Design In Detroit Connects Creative Entrepreneurs
Earlier this month, the Detroit Creative Corridor (DC3), a business accelerator for entrepreneurs in creative fields, announced it will launch “Design in Detroit,” a new online platform to try to connect artistically minded businesses with individuals and institutions in the region. This three-year, Knight Foundation-funded effort to create a digital network for Detroit’s creative community also allows for business and creative collaboration and even crowdfunding, says DC3 director Matthew Clayson. “I saw a need to share the work of the Detroit creative community with local and international audiences and potential customers,” he says.
The online platform will be anchored by the annual Detroit Design Festival, to be held in September, which next month will ask Detroit’s creative community to start submitting ideas for technology, business, and design ideas that will propel the city forward. Last year, a pilot design festival hatched “Mind the Gap,” a contest to improve Detroit’s vacant and under-used spaces. The success of that contest, which was won by a high school student at Detroit’s Henry Ford School for Creative Arts, led Clayson to start thinking about ways the local creative community can affect the city’s social and economic infrastructure.
“The design sector is the third-largest employer in Detroit after healthcare and business-to-business,” Clayson notes, adding that approximately 12,500 Detroiters work in design fields. “We already have an economic engine, so how do we take that further?”
Clayson hopes that Design in Detroit will keep artists and entrepreneurs engaged long after the design festival is over and help recruit potential new businesses to Detroit. On the digital platform, users will be able to post ideas, concepts, and products. They’ll be able to connect to work collaboratively or encourage one another’s work.
It’s something that is already happening in pockets across the city, so Clayson sees this as a way to do it on a grander scale. (Though Design in Detroit isn’t set to go live just yet, one wonders how it will compare to what Rippld, which is a creative venture-in-residence at DC3, wants to do. Can Detroit support two online platforms/social networks for local creatives?)
A major component of the platform, Clayson says, is that it will enable crowdfunding and matchmaking, where artists and designers can seek funding for their endeavors or get matched up with venues. “It’s a big matchmaking site,” Clayson says. “It’s like an online dating site for the design community, where they can connect to resources to make an impact on the community.”
Clayson says the economic power of the arts community in Detroit is tangible. Last year, he says, the output of Detroit’s creative sector was $600 million, which includes everyone from individual practictioners to multinational firms. There are currently 16 creative startups in the DC3’s incubator, but Clayson says they’ll soon graduate and he expects the next class of tenants to be almost twice that size.
As for why Detroit has become a source for innovative design, Clayson says, “Detroit is somewhat isolated from global trends, so the asthetic is much more honest and authentic than other places. It’s also responsive to challenges—there’s a lot of work being done with reclaimed materials, and the design here tends to have a purpose.”
Whatever it is that people find so appealing about the art and design coming out of the city, Clayson says it’s time to step up the effort to pull new financial backers into the mix to see what kinds of innovative startups will spring from the minds of the city’s creative class.