In the face of a global pandemic and worldwide protests against anti-Black police brutality, inclusive design that prioritizes the safety and equitability of all people has never been more important.

Detroit Month of Design seeks to explore design solutions that address these challenges for a more just and healthy world.

One Detroit’s Will Glover interviews Olga Stella, Executive Director of Design Core Detroit and Kiana Wenzell, Director of Culture and Community about the 10-year anniversary of Detroit Month of Design.


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Full Transcript:

Will Glover, DPTV We’re celebrating 10 years of a month of design. So how did this month of design get started and what can we look forward to?

Kiana Wenzell, Director of Culture and Community, Design Core Detroit Yeah. So the month of design was started in two thousand and eleven by Matthew Clasen and Melinda Anderson. Matt was the original executive director of Design Core.

Kiana Wenzell, Design Core Detroit And Melinda was leading the programing at that time. So the first festival was one week. It was called the the Detroit Design Festival. And it had about 80 happenings happening all over the city. It was a celebration of independent design. Since then, it’s evolved into a whole month. It still is a multi disciplinary festival, an annual annual festival occurring throughout the city. This year, we have virtual outdoor and time ticketed indoor events.

Will Glover, DPTV Now, that is one of the first things that I was curious about. A lot of art and design is something that, you know, people have to interact with on a daily basis. So how have you guys been working around the current pandemic and all the guidelines that we need to follow? To actually be able to have people go out and see this stuff in person?

Kiana Wenzell, Design Core Detroit It started with contacting the designers after the open call. So we started 2020 big dreams, big plans, were gonna do this, we’re gonna do that. We launched our open call in February and it closed in April. So once the government shut down, which was in March, we said, well, is this festival important to designers? Do they see a value in it? Do they still want to do it? So I immediately started calling, you know, the designers that had applied and talking to them. And a lot of them said, you know what, I have an idea. I have a solution that I want to share. I have a talk that I want to propose of how we can address this new reality. We need the festival now more than ever. And, you know, I can do my talk virtual oh, I’m going to do an outdoor installation. So it’s through talking to the designers that we said, our community still wants to do this and they see a value in it. And we’re going to continue.

Olga Stella, Executive Director, Design Core Detroit Yeah. And by using time ticketed events and come no touch or very low touch outdoor things, you know, a lot of the concerns around having large groups and small spaces are signature events like Eastern market after dark and design crawls and some of the other things we’re doing, we’re not doing those this year precisely because of the pandemic. But I think what’s been wonderful to see how our community has really pivoted, that we have the strongest slew of exhibitions than we’ve ever had for a month of design in many of those are fully accessible virtually from our website. So it’s just it’s really been great to see how everyone has adapted and the and the really meaningful ideas that they’re putting forward even at this time.

Will Glover, DPTV So we hear the word design and I’m sure, as with a lot of people and the same goes for me, you can think of a million different things. So what type of things are we going to be seeing when it comes to design? Is it painting? Is it sculpture? Is it city planning? What can we look forward to?

Kiana Wenzell, Design Core Detroit Sure. It’s a lot of the events that are dealing with and addressing, of course, the global pandemic.

Kiana Wenzell, Design Core Detroit So we have our new social reality, the future of urgency. Olga is going to be on a panel… From Forum and Seek. She has an exhibition called Never Normal, where things ever normal, you know. What does it mean? What is normal need? And exploring that. We have some LTU and  CCS students that made work during the pandemic. What is it? How has it changed the way that you work in your process of designing? Well, you can’t go to the studio because the studio shut down and you’re making products from your house.

Olga Stella, Executive Director, Design Core Detroit And design for us is everything we consider Creative Problem-Solving. Now it’s all the disciplines is applied in many ways, but that can mean visual art in public spaces, too, because there’s usually a context, and especially for the types of things that you’ll see in the month of design program that, you know, there’s a lot of usually the the designers are featuring you we have three values that we operate with collaborative relationships, accessible experiences, accessible opportunities and diverse experiences. And a lot of the the public kind of art type type of things that you’ll see in the month of design usually involve community you know, community engagement, community participation. So it’s a full, full gamut from architecture to product design to the graphic and visual design to art in public spaces.

Will Glover, DPTV Is there an installation, a talk, a an art piece that really speaks to you that you think would and is going to be really impactful when people actually get a chance to interact with it?

Will Glover, DPTV Olga let’s start with you.

Olga Stella, Executive Director, Design Core Detroit I have I have two I’m going to use my executive privilege to have two. But one is the Science Gallery Future Present exhibition. It was I was one of the five curators for that that exhibition. And I think it’s it’s immersive and experiential. It’s not a typical exhibition where you just have you’re looking at an object. This is really about engaging the the the person as they as they think about design in the time of urgency. And then the second one is the Toyota lecture series event at the College for Creative Studies is doing on the September twenty third featuring route of two and Route two has been working with design or to develop a training program around inclusive design practices for Design Core our city design partners and the college. And Suzanne Charles and John Marshall, will be talking about that work today. I think it’s really it’s really important in this moment as we think about some systemic forms of oppression and marginalization, how we can create new processes, new ways of working that start to break those systemic forces.

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