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It’s September and the streets are alive with arts-related action, including the return of the annual Detroit Design Festival, which is always made to delight. This year’s DDF runs from September 26th-30th at points all over the city, and the theme is Design Is Everywhere—a simple sentiment, but one that underscores the omnipresent role of design in our everyday lives. Human society operates around the built environment, and it can be an eye-opening revelation to realize that almost everything you see and interact with in your day-to-day life has been created for a purpose.

“Through a variety of different experiences, whether they are workshops, exhibitions, or other events and opportunities, we’re trying to show the way that design is really pervasive in our community, and our life, and our work,” said Olga Stella, Executive Director of Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), which operates the design festival. “We’re trying to show all the different ways that it [design] manifests, and make it as accessible as possible to people.”


Programming includes a showcase of highlights from this year’s 10th International Design Biennale in Saint-Etienne, Detroit City of Design and the Future of Work, to which Detroit was invited as Guest City of Honor by fellow UNESCO City of Design Saint-Etienne, France. The Biennale took place in March of this year, and presented examples of Detroit’s most innovative design practices and applications to an international audience of more than 230,000 visitors. The work presented by Detroiters was unified under the theme, “Detroit Works”—a concept that Stella finds to be particularly relevant here at home, as Detroiters think about ways in which design impacts our lives. The exhibition seemingly kicked off the entire design month and is on view at the Valade Family Gallery at the College for Creative Studies through October 7th.

The Detroit Design Festival also comes on the heels of the second annual Detroit City of Design Summit, facilitated by DC3, which continues to explore the opportunities being opened up by Detroit’s newly-minted UNESCO City of Design status—the first and only such designation for a U.S. city. Summit activities and workshops took place from September 8th-14th, and generated findings and ideas for community, industry, and academia that have emerged from those discussions.

“The summit this year in general was really focused on the visioning process that we’re going through, and our relationship with other UNESCO cities being a big part of that,” said Ellie Schneider, DC3 Director of Advocacy and Operations. “During the event, we had speakers coming from some of our partner cities that presented, we had a guest from Saint-Etienne that was particularly focused on our mobility workshop, and in general throughout the week, we were looking at Detroit’s design history, our assets today, and our visions for the future.” 

The visioning boards from the summit continue to be on display, along with the other exhibition materials, at CCS during regular gallery hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 12-5pm through October 7th. Of course, this is just one point of engagement for DDF activities, which play out through the rest of the month all over the city.

The Detroit Design 139 exhibit is located at 1001 Woodward Ave., from 12-7pm daily through September 30th, and showcases relevant Detroit architectural and urban design projects within Detroit’s 139 square miles. Collectively, these projects illustrate the future of Detroit—an urban environment populated with thoughtful projects that simultaneously honor Detroit’s design legacy while pushing the city towards becoming a leader in world-class design excellence.

Lawrence Technological University’s Detroit Center for Design + Technology is presenting one piece of a two-part exhibition featuring the work of influential, but under-sung, Midcentury Modern playscape designer Jim Miller Melberg, with The Art of Play. Their Woodward Gallery will present Miller Melberg’s career with an emphasis on the presentation of Form, Inc. playscapes and plaster works. The narrative is focused on the “art of play,” where the object of design is the playground. The “play” theme is advanced in Miller Melberg’s later plaster sculptures, where he experiments with color and form. A panel will be hosted to explore the role of art and architecture in placemaking—using Melberg’s work as a platform for discussion—on September 26th, 6-8pm. 

DesDDF16 135DDF is also bringing back several of their most popular events, including Eastern Market After Dark on Thursday, September 28th, from 7-11pm, which will also serve to debut this year’s additions to Murals in the Market. The ever-popular Light Up Livernois will close out the official DDF programming on Saturday, September 30th from 5-10pm, with its fourth edition on Detroit’s Historic Avenue of Fashion. This year promises even more open studios, performances, free-to-all putt-putt minigolf installations designed by local designers, urban furniture installations and a yarn-bombing extravaganza by Detroit Fiber Works. 

These are just a few of the offerings in a program that also emphasizes the strides being made by local designers and makers, with features such as the Brightmoor Bento Maker Workshop, Design Village at Ponyride, and the Brainard Street Blast, which shines a light on everyone’s favorite community screenprinters at Ocelot Print Shop.

Clear this week's schedule and prepare to open your eyes to the world of design that’s all around you, Detroit! 

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All images courtesy of Detroit Creative Corridor Center.

For the complete 2017 Detroit Design Festival schedule, runnig from September 26-30, click here.