Design Corps Program Guidelines


In response to the COVID-19 crisis, NYCxDESIGN is calling upon designers, architects, and the broader design community who are individually licensed or associated with a firm to provide pro bono design services, help restaurants successfully reopen. The services include meeting with business owners and providing recommendations to help improve their space and ensure compliance with the requirements of the City’s Open Restaurant program, New York State’s Guidance for New York City Indoor Food Services, and New York State’s Guidelines for Reopening Indoor Food Services in the City. Design professionals will provide pro bono services that fall within the scope of indoor and outdoor dining and will be available on a first come, first served basis. 

Key Resources

Program Facilitators

NYCxDESIGN, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIANY), Design Advocates, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), and the City of New York (the City)

How the Program Works

  • Interested volunteer architectural design professionals and firms and interested restaurant owners (Participants) must complete and sign an intake form and acknowledge agreement to certain program terms, conditions, and guidelines as a precondition to providing/receiving pro-bono services under this program.
  • Upon submission of their signed intake form, Participant profiles will be included within an online directory that includes bio information about the volunteer architectural design professionals and a list of restaurant owners that includes details about their specific needs and geography.
  • The Participants should self-connect based on the information provided and decide if they would like to meet in person or in a virtual space. The volunteer design professional should initiate first contact with a restaurant owner.
  • The Participants should outline the primary goals of the project, review the restaurant space, establish a list of priorities, review the pertinent COVID-19 health guidelines required by the State and City, and establish the limits of the services. (See “Contract” section below).

Survey of Space

  • Once the Participants have been in contact, they should schedule a time to visit the physical location of the restaurant to measure and photograph the restaurant space.
  • The two Participants should follow proper social distancing and safety guidelines at all times.
  • The design Participant should provide a deliverable to the restaurant owner Participant that aligns with the agreed upon scope. The deliverable should be in compliance with State and City COVID-19 guidelines. The design Participant should also connect the business owner to applicable resources, and share the solutions with NYCxDESIGN.


The design Participant may provide the restaurant owner Participant with a written contract, although such a contract is not required. We would expect that such a contract would be fair and equitable for all parties and would summarize the scope of design services and outline any specific goals of the project.  The contract could also incorporate these Design Corps: Small Business Reopening Network program guidelines (outlined above) and the two Participants’ signed intake forms, along with any other the terms, conditions, and disclaimers of the two Participants.  In accepting services from the design Participant, the restaurant owner and restaurant acknowledge and agree that they alone are responsible for the safety of employees or members of the public who utilize their space, and will follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations.  NYCxDESIGN, AIANY, NYCEDC, the City and Design Advocates will NOT be parties to the contract between the two Participants.

Summary of Code Requirements

COVID-19 regulations and guidelines are constantly evolving. Design Participants should summarize in the deliverables the current understanding of the COVID-19 regulations and guidelines that impact the restaurant space.

Services May Include

  • Site Assessment based off guidance of state and city outdoor and indoor dining requirements 
  • Barrier elements 
  • Furnishing layout

Prohibited Services

All other services are prohibited under this program, though other services may be contracted for separately between the two Participants.  In particular, the design Participant will not be providing any labor, material, or equipment for the construction of the project as part of this program.

Learning Together

We are living and working in an unprecedented time. NYCxDESIGN hopes the collaboration between designers and restaurants leads to creative solutions that could be used to help other businesses in the future. All design and restaurant Participants, therefore, agree to share lessons learned and best practices of their completed products and hereby grant NYCxDESIGN, AIANY, NYCEDC, the City and Design Advocates non-exclusive irrevocable licenses to post the deliverables on their respective websites for promotional purposes and for use by other Participants in the program and similar programs promoted by any of them.

Frequently Asked Questions

At this time, we are only working with businesses who function dominantly as a food establishment. However, other types of businesses will become eligible in the future. Eligible Establishments include:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Restaurants with bars
  • Coffee shops
  • Other food service establishments

Architects and designers must be individually licensed or employed by a professional firm. Groups or firms are also able to set up their own profile and can coordinate work within their team.

Designers are encouraged to reach out to restaurants based on area of expertise, geographic proximity, language preferences and other factors. Once a designer contacts a restaurant, the restaurant’s profile will be removed from the website. This allows designers to know who still has not been contacted and is need of services.

If the restaurant owner wants additional assistance from the architect/team beyond the pro bono consultation received, this would require a contract for services and a fee would be determined by the architect/team, in consultation with the client. There is no expectation among the architects/teams that pro bono consultation will lead to additional architectural services.

We anticipate that there may be differences in primary languages between the architect/team and restaurant owner. The owner/client can specify their preferred language and we will do our best in providing translation services.

If you have any questions about the service that are not addressed here, email [email protected]

Training Video