Designs on Detroit

Annual festival looks to the future


The word “design” is a triple threat. At least, that’s the way the Detroit Design Festival sees it. It has to do with a product, a place, and the process of creating. Returning in September, the annual celebration aims to shed light on local aesthetic accomplishments and happenings. 

This time around, DDF is shifting its vantage point to the future as a result of Detroit being named a “City of Design” by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) this past December. 

“We recently launched an initiative to really bring that designation to life,” says Olga Stella, executive director of Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), which has put on the festival since its 2010 inception. “What we’re planning on doing with this year’s design festival — where all of our energy is going — is using it as a way to inspire people to think about what that means. What does it mean for design to be a driver of sustainability and equity, and what could that look like in Detroit?”

Stella says what started as a weeklong smattering of events has since condensed to three days of “tried and true” staples as well as new endeavors. 

From Sept. 22-24, festival attendees can dive into a discussion with industry leaders and policymakers at the brand-new, three-day Design Summit event. 

A crowd favorite, Eastern Market After Dark provides an interactive, street-to-studio experience with live music and food. But the most impactful effort, according to Stella, is Youth Day.

“The idea behind Youth Day is to take the day and program a number of different experiences for young designers, so we can inspire (them) to really start to think of (design) maybe as a profession,” Stella says.

Giving exposure and support to established designers is another main goal for DDF. “The reason we do the festival is to help elevate the small, creative businesses and designers and the innovation that’s happening in design in Detroit to a local, national, and global stage,” Stella says. 

So what does it mean for “design” to drive Detroit’s future? 

First, the definition of “design” must be understood. DDF implores its attendees to look beyond the word’s materialistic connotation. Design, Stella says, encompasses more than just products and architecture.

“How we design customer service at City Hall? That’s a design opportunity. How we might design a rideshare app so that a working mother can figure out how to get to her job? That’s a design opportunity,” she says. “So it’s a little broader than just, ‘Can I design a beautiful piece of furniture?’ or ‘Can I design a beautiful place to live or work?’ And that’s where we’re hoping to expand people’s thinking beyond what they might be accustomed to, and beyond this idea that (design is) only for
the elite, it’s only if you have money, it’s only high-end. It really can be for everyone.”

At its core, Detroit Design Festival is an ode to this uplifting, creative thinking. And it plans to press on, just as the city has, in the hope of crafting a future worthy of the “City of Design” moniker.

“This is what’s great about Detroit: that we don’t give up,” Stella says. “This is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. If we do it right, if we involve people in setting a vision, we get people involved in bringing their projects to the table, I think we can do it. And it’s not about DC3 doing it — it’s about our community doing it together.”

For information, visit

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Men's Spring Fashion: On The Town

Men's Spring Fashion.

Fall Arts Preview: Upcoming Events

Cultural life is especially vibrant this season. In this section, we offer a glimpse of upcoming exhibits, concerts, and drama, along with an introduction to the fresh faces of the DSO and a look inside a new book devoted to Detroit’s architecturally stunning churches.

2011 Men's Holiday Fashion

MAN ABOUT TOWN: A throwback to an earlier, classic era projects an undeniably suave, masculine appeal.

Best of Detroit 2011

Thousands of readers — the largest number ever — played favorites in online voting for Hour Detroit’s 2011 Best of Detroit list. Check out the 258 winners, and then go play tourist in your own hometown.

Best of Detroit 2013

Thousands of readers selected their favorites in online voting for Hour Detroit’s 2013 Best of Detroit list. Find out who joined the league of over 500 superheroes in the city!
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Top Docs List 2018
  2. Memories of Miya
    Citizen Yoga founder, Kacee Must Leeb reflects on her sister’s suicide, its impact on her...
  3. Introducing the Piekie
    These cookie-shaped pies win big on-screen and off
  4. The Sixth Man
    A youth basketball coach teaches lessons on and off the court
  5. Seeking Support
    Like many metro areas across the U.S., finding a therapist in and around Detroit can prove to be...
  6. Therapy in the Digital Age
    New innovations that revolutionize traditional approaches to counseling
  7. Food Recipe: Chili
    Michael Keys, of Red Crown in Grosse Pointe Park, shares his favorite chili recipe
  8. Author's Cuisine
    At M Cantina in Dearborn, Junior Merino is creating a new kind of Mexican cuisine that is...
  9. Mending Migraines
    Nausea, excruciating head pain, sensitivity to light and noise: The oppressiveness of the list of...
  10. Seeing Clearly
    The co-founders behind Genusee on making eyewear with a mission