Judging Process

The judging process explained

Each RSA brief is judged in person by a different panel of designers, industry experts and social innovators in two stages: anonymous shortlisting, followed by interviews with finalists.

Stage 1 – Shortlisting

At the first judging session, judges view all the entries submitted for a brief and agree a short-list to interview. First of all, each judge looks at all entries, noting if they think it should be shortlisted. Entries with a majority of votes are laid out for discussion by the whole jury, led by the Chair, until the shortlist is agreed. The shortlist is usually 6-8 entries, but can be as many as 10 or as few as 5. The RSA team contacts all competition entrants to let them know whether or not they have been shortlisted.

Stage 2 – Interviews

Shortlisted candidates are invited to a 30 minute interview at the RSA (in person if possible, or via video conference). Entrants are asked to spend 5 minutes presenting their project to the jury, and then answer questions from the judging panel, who will often request to see other portfolio work and ask about career aspirations. Once all interviews have been completed, the panel deliberates and selects winners. Students can also be Highly Commended or Commended, which denotes that the Jury were especially impressed with the high standard of the work, although they have not received an award. Reaching the final shortlist is seen as an achievement in itself, and can enhance CV's/


One of the purposes of the RSA Student Design Awards is to offer practical and financial support to young designers starting out on their careers.The award for the winning submission/s varies from brief to brief, depending on what sponsorship is available. Some briefs carry cash awards, and others carry a mixture of cash awards and paid industry placement awards.These are distributed at the jury's discretion. 

All winners are invited to attend and Awards Ceremony at the RSA - this is a large, celebratory event that includes a keynote talk by a high profile figure, a presentation of the awards, and a drinks reception with networking.

All winners also receive a year's complementary RSA Fellowship, which means they can access the RSA's networks and resources.

Cash awards 

These awards are flexible, but should be used for a purpose related to the student’s career as a designer or social entrepreneur.

Placement Awards

These take the form of a period of paid work experience with a sponsoring organisation. An internship may last from four weeks to six months, and shortlisted students should be clear about whether they can commit to taking up a placement award at the interview stage. 

Judges' Stories

Michael Ambjorn"It gives students an opportunity not just to present what’s normally associated with design which is aesthetic, but the RSA Student Design Awards sets out to solve social issues, problems and challenges."

Fiona Bennie"Being shortlisted, regardless of whether or not you win, is just amazing achievement. There are so many designers out there and there's so much competition for getting work, it really helps students to differentiate themselves from all the thousands of others coming out of grad school."