HBCU Design Challenge

HBCU Design Challenge

UPDATE JUNE 20, 2024: The 2024 HBCU Design Challenge is now closed. Congratulations to first-place winner Trajan Baker, a graduate student at Hampton University pursuing a master’s degree in architecture, and second-place winner Dennis Samuel, a student at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Stay tuned to see the winning designs.

JCPenney is proud to announce our fourth annual HBCU Design Challenge, created to give full-time students enrolled at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) an opportunity to showcase their creativity across our stores and online platforms. Students can also earn scholarship funds and receive dedicated mentorship as they pursue their long-term career goals.

DEADLINE NOW EXTENDED & PRIZES ARE BETTER THAN EVER: We are now accepting submissions until Sunday, May 5 at 11:59pm CST. Plus, we’re excited to announce its partnership with Collection by Michael Strahan.

What’s New:

  • Deadline is now extended. Submit your design by Sunday, May 5 at 11:59pm CST.
  • The Grand Prize Winner will now receive the following
    • Professional headshot photoshoot
    • The opportunity to be styled by the Michael Strahan Brand team
    • A shadowing opportunity with the Michael Strahan Brand team
    • PLUS what we’ve already announced: scholarship money, an all-expense paid two-day visit to JCPenney’s home office, virtual mentoring sessions from JCPenney leaders and the possibility for the winner’s design to be featured in an upcoming Hope & Wonder collection.

The JCPenney HBCU Design Challenge has always been committed to supporting and empowering talented students at HBCU’s across the country. With this partnership, we are raising the bar and providing exceptional opportunities for aspiring creatives. Collection by Michael Strahan, known for its quality and style, aligns perfectly with this vision, making it an ideal collaboration. #RaiseYourGame has taken on a whole new meaning, and the future is brighter than ever for the talented individuals participating in this prestigious competition.

2024 Challenge Theme
Harmony of Hues: A Symphony of Colorful Narratives in Black Artistry and Heritage

Students are challenged to create a visually stunning and culturally rich design that embodies the essence of Black artistry and heritage. Designs should incorporate vibrant hues, dynamic patterns, and symbolic elements that reflect diversity, harmony and creativity as an expression of Black culture through color. They should also evoke a sense of pride, rhythmic expression, and celebration of the rich narratives found in Black artistry. 

View this storyboard sample for design inspiration.

Submission Details and Criteria

To be eligible, participants must be full-time students enrolled in an HBCU at the date of submission. 

Designs must be prepared in the form of digital storyboards that include the following: 

  • Inspiration 
  • Color palette 
  • Technical sketches (CAD or hand illustrated) 
  • A combination of imagery and text to demonstrate the mood 
  • Print ideas/artwork/technique 

All storyboards must be saved as a flattened PDF file no more than 15 MB in size and no less than 150 dpi resolution. We are unable to accept ZIP files or Google Drive files. Please note, this year’s winning design will be printed on a jersey knit T-shirt.  

Entries must be submitted to hbcudesignchallenge-sm@jcp.com by 11:59 PM CST on Sunday, April 21, 2024, along with a signed consent waiver and release form.

Evaluation Process, Selection and Notification

The HBCU Design Challenge Council, made up of JCPenney senior leaders in our design, textiles, talent, and inclusion and diversity departments, will serve as the panel of judges and decide the winners.  

Finalists will be notified by Monday, June 3, 2024 and will be evaluated on creativity, innovation, ability to execute, resonance with the target market and relevance to this year’s challenge theme. 

From the pool of finalists, the first and second place winner will be notified by Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

Design Challenge Prizes

Two (2) HBCU Design Challenge winners will be announced. 

First Place Prize Winner will receive: 

  • $4,000 scholarship 
  • All-expense paid two-day visit to our home office in Texas to shadow members of the JCPenney design team 
  • Seven (7) 30-minute virtual mentoring sessions with JCPenney leaders to further develop their talent and prepare them for their professional ventures. 
  • The possibility for their design to be included in the 2025 Black History Month and/or Juneteenth JCPenney Hope & Wonder brand collections, sold in select JCPenney stores and online, with 100% of net profits benefiting a key nonprofit partner.  

