ART WORKS Guidelines: Design

From the typeface on this page to the neighborhood in which you live, every object and place is the result of design. Design surrounds us and has a direct impact on the quality of our lives. Furthermore, designers fuel innovation by employing creative thinking to solve problems, drive economic development, and address social issues. The design field encompasses many disciplines including, but not limited to, architecture, communications and graphic design, fashion design, historic preservation, industrial and product design, interior design, landscape architecture, planning, universal design, social impact/public interest/human centered design, rural design, and urban design. The National Endowment for the Arts recognizes design's ever-present impact on society by funding activities that encourage, preserve, and disseminate the best in American and global design.

The Arts Endowment often receives questions from potential applicants about the appropriate discipline for their project. Applications that address multiple design disciplines (e.g., urban design and graphics) should be submitted under Design. Similarly, historic preservation organizations that focus on architecture, landscape architecture, or designed objects also should apply under Design. Museums and visual arts venues presenting a design exhibition or installation should contact Arts Endowment staff to determine whether to apply under Design or under Museums or Visual Arts. Finally, applicants should be aware that the Arts Endowment does not fund capital campaigns, construction costs, or the purchase or leasing of sites or structures, though we can support the design process all the way through construction documentation. Please contact us if you have further questions.


The application deadline for all design projects is July 23, 2015. (There is no February deadline.) The earliest beginning date for the Arts Endowment's period of performance is June 1, 2016.  

The design field encompasses many disciplines including, but not limited to, architecture, communications and graphic design, fashion design, historic preservation, industrial and product design, interior design, landscape architecture, planning, universal design, rural design, and urban design.

The Art Works category provides support for projects that address the following objectives (in bold below). You will be asked to indicate the objective that is most relevant to your project in your application and on the application form.


  • Competitions.
  • Commissions and production of new work.
  • Design or planning for designer live/work spaces, new arts/cultural spaces, districts, neighborhoods, public spaces, or landscapes.
  • Design research or collaboration projects that examine current practice and propose design solutions for pressing problems.
  • Innovative design products or approaches that foster positive social impact/public interest design or employ universal design concepts, or foster design and science/technology collaborations.
  • Innovative technology projects or new media projects meant to advance the design field or design theory.
  • Workshops or residencies for designers where the primary purpose is to create new work.
  • Designs for new national park amenities, including permanent and temporary spaces.


  • Charrettes, outreach, or community workshops for new design projects.
  • Conferences, symposia, and other gatherings that promote innovation in design practice, universal design, science/technology collaborations with design, or the heritage and conservation of design.
  • Exhibitions.
  • Historic and community preservation projects that promote awareness of cultural and historic assets.
  • Innovative festivals or programming that raise awareness of design.
  • Projects that utilize new media, technology, or new models to connect citizens or engage them in design projects.
  • Publications.
  • Documentation and preservation of design work.
  • Preservation or restoration planning for existing national park structures, public spaces, trails, or other park amenities.


  • Community-wide or neighborhood planning and design activities that promote economic and cultural vitality.
  • Design exhibitions, residencies, and other activities in public spaces that are intended to foster community interaction and/or enhance the unique characteristics of a community.
  • Design projects that promote livability, including those which involve community-based partnerships and assist underserved communities or neighborhoods.
  • Design projects that promote the unique assets and characteristics of a community.
  • Design projects that promote the use of universal design to improve community livability.
  • Projects that support emerging fields of design, including social impact/public interest design; universal design; and the application of design thinking to science, health, education, and economic development.
  • Social impact/public interest design projects that benefit underserved communities or address social issues.
  • The adaptive reuse of historic properties for cultural and arts uses.
  • The development of plans for growth of the design sector in the local community.


(If your project is for youth, see "Choosing the Right Discipline for Youth Projects" to help you in your discipline selection.)

  • Education, mentorship, apprenticeship, and outreach activities that teach design practices to American communities.
  • Education initiatives that prepare designers for careers in the emerging fields of design.
  • Innovative practices in design learning for Americans of all ages.

Project Reporting and Evaluation

We ask all applicants to define what they would like to achieve, how they will evaluate the degree to which it is achieved, and, upon completion of the project, what they have learned from their experiences. Such feedback need not entail large-scale or expensive evaluation efforts. You should do what is feasible and appropriate for your organization and project. When a grant is completed, you must submit a final report and answer questions on your achievements and how these were determined. Arts Education grantees who apply for a Direct Learning Grant will be required to describe the assessment methods used to assess learning, and they may submit tools used to assess learning with their Final Report. (Please note that assessment tools may be shared publicly. If your tools are proprietary and have copyrights or trademarks attached, you will be asked to note that in your application and Final Report.) Before applying, please review the reporting requirements for the objective that will be selected for the proposed project: Creation, Engagement, Learning, or Livability.

Beyond the reporting requirements for all grantees, selected Art Works grantees will be asked to assist in the collection of additional information that can help the NEA determine the degree to which agency objectives were achieved. You may be required to provide evidence of project accomplishments including, but not limited to, work samples, community action plans, cultural asset studies, programs, reviews, relevant news clippings, and playbills. Please remember that you are required to maintain project documentation for three years following submission of your final reports.

Application Review

This category uses the agency's traditional method of application review. Applications are submitted to the Design staff and are reviewed by a diverse group of experts in the design field.

Applications are reviewed on the basis of artistic excellence and artistic merit. For more detailed information on how artistic excellence and artistic merit will be evaluated, see the "Review Criteria." You can find additional information in the "Application Review" section of the "Frequently Asked Questions." See the "Application Calendar" for information on when we expect to announce grant awards and rejections.


Design Specialist: Courtney Spearman,, or 202/682-5603