Overview of DesignAlabama

Last Updated 4/11/2024Posted in Stories, Art, Interesting People

"If DesignAlabama does nothing more than get the facts before the public, that good architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, graphic design, industrial design, and the rest are essential to quality of life in the state, it will have done something very important," said DesignAlabama board chair Philip Morris in the 1988 premiere issue of DesignAlabama's journal.

Thirty-five years later, DesignAlabama has achieved this and much more. Founded in 1987 through the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the nonprofit, citizen-led organization is stronger than even in its support of design arts and how they enrich Alabama communities.

Today under the guidance of executive director Gina Clifford, DesignAlabama continues to develop initiatives that spotlight how the design professions can improve our environment. Each program involves planning and citizen involvement, while bringing together policymakers, planners, and design professionals to guide to fruition.

DesignAlabama holds its annual Philip A. Morris Mayors Design Summit, a program that allows participating mayors to submit a design issue facing their community and get advice from design professionals. Communities that take part in the Summit can apply to participate in DesignPlace, the next step in the community-enhancement process. DesignPlace brings a team of experts into a community to demonstrate how quality of life increases when the design arts are put into action. Citizens, design professionals, and local officials brainstorm ideas, generate solutions and build on community assets.

DesignAlabama also launched the one-day DesignDash, and much is accomplished in this single day design blitz. A facilitator leads discussions among community members and design professionals who focus on one design and planning issue. During the second half of the day, the design professionals work alone and present their findings to the community.

Another program is DesignVision, a workshop held in partnership with Auburn University's Urban Studio. City officials and community stakeholders join a design team consisting of Urban Studio students and a design professional who serves as a facilitator. The two-day workshop coincides with Urban Studio's fall curriculum.

"Programs like DesignDash and DesignVision are stepping stones to introduce communities to the impact design can have, without a large time or monetary investment," Clifford explains. "The hope is they'll get 'hooked' and want to participate in the Mayors Design Summit and DesignPlace. Then branch out and participate in some of the other programs out there that are offered statewide."

With so many great places to visit in Alabama, DesignAlabama created ConnectLivity, an initiative that makes it easier to locate and experience them all. A set of maps bound in a coffee table-style book is available that identifies extraordinary destinations in each region of the state. https://www.designalabama.org/connectlivity/

By Jessica Armstrong

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