In recent weeks, Europeans have been shown impressively that freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted when the sovereignty of Ukraine and its citizens were attacked by force of arms. But also in our everyday lives, people’s freedom of expression and self-determination are repeatedly questioned and threatened by anti-democratic forces. Under the motto “Design for Democracy”, the city of Frankfurt am Main and the Rhine-Main region are preparing their application for the title of World Design Capital (website in german) 2026. Like many other design actors in the region, the German Design Council is a partner in the application.
Design questions conditions in order to design a better future and change the world for the better, from the smallest unit of the artefact to the structural design of actions and societies. These days, our focus is mainly on the political dimension of design. Democracy is the result of a complex design process based on participation and negotiation.
Through their work, designers make an important contribution to democratic discourse by questioning things and helping to shape our social life and togetherness. Design also makes a significant contribution to the development and realisation of social change processes in topics such as health, climate, education or media.
“Democracy cannot be taken for granted. It thrives on the involvement of society, on participation, on taking part. But this also means that democracy only works if many people participate and become active. And that is exactly what we want to call for. We want to start a movement! A movement in which we participate in democracy by keeping our eyes open for the problems of our time. In which we shape our life together, disputatiously and creatively. In which we are the designers of our democracy,” is how the Design for Democracy website describes the initiative.
Since 2008, the title “World Design Capital” has been awarded every two years by the World Design Organization (WDO) to cities that successfully use design for economic, social, cultural and ecological development. So far, Turin (Italy), Seoul (South Korea), Helsinki (Finland), Cape Town (South Africa), Taipei (Taiwan, Chinese Taipei), Mexico City (Mexico), the metropolis of Lille (France), Valencia (Spain) 2022 and San Diego (USA)/Tijuana (Mexico) 2024 have been awarded the title of WDC.
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