What are the top design cities in the world? Tough question, especially now that it’s easier for influential designers to work outside of the city hubs. Here are the cities, hubs and countries that I’d give awards to.
- Scandinavia (Copenhagen being the hub)
- New York City
- Australia (Melbourne being the major area, but also Sydney and Brisbane)
Keep your eyes on Mexico City, as well as the countries South Korea and New Zealand.
What makes these areas distinct? It starts with creativity. I think an appreciation of creativity is a precursor to an appreciation of design. These two go hand-in-hand.
Charles Eames, one of the most renowned industrial designers in history, has a great take on it. When asked by an elementary teacher how he could encourage design thinking in early grade school, Charles replied (this is not word-for-word, but rather from memory), “You must first teach them to see beauty.”
I think that response is so perfect and so succinct. Seeing, understanding and appreciating beauty in EVERYTHING is a foundational building block in cultivating an appreciation of creativity (and therefore design). This is not something you just “do.” It’s a fundamental worldview that has to be carefully nurtured and built upon through societal and cultural reinforcement.
This is also precisely why places like Amsterdam and Scandinavia are at the top of their game. Beauty and craftsmanship are ingrained in their society. Their culture fosters a “Think. Then do.” mentality (in harsh contrast to the “Fail fast!” mentality of the US). They also have a higher appreciation for things that benefit society—things of beauty and/or function—and place much less emphasis on individualism and monetary value.
It’s my hope that the appreciation for creativity and design will progress across more of the world. As a designer, I try to spread this appreciation through my work, through community efforts and by following other designers (both new and old). This keeps my perspective fresh and enables me to bring the best of the design world to Minnesota. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be dubbed a design mecca.
Agree? Disagree with my assessment? Let me know why. I’m always down to discuss design.