Detroit City Of Design: Background

Armed with a rich legacy, a wealth of assets and a vision for the future, Design Core Detroit—working with a variety of partners through its Advisory Board—applied to join the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative Cities Network two years ago.

On December 11, 2015, Detroit became the first and only city in the United States to receive the UNESCO City of Design designation, joining a network of now 31 design cities and 180 cities focused on using creativity as a driver for sustainable and equitable development around the world.

By joining the Network, cities acknowledge their commitment to sharing best practices, developing partnerships that promote creativity and the cultural industries, strengthening participation in cultural life and integrating culture in urban development plans.

Over the last year, Detroit has been an active participant in the network, attending annual meetings and participating in design weeks, forums and convenings with other network members. Thus far, more than 100 Detroiters have travelled abroad to cities like Seoul, South Korea, and Saint-Etienne, France.

UNESCO Cities of Design


Why Detroit?

Detroit is a Global City of Design and Creativity

Detroit has a rich legacy of design and innovation, transforming the way the world has worked, moved and lived. As an industrial powerhouse that fueled the rise of the automobile, the city has also been a hub for creatives, home to iconic designers, artists and craftsmen from the Arts and Crafts movement to American modernism and beyond. Detroit’s strengths lie in:


Home to the highest concentration of commercial and industrial designers in the country, Detroit continues to dominate in automotive and industrial design.

Research and Innovation

Companies like General Motors, Ford, FCA, GE and Masco base their design research here.

Educational Institutions

Students can choose from a wide range of top-rated programs spanning many disciplines at Cranbrook Academy of Art, College for Creative Studies, Lawrence Technological University, Wayne State University and University of Detroit Mercy.

Cultural Institutions

Creatives find their inspiration in Detroit’s galleries, 22 theaters and performance venues, 11 museums and libraries and world-renowned architecture.


Public art, festivals and events, and community-driven design initiatives in neighborhoods throughout the city.


Our Goal

Develop Detroit as a Global Leader in Inclusive Design

In 2018, Design Core unveiled the Detroit City of Design Action Plan which was developed through collaborative process and aims to drive inclusive growth through 2025. The Action Plan, which includes a vision, strategy and recommendations, is the final outcome of the organization’s year-long process to activate Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design Designation.

The Detroit City of Design Action Plan outlines a plan for developing Detroit as a global leader in the practice of inclusive design, which considers the entire spectrum of human diversity and individual experiences to create solutions with a social impact.

Partners Taking Action Together

Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation will come to life through the work of local partners who are already incorporating the practice of inclusive design in projects that:

  • Develop TALENT that is representative of the diversity of our community and create opportunities that encourage people to strengthen or establish roots in Detroit.

  • INVEST in Detroit’s design businesses and resources to advance design-driven industries, especially in ways that develop the practice of inclusive design.

  • Promote POLICIES that embrace inclusive design to inform how the city looks and works and raises awareness of the value of inclusive design and its tangible impact in Detroit.