March 21, 2013

What is Good Rural Design?

CIRD Staff

This question and many others were the focus of the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design’s (CIRD) capacity building call series that kicked off this past January.  The calls are part of CIRD’s approach to providing communities access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality. The program offers annual competitive funding to as many as four small towns or rural communities to host a two-and-a-half day community design workshop.

Prior to the recent application deadline for 2013, CIRD hosted a series of three application assistance calls for prospective applicants.  We were delighted by the response to these calls.  More than 230 callers representing 43 states as well as the Virgin Islands joined us on the line to ask questions about the CIRD RFP, application process and rural design.

Among the many great questions asked, participants raised three key ones about rural design.  Here is a synopsis of those exchanges that occurred during the second call with speaker Shelley Mastran.

What is good rural design?

Rural design involves the planning and manipulation of the environment for the betterment of the community. Design is a process that involves brainstorming ideas, developing plans and proposed designs, and implementation of a project.

Good rural design can take many different forms and appear on many different scales.  From small-scale projects like murals or pocket parks to large-scale initiatives like creating a downtown revitalization district, the community dictates the notion of good design.

Why is rural design important?

Well-designed communities are places where people want to live and invest in the future.  As the character of many rural communities is threatened by out-migration, loss of an economic base, and urbanization, designing vibrant rural places is increasingly important.

Good rural design goes beyond aesthetics; it fosters economic development, and contributes to livability.  Community cohesion and pride in place is often manifested in design.

How can I find additional resources on rural design?

Although our application deadline has passed, there are many other ways to stay connected with CIRD and access resource on rural design.

CIRD is compiling rural news and networks, best practices and research studies, funding opportunities, and other technical assistance related to rural design and planning. Visit the CIRD website at to access these resources.  And check out our FAQs to learn more about the program.

You can also stay connected to CIRD by following @rural-design on Twitter, checking us out on Facebook or signing up for CIRD email updates at  Look for our summer call series on workshop preparation starting in June.

On behalf of all of us at CIRD, thank you to those that participated in our application assistance call series over the past couple of months.  We are grateful for your interest and enthusiasm for the CIRD program.