2021 student service design challenge - design future-oriented services and improve the lives of many

2021 student service design challenge - design future-oriented services and improve the lives of many

2021 student service design challenge - design future-oriented services and improve the lives of many

Powered by Philips Experience Design


About this challenge

This Student Service Design Challenge is a global design award that celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of designers. It's open to current students, and is initiated by Philips Experience Design, as part of its mission to involve young designers in finding people-centered and future-oriented services for people and the planet.

With this challenge, younger generations – over 50% of the people in the world are younger than 27 – take part in designing better products and services. That is why we invite design students to explore non-inclusive business models and outdated design processes, and think about what they would do to improve them.

Their unbiased, playful and uninhibited approach may lead to new, disruptive ideas, increasing the chance to deliver on the promise of value-based services: providing the right service to the people who need it, at the right time, in a convenient, affordable, easy and accessible way, and – if possible – at the lowest cost. We encourage the next generation of designers to use their creative power to shape corporate behavior and pressure them to take a more globally conscious set of values seriously. By taking an inclusive approach to service design, we can develop exciting new service experiences that contribute value to people, the planet, and the public.


Why participate?

  • Work on design with impact
  • Dive into a real-life user case
  • Use your curiosity and empathy for real people
  • Work in a multidisciplinary team
  • Learn new design methodologies and skills
  • Get supervised and coached by professionals and experts in the field
  • Get the chance to win a monetary prize or a 10-week design-in-residence
  • Have your work presented in an international exhibition


Key dates


Round 1 - Research proposal 
December 28, 2020 - January 29

Each team will receive the design brief at the same day and time: Monday December 28, 2020. You will have until Friday January 29, 2021 to submit your research proposal. For that we encourage you to do field research, look around in your city, talk with people, and select the challenge you would like to tackle.


Round 2 - Discover phase 
February 15 - March 19

During this phase you will reassess your research proposal and challenge it in a fresh, profound way and in the light of your local context. In this round you are encouraged to conduct in-depth fieldwork in your own city: going where people live and receive care to empathise and learn.


Round 3 - Define phase 
March 22 - April 9

During this phase you will unpack and synthesise your empathy findings into compelling needs and insights. You will make sense of all the possibilities identified in the previous round and decide which matters most. You will explicitly state the problem in relation to its local context and ecosystem.


Round 4 - Develop phase 
April 12 - May 28

In this phase the idea generation process takes place. This phase marks a period of development where service solutions are conceived. This process of trial-and-error helps you to improve and refine your ideas into a concrete concept. Remember, ideation is all about collaboration and iteration. This round ends with your final concept submission, a full-fledged (product-) service solution that complies with all of the 6 criteria.


Round 5 - Jury voting 
May 31 - June 11

In this round all submissions will go through to a first round of judging where they will be carefully reviewed and discussed. There will be a selection of six nominees (‘Shortlist’) from which the winners will be selected.


Winners announcement
June 11

The winners will be officially announced at the Barcelona Design Week 2021, but will be informed confidentially on Friday June 11.



The student service design challenge is a chance for design students to practice a design process based on a real-life case, use their joint creativity, and get rewarded for that. As well as winning a prize, they can generate media exposure to kick-start their career, earn the esteem of their peers – and gain confidence in making the next steps towards becoming a design professional.


GOLD winners:
+ EUR 3,000 for the University


SILVER winners:
monetary prize of EUR 2,500
+ EUR 2,000 for the University


BRONZE winners:
monetary prize of EUR 1,500
+ EUR 1,000 for the University

Gold winners will earn a 10-week design-in-residence position at Philips Experience Design and will be able to further prototype and optimise their concept. They will be mentored and supported by a Philips expert team.

This challenge ends with a unique, international exhibition at the Dutch Design Week 2021. The winning concepts will also appear on various publications, will get press attendance, and attendance at other design events, such as the Barcelona Design Week.


The brief

The design brief can be downloaded here (pdf document). An additional toolbox with design theories and methodologies can be downloaded here (zip file).

Some background information
The traditional linear 'take, make, sell, dispose' economy is damaging the globe. This one-way pattern of production and consumption, historically a generator of unprecedented growth, has disrupted the planet's natural capital and led to resource depletion and environmental degradation. It’s time to design better models.

