Cover Design Challenge - Creative Brief

Client: New York City Department of Education

Project: 2020 Cover Design Challenge

What should you be trying to do?
The 2021 New York City High School Admissions Guide is an important tool for seventh and eighth grade students researching and applying to over 700 programs at more than 400 high schools in New York City for the 2021-2022 school year. As a participant in this challenge, you have the opportunity to create a cover design that speaks to all of the students and families in New York who will be using this important resource.

What’s the opportunity?

This challenge asks you to reflect on your life as a public school student in New York City and creatively capture your experience visually in the format of a cover design. All students have stories to tell about their high school experiences, and this challenge gives you the opportunity to share yours with all of New York City.

Challenge finalists will have the opportunity to work with design professionals to develop your creative skills. The winning cover design will be featured on a yearlong campaign that includes the large-scale distribution of the Admissions Guide and other outreach materials including presentations, signs, postcards, and more. If your design isn’t used for high school admissions, it could be used to represent another admissions process such as middle school or Gifted & Talented.

Who are we trying to connect with?

The High School Admissions Guide is for students in grades 5-8 and their families. When most students pick up one of these guides, they are just beginning their high school admissions journey. The cover should reflect your unique vision of what high school is like, as well as what it is like for most students—an exciting and sometimes overwhelming experience that everyone experiences in different ways. The design should communicate openness and accessibility to students who are unfamiliar with the admissions process, many of whom are multilingual language learners. Lastly, the cover design should have appropriate images and language, as it is a government publication produced for students and their families.

What does a successful design look like?

Your design should be unique—can you submit something different than previous covers? Create a design in which image, color, typography, and layout are all considered and support the main message for your intended audience: students in grades 5-8 and their families.

Draw inspiration from your time in New York City public schools:

  • Why are you proud to be a New York City student?
  • What was your experience like when changing from middle school to high school?
  • What were your friends’ experiences like?
  • How are you preparing for life after high school?

How does the challenge work?

  • Read the Cover Design Challenge page for a more detailed description of the process, and rules and regulations.
  • Students can submit their original designs to the challenge between November 1, 2019 and December 20, 2019.
  • Finalists will be notified by January 10, 2020.
  • Mandatory workshops for finalists will be held on the following Wednesdays at the Cooper Hewitt Design Center (2 East 91st Street): January 15; January 22, January 29, February 5, 2020.
  • An online public vote, which determines one winning design, will be held in mid-February.
  • Winners will be announced during the Awards Ceremony at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum on February 26, 2020.

Represent your school journey with a unique image. Try to avoid common images (e.g. apples, pencils) and do not use previously copyrighted images, including identifiable buildings in Manhattan (e.g. the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building). Designs with people should include more than a single person and show the diversity of New York City.

While we accept hand-drawn entries, submissions created in Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign are strongly preferred. We encourage you to use one of our templates. If you submit a hand-drawn entry and become a finalist, you will be required to recreate your design using one of the design programs listed above.

Designs from Previous Years

See award-winning designs from previous Cover Design Challenges.
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