D&AD Pencil Nominee - Cohesify - Specialmoves

D&AD Student Awards Cohesify

Digital Design Category

Specialmoves set and helped judge the brief for the Digital Design category this year.

This excellent entry by a group of Canadian students was nominated for a Student Award Pencil -a  great honour and massive achievement. The idea stood out from the others by being well thought through, highly useful and very effectively presented.

We thought we'd pick their brains to see what went into creating this fantastic work.

D&AD Student Awards

Firstly, can you briefly explain what your entry was about?

Cohesify is a multi-screen system that lets students sync their Windows Mobile phone seamlessly with tablets and an interactive whiteboard within the classroom. It is an educational tool designed to improve engagement by facilitating student-teacher interaction and bringing real-world media content into the learning experience. It was an

Congratulations on being nominated for the D&AD Baby Pencil! How did it feel when you found out? 

It was an honor to be named as one of the 3 nominees in an international competition. This is the first design competition for all of us so it was a wonderful surprise to be invited to the awards ceremony. We’re very proud that our work was recognized amongst so many talented students. It was great to meet some of them in person in London. There is still a lot for us to learn and we're fortunate to be connected to a community of the world's best designers.

What did you hope to achieve when you decided to enter
the awards?

This was our team’s first student design competition so we weren’t sure what to expect. We liked the challenge that the brief presented and wanted to demonstrate how design can be coupled with technology to create human-centered solutions. Seeing the high-calibre of previous years’ submissions really pushed us to create a quality submission.   

How did you go about creating the idea that you eventually submitted?Did you have several ideas or did you settle on your final ideastraight away?

Our initial idea was a telecommunications interface but our scope was too broad. We eventually sat down as a team to identify what larger issues we were passionate about. There is a lot changing within the education space but classroom technology has not yet caught up. We decided to address how students and teachers could leverage technology to create a more engaging and personalized learning environment. New education delivery models such as studio schools have emphasized the importance of classroom collaboration and hands-on learning so we wanted to create interfaces that could facilitate such changes.

Why did you decide to work in a team instead of by yourself and what were the pros and cons of this approach?

Our team of 4 was formed in our interface design class and we were lucky that we complemented each other so well in terms of personality and skill-sets. Our backgrounds ranged from computer science, art, design, and engineering. Although there were times when we didn’t see eye-to-eye, our different perspectives helped drive the design process. Communication and trust are key to functioning as a strong team. 

What challenges did you have to overcome to get your
idea completed?

Coming up with a project name.

Were you happy with your final piece and what you would you have changed if you had more time?

We are happy with our entry but it is only a fraction of what we planned our interface would be. We had less than a month to take the project from concept to submission, and 2 days to put the video together. We would have liked more time to polish off our designs, but we’re glad that the judges saw value in the concept. We continued to iterate and user test our designs post-D&AD and made many improvements. Our goals if we continued would be to develop the full interaction between students and the teacher in the classroom, as well as examine how tablets could be used to encourage exploration outside the classroom. 

D&AD has been an amazing experience for all of us and we hope to apply to more design competitions in the future.

Finally, what advice would you give to students entering the competition next year?

We would recommend identifying a real problem in an area you are passionate about. Finding teammates that are aligned with your vision and values is also important. Start on your entry as early as possible to give yourself more time to iterate and refine your ideas. Ask peers and mentors for feedback throughout the process. 


Jessica has just graduated and co-founded Penyo Pal - an edu-tech startup creating mobile games to teach kids languages. Rowan, Ari, and Jeff still have a few semesters to go and are looking for interesting internship opportunities. 

Jessica can be contacted at jessica@penyopal.com

Sunil is Head of Development at Specialmoves. @sunilj0lly

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