I’ve purchased a fancy red Moleskine sketchbook for $25. This is unusual behaviour for me as I tend towards the black, run-of-the mill, anything-recycled variety. But this is a special occasion. I am attending Design Inquiry Montréal an exploration of the ‘Design City.’
DesignInquiry is a non-profit educational organization devoted to researching design issues in intensive team-based gatherings. An alternative to the design conference, it brings together practitioners from disparate fields to generate new work and ideas around a single topic.
Our single topic is DesignCity: Montréal – an expedition exploring a landscape that flags itself as developed and designed.
I am joining a group of 25 designers to explore the city. Together we will come up with interpretations for why Montréal’s peoples, places and things coalesce into the panoply of architecture, urban systems, typography, events, institutions, etc that form the only designated UNESCO ‘City of Design’ in North America.
Montréal UNESCO City of Design
The City of Design designation is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities designation. I asked DESIGN 21 Director, Haruko Smith if this initiative is related to the UNESCO partnership with the Design 21 site. This is what she said:
"There is no direct link between the two programs. Yet, the link is obvious: we connect the world through design. DESIGN21 is for individuals, NGOs and NPOs, and companies, and Creative Cities Network is for municipal governments. Both programs are run by the Culture Department of UNESCO.
When DESIGN 21 started in 1995, I don't think "Design" was part of the UNESCO terminology. There was Art, and there was Craft. The main focus was protecting and preserving traditional crafts around the world. So I credit Felissimo for bringing Design into their domain of activities, and credit UNESCO even more for embracing it, because I think it's much harder for a big UN agency to adopt a new concept and new approach, and implement it.
In addition to co-sponsoring DESIGN 21: Social Design Network, the creation of Creative Cities Network, especially that of Cities of Design, is concrete proof that Design has come to occupy an important place in their definition of Culture.
UNESCO, as an organization with 193 member states, can be so powerful and effective in terms of worldwide dissemination of information and sharing of ideas and knowledge."
Case in point – 26 people are currently en-route from various home bases (Berlin, UAE, San Francisco, Lethbridge, Thunder Bay, Montréal proper, etc…) to share ideas and knowledge based on Design City Theme. I am looking forward to meeting them.