Design as an economic engine

Interesting feature in Atlantic Cities entitled: A Visual History of Michigan’s Outsize Influence on American Modernism. The story is built around the upcoming Michigan Modern Symposium upcoming at Cranbrook from June 13-16. Both the article and conference web site are worth checking out. (If for no other reason than to check out the pictures of Michigan’s history of great modern design.)

Design –– particularly modern design –– has deep roots in Michigan. Its an important and under valued component of the competitive success of both the auto and furniture industries. Michigan also has a rich history in modern architecture. And its world class design schools –– College for Creative Studies, Cranbrook and Kendall College –– are vital assets for Michigan’s past and future economic success.

As the organizers of Michigan Modern write: “Our goal through this project is to change how people view Michigan. The state’s contribution to design has been as great as its contribution to manufacturing, yet it has been largely overlooked. By focusing on Michigan’s dynamic and on-going design heritage, we hope this project will inspire a new audience to learn of the wealth of design history and opportunity that Michigan has to offer.” (Emphasis added.)

Exactly! Design is not only an important component of Michigan’s past, it is likely to be an important engine of its future economic success. Particularly in West Michigan and metro Detroit. Although it never ends up on the industries of the future or hot job lists, design is likely to be both. In part because of growing consumer demand for well designed products (something that gives products and enterprises a competitive edge) but also because it is hard to automate.

Daniel Pink explores this is depth in his book A Whole New Mind (the best book I have read on the future of jobs). Pink entitles one of the book’s sections “Design means business/ business means design”. Worth reading!





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