Submissions are invited for the Design History Society Essay Prize, established in 1997 in order to maintain high standards in design history in higher education. Two essay prizes are awarded annually; one to an undergraduate student, and the other to a postgraduate (MA or PhD).

Essay Competition Requirements:

  • The entrant must have been a current or graduating student (full or part time) within the academic year 2016/2017
  • The essay should be written in English
  • The length of the essay should be between 6,000 words and 10,000 words, including footnotes (for postgraduate students this may take the form of a free-standing essay or a thesis chapter re-worked into a free-standing essay). A word count must be provided with the essay and on the submission form
  • Two hard copies of the essay (including illustrations) should be delivered or posted to: Design History Society, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ, to arrive by the deadline. The envelope should clearly indicate which competition is concerned
  • The essay must not be previously published
  • The essay must be accompanied by an academic nomination. Copies of these guidelines can be forwarded to tutors on request


The Essay Prize includes:

  • A bursary of £300 given by the Design History Society
  • One year's membership to the Design History Society (includes subscription to the Journal of Design History)
  • Free place at the Design History Society conference, including a free place at the gala dinner and travel costs, if appropriate
  • £100 in Oxford University Press publications
  • 3 paperbacks in the Oxford History of Art series


Essay Award Criteria

In order to obtain the highest standards for the Design History Society Essay Prize, each submission must be nominated by a professional in the field.

Consideration should be given to the following selection criteria:

  1. Initial selection criteria should reflect the internal assessment requirements of the nominating institution: for example, an essay graded First Class Honours, or of MA or PhD standard
  2. The following attributes should be present in every essay selected for submission, both at undergraduate and postgraduate level:

    Originality
    The essay should demonstrate a mature and novel approach to issues, themes, and discourses currently relevant in the field of design history.

    Research
    The essay should demonstrate excellence in terms of breadth of research and should combine a good balance of primary and secondary sources.

    Method
    Methods of research and delivery should reflect good practice in design history. For example, an ideal essay would demonstrate one or more of the following:
    - detailed, object-focused description and analysis
    - the application of appropriate historical approaches (social, economic, cultural, etc.)
    - a sophisticated approach to interpretation, utilising relevant theoretical perspectives (Marxism, feminism, etc.)
    - correct use of discipline-specific methodologies (archaeology, anthropology, etc.)
  3. Finally, the essay should:
    - be well-structured and well-written
    - include an excellent standard of critical evaluation of the source material
    - have a balanced and logical argument
    - have an articulate and well-evidenced conclusion.

Jenna ALLSOPP, University of Brighton

Undergraduate Prize Winner, 2014

Negotiating Female Masculinity in the Early Twentieth Century: The Case of Vera 'Jack' Holme (1881-1969)

View full list of nominees

Rosie Clarke, BA History of Design, Culture and Society, University of Brighton

Undergraduate Prize Winner 2015

Essay title: Homes on the Move: Caravan Dwelling in Twenty-first Century Britain

View full list of nominees

Alison Rees, MA Ceramics and Glass, Royal College of Art

Post Graduate Prize Winner 2015

Essay title: Physical Reminders: Tracing a ceramic mural's presence and absence in postwar London

View full list of nominees

Alison Kowalski, Bard Graduate Centre

Post Graduate Prize Winner 2014

Art In Everyday Life and the Do-it-Yourself Soviet Fashion of Nadezhda Lamanova

View full list of nominees

Florence Pike, BA 3D Design, University of Brighton

DHS Undergraduate Essay Prize 2013

Moquette: The Fabric of the Underground

Andrea Tam, MA History of Design, Royal College of Art

Postgraduate Essay Prize winner 2013

Going Face to Face: The Making of Goaltender Masks in North American Professional Ice Hockey, 1959-1991

View full list of nominees

Essay Prize 2017

Details to be uploaded soon.

Previous Essay Prize Winners

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