What A City of Design Means for Entrepreneurs

By Amanda Lewan on July 12th, 2016 / Comments

In December 2015, Detroit was designated as the first UNESCO city of Design in the United States. The designation has sparked a ten year initiative in Detroit to bring industry, academia, policy and community together building a city with the power of design.

“It’s a recognition of our design assets, and the opportunity we have to build a future that is equitable and sustainable in Detroit,” said Olga Stella, Executive Director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center.

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center, or DC3, helps to support creative and design focused businesses in the city. The DC3 provides exposure to local talent, connects small businesses to opportunities, and also through something like the City of Design hopes to create a better environment for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs.

Now as a member of UNESCO, Detroit leaders have access to a worldwide network of cities committed to investing in creativity and design to drive sustainable urban development and social inclusion. Other cities with the designation have hosted frequent design competitions, leveraged public policy to create change, or fueled incubators and collaborative spaces. Some have designated design districts for creative businesses.

In the first year the Detroit City of Design initiative aims to build a common vision for the impact of design on Detroit’s future. DC3 will continue a series of events celebrating Detroit design throughout the year, including the annual Detroit Design Festival September 22-24th. This year, the festival’s theme is “Designing Detroit’s Future” and will feature a Design Summit to kick-off the visioning process for the initiative.

Olga Stella said she sees the new designation as a way to support the small business community. Stella hopes to see local talent more engaged with their city, and as a whole a stronger environment for entrepreneurs.

It’s also an opportunity to be engaging with the community and intentionally more inclusive.

“This is a very challenging time in our country, given everything going on socially,” Stella said. “When we think of the changes in Detroit right now, we’re hoping to flip the script. The conversation isn’t about design and development being just about the elite. We want regular people to run into design everywhere they are.”

“Design can build bridges, but if we’re not careful it can also create divide,” she said.

What will Detroit create with it’s new designation? We’ll have to stay tuned and invite you to participate at the DC3’s upcoming festival this fall.

Learn more about the DC3’s creative work here. 

About the Author

Amanda Lewan

Amanda Lewan

Editor @michipreneur. Co-founder Bamboo Detroit. Follow me @Amanda_Jenn. I love telling the story of entrepreneurs and innovators.