Second Place Prize Winner will receive: 

  • $2,000 scholarship 
  • All-expense paid two-day visit to our home office in Texas to shadow members of the JCPenney design team 
  • Seven (7) 30-minute virtual mentoring sessions with JCPenney leaders to further develop their talent and prepare them for their professional ventures. 
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Why did JCPenney create the HBCU Design Challenge? 

The HBCU Design Challenge was created to highlight the creativity, ingenuity and talent of full-time students enrolled at HBCUs. Through the challenge, students have the chance for their work to be prominently shared across JCPenney stores and platforms, earn a cash prize and participate in mentoring sessions with our experts. 

Who is eligible to participate? 

Full-time students currently enrolled at HBCUs that are at least 18 years old. Employees and the immediate families of JCPenney, their parent companies, subsidiaries, representatives, and advertising/promotion agencies are not eligible and prohibited from entering. Team entries are prohibited from entering. Relatives of JCPenney Design Council members or JCPenney executives (even if not immediate family members) are also ineligible. Team entries are prohibited from entering. 

Can I use the JCPenney logo? 

No, all design submission must be unique and may not include any proprietary JCPenney logo variations or images. 

Can I base my design on existing artwork? 

No. The design you submit must be 100% your own, original work. Even if the submission is intended as homage to an existing work, unless the submission is completely original, it will not be eligible. If a work is found not to be original, or to violate someone else’s copyright or intellectual property rights, the design will be disqualified from the challenge.   

What happens if a design is disqualified? 

If a submitted design is disqualified, it will be withdrawn from the challenge. If the submitted design was previously declared a first or second place winner, the prize will be withdrawn, the disqualified participant will be notified, and another submission will be selected as a winner. 

Do I own the designs I submit? 

Once submitted, JCPenney owns rights to all designs. This includes designs that are not announced as finalists or winning submissions. Please thoroughly review the contest rules outlined in the consent waiver and release form for clarification. 

What do the mentoring sessions include? 

The mentoring sessions are a chance for the first and second place winners to connect with JCPenney leaders for personal and professional insights into brand building, fashion design, retail business and more. These sessions are designed to be flexible and fit the busy schedules of collegiate students. 

What is the difference between a finalist and a winner? 

A finalist is an applicant that has made it through the first round of judging. Finalists will be contacted by our HBCU Design Challenge Team as we narrow down applicants to choose winners. Winners are applicants who have made it through the finalist phase, will receive the first or second place prize, and whose work will be considered for inclusion in the Black History Month and/or Juneteenth collections. Although multiple submissions may be identified as finalists, only two winners will be chosen. 

Where can I find more information about past challenges and winners? 

Read more about our past HBCU Design Challenges and winners online. Click here for information from 2022 and here for information from 2021. 

Who can I contact if I have more questions? 

If you have additional questions after reviewing the challenge home page and FAQs, email us at hbcudesignchallenge-sm@jcp.com. 

Meet the 2023 Design Challenge Winners

1st Place – Janiya Barcliff 

Graphic design major at North Carolina A&T State University 

Janiya Barcliff

“Since the challenge theme was Black Legacy, I thought about what that means to me personally. When I hear legacy, I think of past leaders like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman who inspired future generations."

Janiya’s design is available as part of our 2024 Black History Month Hope & Wonder Collection. Visit the JCPenney Newsroom to learn more about Janiya and her experience as the 2023 first-place winner.

2nd Place – Dakota Garner 

Art major at Morehouse College 

“I was inspired to submit my design for this challenge to represent my HBCU and show the importance of investing in art programs." 

Join Our 2024 Live Information Sessions

Have questions? Join members of the Design Challenge Council for one of our live information sessions, open to all students interested in submitting a design. These sessions will provide 15-20 minutes of information on the challenge with remaining time left open for Q&A. Choose the meeting that works best for your schedule and come prepared with questions about the challenge, selection process, design criteria, or any other topics you’d like insight on. All meetings are held virtually on Microsoft Teams.  

  • Tuesday, March 19
    11 – 11:45 AM CST

  • Tuesday, March 19
    4 – 4:45 PM CST

  • Thursday, April 4
    10 – 10:45 AM CST

  • Thursday, April 4
    2 – 2:45 PM CST