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.

We often receive 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 staff to determine whether to apply under Design or under Museums or Visual Arts. Finally, applicants should be aware that we do 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 projects is February 18, 2016. (There is no July deadline.)

Step 1 - Submit SF-424 to February 18, 2016
Step 2 - Submit Materials to NEA-GO February 25, 2016 to March 3, 2016
Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection November 2016
Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance January 1, 2017

The Design program supports projects across a wide array of design types, in two main areas of work.

Projects that have a public benefit:

  • Design competitions.
  • Exhibitions, tours, publications, or websites that provide new insights about specific designed objects, places, or designers, or design thinking, history, or movements.
  • Commissions and production of new work.
  • Design or planning for new arts/cultural buildings, districts, neighborhoods, public spaces, or landscapes.
  • Charrettes, outreach, or community workshops for new design projects.
  • Community-wide or neighborhood planning and design activities that promote economic and cultural vitality; involve community-based partnerships; and assist underserved communities or neighborhoods.
  • 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 products, projects, or approaches that foster positive social impact/public interest design or employ universal design concepts, or foster design and science/technology collaborations.
  • Historic and community preservation projects that promote awareness of cultural and historic assets.
  • Adaptive reuse of historic properties for cultural and arts uses.
  • Projects that utilize new media, technology, or new models to connect citizens or engage them in design projects.

Projects that advance or support the design field:

  • Conferences, symposia, and other gatherings that promote innovation in design practice or education, universal design, science/technology collaborations with design, or the heritage and conservation of design.
  • Workshops or residencies for designers where the primary purpose is to create new work.
  • Design research or collaboration projects that examine current practice and propose design solutions for pressing problems.
  • Design or planning for designer live/work spaces.
  • Innovative technology projects or new media projects meant to advance the design field or design theory.
  • Documentation and preservation of historic design work.
  • Projects that support emerging fields of design, including social impact/public interest/human interest design; universal design; and the application of design thinking to science, health, education, and economic development.
  • The development of plans for growth of the design sector in the local community.
  • Innovative festivals, tours, or programming that raise awareness of design.
  • 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.