INDEX: | AIGA Aspen Design Challenge awards $10,000 grant

NEW YORK, September 4, 2009. The winner of the 2008–2009 INDEX: | AIGA Aspen Design Challenge, “Designing Water’s Future,” is Joanna Szczepanska from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, selected for her urban gardening design, VeggiePatch. As the winner of the worldwide student design competition to address the global water crisis, Szczepanska received the $10,000 prize, which was presented to her last week at the CODE09 design fair in Copenhagen.

The culmination of a yearlong journey

In May 2008, INDEX: and AIGA posed a challenge to students around the world, asking them to address the world’s water crisis. More than 450 students from 28 countries answered the challenge, and in March 2009 seven finalists were chosen by an international jury.

In June 2009, the finalists met with experts in design, branding, communications and business in Aspen, Colorado, to refine their projects, strengthen the focus of their presentations and develop business plans in preparation for Copenhagen.

On August 25–26, 2009, the finalists met again in Copenhagen for a workshop with social investors, venture capitalists and business leaders to seek sustainable economic and logistical support. And on August 28, Joanna Szczepanska was awarded the INDEX: | AIGA Aspen Design Challenge Prize, a grant sponsored by the JL Foundation for implementation of her project.

Edible urban garden selected

VeggiePatch is an edible garden for urban landscapes, allowing people living in the city to cultivate food in a restricted space. The design addresses the issues of water waste, packaging and food miles—the environmental impact of food traveling from source to table—and has  features that make it interesting to those concerned about the climate:

  • Modularity: VeggiePatch is adaptable to small urban spaces as it can literally be bought by the meter off a roll or sheet. Its size and contours are determined by the user’s requirements, with four initial base contours to choose from.
  • Composting: VeggiePatch has the capability to vermicompost food waste within each one of its pockets, closing the loop in the food cycle.
  • Irrigation: VeggiePatch has irrigation lines molded into the product, reducing the need for external components or additional materials, and making assembly and recycling easier.
  • SeedDisks: Allows users to quickly and easily sow seeds. Their format prevents over-planting, eliminates the need for excessive seed packaging, and provides protection and nutrients for seedlings as they grow.
  • Materials: Using post-consumer and industrial waste such as ceramic coated cardboard, banana paper and recycled tires for its construction, VeggiePatch provides recycled materials with new applications and a chance to be viewed in fresh ways. The materials selected not only support the product’s functionality and economic viability, but final disassembly and recycling as well.
ADC prize winner

Joanna Szczepanska accepting the Aspen Design Challenge Prize

Joanna Szczepanska explained that her work was inspired by the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. The VeggiePatch is simple to produce and can be produced by anyone in any part of the world. “The plan is to start producing them in Melbourne. I am going to do one more prototype and then we will start,” said Szczepanska, 25, who is moving from Australia to Antwerp, Belgium, this fall to pursue a master’s degree in Man and Humanity at the Design Academy. “I have learned so much from participation in the Challenge. The design experts and business people that have worked with us really helped me refine my project.”

About the INDEX: | AIGA Aspen Design Challenge

The Aspen Design Challenge is a joint project developed by AIGA and INDEX: with the purpose of engaging the millennial generation in solving an emerging set of global issues. The idea for “Designing Water’s Future” grew out of discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, led by Brian Collins, chairman of Collins:, New York-based communications and design firm, and journalist J. Carl Ganter, co-founder of Circle of Blue, the international network of leading journalists, scientists and communications designers that reports the global fresh water crisis.

About “Designing Water’s Future” Partners

INDEX: is a nonprofit organization based in Copenhagen that focuses on design to improve life worldwide. INDEX: works through a global network to ensure access to the best knowledge on design and the cutting edge of contemporary thinking. The network consists of designers, businesses, organizations and design institutions that collaborate in disseminating and applying the latest knowledge in the field of “Design to Improve Life.”

Circle of Blue is the international network of leading journalists, scientists and communications designers that reports and presents the information necessary to respond to the global freshwater crisis. Circle of Blue is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and is a nonprofit affiliate of the internationally recognized water, climate and policy think tank, the Pacific Institute. Circle of Blue also publishes WaterNews, the daily go-to source for global water news and data.

COLLINS: is an innovation-led communication and design firm dedicated to inventing branded experiences and digital interactions that shape both companies and people for the better.

About AIGA

AIGA, the professional association for design, is the premier place for design—to discover it, discuss it, understand it, appreciate it, be inspired by it.

AIGA’s mission is to advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force. AIGA stimulates thinking about design through journals, conferences, competitions and exhibitions; demonstrates the value of design to business, the public and government officials; and empowers the success of designers at each stage of their careers by providing invaluable educational and social resources.

Founded in 1914, AIGA remains the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design. AIGA now represents more than 22,000 design professionals, educators and students through national activities and local programs developed by 64 chapters and 240 student groups. AIGA is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) educational institution.

For further information, please contact: Jennifer Bender
Manager, communications and marketing
AIGA | the professional association for design
Tel 212 807 1990   Fax 212 807 1799