Inside the IxDA 2014 Student Design Challenge


Photo by Jeremy Yuille

As co-chair of the 2014 IxDA Student Design Challenge with Dianna Miller, I recently had the pleasure of announcing this year’s theme, “Information for Life,” sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Now in its fifth year, the IxDA Student Design Challenge (SDC) will run during the Interaction14 conference in Amsterdam, February 5-8, 2014. The competition brings together exceptional undergraduate and graduate students for both critical thinking and hands-on experiences over the course of the conference. Here, students have the opportunity to present their work in a way that shows, rather than tells, and it’s also a terrific venue for students to connect with colleagues, potential employers, funders, or new networks.

And I speak from experience — this competition holds a special place in my heart as I was a participant myself just a few years ago, in 2011.


Finalists from 2011 and 2012 working with mentors

Inside the Challenge

The year I participated, the SDC was held in Boulder, Colorado, and I had the honor of being selected as a finalist for that years theme:  “Use Not Own.”  I competed against three other finalists over 72 hours, and while I was happy to come in second at the challenge, I was especially gratified to see what I could really do under time and resource constraints. In those three days I had the chance to address the entire conference twice, work with some amazing mentors, and be pushed by the fellow finalists into doing some of the fastest work I have ever attempted.

The week prior to the conference we received a more detailed brief and had that time to read up on our topic of collaborative consumption. Upon arriving at the SDC student space we met each other and our mentors, then spent the afternoon framing our problems. By the end of the day I had created a business and service model for BorrowBox, a community lending kiosk. On the second day we introduced ourselves to the conference and then went heads down on designing our solutions in between sessions. On the last day we presented to our mentors and prepped to present our responses to the entire conference.


Explaining to mentors Andy Polaine, Dave Malouf, Liz Danzico and other finalists my value proposition, service model, business model, and proposed customer journey at the end of Day 1.

On that final day, I spent the morning with a local contact to see how BorrowBox could apply to her suburban environment. In those six hours I rapidly co-designed, shot and edited a three-minute video and shaped the presentation to my mentors.

All told, between competing and managing to somehow catch a decent amount of the conference, it was a whirlwind experience. In the end I got to work with amazing mentors and students, received some great advice from industry professionals, and formed long lasting contacts, including several fellow Cooperistas, that helped launched my career.

The 2014 Design Challenge: Now It’s Your Turn

This year’s challenge is quite exciting and pushes the boundaries of interaction design, asking students to think about how to effectively deliver basic health information to remote populations in underdeveloped markets. These individuals may not speak their country’s official language(s) or read. They may have little access to medical professionals, and limited access to both electricity and cellular infrastructure. This relates to another Gates foundation initiative called “Records for Life,” which focuses on the patient record itself rather than the experience around the delivery of the record.

I greatly encourage any students who are currently enrolled in a design program or have graduated within 2013 to enroll in this year’s challenge. Finalists will receive free travel, accommodations, and a ticket to Interaction14. Entries are due December 1st.

For more information please visit the IxDA 2014  Student Design Challenge website or follow @IxDASDC.

Looking forward to seeing some amazing entries!



Izac Ross

Learn more

Subscribe to our mailing list and stay up to date on our latest thought leadership and learning opportunities.

Connect with us

Want to know how we can help your company drive real business progress?

Let’s talk

Stay up to date on our latest thought leadership and learning opportunities