Graduate Jessica Arnold: Interior design major wins Keep Scottsdale Beautiful project

Graduate Jessica Arnold

The animation design video starts at the intersection of Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Greenway-Hayden Loop in Scottsdale. The landscape is dotted in pavers and a stone bench at the crosswalk corners translate into the swirling design on the bridge, serving as a disguise to protect pedestrians from cars. The end of the bridge gives way to more pavers where giant green and blue murals stand on each side of the road, turning a once-destitute eyesore into an admired work of art.

It was Arizona’s trailhead designs that sparked Jessica Arnold’s interest in pursuing an education in interior design at Northern Arizona University. It turned out to be a good fit; she won a competition, giving her the opportunity to work on the Keep Scottsdale Beautiful project.

“I have always loved the infrastructure design throughout Arizona, whether it be a pedestrian bridge or park bench,” Arnold said. “There is a connectedness that brings the region together as a whole.” 

The goal of the project was to turn a rundown part in Scottsdale into a point of pride for the city. Interdisciplinary student teams competed to work on the project, so Arnold reached out to architecture students Rigo Berber-Arias and Alan Estrada at Arizona State University to assist her in designing artistic infrastructure to spruce up the popular location through which more than 20 million vehicles drive each year. (They even designed it with consideration to the 165,000 planes that fly over Scottsdale every year in mind.)

Arnold’s team was selected after presenting to a panel of 30 board members. To aid in the design process, they met with the Central Arizona Project and the City of Scottsdale regarding permit restrictions and approvals. Flying Carpet Creative, a Houston-based public artist, helped design the site’s cohesive flow. The final project included sustainable landscaping, a mural on a water facilities building, custom pavers and a bridge overlay design.

The project serves as a final memory of her time with NAU. She graduates this week.

Arnold came to NAU by way of Phoenix College and the 2NAU program. The innovative program partners NAU with community colleges to provide students more affordable ways to obtain a four-year degree. She appreciated the flexibility the program offered. During her attendance at NAU, she worked full-time while caring for her two children.

“The 2NAU program made the most sense for me and my goals,” Arnold said. “I was very happy to be able to successfully transfer to NAU. I enjoyed the flexibility and thoroughness of the education format.”

Senior lecturer of art Sheryl McCaleb was a major influence on her academic career. Arnold said McCaleb eased the transition from Phoenix College to NAU and guided her through the process of how a typical interior design project was completed.

Arnold said the most challenging aspect of classes was understanding how to work with the mix of students, but admits some of her fondest memories from NAU include working with peers on team projects. Presenting the projects, such as the Keep Scottsdale Beautiful project, were some of the highlights.

She plans to continue on the design path, keeping her interior design options open and hopes to continue being a part of the Scottsdale project.

“I am looking forward to the project completion and seeing not only the student team designs come to life but also the public art sculptures,” Arnold said. “The mural design aspect is what I have been most interested in during the project. I am looking forward to designing alongside the muralist and hopefully assisting during the entire process.”

Looking further into the future, Arnold plans to explore commercial design with a focus on interior light design.

As she concludes her time with NAU, Arnold has a few words of wisdom for those planning to study design.

“My advice for future students is to enter as many competitions as possible, simply to further their experience working with others. Broadening our experience and accomplishments creates a well-rounded person, and resume as well.”

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Jacklyn Walling | NAU Communications