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Home / Design  / Tips from the best: How to win a James Dyson Award

Tips from the best: How to win a James Dyson Award

Each year, the James Dyson Award challenges inventive and entrepreneurial undergraduates and recent graduates of design and engineering to ‘design something that solves a problem’. The brief is purposely broad and open-ended, tasking students to solve real-world problems.

Previous winners have found solutions to renewable energy generation, new forms of sustainable plastics, and medical and cancer screenings. Sir James Dyson chooses the two global winners, who receive vital funding and global recognition – key first steps to take their ideas into real life practical application.

In 2021, there are two global prizes for an overall International winner and a Sustainability winner with each receiving $56,000. But first, each participating country and region will award a National winner ($3,700) and two National runners-up. Those that win a National accolade proceed to the international awarding stages.

Idealog chats with two of the judges from the 2021 James Dyson Award, Sir Ray Avery and Brianne West to discuss the future of design and find out what it might take to win the big prize.


Sir Ray Avery, Pharmaceutical Scientist, Inventor, Author, and Social Entrepreneur 

























What is your top tip for budding designers?

Design a product that solves a customer statement of need, is “human ergonomic” and “sexy” in their design.

What does sustainable design mean to you?

Sustainable design should look at the cradle to the grave environmental and human impact of the product. It should ensure that the resulting product is good for our planet and its people.

What is the future of sustainable design?

Historically, sustainable design is not at the forefront of global consumers’ when it comes to their purchasing decisions. Some companies like Allbirds are changemakers, but until there are raw material pinch points, the adoption of sustainable design businesses will be slow.

What do you expect to see from Kiwi entrants in James Dyson Award this year?

The wonderful thing about the James Dyson Award, is that we see uninhibited imaginative designs. Some may not be viable, but that’s beside the point. It encourages designers to think outside the box and dream big. This is how innovation occurs.



Brianne West, Founder of Ethique – world’s first zero-waste beauty brand

















What is your top tip for budding designers?

Test and learn – talk to different people from different backgrounds through your design. Walk them through your prototype (if you have one) and just chat about your idea. There is absolutely a consideration around confidentiality, but it’s really important to get a really diverse range of opinions and ideas, from the people your design is ultimately for.

What does sustainable design mean to you?

Sustainable simply means something that can be done infinitely, as it doesn’t deplete the resources it’s made from or with. So to me, it means the idea of circular design – ensuring that the whole lifecycle of a product is considered from the sourcing, manufacturing and use. But most importantly, it needs to consider disposal. This is the piece most designers and businesses completely disregard. As Nate Morris, the CEO of the smart waste software platform Rubicon said –  ‘Waste is a design flaw’.

What is the future of sustainable design/businesses?

All businesses (and thus all design) should be making moves towards sustainability without question. It should no longer, and should never have been, a secondary consideration. The hiring of chief sustainability officers and the implementation of meaningful corporate sustainability programs, shows that big brands are listening to the demands of consumers; who are getting more and more clued up on the state of the planet. People go hand in hand with sustainability – treating all people with respect and fairness. This includes cleaning up the dirty supply chains across most industries.

What do you expect to see from Kiwi entrants in James Dyson Award this year?

Kiwis always think outside the box, so I’m expecting to see some really novel solutions to global problems, with a strong focus on sustainability.


Students can enter here via the James Dyson Award website.

Throughout this year’s Award, stay up to date with how past winners are engineering our futures on the James Dyson Award Instagram page and the Dyson Newsroom.

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