UX Design for Michigan’s Future: Developing talent through the Michigan Design Prize

The Michigan Design Council (MDC), a 501c3 non-profit, aims to boost industrial design talent and economic growth in Michigan. During a 2014 Innovation Strategy project between the MEDC and Sundberg-Ferar, the team identified the impact that a state-wide design competition would have for the MDC to engage industry, academia, and government in spreading design awareness and inspiring young minds to consider a career in Michigan. Sundberg-Ferar conceptualized, designed and implemented the competition experience, considering the diverse stakeholders involved and strategizing an operational plan to carry out the annual challenge that has become the Michigan Design Prize.


Economic Development

Outside of a financial reward, what would make a young student most excited to pursue a career in design?

The Reveal!

The Michigan Design Prize (M-Prize) focused on mentorship as its unique value in the user journey. Rather than a simple meet and greet or studio tour, the UX design incorporated anticipation and mystery. After collaborative brainstorming between student finalists and professional designers, students were told that their ideas would be professionally illustrated but kept secret until the final awards ceremony. This approach was tailored to the personas of student designers, enhancing their engagement and excitement. At the ceremony, the professionally rendered ideas were unveiled on large posters and a big screen as students received their medals. This “big reveal” moment, filled with mystery and anticipation, delighted the students and provided an inspiring, personal experience of the power of design.

“I never realized how much things that industrial designers do are similar to what I was doing, so I think it opened a new door to creativity [for me].”

– Jillian, student participant in MDC programs

Self-Sustaining Success

The M-Prize showcases the importance of connecting multiple stakeholders by uniting government, industry, and academia to nurture and retain design talent in Michigan. Sundberg-Ferar’s approach built an engaging experience and impactful outcomes maximing the state’s investment in this enduring initiative. Learn more at michigandesigncouncil.org

UX Design for Michigan’s Future: Developing talent through the Michigan Design Prize

Human Impact

Student finalists are awarded meaningful time with pro designers who create a rendering of their winning idea and help connect the dots from their imagination to a potential career in design. By fostering design thinking and creative problem-solving skills, the M-Prize empowers young innovators to create with empathy and to confidently experiment and fail which is transferable to every area of life. Educators benefit from exciting curriculum that boosts student engagement and exposes parents to viable colleges and careers through the mix of art and science.

Business Impact

The Michigan Design Prize has exposed thousands of Michigan students and educators to the State’s industrial design ecosystem, bringing an awareness of the state’s career path opportunities to students. The value of the program has attracted partners like the College for Creative Studies who have since become the ceremony host and have awarded summer camp scholarships to the finalists, increasing their K-12 exposure and opportunities for enrollment as more students, parents and educators experience their campus.

Other New Mobility Projects