Did design kill Detroit? Can it revive it?

I grew up outside Detroit, my dad has worked for GM for 35+ years, but for the majority of my life Detroit has been in decline. A lot of people blame bad design coming out of Detroit. It’s pretty hard to deny the importance of the auto industry when you drive around the city, so I can understand that when the big 3 screwed up it had an effect on the city as a whole. My question is, if bad design is a leading factor in what’s killing Detroit, could design save Detroit? Look past the empty factories, Detroit is a beautiful city with a first class design school (CCS) and great art history, museums, 4 major sports teams(yes i count the lions still) It’s now dirt cheap (which tends to attract artist and designers.) I would love to see the city try to embrace a design revolution and one day become a mecca for designers, artists and musicians again. What do you all think, can design (help) save Detroit?

Almost the same for me, my Dad worked for Ford for around 30 years, lived in the burbs. I think design could help Detroit, but I don’t think it will be design via the auto industry. You also have to understand that Detroit has been in decline for decades largely due to the race riots in the 60’s and the “white flight” continues to take place as the metro becomes more and more diverse. The burbs stretch all the way to Ann Arbor now. Anyways, I think that Detroit is fertile ground for artists and design houses because of low overhead, but it’s kind of like Baghdad, it needs to be secured enough for these things to flourish. Now, I do think that the local designers and artists could design a plan for the city and present it to government as a business plan. And I don’t mean design as far as architecture, but how to rebuilt. You can’t kick the poor and oppressed out of Detroit proper, part of the plan needs to incorporate them in a positive redevelopment of the area via jobs and benefits. I think you also need to take this kind of plan to investors and developers to generate interest. It would have to include what to do with existing structures, people, and infrastructure and make it appealing as an investment opportunity and for those that might move into downtown.

The irony, I think, would be in challenging the status quo by re-designing this community such that you did not need to have any more personal transportation than a bicycle. It is a huge undertaking, but not impossible.

Great topic.

From a car perspective, design is not what killed Detroit. short-sighted CEO’s and unions are what killed Detroit. Design was only a minor factor.

Design is concerned with the consumers. If they took care of their users, things would have turned out better imo.

Well for now, the big 3 are in town and there to stay. Even if the auto industry makes a turn around over the next several years, Detroit needs to become more than just a car town. I think back to NYC in the 70’s and 80’s when it was a dirty, crime ridden city. Look at NYC now? For me I know how much potential there could be in Detroit, so it’s a shame to see it in it’s current state.

Design was pretty bad in the 80’s but I think it was the quality of engineering, manufacture, and products that didn’t respond to needs.

On the design side, I think the big 3’s cars have been on par or even better than most Japanees products for awhile. The Malibu is a pretty nice mid size car, I think it is better looking than a Camry… but the Bow-tie logo on the front just reminds me of so many bad cars my parents drove. Across the brands, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, Ford, Mercury, Dodge, and Chrysler, there are some good looking rides… but can the brands overcome the damage that has been done?

In a word. Yes. Audi did it in a big way. But the brand had to hit almost complete rock bottom first. VW almost disappeared from the US in the 80’s.

So, even if those brands are saved… will that save Detroit. I’m not so sure abut that. The city is pretty messed up, and I think as someone pointed out above, if it turns around, it will probably be because of other industries.