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Design Challenge


Design Challenge 2016/17 is based on Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly.

Aimed at the next generation of aspiring set and costume designers, makers and marketing specialists, the Royal Opera House’s prestigious annual Design Challenge competition gives students the opportunity to test and develop their marketing, production and design skills, based around an opera or ballet production.

The project is designed for students at the following levels:

  • Students at FE colleges across the UK studying vocational courses at Levels 2, 3 and 4
  • Students at sixth form schools and colleges across the UK studying relevant subject areas at KS5 including Art, Art and Design, Design Technology or Media Studies

The competition is open to all UK FE colleges and sixth form schools or colleges. 

To take part in Design Challenge this coming September 2016, please email before mid-September 2016. Our teachers’ CPD is on 20 September and you must register in advance.

The prize

Each college that enters Design Challenge has the opportunity to attend a live screening of the production at their local cinema, or to book subsidized tickets to a Schools' Matinee performance at the Royal Opera House.

There is one winner in each category, the winners will get the chance to attend a special day at the Royal Opera House, including exhibiting their work, a backstage tour, a visit to a specific ROH department, and a Schools' Matinee performance.


The challenges

We are looking for entries in the following four categories:

1. Set design
2. Costume design
3. Marketing strategy and design
4. Hair, wigs, and make-up design

Director’s Visions

The Director’s Visions are a key element of Design Challenge and demonstrate the intrinsic relationship between a designer and a director. Students choose one of the five visions from the director which will help to focus and inform their design process.

Download the Director's Visions for 2016/17 here.

Design Challenge 2016/17 Timeline

  • Project Induction Day for tutors at the Royal Opera House’s Production workshops in Thurrock 20 September 2016
  • Internal shortlisting by tutors 1 – 20 January 2017
  • Submission period to ROH 20 January 2017 – 17 February 2017
  • Announcement of winners on ROH website 27 February 2017
  • Winners Day at Royal Opera House Covent Garden 20 March 2017
  • (Optional: attendance at Madama Butterfly Schools Matinee 20 March 2017, open to everyone)

Submitting entries

Students will need to submit entries to their school or college first for shortlisting.

Institutions should then send the following materials for each finalist to the Royal Opera House:

  • A 90 second video of the student pitching their design. They should use their sketchbook to help demonstrate how they have responded to the brief and the Director’s Vision
  • Three photos of the student’s completed design
  • College judging notes about the entry, including why they have been selected as a finalist or runner up.

We will be releasing further information on judging, shortlisting and submitting entries for 2016/17 soon.

Judging guidelines for 2016/17 can be downloaded here.

The online submission portal will open here on Friday 20 January 2017 at 10am and will remain open until Friday 17 February 2017 at 4pm.

Judging process

Participating institutions will undertake their own shortlisting process, selecting finalists for each category.

Visit our judging page to watch a short video filled with advice from past judges.


Design Challenge receives generous philanthropic support from the Paul Hamlyn Education Fund.