Columbus, Ohio Launches City’s First Design Week

Columbus' Design Week will make transparent the role design plays in our economy and communicate what it is that designers do.

My wife, Sarah Bongiorno, and I have been talking about the idea of a Columbus inaugural Design Week for several years in parallel with our desire to pursue a UNESCO City of Design designation for Columbus, Ohio. The idea of Design Week is not new, just new to Columbus. A “perfect storm” of sorts enabled us to align our vision for a Columbus Design Week with the vision of idUS, and the 200Columbus initiatives focused on the future of the city. We wanted to raise local awareness of the power of design thinking and the importance of designers to our local economy.

500 Idea Books were distirbuted around Columbus, Ohio in anticipaton of the Columbus Design Week. An Idea Book’s 20 blank pages of  4.25″x5.5″ is meant to be filled with visions of a future Columbus. An exhibition of the returned booklets will open on September 29th. After the exhibition, the booklets will be given to the Columbus Historical Society.
All images courtesy of Michael Bongiorno

A collaborative effort of local organizations, we know Design Week (September 29 to October 5) is important because will make transparent the role design plays in our economy, yet today the general public doesn’t know this nor do they really know what designers do. We also recognize that there is a lot of talent in this town, especially within the built environment design professions, and that are overlooked locally, or worse, passed over in favor of firms from the two coasts.

Ideabooks and hot cards

Columbus Design materials and pamphlets ready to go.

And, frankly, we are tired of hearing people say: “That is good enough, for Columbus.”

We believe, as a community, our standards for what is good are too low. Too much is just “good enough.”

But great cities are never just good enough; they are great because there is a collective expectation and a sense of self that says, “we don’t accept passable.” Our goal is to raise expectations. If you make people aware of what good design is, they will demand better. It will take everyone demanding more of everyone in order to realize the best design. This is a collective exercise.

Ideabook detail

Each of the 500 copies was individually hand numbered.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were known as a design city for both physical and cultural reasons? Our streets, our buildings, our parks, and our public art all can create this excellent physical experience and our design industries, our design schools, our design institutions, and our design festivals can develop our strong design culture. We want everyone to appreciate good design and the value of creative thinking that is necessary to solve the complex problems of contemporary society. This is our dream.

And we have a Mayor who understands all of this. He’s supportive of Design Week and an economy built upon innovation and design industries. Mayor Coleman and I have had a number of inspiring conversations. And I know he gets it. It’s energizing to be around someone in a civic leadership position who sees the possibilities. When we discussed the idea of a UNESCO City of Design designation he immediately grasped what this implies: Columbus’ growth as a thriving destination city. Events like Design Week are the first step in the effort to work together toward achieving our collective goal.

You can follow design week on facebook and twitter.

Michael Bongiorno is a principal and senior designer at DesignGroup, an AIA Gold medal architecture and design firm in Columbus, Ohio. His focus is on work that supports and enhances the fabric of the city and furthers a fundamental belief that great design is the essential building block to vibrant, healthy communities.

Categories: Design