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Animations exploring society’s response to ageing, an ‘intelligent carpet’ that grows crops in refugee camps and refillable mascara are just some of the incredibly fascinating projects to emerge from this year’s Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Student Design Awards.

The competition facilitates students to tackle social, environmental and economic issues of the modern world, such as increasing mental agility in old age and designing new products or services from disused office furniture.

This year more than 800 entries from 21 countries designed solutions to 12 different briefs on these topics. The awards are prestigious, and as well as encouraging students to design in a way that benefits society, it aims to forge networks and partnerships between designers, industry giants and students. Previous winners include Apple’s design chief Jonathan Ive.

Two winners in the Moving Pictures category were created to accompany one of two selected audio files that explore ageism, as outlined in the brief. The category was sponsored by NHS England, RSA Events and feminine hygiene brand Natracare.

This winning film – Age Pride – highlights the negative stereotypes western culture has of elderly people, and argues that these views are outdated.  Through easy-to-follow illustrations that support challenging audio Eleanor Russell-Jones from Arts University Bournemouth explores how in an age of gay pride and marriage equality, why not age equality?

This animation by Yasmin Cowen and Wyl Parkes from Birmingham City University won the RSA Student Design Award Collaborative Animation award.

Using the same audio as Age Pride, the animation is based on two contrasting styles – tonal portraiture and loose gestural drawing to create a narrative that transitions with the key words in the audio.

Moving away from ageism, A Helping Hand is a winning paper-cut animation by Sarah Nyhan from Limerick School of Art and Design. It focuses on the power of togetherness. It’s symbolic and simplistic nature, paired with the metaphor of batteries as the energy of a society, illustrates how we can use this to improve our collective well-being. 

The 24 winners received a total cash prize of £45,000 or a paid work placement with a sponsor, and fellowship to the Royal Society of Arts. Each entry is judged on its social and environmental benefit, execution, research, design thinking, commercial awareness and magic. To see the full list of winners, click here.

This year sponsors of the RSA Student Design Awards include Global Disability Innovation Hub, Government Office for Science, NHS England and #HackOnWheels – a library of open source designs of wheelchairs that are affordable and customisable.

It’s also worth featuring other non-animation projects for the RSA Design Awards, like this indoor wheelchair.

It’s designed to be another piece of furniture for the home that doesn’t embody a “medical look or feel”, and is more suited to household tasks because of its elevated seat height. It was designed for #HackOnWheels to use in their library of open source designs. Nelson Noll from Central Saint Martins UAL is behind the invention, and is the joint winner of the GDI award along with Thomas Dell.

A team from Technologic de Monterrey in Mexico designed an ‘intelligent carpet’ that solely relies on human urine as the liquid resource to grow crops in refugee camps. Rise is designed for use in non-fertile humanitarian crisis regions, and is made from 100 percent biodegradable materials such as sends and liquid filters.

Rise is response to a brief to design a solution that utilises ‘advanced textiles’ to improve wellbeing or the quality of people’s lives.

We couldn’t leave out Philippa Bridges’ Infinity Mascara, a project based on the principle of circular design and value creation.

It’s essentially a refillable mascara which can be applied with a 3D-printed fingertip. The product needs to be replaced only every three to six months, estimating to save around 25 mascara bottles from the landfill per person.