Philadelphia is considered by many to currently be in the midst of a design renaissance but the City of Brotherly Love is no stranger to creativity. In the period following the Civil War, it was known as a design and production powerhouse and referred to as “the workshop of the world.” DesignPhiladelphia works to ensure that creative reputation is upheld.
The mission of DesignPhiladelphia is to demonstrate, support and promote the ability that design has to generate innovation, solve problems, enhance daily life, and influence both the perception and economics of the region.
Philadelphia is one of those city’s that grows more and more interesting with age. My own experience there began in 1995 when I journeyed down the New Jersey Turnpike to begin college in West Philadelphia and has luckily continued in the form of frequent visits in the years since graduation.
The time has made for many changes: old warehouses reborn as sweeping lofts, streets that once shut down with the 5-o’clock whistle now bustling into the night, riversides once peppered with rusted shopping carts now alive with joggers and families. As ever, design plays an enormous role in such a transformation. City planners and real estate developers, architects for both the buildings and the landscapes, interior designers and artists all have played crucial roles in the city’s changing design.
Many Faces of Design
DesignPhiladelphia brings together those many disciplines that foster change -- architecture and interior design, fashion and product design, multi-media and graphic design -- to stress its city as a viable resource for modern-day creativity and design innovation.
The group is run by Founding Director Hilary Jay who herself has a respectable history in both the design world and the city of Philadelphia. Jay has been a curator, design journalist and entrepreneur and considers herself an adopted Philadelphian. Since first organizing DesignPhiladelphia, her group has partnered with some of the area’s leading arts organizations including the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at the University of the Arts.
A year-round calendar of programming serves to educate design professionals and the public alike as to the endless ways design effects their lives. Past events have included a lecture series on innovation, temporary pop-up shops, competitions, panel discussions, and special events.
In addition to the regularly scheduled events, the organization also produces an annual DesignPhiladelphia Festival created, like all the group’s programs, to offer a glimpse into the creative industries throughout the city at work.
For five days in October, more than 100 events, many of them free, mark the Festival’s calendars with more 400 designers participating. Events take place citywide and include open studios, exhibitions, lectures, book signings, runway shows, tours, and workshops. Locations have included boutiques, galleries, museums, universities, warehouses, and city streets.
The Festival, which emerged on the design scene in 2005, has morphed into one of the most important design festivals in the country.
Partnering with the Best
In 2010, DesignPhiladelphia began a partnership of perfect proportions with The University of the Arts. UArts has been a respected leader in design education for more than 130 years and the collaboration worked to expand the student experience, as well as the experience of curious residents, by bringing designers to the campus and to the city, and by exposing students to a wider range of design topics.
DesignPhiladelphia has since moved with its founder to a home at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture where Jay now serves as director.