Ember Hall Sparks Unique Donor Recognition Experience - CODAworx

Ember Hall Sparks Unique Donor Recognition Experience

Client: University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology (SOHE)

Location: Madison, WI, United States

Completion date: 2021

Project Team

Creative Director

Mark Schmitz


Design Director

Amy Beyler



Soyeon Shim

UW-Madison School of Human Ecology


Ember Hall is a sacred shared donor recognition experience that honors philanthropic gifts of over $100k from individuals, families, foundations, and corporations celebrating the power of philanthropy. Throughout its history, the School of Human Ecology (SOHE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been on the leading edge of work that improves the lives of children, families, consumers, and communities.

This beautifully designed experience recognizes those who embody the spirit of SOHE’s mission. Ember Hall gently pulses with color-shifting lighting. Its warmth welcomes participation. The space is adorned from wall to wall and floor to ceiling with intricate patterning carved into wood tiles. Floating within this blanket of pattern are the illuminated names of donors.

This one-of-a-kind display offers 650 tiles giving fundraisers ample space to honor donors over time. Every year tiles are removed to bring more light into the space. The tiles, themselves art objects, are reimagined as gifts to the individual donors as enduring tokens of gratitude and connection to the School of Human Ecology.

“Donors have shared with me that they could never have dreamed that their gift would be recognized in this special way.” Claire Mezick, Senior Director of Development


Project Objectives:
• Original Hundred Women donor recognition experience was limited and filled very quickly
• Exhibit needed to accommodate 15-20 years of donor growth with an engaging design that was dynamic and ever-changing
• Underutilized space required better space allocation and placemaking

Project Solutions:
• Redesigned and expanded the space to incorporate a collaboration/innovation lab, café lounge, and donor recognition experience
• Created a highly-visible donor recognition experience that invites students, faculty, and donors to honor the generosity of their donors and offer inspiration
• Designed donor recognition ritual to reinvent wood tiles into cherished personalized donor gifts


ZEBRADOG embraced a very granular and inclusive process with the SOHE Board of Visitors, staff, faculty, and students to create discovery sessions that were an experience to draw from the school’s varied expertise and to ensure inclusivity.

“The growth of the School of Human Ecology would not have been possible without our donor support. Our partnership with ZEBRADOG isn't just about creating donor space, but helps us inspire donors to understand our purpose and mission to realize our vision.” Soyeon Shim | Dean, UW-Madison School of Human Ecology

“Places like Ember Hall help us achieve our goals by creating an important stewardship experience that donors don't always expect but come to value so deeply in their connection to us.” Claire Mezick | Senior Director of Development, UW-Madison Wisconsin School of Human Ecology Foundation and Alumni Association

Additional Information

It's all about the details! To create an ever-changing space the wood tiles are reimagined into donor gifts. The carved maple hardwood demountable tiles are held in place with magnets. Once the donation is recognized the tile is removed to reveal Traxon light fixtures which create a warm glow. Luminary spaces behind the tiles are affixed with a frosted panel to display the donor name. The wood tiles are personalized and set in a wood holder as a donor gift.

“One of the best parts of my work is inviting donors to Ember Hall and seeing their faces light up. The delight and awe at being a part of this community have been really special for me and the donors. The opportunity to present the plaque that accompanies the experience brings that special personal touch that allows people to feel even more a part of the community.” Claire Mezick, Senior Director of Development