Learn By Design

Learn by Design elevates groundbreaking work in the design of physical learning environments and how it impacts pedagogy and learning outcomes.


Photo by Hans Watson.

Photo by Hans Watson.

2019 Learn by Design Finalists - Elizabeth Mulkerrin

The competition was very exciting! The whole process was definitely a learning process for me. I learned how to take a 60 minute presentation and make it 5 minutes.

Elizabeth Mulkerrin

2019 Learn by Design - Armando Manalo

The SXSW EDU Learn By Design competition provided an exceptional forum for showcasing our project to a broader community of like-minded peers working at the intersection of education, architecture, and digital media.

Armando Manalo
2019 Learn by Design Finalists / LabVenture

About Learn by Design


Learn by Design elevates groundbreaking work in the design of physical learning environments and how it impacts pedagogy and learning outcomes.

The competition celebrates the collaboration of designers and educators in the pursuit of design-based solutions to challenges within education through the use of physical space.

From classrooms and libraries to museums, special exhibitions, and more, the physical environments where teaching and learning occur are transformative tools to elevate learning outcomes. The competition is dedicated to showcasing imaginative and impactful designs of education spaces.

Selected finalists will present their projects in the live pitch event before a panel of educators, designers, early adopters, as well as SXSW EDU attendees, March 9-12, 2020.

Additionally, finalists and attendees will have ample opportunities to connect through spotlights, socials, and other events during SXSW EDU.

Application Process

Individuals or organizations are encouraged to complete the online application process to be considered as a finalist for the 2020 competition.

Monday, July 1 – Application Opens
Friday, November 1 – Application Closes

Eligibility Requirements

  • Learn by Design is open to designers, educators, architects, and creatives of all kinds, both nationally and internationally.
  • Qualified project submissions include any physical space, installation, or facilitation of the use of a space that is helping solve challenges in education. This includes but is not limited to makerspaces, museums, libraries, community spaces, schools, exhibitions, and public art.
  • At this time, only completed projects are eligible for submission. Conceptual projects will not be considered.
  • Each applicant is only eligible to present in one of the SXSW family design events (SXSW Place by Design or SXSW EDU Learn by Design). In contrast, if you have applied for SXSW Place by Design and were not accepted to participate, you are able to apply to SXSW EDU Learn by Design.

Complete an Application

Launch and Learn by Design competition application steps infographic.

  • Sign in or create an account in the SXSW cart, then select “SXSW EDU Learn by Design Competition” to begin the application process.
  • Once you begin the application, you can save and continue your work as you go.
  • Take some time to review your application, no changes can be made once it has been submitted.
  • Please note that there is a $50 fee associated with the application, but you will not be asked to commit to purchasing until you have completed the application and are ready to submit.

Frequently Asked Questions

For frequently asked questions and answers, check out the Learn by Design FAQ.

Emcees, Judges, & Coaches

Laura McBain

Laura McBain

K12 Lab Co-Director

Stanford d.school

Kwaku Aning

Kwaku Aning

Director, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking

San Diego Jewish Academy

AJ Paron-Wildes, Director of Architecture and Design at Allsteel

AJ Paron-Wildes

National Director

Design Public Group

Bryan C. Lee Jr, Founder and Design Director of Colloqate Design

Bryan C. Lee Jr.

Founder and Design Director

Colloqate Design

Morgan Vien

Morgan Vien

Deeper Learning Coach

Envision Learning Partners

Carolyn Foote

District Librarian

Eanes ISD

Emily Weerts

Director of Community

Nucleus Learning Network

David Reid

Education Design Principal

Gould Evans



Canyon View High School
Canyon View High School, DLR Group
Waddell, AZ

Canyon View High School fosters authentic, academic and curricular exploration by expanding the definition of a “place-based” high school. Blurring the lines between age and abilities, the new facility offers an open-source incubator for the art of teaching and learning. This forward-thinking campus empowers teachers to advance their professional skills, and students to develop critical competencies.

Dreamscapes Immersive Art Experience
Dreamscapes Immersive Art Experience, Utah Arts Alliance
Salt Lake City, UT

Dreamscapes manifest the surreal nature of the subconscious in a 14,000 square foot labyrinth suitable for all ages. As Utah’s first environmentally sustainable immersive art attraction, the hands-on show fosters the arts in all forms in order to create an aware, empowered, and connected community.

Museum Lab
Museum Lab, Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Pittsburgh, PA

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh addition of the MuseumLab delivers exceptional museum experiences specifically for older kids. The space is a new kind of laboratory for learning that involves partners interested in what can be learned at the intersection of informal and formal educational environments.
Photo © Eric Staudenmaier MuseumLab.

Barnard College, October 2018
The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
New York, NY

Designed as the heart of Barnard College, the Milstein Center reimagines the role of the library in higher education. This distinctive space convenes students and faculty, facilitates collaboration, fosters dialogue and links departments and disciplines across campus. Combining technologies and learning spaces in interactive setting, actively bringing together academic disciplines to collaborate and discover.

The Living Lab
The Living Lab, Rob Wellington Quigley Architects
San Diego, CA

Ocean Discovery Institute uses ocean science to empower young people from urban, underserved communities to transform their lives, community, and our world as scientific and environmental leaders. The institute’s latest addition, The Living Lab, continues to strengthen the organization’s mission by engaging thousands of students each year in hands on science programming.

Get Involved

Join Us for SXSW EDU 2020

Register to attend the 2020 SXSW EDU Conference & Festival for four days of learning, inspiration, and discovery!


Learn by Design History

Learn more about the history of the Learn by Design competition and browse a full list of past design finalists, winners, and judges.

Learn More

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