2016/17 winners announced