Support Establishing the Maryland Design Excellence and Innovation Commission

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

Design Policy in Context: Finding Ways to Action

The Better World By Design Conference held in Providence, RI in September 2014 hosted a panel discussion about design policy in action. Three panelists from different design policy perspectives presented their most recent experiences of design policy development and outcomes: Moderated by Stephanie F. Yoffee, Design Policy Researcher; Carol Strochecker, Vice Provost, Rhode Island School of Design;  Jeff Davis, Principal Planner, Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program; and Lynne McCormack, Director, Rhode Island Department of Art, Culture and Tourism.

The panel demonstrated an example of how a design advisory council might function as a State sponsored organization. The panel showed the importance of collaboration between member representatives from a private educational institution encouraging public/private partnerships in design and innovation, State Planning programs providing data-driven design processes, and recognition of state-of-the-arts/film/tourism activity as an important driver of innovation and economic development for the State. Previously, in 2013, a Design Lab Panel was presented at the Better World By Design Conference featuring panelists from The State of Rhode Island and Massachusetts including State Senator Louis DiPalma, Co-Founder/Director Lisa Carnevale of RIXDesign, and VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Carlos Martinez-Vega of Design Industry Group of Massachusetts.

To view the full length video, go to YouTube and see “Design Policy in Context Panel-Better World By Design 2014”

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

Accessible Design: 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

In 2015, Americans with and without disabilities will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act; noting its impact in creating accessible spaces and also noting its continued inability to shift public and private actors to be inclusive. While the past twenty-five years since the passage of the Act receives reflection, unifying design through a disability-based prism, such as is reflected in concepts like universal design, should be part of the dialogue. Leaders with disabilities should physically and virtually be able in equal measure to work and to play. Please join the interactive dialogue that may culminate in other activities next year.

Gary C. Norman, Esq. LLM

Mr. Norman is a Civil Rights Commissioner, is an attorney and mediator, and is a visible leader with a disability partnered with a guide dog.

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.

EU Launches New Action Plan for Design-driven Innovation

Via SEE Project


The European Commission recently launched an Action Plan for Design-driven Innovation across Europe. See Project speaks to the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry at the European Commission about their experiences formulating and implementing the bold plan.