Student Design Challenge

The Student Design Challenge at TEI invites students to contribute physical examples of their craft to the TEI2021 Swatchbook, compiling their experiments, expertise and approaches.

Submission deadlineNovember 20, 2020*
Notification of acceptanceNovember 27, 2020*
Camera-ready deadlinetba*
Conference datesFebruary 14-17, 2021

* Deadline times are midnight Anywhere on Earth (AoE)


The Craft of Interaction: a TEI Swatch Exchange

The art of interaction implies its craft – our human ability to produce quality workmanship that makes the experience of interacting with technology artful. What is quality workmanship? It is knowledge of materials that comes from time spent in conversation with them. An attention to listen to their qualities, and to explore together the potentials of their material properties and our human properties. It is also increasingly relevant that our material processes consider not only the immediate material at hand, but their origins and the implications of their entanglements with processes of life on earth.

To highlight the importance of the skilled craftsmanship that makes new technologies truly artful, we challenge you to document and share your tangible, embedded, and embodied craftsmanship.

For the Student Design Challenge (SDC), we invite students to contribute by submitting physical examples of their craft, communicating their experiments, expertise and approaches to the TEI community. This call is not for fully functioning interactive projects, but rather for the small solutions that make our projects possible. The details that take time to solve, and skill to solve well. In many cases these solutions are not obvious or even visible in final designs. They are often inside the technologies we build. But they work, and when they work well, it makes all the difference.

Accepted TEI 2021 Student Design Challenge submission will become a physical part of the TEI 2021 Swatchbook compiling physical samples of all accepted submissions. Accepted papers will be published in the TEI2021 proceedings, part of the ACM Digital Library.

At the conference a jury will award prizes in three categories (TBD).

General Information

What is a Swatchbook and a Swatch Exchange?

We take the word “swatch” from the context of textile, where it means a sample quantity of a textile design. And a swatchbook is a collection of swatches, often bound in a book or on a string or ring.

Applying this concept to the work of the TEI community, we take a swatch to mean a sample of work, reduced to an essence that can be multiplied and shared (physically!) with others. There is no limitation on materials the Swatch can include.

Thus the Swatchbook becomes a platform for sharing physical work samples in the field of tangible, embedded and embodied interaction. Individuals and collaborative efforts participate in the exchange by submitting a unique swatch design of their own, and in turn receive a compiled collection of everybody else’s swatches. This means that everybody participating needs to make as many multiples of their swatch as the total number of participants.

Illustration of the swatch exchange work-flow.
Illustration of the swatch exchange work-flow.
Preparing multiple copies of the same swatch.
Preparing multiple copies of the same swatch.
Mounting finished swatches in a Swatch Book
Mounting finished swatches in a Swatch Book

Examples of previous Swatchbooks focusing on the topic of “eTextiles”. The topic of the TEI 2021 Swatchbook is “The Craft of Interaction”


This year’s TEI Student Design Challenge will take the form of a Swatch Exchange. A swatch is a sample, a demonstration of the solution you want to showcase, reduced to its essence. Students can submit current or existing work or create something new for TEI. Submitted work has to be prepared to fit the guidelines of the call in form and content.

Submissions will be selected by a jury and should include all author names, affiliations and contact information, and are thus not anonymous.


TEI2021 will fully switch to the new ACM workflow for submission templates and published papers. This requires the use of a simplified one-column template for submission, while the final two-column paper has to be rendered for publication after acceptance. For further details please follow the provided instructions or contact our Publication Chairs.

For the Student Design Challenge you will have to submit an up to 4-pages long paper in the simplified one-column template (excluding references), a high resolution image, and a video (optional). You will also have to commit to produce a maximum of 16 copies of your swatch.

The paper should clearly describe the submitted swatch. I should contain an overall description of the swatch of around 150 words as the abstract. In the paper you should state the materials and techniques used, previous work it is building upon and research context/questions it is addressing. You should also include a photo of the final swatch, as well as optionally include pictures of the making process and schematics. The remaining space should be used to contextualize the use/feel/making of the swatch.

The acknowledgements section should indicate whether any assistance was drawn from outside the student team (e.g., from advisors, faculty, domain experts, existing solutions, users, etc.).

Because the selected swatches will become part of a Swatchbook, you will need to commit to producing max. 16 copies of your swatch. This also means that if your swatch is selected for the exchange (regardless if you win any award), you will leave TEI 2021 with a swatchbook full of 15 unique designs including your own. The value in this exchange is that it provides an opportunity for us to share physical samples of our workmanship. To learn from one another not only through online documentation and workshops, but through studying first hand the actual work we produce.

In order to fit the format of the Swatchbook, your swatch may be no larger than 14 x 20 x 1 cm (it may be much smaller). The design challenge chairs will take care of printing the swatch pages and producing the swatchbooks in which these are mounted. The page format is A5 landscape. The paper will be 200g weight. You can download the template here (tba). You are responsible for planning how your swatch will mount on the page. Suggestions how to mount a Swatch can be found here (tba).

One high-resolution image showing the Swatch itself should additionally be submitted.

The video (optional) clip length should be maximum 2 minutes. The video should demonstrate your swatch/your idea: how, where, by whom is it used? How is it made? The video should be uploaded to YouTube/Vimeo – password protected uploads are accepted provided they are accessible to the jury.

Submissions should not contain sensitive, private, or proprietary information that cannot be disclosed at publication time.
You might perhaps also be submitting your project to other TEI formats such as the WIP or Demos. This is allowed, but you will still need to produce and submit a tailored submission and video for the SDC and produce the physical swatch for the Swatchbook. The different kinds of conference submission will be reviewed and handled independently.

Selection Process

Submission will be reviewed and selected by the SDC Chairs and a jury of selected academic and professional design experts. The submissions should include all author names, affiliations and contact information, and are thus not anonymous. Confidentiality of submissions will be maintained during the review process. All rejected submissions will be kept confidential in perpetuity.


Authors of accepted submissions will be notified on November 27 2020. Accepted submissions should be finalized by preparing the camera-ready revisions of the paper and submitted by December 11 2020. You have until January 25, 2021 to make the physical copies of your swatch.

At the conference

When you arrive at the TEI conference you will mount your swatches onto the pages that we will prepare for you. The swatches will be exhibited as part of the Student Design Competition which will take place on 16.2.2020 featuring a Jury process and an Award Ceremony.

Upon closing of the conference, each participant can take home a full TEI 2021 Swatchbook.

After the conference

One physical TEI 2021 Swatchbook copy will remain with the TEI 2021 Student Design Challenge Chairs for continued exhibition in the Ars Electronica Center. The paper will be archived in the ACM DL.


At least one author of each accepted submission must register for the conference before the early registration deadline in order for the final paper to be published in the conference proceedings and the Swatch be included in the Swatchbook.

Submission Process

All work except the physical swatch itself must be submitted through the Precision Conference submission system (PCS). The submission system will open in August 2020.

Student design challenge chairs

If any of the above information is unclear or you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us, the design challenge chairs:

Irene Posch, University of Art and Design Linz,
Hannah Perner-Wilson, University of Performing Arts Ernst Busch, Berlin