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Student Design Competition

A schedule of all due dates can be found on the Submissions page.

Student Design Competition Quick Facts

  • Submission: 9 Jan 2012 PCS Submission System
  • Notification: 10 Feb 2012
  • Camera Ready: 17 Feb 2012
  • Submission Format: Camera-ready unanonymized six-page document in Extended Abstract Format and proof of all team members' student status.
  • Selection process: Juried
  • At the Conference: Up to 12 accepted design competition submissions will present posters at the conference; 4 of these teams will be chosen to give a presentation. Please see the Information for Poster Presenters.
  • Archives: Extended abstracts; DVD and ACM Digital Library

Message from the Student Design Competition Chairs

This is the 9th year of the CHI Student Design Competition. In honor of the growth of the Student Design and the importance of student work in the evolution of the CHI community, we are excited to be chairing the Student Design Competition and have added some new challenges to reflect  the maturing role of student design within CHI. New for CHI 2012 is an award, given to the top performing team at the conference, raising the profile of the winner of the competition. This new award highlights the value and sustainability of the Student Design Competition within CHI.  

The Student Design Competition continues to grow each year with increased international representation. The competition always draws a large audience at CHI and has also become a major recruiting opportunity for identifying talented students. In 2011 there were over 60 international submissions from 11 countries and we hope to continue this trend in both submission numbers and quality.

Gilbert Cockton, School of Design, Northumbria University, UK
Thecla Schiphorst, School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), Simon Fraser University, Canada

What is the Student Design Competition?

The competition is aimed at meeting three goals:
  • Provide an opportunity for students from a variety of design backgrounds (HCI, interaction design, industrial design, product design, visual design, service design, fashion, etc.) to participate in CHI and demonstrate their design, research and problem solving skills in an international competition with their peers.
  • Provide CHI attendees with refreshing perspectives on how design teams from different disciplines and different parts of the world approach a common design problem.
  • Provide CHI attendees with a chance to meet future professionals in our area, and provide competition participants with an opportunity to network with experienced HCI and Design professionals.

The Design Problem 

Space, Place, Threshold: Considering the Experience of Home from Within and Without

This year's conference theme "Its the Experience" returns our design challenge to the subjective and collective importance of experience as a material for design process and solution.  Personal and shared experience combine to form the ubiquitous fabric that shapes our lives, relationships, social structures and world outcomes. As "experience" has entered the rhetoric of HCI, our technologies have entered the rhetoric of our everyday lives, homes and domestic spaces. Although domestic computing has appropriated technologies from the world of work, their context is differentiated from work in a multitude of experientially diverse ways. 

Domestic life varies tremendously by culture, community, income, age, politics, economic development and education. While emerging domestic technologies are inextricably tied to historical concepts of family, household, privacy, gender, identity, the personal and the subjective, not all domestic experience is created equal. Domestic space is both public and private, constructed by local needs and desires, as well as  social and cultural influence. In addition to space and place, home functions as a threshold between continuums of experience such as public and private, outer and inner, connection and solitude, safety/protection and vulnerability.

This year’s challenge is to design an object, interface, system, or service intended to help us to develop and share awareness, understanding or appreciation for our domestic experience as it relates to space, place, and threshold. 

Because the everyday is subsumed as ongoing, or "natural", it is often difficult to notice or appreciate how everyday experience may be supported, shaped or ameliorated through physical or symbolic spaces. Home is a location and a place, simultaneously physical and symbolic: where housework, homework, flexwork and the heart is; home is a negotiated place of privacy, a place you return to when you are sick, and a place where “downtime” is gifted with space as well as time.

We want you to find new solutions, new groups of people and new issues that could benefit from the application of good design with appropriate technology.

Use appropriate design methods such as ethnography, contextual and phenomenological research to understand the problem space, and develop human-focused design solutions to support, assist, enhance or otherwise benefit your target audience. Your solution should address the issues of helping us to develop and share awareness, understanding or appreciation for our domestic experience as it relates to space, place, and threshold.

To enter the competition, student teams may present either a concept (a clear, detailed design specification that can be taken to prototype), or a fully realized prototype. Either way, teams must clearly illustrate their design decisions and demonstrate the design processes that have been followed. Additionally, as this problem has a broad cultural and social focus, "system design thinking" is encouraged. We strongly encourage consideration of:

  • Previous work in this and adjacent areas, and relevant creative and technological opportunities.
  • Appropriate methodologies to ground your research decisions. These can include ethnography,  contextual research, phenomenological/autobiographical methods, secondary sources (including trends) or other research approaches that inform, inspire or rationalize your design process.
  • Elaboration of methods for evaluating your designs within your iterative design framework

The Competition Structure

The competition follows a three-round process. Each round focuses on communicating the team's ideas through a different mode, as follows:
  1. Teams will submit a short paper in Extended Abstract Format(six pages maximum) summarising their design solution and its evolution. Supplementary material should be provided as an interactive pdf. This material should illustrate the development of the design solution.  Expert reviewers will evaluate submissions and a maximum of 12 teams will be selected to attend the CHI conference.
  2. Accepted teams will be expected to attend the conference to give a poster presentation outlining their design, and discuss their proposed solution with a panel of Student Design Competition Judges. The Judges will select 4 teams to participate in the competition final.
  3. The 4 finalists will give an oral presentation on their design to the panel of Student Design Competition Judges and CHI conference attendees. Based on the criteria below, the competition judges will rank and identify an overall winner of the competition as well as second and third place teams.

