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Forward thinking: the next generation of retail designers

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

It’s been a really tough year for many, not least for university students who, on the cusp of their adult lives and future careers, have had their educations upended.

So we were delighted to be able to continue to support interior design students at The University of Huddersfield with their entries for this year’s Retail Design Student Awards (RDSA).

Set up in 2015, the RDSA awards ceremony has been a regular fixture at the annual RetailEXPO. But the usual process of the competition was obviously threatened by the challenges of the pandemic - live events cancelled and student learning restricted to online. However, despite all this, Lynda Relph-Knight (the RDSA organiser and former editor of Design Week) remained steadfast about the importance of these awards and pressed ahead with a slimmed down 2021 competition, thanks to support from university tutors, and the design and retail sector.

The Retail Design Student Awards challenges interior design and architecture students from the competing universities/colleges, to explore how retail design can make shopping more engaging for customers and commercially effective for brands.

Working to live briefs set by retailers and brands, each university/college is mentored by a professional design consultancy and their entries then judged by a panel of retailers and creative consultancies.

Lloyd Blakey, Creative Director at Innovare Design, has been personally involved as a design student mentor since 2016, “It’s a project that I’m really passionate about and it’s such a rewarding process to help these young creatives to harness and shape their ideas”.

“Professional guidance is invaluable”

“Having Lloyd’s professional guidance during the competition process is invaluable and a positive experience for the students involved. Even though the whole process occurred online this year due to restrictions, the students valued discussions with Lloyd to develop and push the ideas for their concepts forward. The experience not only benefited their competition pieces but their approach to project work during the rest of the academic year.” Claire Diggle, Interior Design Lecturer, Huddersfield University

This year’s brief for Huddersfield students was set by the Co-op and asked for an instore solution to house a new partner in a sector complementary to the Co-op’s own proposition. It needed to be scalable and flexible to facilitate relocation and adaptation across the seasons.

“So many talented students”

The Huddersfield students wasted no time in rising to the challenge and responded with a diverse range of creative ideas. So much so that they achieved not only a winning entry but also a ‘Commended’ result.

“The standard of creativity and customer-focused design solutions this year was exceptional. There were so many talented students and they responded to our briefs so thoroughly and accurately.” Caroline Casey-Norbury, Head of Instore Partnerships and Proposition Innovation and Format, Co-op

So congratulations to the Huddersfield students for this fantastic result. We wish them all the very best for the coming year and hope that some of them will build on this competition experience and choose the rewarding path of retail design in the future.

Here are the winning and commended students with their concepts:


Albina Gatajeva, Co-Go Tool Share - University of Huddersfield

The judges loved this idea. It’s very much on-brand for the Co-op and brings a valuable service into the heart of the community. They applauded the seamless blend of digital and physical retail.


Georgia Clarke, Grow Together - University of Huddersfield

The judges were taken with the subtlety of Georgia’s entry – a simple idea that brings people together and engages children too. The modularity of the design makes it scalable, fitting the brief and the Co-op’s ethos.

You can read more about the 2021 Retail Design Student Awards and see all this years’ shortlisted entrants and their design solutions on the RDSA website.


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