Student Service Design Challenge 2017

Announcing the winners!

Email Application

About the Winners

Service design is thriving in the United States. Service designers come from many backgrounds, including government and business as well as traditionally creative fields; our applicants to the first SDN U.S. Conference Student Competition were no different. A total of 60 students from programs ranging from MFAs and MDes to MS and MBAs at ten different schools were represented in the projects submitted. University programs from many different schools and departments are doing important work to advance the practice of service design in the U.S.

An independent panel of judges selected five student teams to advance to the conference, where they presented posters to the judges. On the final day of the conference, the top three projects were awarded prizes based on evidence of seamless integration, strong fundamentals, and demonstrated process from loose intent to tangible outcomes.

The judging panel included:
Jess Poole, Design Strategy Lead at Level Studios in San Jose, California
Natalie Foley, VP and Chief Operating Officer at Peer Insight in Washington, D.C.
Craig LaRosa, Principal Director at frog in Brooklyn, New York
Tim Irvine, Regional Design Director for North America at Fjord in Chicago, Illinois

1st place: Steps to Citizenship
Valentina Branada, Alix Gerber, and Chengcheng Teng
The New School: Parsons School of Design

From the team's submission: "The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs challenged the Transdisciplinary Design studio at Parsons School of Design to imagine ways to connect existing financial empowerment services with the citizenship process. The central element of the winning team’s solution is the Steps to Citizenship Cards, which NYCitizenship attorneys and class assistants may introduce during one-on-one sessions with patrons beginning the path to citizenship. After the first session, patrons continue to use the cards to refine their plan as they meet with different experts along the way to citizenship."

In the words of Jess Poole, "Steps to Citizenship balanced customer and stakeholder needs with a deft hand. The students tested the assumptions of the city about the needs of people in the process of attaining citizenship through qualitative research and pushed back when the assumptions did not match the real needs of people.

2nd place: Fresh Lit
Daniel Quon, Marcie Chin, Phumelele Mthimunye, and Rebecca Luoh
California College of the Arts

From the team's submission: "In the United States, 54% of children under the age of nine live in multicultural households, yet only 11% of children's' books feature characters of color. Fresh Lit supports the creation of high quality, culturally inclusive children’s literature. Using a sourcing and certification process, Fresh Lit hand-selects and delivers quarterly children’s book boxes that reflect the lives of each family."

According to Natalie Foley, “The Fresh Lit team anchored their concept in a user need that was tested and validated in multiple rounds of research. In addition, they designed a creative business model that captures the value created.

3rd place: Reimagining Civic Education
Katherine Fisher and Valentina Branada
The New School: Parsons School of Design

From the team's submission: "The current activity in the political landscape reflects the need for different members of society to be heard. The team proposed a way to reduce the youth civic engagement gap in U.S. public schools through a year-long program for students ages 14 to 20. The solution is an environment where youth may explore and discuss relevant civic topics, investigate diverse perspectives, and create media artifacts that challenge the status quo of ownership in narratives while generating a shared sense of purpose."

Submission Requirements

Qualifying Students Must:

Be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree in design during the Spring 2017 semester (Note: the competition is open to students from all countries in the Americas, from the Canadian Arctic to the Southern tip of Chile)

Showcase a service design project

To apply, students must submit any of the following:
- A written application with a maximum of 1,000 words,
- A PDF document, with a maximum of 10 slides and 1,000 words, or
- A video or animation of two minutes or less in length

Each Application Must Include

- Name of the project

- Name of applicant(s) (Note: applicants may be individuals or teams)

- Name of the school, program, and course(s) in which the project was developed

- Name of the instructor

- Description of the identified problem/opportunity and how it is addressed by your solution

Judgement Criteria

Seamless Integration

The proposed service, research project, or investigation integrates several touch points (beyond digital) to deliver an experience that takes into account customer, business, and service provider needs and desires.

Design Strong Fundamentals

The team has taken into consideration the internal capabilities, structures, and revenue model required to execute the proposed solution successfully

Show the Making Process

Progression from loose intent to tangible; prototype, blueprint, and business outcome using different service design methods. We want to see your process development.

Judgement Criteria


Projects that are selected will be showcased at the first SDN U.S. conference. Applicants are welcome to use their assigned space as they wish to showcase their projects. This includes but is not limited to showing video on screen, mounting posters, presenting prototypes, etc. Applicants must provide all the materials they need to showcase their projects, such as tables, foam core boards, computers, and screens.

The winning project will be given five minutes on stage during the second day of the conference. Therefore, participants must be ready to present their projects in front of a large audience.

Are you ready to submit your application?