This Michigan City Has the Only UNESCO City of Design Status in the U.S.

Detroit is the U.S.’s only city of design
Detroit is the U.S.’s only city of design | © Alex Brisbey / Unsplash
Photo of Tim Marklew
10 April 2018

Detroit is officially the foremost city for design in the U.S., at least according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In 2015, it became the first and only U.S. city to receive the “City of Design” designation from UNESCO, recognizing its heritage of design, innovation and creativity and its commitment to fostering these industries going forward.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was founded in 2004 to bring together the world’s premier creative hubs. Over the subsequent 14 years, 180 cities have joined the network across its seven creative fields: Crafts & Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music, and Media Arts. There are 23 design cities in total, including Beijing, Berlin, and Istanbul, and though the Motor City is the only U.S. design city, there are other American cities featured in the other fields, such as Austin in Media Arts, Kansas City for Music, and Tucson for Gastronomy.

Joining the UCCN is not just for recognition, however; it’s a commitment to becoming an active member of the international creative community and to placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of a city’s plans. Detroit’s petition to join the network was the work of the nonprofit organization Design Core Detroit, once known as the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), and it remains responsible for the ongoing work that comes along with the prestigious designation.

Design Core Detroit provides services to strengthen and grow the city’s design industry, such as its Detroit Design Network and Commerce Design: Detroit competition. It also aims to attract more design businesses to the city by increasing market demand and promoting Detroit’s design story locally and globally.

One such effort has seen the Detroit Design Festival—one of the city’s design gems that has regularly attracted hundreds of the world’s top designers over its seven-year history—rebranded and expanded as Detroit Month of Design, to take place for the first time in September 2018.

Alongside the festival and the work of Design Core Detroit, Detroit’s design legacy brings millions of visitors to the city each year for its historical and present-day automotive sites, thriving art scene, its beautiful Art Deco buildings and through hosting the International Auto Show.