Creative Endeavors

Detroit Month of Design

In 2015, Detroit was designated the first—and only—UNESCO City of Design in the United States. Since then, Design Core Detroit, the driving organization behind its designation, has been consistently developing efforts to nurture an even more vibrant and inclusive national and global design capital.

Last year, the organization launched its Detroit City of Design Action Plan, which aims to position Detroit as a global leader in the practice of inclusive design. To honor the city’s designation as a UNESCO City of Design, the organization also transformed the annual, five-day, Detroit Design Festival into a month-long celebration of creativity for September 2019, deemed the Detroit Month of Design, or MoD.

MoD gathers the Detroit’s community, designers, and organizational partners—from emerging studios to established companies and academic institutions—in a citywide showcase of creativity and innovation. This September, the MoD comprises more than 145 participants, expanded programming—including talks, tours, exhibitions, workshops, and open studios—and its inaugural Detroit City of Design winners celebration.

“Detroit is a city experiencing many changes. By designing places, systems, and products that allow all of Detroit’s citizens to participate in its revitalization, designers can be a force driving inclusive outcomes in the city. This year’s schedule offers many opportunities for you to learn more about this for yourself,” stated Olga Stella, executive director of Design Core Detroit in a press release.

Overall, this September’s MoD—and its more than 55 events taking place throughout the city—will tap into themes of transformational and inclusive design, sustainability, and identity; with opportunities for interacting with the designers—and the works—shaping the City of Design around every corner. Detroit Design 139’s “Inclusive Futures” exhibition opens August 31, 2019 and will transition into the MoD, which also begins with exhibitions like “Substance,” a curation of work from local designers drawing on themes of material exploration and the return of craft-based practices; and Ecce Pomo, or “Behold Postmodern,” a pop-up shop that includes products from the 1970s and 1990s that embody the spirit of Postmodernism.

Mid-September’s programming will feature an array of open studios, lectures, panel discussions, tours, and markets—including the second annual Metalwork Market and Eastern Market After Dark—as well as the UNESCO Cities of Design Annual Convening. The annual event will join policymakers, business development advocates, and designers in a collaborative effort to discover more about the unique character of Detroit design and development, according to the press release.

Detroit’s MoD will culminate in “City Cypher,” an event celebrating the inaugural winners of the Detroit City of Design Competition, and their neighborhoods of focus. The international, multidisciplinary competition invited designers from all 31 UNESCO Cities of Design to prototype design solutions for Detroit neighborhoods that make it easier for those in the city to move freely, safely, and efficiently around their communities.

Out of 26 submissions from local and international design teams, the three chosen were Cyclerate by SmithGroup, from Detroit; Garden Novella by Other Work, from Detroit; and 3Rooms by Collectif Escargo, from Montreal. Cycelerate aims to enhance public safety through unity, hand-generated light, and communication, while 3Rooms forms a safe space for improvised gatherings out of three rooms, each creating different sensory experiences. Garden Novella seeks to express cultural, collective, and individual identity through recorded stories, sun-powered lanterns, hanging gardens, and seating.

In April 2020, the prototypes will be installed temporarily in their respective neighborhoods—in Hope Village, Grandmont Rosedale, and Southwest Detroit—and the three neighborhoods will be celebrated at the City Cypher event in Beacon Park, which will feature a live talent and entertainment cypher between the three.

“We are inspired by the innovation presented in the winners and finalists and the way they demonstrate the value of design to the community,” Stella said, in an earlier press release. “We hope these installations will peak the interest of private and public groups to commission the winning design teams to create permanent fixtures in these and other neighborhoods.”

As a steward of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design Designation, Design Core Detroit also supports design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy. The organization is a partnership between the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and Business Leaders for Michigan, and it is continually driving efforts like the MoD, which tell Detroit’s design story on a local and global scale.

Text: R. Collins | GLBD writer

Featured image: Youth Design Day Design Core Detroit, Michigan Science Center, Ford Foundation