Detroit Design 139

About Detroit Design 139

Detroit Design 139 is a collective of design advocates — Bedrock, City of Detroit, Design Core, and others — who came together in 2017 to demand a higher standard for all future projects within Detroit’s 139 square miles. These advocates created Detroit Design 139 to organize and host design initiatives — exhibitions, events, conversations, and publications — that focus on the future of Detroit’s built and natural environment. Detroit Design 139’s signature event is a biennial exhibition that showcases projects representing a future Detroit, one that honors the city’s design legacy while pushing the city toward becoming a leader in world-class design excellence.

Principles of Design

In 2015, Detroit was awarded the first UNESCO City of Design in the United States, joining a worldwide network of cities committed to utilizing design as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and cultural vibrancy. In celebration of that designation, design advocates from across the city came together in 2017 to demand a higher design standard for all future projects within the city’s 139 square miles. In pursuit of that ideal, these advocates curated the inaugural Detroit Design 139 exhibition around ten guiding design principles. The first exhibition, “Detroit Shapes Design” showcased 41 projects that represented a future Detroit populated with thoughtful projects that honored the city’s design legacy, while pushing the city towards becoming a leader in world-class design excellence. Crafted to benefit all Detroiters, the ten guiding design principles are

  1. Advance design as a means to improve the quality-of-life for all people.

  2. Advance a thoughtful design process rooted in meaningful community engagement.

  3. Seek creative solutions to solve long-standing urban issues.

  4. Honor context and history through contemporary design.

  5. Activate the public realm.

  1. Balance community cohesion with aesthetic diversity.

  2. Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences — emphasizing equity, design excellence, and inclusion.

  3. Explore new ways to live, work, and play together in the 21st century city.

  4. Celebrate Detroit’s design legacy, while contributing to the city’s design future.

  5. Balance function and beauty.

Meet Our Advisory Committee

The advisory committee helps guide the strategic direction of Detroit Design 139, offering feedback on work being completed by working groups. The group is comprised of city planners, design leaders and community advocates.


Have Questions? Check out our frequently asked questions for more information.


Browse news articles, press releases, download our media kit, or get in touch.