Our Story

DesignPhiladelphia demonstrates, supports, and promotes the ability that design has to generate innovation, solve problems, enhance daily life and influence both the perception and economics of the region.

Through the breadth of our events, DesignPhiladelphia showcases the role that design has played historically in this region, and celebrates Philadelphia’s contemporary significance as a center for creative advancement.

DesignPhiladelphia brings together individuals and organizations from across the design spectrum, building valuable community relationships. Year-round programming has included a lecture series on innovation, temporary pop-up shops, competitions, panel discussions for the creative and curious community, special events, and more.

For the past nine years, DesignPhiladelphia has produced a nationally recognized, open participation Festival. Like all DesignPhiladelphia programming, the Festival offers a view into Philadelphia’s creative industries at work. During the Festival, over 100 events take place city-wide with more than 400 participating designers. A vast majority of Festival events are free and all are open to the public. Programming is a dynamic mix of open studios, exhibitions, lectures, runway shows, tours, workshops, and the like, that take place in boutiques, galleries, museums, universities, warehouses, and city streets.

The DesignPhiladelphia initiative unites the creative disciplines – from architecture to interior design, fashion to product design, multi-media to graphic design – reinforcing the message that Philadelphia is a rich resource for creativity, innovation and cultural vibrancy.

Philadelphia’s Design History

The current design scene didn’t evolve in a vacuum. Philadelphia’s rich design heritage continues to inform and shape it.

Following the Civil War, Philadelphia was known as the “the workshop of the world,” a design and production powerhouse. From the late 1800s to early 1900s, Philadelphia was filled with factories and workshops churning out everything from lace to steam engines. The industrial base was wide. At the end of the 19th century, the US Census listed 300 categories of industrial activity, and 90% of these were represented in Philadelphia.

A century later many of these factories and mills had stopped producing and the city’s reputation for industrial greatness virtually disappeared. But the city’s identity as a hub for creative activity never vanished – instead it was transformed. After a period of dormancy, Philadelphia began to grow into what it is today: a wellspring for design education, innovation, and vibrancy.