The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has launched a new advisory council to cement Michigan's position as the top spot in the country for industrial or product design talent.
One of the Michigan Design Council's first orders of business will be the establishment of a “design mecca” inside the city of Detroit “where multidisciplinary design creative can work, collaborate and grow businesses,” said Jeff DeBoer, an owner and vice president at Sundberg-Ferar, during a speech at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Jan. 13.
Detroit-based Sundberg-Ferar, one of the oldest product design firms in the country, is heading the advisory council.
Within the next year, the Michigan Design Council will work to establish the Michigan Design Prize to recognize an individual or company for improving the human condition through great product design in Michigan.
The council will also coordinate with the MEDC to establish a designated design zone of 1-10 square miles in Detroit as a “mecca” for product designers, DeBoer said.
“Many people think of Michigan as a place where things are made,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. But before things can be made, they have to be designed, he said.
The state's long-term goal is to establish Michigan as the capital for design talent, Calley said. And the Michigan Design Council will be instrumental in that.
Representatives from business and educational organizations are among the nominees to the council, which will include about a dozen members including: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Atlanta-based Newell Rubbermaid Inc., Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corp., the University of Michigan, the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and Continental AG, said DeBoer. The council will convene four times a year, meeting in the eastern, western and mid-state areas, DeBoer said.
Michigan is already home to the largest number of industrial or product designers in the country, DeBoer said, but many are captive within companies including automakers, their suppliers and home appliance firms. Newell Rubbermaid recently opened its new design headquarters in Michigan. Corporations are struggling to recruit more product designers, he said.
Creation of a Detroit zone, perhaps “District 313” and maybe a “District 616” on the state's west side, would help attract designers, DeBoer said.
“We're going to work with the state … they have a line of sight to developers and corporate sponsors who might want to participate.”