Category Archives: Blog

Economist Ed McMahon on the value of preserving community uniqueness

Ed McMahon, who holds the Charles E. Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC believes ‘place’ is more than a spot on a map. Place is “the unique collection of qualities and characteristics–visual, cultural, social, environmental–that provide meaning to a location.” And it is the uniqueness that makes a place worth caring about.

Yet all too often American developers forego this notion, favoring uniform sprawl and cookie-cutter developments in their plans for growth. We are now suffering the social, economic, and environmental consequences of those choices. Even with all of the technological improvements of faster computers, bigger cars, more choices, people still ask is this all there is? As America amassed enormous wealth and power, we are plagued with vanishing beauty, meaning, and sense of place.

In his talk at TEDxJacksonville, McMahon makes a compelling case for the economic, psychological, and social value of ‘uniqueness’ in our communities. He explains that this “community distinctiveness” is a critical component for economic success, equal to world-class infrastructure and a well-educated workforce. And this is especially critical as the shape of the world economy rapidly changes.

Wheareas the old economy was about making things, the new economy is about designing things. Markets and cost-sensitivity drove the 20th Century, but today place and values-sensitivity matter most. If “communities cannot differentiate themselves in a world where capital is footloose,” McMahon observes, “they have no competitive advantage.” He challenges us to consider how we might design our communities to be more distinctive, more livable, more beautiful, more connected for truly sustainable growth.

Check out Ed Mcmahon’s TEDx talk “Where Am I? The Power of Uniqueness” on

– Posted by Maren Maier, Founder of

How Design Policy Benefits Public Policy

What can a design policy approach bring to the table that doesn’t already exist?

Many design driven projects, including those combined with research and development, result in commercialization and technology transfer of innovative technologies, products and services. This transfer provides a longer arc of economic growth within the State. Examples of design driven tech transfer include…

Can you provide examples of design policy in other States?Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, California have recognized the value of design driven businesses to produce products and services in transportation, technology and the built environment in their State.

The European Union recently incorporated design as a key component of its EU innovation policy.

—Maren Maier, Design Strategist

Design Districts Develop Creative Economies

Many cities around the world have recognized the value of design policies that encourage development of design districts. Design districts are an interdisciplinary mix of design practitioners from various disciplines, related manufacturing, retail and distribution. The interaction between the participants of the design district foster creativity and attract a diverse audience of
visitors to the area.

The Annapolis Design District is
one example right here in Maryland.

Congressional Caucus Unveils new STEM to STEAM Policy Map



Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) launched a new STEAM Map on Capitol Hill in collaboration with US House STEAM Caucus Chair Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) ). This innovative mapping tool visualizes STEAM activity to enable advocates and practitioners to connect with each other, share best practices and show decision makers the impact and relevancy of art and design. The STEAM Map can be found at The list of STEAM members can be found here.