New York City Ramping Up Design

The Center for an Urban Future is calling on city officials to maximize New York’s design talent.

As the inaugural NYCxDesign festival gets rolling today, the Center for an Urban Future is calling on city officials to maximize New York’s design talent.

With roughly 39,000 professional designers and 3,900 design firms, New York has by far more designers than any other U. S. city. Los Angeles is a distant second with 22,500 designers and 2,700 design companies. Noting that design is one of the most important but underappreciated parts of New York’s economy, CUF research director David Giles said, “Most people recognize New York City as a design capital, but the city itself doesn’t do much to capitalize on that. There is a role for design. The city should really look at using design across a variety of agencies to improve capital projects. We really need someone [in government] who has the mayor’s ear.”

This month’s 12-day design festival stemmed from recommendations published in a CUF report, Giles said. Now the group would like to see design used more extensively to improve government services. In a new brief called “8 Ways to Improve the City’s Design Sector,” Giles suggested creating an administrative post to further design, bolstering entrepreneurial and business training for design students and helping New York-based designers to export their services.


Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has been proactive in supporting the city’s technology and fashion industries, but there needs to be a greater emphasis on design across all disciplines, Giles said. Establishing a full-time post within the administration for someone to focus on promoting design, as is done in Montreal, would be welcome, he said. “If you look at what the city has done with the tech industry, it is a very activist approach. They have supported incubators and work share spaces. There is also a chief digital officer, Rachel Haot, who is connecting people and building social capital. There is a multipronged investment that includes education. Cornell [University] and Technion [-Israel Institute of Technology] are building a new technology school on Roosevelt Island.”

In addition, the number of professional New York-based designers has jumped 26 percent since 2003. And following three consecutive years of job attrition after the 2008 financial crisis, design jobs grew in 2012 to 38,810 from 37,535.

NYCxDesign aims to keep the momentum in the category going. There will also be plenty of fashion events during the festivities. Through May 23, the Fashion Institute of Technology will stage its Graduating Student Exhibitions. The Runway the Funway event will be held Tuesday at Splash lounge, and the following night Iris Apfel will chat with the New York Times’ Deborah Needleman at the Museum of Arts and Design. The West Chelsea store Story will sell solely design-minded products for the next three weeks. Designers Norma Kamali and Yves Behar will drop by the store Tuesday and May 17, respectively, to talk design.