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Thaden School (Design Excellence)

Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program

Promoting the highest level of design in Arkansas’ Benton and Washington counties

Resources for Grantees

The Design Excellence Program worked with Gehl, an urban design firm to complete an assessment of completed and in-progress projects. See the full report: Uncovering the Impact of the Design Excellence Program.

Additionally, Gehl created a framework for future program grantees and others interested in design excellence. The documents below will help organizations apply the framework to their projects.

Resources for Designers

Through the Design Excellence Program, the foundation regularly partners with local municipalities and nonprofit organizations by offering financial support for all aspects of design.

Projects are typically selected through:

  • A direct invitation from the Walton Family Foundation to apply for the program based on the organization’s potential to enhance the foundation’s efforts in the arts, education, entrepreneurship or preserving the region’s sense of place
  • An open call for applications that complement the Walton Family Foundation’s efforts to support a specific area of design such as developing green spaces or enhancing urban design

As projects are determined, the Selection Committee will review the project’s unique design needs and choose a core group of design professionals who may be a good fit for the project. This core group will be presented to the grantee for consideration and final approval. Final decisions on the design professional and design outcome will be made by the grantee.

During a project proposal, grantees should be clear about the scope of work desired for the project. The Design Excellence Program typically funds all design costs for selected projects, from concept development through final construction documents. Generally, the organization selected as a grantee is also asked to explain how the construction of the project is intended to be funded once design is complete. Design Excellence Program grants do not fund construction costs. Other costs that may be funded by the Design Excellence Program include candidate travel/interview reimbursement, site visits or other highly relevant consultancy necessary to accomplish the final design of the project.

Measuring Success

Organizations selected for the Design Excellence Program will work with the foundation and design professionals to map relevant performance measures within an evaluation framework consistent with the desired outcomes of the project.

Each Design Excellence Program project is different and will have different outcomes, but all share similar values. Below are sample methods that can be used to collect baseline (before) and post-occupancy (after) data for each project:

  1. Spatial Observation Survey – to document site conditions
  2. Intercept Questionnaires – to capture data on visitor demographics, experience and perception of a space
  3. Social Observation Survey – to observe activities and who uses the space
  4. Civic Engagement – to collect qualitative feedback on what the wider community desires
  5. Social Media – to see how people share their experiences visiting your space on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms

Each grant project is unique and the methods will have to be refined on a project-by-project basis, a process coordinated with foundation staff and the selected design professional.

View Designs for Current Design Excellence Program Projects >

Other Relevant Work in Northwest Arkansas

Osage Park Aerial
Osage Park: The 6-acre lake expansion will offer opportunities for kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art | Photo by Adair Creative
Thaden Fieldhouse, Bentonville
Coler Trailhead and Pavilion
Coler Mountain Bike Preserve: Trailhead and Pavilion
Fayetteville Public Library courtyard rendering
Fayetteville Public Library
Record interior 1
Record interior, Bentonville
The Preacher's Son
The Preacher's Son, Bentonville
Vol Walker Hall
Vol Walker Hall, University of Arkansas | Photo by Timothy Hursley
Gentry Public Library
Gentry Public Library | Photo by Timothy Hursley