One of the models is servitisation. Servitisation can be defined as the transformation of producing and manufacturing organisations from the mere offering of products to providing innovative and invaluable services alongside their products. Think about the many leasing initiatives from companies like BMW and MUD jeans, to name a few. Instead of focusing on selling their products, they retain ownership and are therefore responsible for the entire lifecycle of the products they make. Professors at Cranfield University call it "the innovation of an organisation’s capabilities and processes to better create mutual value through a shift from selling product to selling product-service systems".

But there is still one issue to solve: How to really close the loop? By introducing reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling, the linear value chain can become circular. For this, a circular approach to the design of products in their early stages is essential. But this is not enough. The focus is still on the product. Service design is needed to successfully close the loop.

Service design is a people-centred approach to making sense of the current status quo, and coming up with solutions to improve it. There is significant potential for adding value by involving end-users in the closed-loop process. Engaging, rewarding, and experience-rich services are needed to improve product lifetime, preserving their value as high as possible for as long as possible.


What are we looking for?

The challenge aims to push the boundaries of service design and product innovation to solve a prevalent global issue in a local context. We’re looking for ideas that will work now and in the future. Human-centered solutions that can start small and locally, but can be scaled up as well. Improving and enhancing people’s experiences.

A successful solution must work for individual users and be ready to scale through a human-oriented use of technology. Your submission will be evaluated according to the following criteria, that you can also find in the official rules of this challenge.


People centric

Your idea is based on people’s contexts, their needs and habits. The solution you design works for people, and has a positive influence on their behaviour.

Experience based

Your idea provides an impactful, rewarding and lasting user experience by offering an engaging solution that creates an emotional and sensory connection with the users.

Society oriented

Your idea sees into the inclusive conception of design in which overlooked users, groups or communities, are taken into account to create positive change in society.

Technology enabled

Your idea is data-driven and future-ready for the ever-changing digital landscape, moving beyond the obvious, existing technology.

Circular and sustainable

Your idea supports sustainable innovation by 'closing the loop' thinking, and favouring ethical behaviour as well as empowering users.

Business viable

Your idea is based on a service-centred business model, able to launch as a viable service business and value proposition as well as scalable.


Coaching and judging

Each design team will have two-weekly (virtual) coaching sessions with the challenge coach. The challenge coach will support all the teams individually during the discovery phase (round 2), define phase (round 3) and development phase (round 4) of the challenge. Each team will also be guided by a team coach, an IBM design strategist and practitioner. The coaches will guide the teams on a regular basis, including a main ‘assessment session’ at the end of rounds 1, 2 and 3. The team coaches will give each team feedback and provide help on specific areas. This guidance might take place virtually or physically, depending on the location of the design team. All coaches are experts in their fields.

At the end of round 4, each design team will submit their concept. All submissions will go through to a first round of judging by the challenge jury. The jury will carefully review, discuss and validate each submission based on the challenge criteria. There will be a selection of six nominees (‘Shortlist’) from which the winners will be selected. The challenge jury is composed of renowned design experts from various fields – related to human-centered (service) design, circular design, and design-led innovation.

Meet the coaches and the members of the jury


Enter competition 2021

This year's registration is closed. SSDC2021 is in full progress. Read more about how this year’s edition is developing, how the teams are progressing and what they have learned as they approach the final stretch of the competition.


Initiated and powered by Philips Experience Design
and co-organized with SERVICE DESIGN COLLEGE, in
collaboration with IBM and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

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Until when can teams register?
Teams can register throughout January 2021, but will have until Friday January 29 2021, 11:59:59 PM CET to submit their research proposal(s). We expect that the preparation for a proposal will take one week.
Can I enter the challenge alone?
You cannot participate as an individual student. You need to be part of a team of 4 to 7 members.
Is there any limitation on the number of members in a team?
Yes. The team needs to have at the least 4 team members and no more than 7 team members. All team members have to be students.
I am not a Service Design student. Can I enter the challenge?
Yes, you can. You need to be part of a multidisciplinary team, preferably with at least one design student.
Is there an age limit for entering the challenge?
No, there are no age restrictions, as long as you meet the criteria about student/recent graduate status.
Can a team submit more than one research proposal?
Yes a team can submit more than one research proposal, but you should submit each proposal separately.
What happens to our ideas, materials, etc.?
As a participant in the challenge you will retain intellectual property ownership of all your challenge submission ideas. There is no transfer of intellectual property rights to any third party as a condition of participating in the challenge. Please read our Official rules before submitting.