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Design Research and Passion Project Ideas for High School Students

5 minute read

Are you a creative thinker who's passionate about innovation and enjoys thinking scientifically about people's needs? If so, a career in design might be the perfect fit for you and now’s a great time to explore the world of design and what it means to be a designer.

What Is Design?

First of all, what is design? Design is a discipline that is both applied science and applied art. It is a process in which we combine a scientific understanding of people, their needs, and their values with an artistic perspective to make products and services that are simple and intuitive to use, while also being aesthetically pleasing.

One definition I like to use for design is:

Bringing technology to people in a way that they can love and understand

In other words, design is the process that bridges the gap between technology and the products and services that seamlessly fit into our lives. It is a very valuable discipline that can help companies be much more successful–and, oftentimes, more ethical–in a very competitive free market. 

What Are the Different Types of Design?

There are many subdisciplines and focus areas within design, such as:

Industrial design, also often called product design

The design of physical (and sometimes digital) products

Graphic design 

The design of graphics, brands, and marketing material that communicate the value offered to the market

User Experience (UX) design

The design of the holistic "user experience" of digital (and sometimes physical) products - how consumers feel when they utilize and interact with a product

User Interface (UI) design 

A subset of UX that focused on usability - the interactive design elements consumers will engage with

Do your own research through Polygence!

Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion. Together, you work to create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own.

What are some Design Project Ideas You Can Start?

Let’s delve into some exciting project ideas suitable for high school students who are eager to embark on exciting design projects. These projects will not only help develop your design skills but also provide valuable insights into the design process.

1. Design a personal portfolio

One of the most accessible design projects is to create your own personal website showcasing your work! This can include anything you are passionate about including art, photography, creative writing, videos, etc. Today it is easier than ever to get started creating your own website. While you can use tools such as Wix or Squarespace to do most of the work for you, it can be more fun and you may learn much more by creating your own website from scratch!


  • Design page layouts using Figma or Adobe Creative Suite

  • Download a simple code editor (e.g., Visual Studio Code) and begin coding the website

  • Leverage a CSS framework (e.g., Materialize) to make the website responsive and make the CSS easier. Responsive websites offer a better user experience for people visiting the site on different devices.

  • Find a hosting solution for the website and upload the files -  GitHub is free for students and we have a showcasing on GitHub guide you can read to get started!

Skills learned

UX/UI design, Graphic Design, Web development, HTML, CSS, JS

2. Design an app

Have you ever felt the need for an app but it doesn't exist? Why not create it? There have never been more resources to design and develop your own app. It's helpful to start off with something simple that fulfills a basic need. What is something in your daily life that annoys or bothers you? Could a design solution such as an app help?


  • Interview some friends/family to see if they also have the same problem or to help you identify other problems

  • Design some wireframes for the app using Figma

  • Create an interactive prototype using Figma

  • Test the prototype with friends/family to see if it is adequately solving the problem

  • Design high-fidelity mockups using Figma

Skills learned

UX/UI research, UX/UI design, Graphic Design

3. Design a brand

Branding is an extremely important aspect of helping businesses become successful. A brand is a unique identity that makes a company stand out in a sea of sameness. But a brand is more than just a logo and colors. A brand captures a feeling, an association that you want people to have with the company. Consider a personal project and building a small business around it - What would you call the business? What color scheme and logo would it have? What would you want people to think of when they think of your business?


  • Create a mood board with photography, colors, and associations you want to have for the brand

  • Sketch out some logo designs on paper

  • Refine the logos with a tool like Figma or Adobe Illustrator

  • Create a color scheme that includes a primary brand color and secondary colors

  • Choose typography (fonts) that work well for the brand

Skills learned

Graphic Design, Brand Design

4. Design a physical product

Perhaps you have an idea for a physical product? Are there any physical products you wish you had that would make your life easier? The design of physical products is called industrial design or product design. With today's 3D printing technology, it is easier than ever to prototype physical products and test them with people. The process typically begins with sketching.


  • Sketch out some potential designs on paper

  • Choose the most promising design and bring it into a 3D modeling tool like Solidworks or Blender

  • Use a 3D printer to print a plastic prototype of the product

  • Test the prototype with friends and family to see if it is functional

Skills learned

Industrial Design, Product Design, 3D modeling, UI/UX Design

5. Redesign an existing website, app, or product

Let's face it, there are already a lot of design solutions out there! But almost everything has room for improvement. If you are struggling to come up with an idea, consider an app, product, or service you use regularly and how it might be improved. Is there something frustrating about it? Could it be more simple? Is it missing a feature you wish you had?


  • Do an assessment of what could be improved about the website, app, or product. What would make it more usable or simple?

  • Redesign it using the relevant tools

  • Test the new design solution with friends and family

Skills learned

Industrial Design, Product Design, UI/UX Design

What Can You Do Next If You Are Feeling Inspired to Pursue a Research or Passion Project in Design?

At Polygence, we believe in the power of mentorship and the importance of exploring your interests. In our programs, we pair high school students with experienced mentors who can guide them through their project journey.

Your Project Your Schedule - Your Admissions Edge!

Register to get paired with one of our expert mentors and to get started on exploring your passions today! And give yourself the edge you need to move forward!

These research mentors, experts in their respective fields, are able to provide you with invaluable advice, support, and direction as you take on your chosen design project. 

Ready to research with an expert and on your schedule?

Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion. Together, you work to create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own. We also offer options to explore multiple topics, or to showcase your final product!