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Detroit UNESCO City of Design

Detroit joins worldwide network of cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion, and cultural vibrancy

On December 11, 2015, Detroit became the first U.S. city to receive a UNESCO City of Design designation, joining 47 cities from 33 countries as new members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

The Creative Cities Network is comprised of cities that represent a strong legacy in one of seven creative fields, from Gastronomy and Literature to Design. Member cities commit to collaborate and develop partnerships, promote creativity and cultural industries, share best practices, strengthen participation in cultural life and integrate culture in economic and social development strategies and plans.

View Cities of Design around the world here.

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The power of this designation lies within the people and business who are using design to drive Detroit’s future. There are opportunities for everyone for academia, to industry, to policymakers and community members to inspire others to see the transformative power of design.

Download this Detroit City of Design Toolkit to learn about how your story can become part of Detroit City of Design narrative.

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8 Reasons Detroit is a City of Design

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1 / Detroit's History

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2 / Industry

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3 / Talent

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4 / Education Institutions

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5 / Research and Innovation

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6 / Cultural Institutions

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7 / Design Scene Today

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8 / The Future

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What other people are saying about Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation

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Detroit's History

The cradle of American modernism and is one of the few cities that has fundamentally changed the way the world works, lives and moves.  Detroit’s design legacy can be traced to roots in the global Arts and Crafts movement where the College for Creative Studies and Cranbrook seeded an environment where design could develop and flourish.


Many also credit Detroit as the city where the practice of industrial design was invented and perfected; with General Motors establishing one of the world’s first corporate design departments and College for Creative Studies establishing the world’s first transportation design curriculum during the 1930’s.


Simultaneously, Cranbrook attracted the world’s top architects and designers as educators and students, pioneering a design movement that would fundamentally change how America lives and works.

Education Institutions


Detroit’s design culture is supported globally renowned educational institutions, including College for Creative Studies, one of the top 5 private art and design colleges in the United States; the internationally renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Other globally acclaimed design programs include University of Michigan Taubman School of Architecture and Penny Stamps School of Art and Design, University of Detroit Mercy College of Architecture and Lawrence Technological University.

Cultural Institutions


Detroit’s city core is home to 33 galleries, 22 theatres and performance venues, and 11 museums and libraries.

The Detroit Institute of Arts houses the 4th largest city-owned art collection in the country, and it serves as the anchor for Detroit’s creative and design communities.  The largest African American history museum in the U.S. is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.  The Arab American National Museum was amongst the first museums outside of the Middle East to highlight Arab design and culture to a non-Arab audience.  

The Henry Ford, “America’s Largest History Attraction”, is a significant repository of industrial design and innovation.  

Design Scene Today


There is an unquestionable energy right now in the city. From public art, music festivals and bike paths to public design events drawing in thousands of designers and attendees like the Detroit Design Festival, Drinks x Design, Dalley in the Alley, Murals in the Market, there is a unique creative energy that’s more tangible now than ever before.

The Future


Detroit is Design. The infrastructure, workforce and youth educational programs in Detroit allow design to be the driving force behind Detroit’s economic development. Design is not only a party of our history, but it also has the potential to drive us towards a better future.