Attendance at the CHI 2012 conference is mandatory for selected teams to reach stage 2 of the above process.

Round One: Extended Abstract and Supplementary Material

Teams should prepare a camera ready unanonymized Extended Abstract (six pages maximum) written in the Extended Abstracts format. This document should be submitted as a single PDF to the PCS submission system. The file must be no larger than 4 Mb in size.  Additional supplementary material should be submitted as an interactive pdf, with a filesize no larger than 4Mb.

The Extended Abstract should include:
  • A description of your chosen design focus and proposed solution, with a summary of the approaches taken within your design process, and your main claims for your proposed solution 
  • Reference to design principles, sources of inspiration, and HCI theory where appropriate and relevant
  • Acknowledgement of partial or incomplete solutions
  • Acknowledgement of any assistance drawn from outside the student team (advisors, faculty, domain experts, existing solutions, users, etc.)
The Supplementary Material should include:
  • Examples of significant contextual data and its analysis (primary, secondary research or both)
  • Key creative sources of design inspiration (existing designs and systems)
  • Sketches of the evolving solution
  • Imagery (as appropriate) to illustrate the design solution
  • Significant evaluation data in support of claims in the extended abstract

All submissions must be in English and must include title and author information, including author affiliations. Please be sure that submissions do not contain proprietary or confidential material and do not cite proprietary or confidential publications. Due to tight publication schedules, revisions to the extended abstract will not be possible. The submitted PDF version should be camera-ready final version.

Round Two: Poster

Up to 12 successful submissions will be invited to CHI 2012 to take part in the next stage(s) of the competition, based upon reviewer ratings and comments. Teams will be provided space in the convention center to display posters and discuss their proposed solutions with the CHI 2012 attendees.

A scheduled 80-minute poster presentation event will take place during the conference. Student teams will be expected to host their posters and discuss their approach, design method and solutions with the Student Design Competition Judges. The competition judges will select four teams to present their proposed solutions orally during a scheduled presentation session named "Student Design Competition Final".

Specific guidelines for preparing posters:
  • Each poster will have a display space approximately 8 feet wide and 4 feet high.
  • The poster is expected to follow the International Standards Organization (ISO) poster size format (A0). The dimensions for A0 format are 84cm x 119cm, or approximately 33" x 47". Either landscape or portrait orientation is acceptable.
  • Audiovisual and computing equipment will not be supplied. Power outlets will not be available.
The poster must include:
  • The proposed solution's name, team name, school affiliation
  • The perspective taken to address the design challenge
  • A concise description of the proposed solution
  • Clear illustrations of key aspects of your proposed solution
  • Compelling, effective visual design
Please see the Information for Poster Presenters.

Round Three: Presentation

The four teams selected by the judges following the Poster Presentations will present their design process and solution during a short presentation to the Judges and CHI attendees. Presentations will be limited to 10 minutes plus a subsequent 5 minutes to answer questions from the judges and audience. Presentations must include:
  • The design process that was followed
  • A concise description of the proposed solution
  • Reference to design principles and theory where appropriate
  • Acknowledgement of partial or incomplete solutions

Reviewing Criteria

Each team's short paper submission will be reviewed by both academic and professional usability experts.

Round one, the written submission, will be reviewed based on:

  • Use of appropriate design methods such as ethnography, contextual research, phenomenological/autobiographical methods, secondary research, reflection, critique, analysis, and empirical evaluation.
  • Clarity and credibility of design focus, purpose and solution relative  to the posed challenge.
  • Originality and quality of the design solution, including claims and their supporting evidence.
  • Innovation within the design process.
  • Quality of design management.
  • Clarity of extended abstract and supplementary material.

Round two, the poster submission, will be judged based on:

  • Clear communication of key aspects of solution
  • Clear communication of design approaches
  • Clear communication of arguments for proposed solution
  • Craft quality of the solution

Round three, the presentation, will be judged based on:

  • Clarity and organization of the oral presentation
  • Relevance and clarity of presentation material (slides, video, etc)
  • Quality of argument used to justify why the solution is worthy of consideration
  • Quality, originality and relevance of design solution


The top four entries to the Student Competition earn a Certificate of Recognition. The winning entry will be recognized during the closing plenary session of the CHI 2012 conference.  In addition, the top entry will receive a special award at the conference.


Proof of Student Status

To be eligible for the student competition, all participants must provide a signed letter from their academic supervisor confirming that at least 50% of their working week is spent following an academic course of study, and that they were not employed within HCI-related industries when working on the team's submission. All students must provide proof of their student status. For this proof of their student status, they should show that they registered for the Fall semester of 2011 and completed it. Each team must provide one proof package (a single file containing scanned signed letters for each team member) together with their project submission.

Student Team Requirements

Teams must consist of at least two, but no more than five students. There is no limit to the number of teams that may compete from any given University or organization.

Submissions are invited from all students at all stages of their university careers, from undergraduate to postgraduate. While not a mandatory requirement, it is strongly encouraged that the teams put forward a multidisciplinary, multi-national team.