At more than 4,000 strong, Michigan has the highest concentration of industrial designers in the nation.
Yet few people know about it unless you live here, says Jeff DeBoer, chair of the Michigan Design Council and a principal at Sundberg-Ferar, a Michigan design firm.
Founded early last year, the Michigan Design Council has been tasked with a mission to change all that.
Made up of representatives from the state’s leading design schools, as well as from top companies like Whirlpool, Herman Miller, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler, the Council is also looking for ways to encourage the next generation of Michiganders to consider careers in industrial design.
This week, the Council announced its first initiative: The Michigan Design Prize.
The inaugural competition is open to any Michigan resident, regardless of age or skill-set. Each contest, which the Council expects to hold annually, will be focused on a specific design challenge. For this first one, the Council chose “water.”
Here’s the official prompt:
Design a physical product solution that allows people to safely enjoy the benefits of Michigan’s diverse water resources.
“We wanted a topic that everybody in Michigan – man, woman, or child – knows about, and it’s our amazing water resources,” says DeBoer.
In addition to the competition, the Council has developed a curriculum guide to help teachers foster the creative development of our state’s youth.
The competition accomplishes two goals, says Matt Clayson, vice president and general counsel for Detroit Trading and a Design Council member.
“You’re really elevating the discourse about the role that designers play, in not only making products that are novel, useful, all of that, but in addressing issues that can benefit our society,” says Clayson.
The other piece is to help Michigan’s future generations see design as a strong career path.
“We need to keep [Michigan’s] pipeline full to stay at the top, and the best way to do that is to show students, K-12, that there are meaningful careers in the creative industries,” says Clayson.
For The Next Idea, DeBoer and Clayson share more details about the inaugural Michigan Design Prize competition.