Creativity, News

Designed to Blow Your Mind: Detroit Design Festival is far from the sophomore slump

Pardon to those sensitive souls, but Detroit this weekend offers more “lust of the eye” moments than it ever has thanks to the brilliant minds behind the Detroit Design Festival.

Lindsey Naylor

Yesterday marked the kickoff of this five-day event that brings 50-some eye-opening activities, displays, pop-up galleries and all-out creativity. Here is where our city shines – in its love for beauty, of art, of muscular men and curvy women, of cartoons, of puppets, of all the things that make life worth living.

“It’s not a festival in the typical sense where a street is blocked and lined with booths and vendors. Expect a much more fluid experience: pockets of activity that move throughout the city and its neighborhoods, highlighting the work and inspiration of Detroit creatives in intimate settings, working studios and architecturally significant spaces,” said Matthew Clayson, Director for the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, which created the event. (Thanks, Matt!)

Winding your way around downtown will be challenging in a way because there is just so dang much to do. So if you missed the big launch at the glorious Fisher Building (think camera-toting hipsters, trucker-cap sporting designer, gray-haired men in tailored suits and some lady in a big paper-maschet mask) don’t despair. There is lots more to find.

To that end, I give you my list of must-see things to do during the Detroit Design Festival. If you don’t like my design aesthetic, then check out the DDF 2012 Guide, which gives you a world of possibilities. And then some.


  • Cloud-Spotting Bicycle Tour: Sure, the weather is a bit chilly for late summer. But that won’t stop Wheelhouse Detroit from showing off the city sky and its shapely inhabitants. This tour, which runs from 5:30-8 p.m., is led by Kresge Artist Fellow Susan Goethel Campbell.
  • Getting There: I’m kind of obsessed lately with map, especially those pull-up schoolhouse styles ones I find on Etsy. That is why I want to see the “Personal Cartography” of Detroit at the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design, where artists and designers came up with their own maps of Detroit.
  • Eastern Market After Dark: So many of the great retailers that make Eastern Market more than a spot to eat or buy plants are showing off their wares tonight. Two must-see spots – Detroit Mercantile and Savvy Chic – and all the others will be open from 7 to 11 p.m. for self-guided tours. I can feel my charge-card burning.


  • Green Garage Community Lunch: Get your PB&J ready for this brown-bag get-together at the marvelous think tank known as the Green Garage. The noon to 1 p.m. discussion will focus on natural design.
  • Design: Why Startups Should Start Now: So if you want a business in the city, TechTown and Skidmore Studio will go over the basics of what it takes to grow a company in Detroit. And, trust me, they understand how to work a limited budget.
  • Friday Night Art Tour: The good folks at Wheelhouse will again take your well-toned legs through town, swinging by art galleries, museums and everyone else having fun during DDF. The tour, which starts at 5:30 p.m., has a charge of $25 with an extra fee for a bike rental. RSVP!


  • Hopscotch Detroit: Don’t miss this! Wedge Detroit and Imagine Detroit Together are taking that old kid’s game and turning it into a massive competition. Cross the city through this jumping display of creativity and cooperation.
  • Creating Play: If you’re dragging – I mean, taking – your kids to DDF, stop by coG-studio for a pop-up playground and interactive art displays. Bring your sidewalk chalk and your imagination for self-made pathways and paint station.
  • Oktoberfest: Bring some support to the city’s Spaulding Court, which is fundraising for future projects. There will be beer, music and lots of food to taste. The all-day event starts at 1 p.m. and probably will run at least until 1 a.m.
  • The Power of Beauty: Roundtable Discussion: Yes, we all can agree that Denzel Washington is perfect in every sense of the world. After that, we all kinda look like a messy Monet painting, right? I’m pretty sure the discussion will be a bit deeper than this, but you get my point. Check is out from 3 to 5 p.m. at the MSU Detroit Center in Classroom 203. There won’t be a quiz afterward.


  • Back Alley Bikes Presents “Scraper” Bikes: You know you miss the sound of having a playing card in your bike spokes. Get back that awesome feeling of the wind in your hair and a cool decorated bike during this crafty project and group ride. It starts at 10 a.m.
  • Detroit Soup: Have some dinner and learn about the many, many pet projects that are shaping and defining Detroit into the future. You give $5, you get some grub and you hear about what’s going to happen in the city. Then you get to vote as to who gets to keep the money and get their idea off the ground. Pretty democratic, me thinks. The food starts at 6:30 p.m.
  • Runway Detroit: DDF 2012 Closing Party: Yes, all good things have to end. So finish your soup and head over to Detroit City Airport at the Executive Hangar 1. I want to go just to see this joint. Then you can see a runway fashion show, design installations, exhibits and lots more. And there will be drinks. The event does cost money, so come prepared.

It’s largely free. It’s got some killer things to see and do. You cannot miss. I’m ready for observation overload. And the soup!

(And if you could…also check out the Hub’s favorite photog at his exhibit…ABK vs KARPOV. The art/photography opening will be from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Park Shelton. You will see animation/illustration artist ABK (Alyssa Baron-Klask) with a selection shadow boxes, prints and paintings from her animation series. And social documentary photographer Karpov the Wrecked Train (Kenny Corbin) will feature new photography work from his on-going Jazz series and a new series, Lucha Libre.)

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