Hosted by Olga Stella

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As stewards of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation, we aim to raise your awareness of how design can create conditions for better quality of life and economic opportunity for all. In season 3, we will hear from thought leaders who view our world through a lens of empathy and apply design thinking to address some of our world’s most pressing issues.


Chris Cornelius on embedding indigenous thinking into architecture (Part 1)

Episode Details

Chris Cornelius, professor, citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, and founder of studio:indigenous, focuses his research and practice on the architectural translation of culture; in particular, American Indian culture. In this episode, we will discover how an indigenous point of view can transform the way we think about land and the spaces we inhabit.

Episode Notes: studio:indigenous, Antoine Predock, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Indian Community School


Joshua Edmonds and Cézanne Charles on the intersection of design and community technology

Episode Details

Digital inclusion expert Joshua Edmonds and designer and tech enthusiast Cézanne Charles discuss the work happening improve digital access and opportunity in Detroit. Learn how Joshua and Cezanne are working with Design Core to support community-led technology initiatives through the City of Design Challenge.

Episode Notes: City of Design Challenge, College for Creative Studies, Connect 313, rootoftwo



Designers are professional problem-solvers, and in Season 2 of the Detroit City of Design Podcast, we discussed the value of design to business and society.

Philip Kafka and Ishtiaq Rafiuddin Discuss their Process in Designing Developments that Inspire

Episode Details

Real estate developer Phillip Kafka and and architect Ishtiaq Rafiuddin discuss real estate development as a system for solving problems, which for Detroit, means ensuring affordability while creating new economic value.
Philip and Ish are behind some of Detroit’s most exciting projects, including the award-winning restaurant and Takoi and Core City Park.

Episode Notes: TakoiCore City ParkTrue NorthThe Caterpillar, Design Core’s Real Estate Design GuideEdwin ChanJulie Bargmanntabula rasaOchre BakeryBloomscape.

Openbox Founder Marquise Stillwell Discusses the Transformative Power of Designing Spaces and Systems to Meet the Needs of All People

Episode Details

Marquise Stillwell is the founder of Openbox, a design studio and consultancy based in New York City that works at the intersection of people and systems. He is also the cofounder of Opendox, a film company that tells lesser-known narratives, Deem Journal, an editorial publication focused on design as a social practice, and Artmatr, an international community of artists and engineers working to merge digital technology with painting methods. In this episode Marquise and Olga discuss his human-centered approach to design and how the design industry can respond to the current calls for racial and social justice.

Episode Notes: Openbox, Opendox, Artmatr, Black Girls Code, MLK Library, adrienne maree brownShield and SpearDesigning for Dignity. 

Dug Song and Sally Carson Discuss Design as a Bridge to Help Tech Companies Better Serve Communities and People

Episode Details

Dug Song and Sally Carson, discuss the role of design in tech. Doug is a general manager and cofounder of Duo Security, now a part of Cisco. And Sally is their head of product design and user research.

Duo Security makes it safe to log into anything from anywhere, from any device, at any time. Duo combines security expertise with a user-centered philosophy to provide simple and effective security solutions for all users today, we will explore why design matters in tech and why we need to build more inclusive environments across the tech community.

Episode Notes: Duo Security, Cisco, Elayna Spratley, w00w00, Allied Media Conference, Brian Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative, Digital Defense Playbook, Project Greenlight, Detroit Community Technology Project, Chamath Palihapitiya, Ben Adida, VotingWorks, Ban the Box, Org Design for Design Orgs

Jennifer Janus Discusses How Pophouse Designs Workplaces That Centers Flexibility and Integrates Work-From-Home Possibilities

Episode Details

Pophouse is a Detroit-based interior design studio focused on strategic, unconventional, and human-centric design. We will discuss how research influences Pophouse’s design strategy and how COVID-19 is impacting the future of workspaces.


Ryan Sullivan and Grant Goulet of Xenith Discuss How Fostering a Design-thinking Mindset Underscores their Unique Approach to Manufacturing

Episode Details

Xenith is a Detroit-based industry leader in football helmet technology, and also produces shoulder pads, face masks, apparel and more. Xenith has prioritized design thinking in all of its product development, which has resulted in gear that transcends protection alone—designing for optimal fit, feel, comfort and style. Today, we will discuss how collaboration between designers and engineers can result in groundbreaking innovation. We will also touch on Xenith’s initiative to provide 20,000 face shields to Detroit area Hospitals.


Episode Notes: Xenith, College for Creative Studies, Wayne State University, Detroit PAL, ISAIC, Shadow XR HelmetCarhartt, Xenith Loop, BASF

Rama Gheerawo on Adding Value to Human Life Through Inclusive Design

Episode Details

Rama Gheerawo is the director of the Helen Hamlyn Center for Design at the Royal College of Art. Rama is a global leader in people-centered and socially inclusive design. He’s a serial innovator in the fields of technology, products, services, and transport with over a hundred projects to his name. In this episode we discuss the role of design in creating products, services, and systems that benefit people of all abilities, especially in terms of aging populations in healthcare, and why creative leadership is needed now, more than ever.

Episode Notes: Helen Hamlyn Center for DesignInclude ConferenceOxford Aging and Technology ProjectSlow-Mo

Jessica Helfand Encourages Business Leaders to Lean on the Creative Process of Designers to Move the Needle

Episode Details

Jessica Helfand is the and award-winning designer, artist, writer, and the founding editor of Design Observer. Jessica is the author of numerous books on visual and cultural criticism and is also the host of two podcasts, The Observatory and The Design of Business | The Business of Design. Host Olga Stella talks with Jessica about  the impact that crisis can have on the creative process, and the crucial role design will play in helping businesses adapt to our new reality.

