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, influences our experiences, and has a direct impact on the quality of our lives.

The NEA’s Design program defines our particular ecosystem as a complex and interdependent set of relationships that start with national and local design organizations, with designers at the center. The organizations range from discipline-specific presenters and conveners, to service organizations, to museums, community design centers, university programs, and educational initiatives that engage youth and adults, as well as other organizations whose work involves design. These groups and individuals are connected to each other based on design discipline; priorities and values; and/or identities, including ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. Through these connections they build virtual communities that nurture designers and influence the field of design; and they impact local communities across the country, engaging the arts and cultural organizations, government, local businesses, and people that live and work there.

Through our work, the NEA aims to strengthen the design ecosystem by supporting a wide range of design disciplines, including architecture, communications and graphic design, fashion design, historic preservation, industrial and product design, interior design, landscape architecture, inclusive and/or accessible design, rural design, social impact design, biodesign, and urban design. Design projects shape cultural and civic policies that influence the production, activation, and experience of design; lead to advances in the design field; encourage the creation and dissemination of national models of design excellence; and offer public engagement from the scale of the individual up through whole communities.

Applicants may request cost share/matching grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

For information on how to submit an application, see “How to Apply” on the left.

Project Types

The Design program supports projects across a wide array of design types and project activities, including but not limited to:

Community-based projects

  • Commissions and production of new work, particularly projects that hire and/or provide direct fees to artists and designers;
  • Exhibitions, festivals, tours, publications, or websites that provide new insights about specific designed objects, places, designers, or design history or movements;
  • Design projects that foster positive social impact, employ inclusive and/or accessible design concepts, or foster collaboration between design and non-arts disciplines;
  • Education, mentorship, apprenticeship, and outreach activities that teach design practices to American communities;
  • Community planning, charrettes, and design-related activities that promote economic and cultural vitality; involve community-based partnerships; foster community interaction; enhance the unique characteristics of a place; and/or assist underserved groups/communities that have rich and dynamic cultural identities;
  • Historic and community preservation projects that promote awareness of cultural and historic assets, or adaptive reuse of historic properties for cultural and arts uses;
  • Design and community planning for new arts/cultural buildings, districts, neighborhoods, public spaces, landscapes, or housing for artists or designers;
  • Projects incorporating design to advance the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

Field-building projects

  • Projects that advance or sustain the creative work and/or careers of aspiring designers through employment, industry training, technical assistance, and organization capacity-building;
  • Conferences, symposia, and other gatherings that promote innovation in design practice or design education, or facilitate collaborations between design and non-arts disciplines;
  • Workshops or residencies for designers;
  • Design research or collaboration projects that examine current practice, propose design solutions for pressing problems, support emerging fields of design, engage innovative technology or new media, or advance understanding of the design field;
  • Projects that reach broader and more diverse groups through digital or emergent technology, including hybrid (in-person and digital) programming activities;
  • Design competitions (Note: Cash prizes are unallowable project costs; stipends/fees are acceptable costs.);
  • Projects that advance or sustain the creative work and/or careers of people with disabilities through employment, technical assistance, and organization capacity-building.

Competitive design proposals will address elements as stated in the application review criteria, as well as one or more of the following:

  • Demonstrate alignment with the NEA’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility;
  • Employ designers and center design concepts and practices;
  • Offer a clear public benefit within local communities and/or support or advance the field of design;
  • Actively engage people and communities – whether local or virtual – who are impacted by the project;
  • Offer engagement for people whose opportunities to experience or participate in the field of design are limited by factors such as geography, race or ethnicity, economics, or disability.

Applicants should be aware that we do not fund capital campaigns, construction costs, or the purchase or leasing of sites or structures, although we can support the design process all the way through construction documentation.

In some cases, a project that involves design may be better suited for review in another discipline. Review the Artistic Disciplines page for more information, including guidance on educational projects.

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.

For questions, including help choosing the right discipline, contact NEA staff:
Courtney Spearman, or 202-682-5603

Compliance Reminders:

The NEA is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and fostering mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all individuals and groups. Please note the following:

  • Civil Rights Laws and Policies: As a reminder, in the federal-funding context, a focus on a particular group or demographic may be permissible, but exclusion is not. This extends to hiring practices, artist selection processes, and audience engagement. Your application should make it clear that project activities are not exclusionary. Please review the Assurance of Compliance, as well as NEA Civil Rights guidance on our website, including this archived webinar: Things to Know Before You Apply: Federal Civil Rights and Your Grants Application.
  • Accessibility: Federal regulations require that all NEA-funded projects be accessible to people with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities may be audiences, visitors, artists, performers, teaching artists, students, staff, and volunteers. Funded activities should be held in a physically accessible venue, and program access and effective communication should be provided for participants and audience members with disabilities. If your project is recommended for funding, you will be asked to provide detailed information describing how you will make your project physically and programmatically accessible to people with disabilities.
  • National Historic Preservation Act and/or the National Environmental Policy Act Review: Recommended projects may be subject to the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and/or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance review. See more information about NHPA/NEPA review under Award Administration.


The application deadline for all projects is February 15, 2024. (Design does not accept applications at the July deadline.) Generally, an organization is limited to one application per year in the Grants for Arts Projects category.

Part 1 - Submit to

February 15, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Prepare application material so that it’s ready to upload when the Applicant Portal opens

Part 2 - Submit to Applicant Portal

February 21-28, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection

November 2024

Earliest Start Date for Proposed Project

January 1, 2025