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Detroit Design Festival

Detroit, Michigan

Melinda Anderson

By Amy Kuras
September 15, 2014

Design is part of everyone's life, whether we furnish our lives at a place that also stocks meatballs and/or bleach, or in consultation with an expert at a hushed and beautiful studio. When your phone feels good in your hand, that's good design. When you always bang your knee getting out of your car, that's bad design.
And Detroit has not only a proud history of design (and not just tail fins, either); it’s got an exciting future. That's the idea behind Detroit Design Festival, an event put on by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center that spotlights the Detroit creative community through a weeklong series of studio tours, panel discussions, lectures, and more, referred to as "happenings."
"I think it helps to bring people together, showcasing not only the usual suspects, but pairing lesser known designers and galleries," says Melinda Anderson, program manager of DDF and DC3. "We get a great cross-section of people and it's a mixed bag of attendees and a very diverse audience."
One exciting development for DDF this year is that they’ve joined forces with Dlectricity, an outdoor, nighttime "exhibition of art and light" that took over Midtown two years ago and is returning this year. Anderson says that the Detroit Creative Corridor Center has worked with the people who launched Dlectricity in the past and were interested in linking the two events. DDF will kick off Tuesday, Sept. 23 with a design expo, industry preview, and opening reception at the College for Creative Studies Alfred A Taubman Center in New Center. It will showcase work from Detroit's strongest design sectors, such as transportation and urban design, advertising, production design, and interactive design.
Wednesday will feature studio tours, open studios, lectures, and panel discussions across the city, focusing on different aspects of design.
Thursday brings the return of the popular Eastern Market After Dark, which showcases the array of creative makers who have settled in and around Eastern Market to live and work.
Friday's event is going to be a design crawl anchored by the People Mover, stopping for behind the scenes peeks at places like the David Whitney Building and a curated tour of other artist's studios.
During Dlectricity, DDF will curate a furniture and design pavilion within the footprint of the festival-within-a-festival.
Saturday is devoted to youth, with a Youth Innovation Center at CCS that allows young people to explore their own design sense and express their creativity while meeting people in the field. And finally on Sunday, DDF will throw a block party on Livernois to wrap up the festival. It’s conceptualized as an encore of last year's magical Light Up Livernois event that drew hundred of people to a re-imagined Livernois Avenue of Fashion.
Over the four years of the festival, it has evolved to be less dispersed and more focused in specific neighborhoods, many outside the DC3 corridor. The idea is to encourage people to explore places off the beaten path where there could be amazing things happening  outside of the spotlight.  "We've encouraged people to collaborate, with fewer happenings that are more concentrated, evolving into clusters," Anderson says.
Eventually, Anderson says, she would love to see the DDF become something that can bring international attention to the design community in Detroit, on the level of the elite design festivals worldwide – or even a less refined celebration of Detroit design.
"I hope it gets to be known as something on the level of the Dream Cruise," she says. "It's one way we're going to keep that talent from leaving, if they have the opportunity to display their work and share their work.  It's better for the city of Detroit as a whole if we break down the image of the other things we are known for and become known for the design talent and art talent here."

Photos by Doug Coombe.


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  • Detroit Creative Corridor Center
    At DC3, it's all about Detroit as a global center of creative innovation. DC3 provides business acceleration expertise, relocation services and talent development programs to ensure this vision becomes a reality.
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