Episode notes: The Observatory, The Design of Business | The Business of Design, This Car Saved Ford by Ellen McGirt, raceAhead by Ellen McGirt, Ford plans mobility testing site behind Michigan Central Station, Timothy Geithner, former Secretary of the Treasury, Jon Iwata, senior advisor to IBM, James Rhee, CEO of Ashley Stewart, The New York Time: Why Zoom is Terrible, Face: A Visual Odyssey by Jessica Helfand, The Self-Reliance Project, Design for America | Design innovation for social good, Uncertainty: The Design Observer 2020 Summit

Angela Glover Blackwell Explains Why Designing Equitable Systems Is Imperative To our Growth As A Nation

Episode Details

Angela Glover Blackwell is the Founder in Residence at PolicyLink and the host of the Radical Imagination podcast. She has helped grow and define a national equity movement focused on innovating and improving public policy to ensure access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color. Host Olga Stella talks with Angela about how COVID-19 has exacerbated inequality issues as well as how everyone benefits when we implement solutions for our most vulnerable populations.

Episode Notes: Policy LinkRadical Imagination PodcastUNESCO City of Design Designation, The Curb-Cut EffectGI Bill

Kacha Azema on How Designers Help Brands Adapt During Times of Uncertainty

Episode Details

Kacha Azéma is the executive creative director of Skidmore Studio, a strategic creative studio focused on helping consumer-facing companies grow through innovative design and branding services. Host Olga Stella talks with Kacha about brand adaptation and how design can help businesses through trying times.


Episode Notes: Skidmore Studio, Detroit Design Network, Bon Bon Bon, Stroh’s, Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, Ellis Island Tea, Learnings from the first week of social distancing


Design impacts everyone, for better or for worse. We invited designers, changemakers and the curious to participate in a spirited conversation on how design can create conditions for better quality of life and economic opportunity. We see Detroit as a global model for sustainable and equitable development. In Season 1, we focused on themes such as investment, mobility, neighborhoods, public space, and design practice around the world, and their relationship to forward progress here in Detroit.

Tracy Reese Talks Detroit’s Opportunity for Sustainable Fashion Production

Episode Details

After years of living and working in New York, fashion designer Tracy Reese is building a sustainable fashion brand in Detroit. Host Olga Stella talks with Tracy about what makes Detroit an ideal location for a sustainable fashion movement and how she is engaging the community in her design process.

Craig Wilkins Talks Hip Hop Architecture and the Intersection of Design and Activism

Episode Details

Craig Wilkins is one of the first theorists of Hip Hop Architecture, a movement that aims to empower marginalized communities and individuals through design. Both a practicing architect and a scholar, Craig talks with Olga Stella about how hip hop architecture is embodied in his work and the importance of diversifying design fields.

Episode notes: University of Michigan A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, The Wilkins Project

Ralph Gilles on the Role of Automotive Design in a World of Changing Mobility

Episode Details

As the global head of design at Fiat Chrysler, Ralph Giles is the mind behind some of the most iconic contemporary cars. Host Olga Stella talks with Ralph about the future of automotive design and designing cars with distinct personalities.

Frida Escobedo on Designing Spaces that Reflect Cultural Experience

Episode Details

Frida Escobedo became the youngest architect to work on the Serpentine Pavilion in 2018 and is known for infusing her designs with inspiration from her hometown, Mexico City. Host Olga Stella Talks with Frida about her design philosophy and recent projects.

Zena Howard Talks Remembrance Architecture and Giving Residents Autonomy in their Communities

Episode Details

Architect Zena Howard is known for creating cultural destinations that celebrate the history and context of displaced, forgotten communities. Host Olga Stella talks with Zena about the importance of co-designing spaces with residents and the inspiration behind some of her most iconic projects.

Mark de la Vergne and Lisa Nuszkowski on Designing an Accessible, Seamless Transit System

Episode Details

Mark de la Vergne and Lisa Nuszkowski are both working to develop infrastructure for an inclusive transit system in Detroit. Host Olga Stella talks with them about the future of transportation in the city and how smart design improves mobility for all.

Episode notes: SmithGroup, Detroit Future City Strategic Framework 

Dan Kinkead on Designing Equitable Cities for Future Generations

Episode Details

Host Olga Stella talks with Dan Kinkead about the resilience of longtime Detroit residents and the role of municipal policy in ensuring equitable development. Dan played a leadership role in developing and implementing the 2012 Detroit Future City Strategic Framework, which is a shared vision for Detroit’s future that aimed to foster job growth and economic prosperity and improve neighborhoods and infrastructure.

Episode notes: SmithGroup, 
Detroit Future City Strategic Framework

Sarida Scott on Co-creating Communities with Residents

Episode Details

Sarida Scott has over a decade of experience working in community development and is the Executive Director for the Community Development Advocates of Detroit, the leading voice of Detroit’s community development industry. Host Olga Stella talks with Sarida about prioritising community engagement in the design process.

Suchi Reddy on Finding Wonder in Detroit and the Healing Power of Architecture

Episode Details

Architect Suchi Reddy works from the philosophy “form follows feeling.” She is the mind behind a diverse roster of projects, including several famous installations, private residences and large-scale industrial projects. Host Olga Stella talks with Suchi about her experience as a woman in a male-dominated field and the impact that sensory-rich design can have on health and mood.

Episode Notes: Readymade, University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, Johns Hopkins University, Times Square Arts “X”


Episode Details

Olga Stella, executive director of Design Core Detroit, previews our upcoming Detroit City of Design Podcast.