Being City of Design for three years means three years of tireless effort for a topic which will greatly influence the shaping of the future. For the city and regional development, relying on design as an important element is a decision which needs a strong political will and strong-willed economic and political players. Styria as a whole and especially Graz benefit from the clear commitment to UNESCO’s goals and the Creative Cities Network.

Graz has everything a creative melting pot needs: powerful creative industries with a significant share in the total value creation. A broadly based and internationally aligned educational and training landscape for designers. Plus an atmosphere open to innovation and experiment in an urban environment that is home to every second creative industries company in Styria.


With the selection of Graz as a UNESCO City of Design we have grasped the unique opportunity for positioning our city among other leading creative urban centres in an international context. Graz is now a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and as such a partner of the great metropolitan cities of the world such as Shanghai, Berlin or Buenos Aires. Graz the UNESCO City of Design is far more than a mere title. Creativity is a vital raw material, which has proved its enormous value in countless products and services. Over the past few years Graz has frequently served as an international platform for creativity, for example during the annual Designmonat, which brings together a vibrant collection of ideas for companies and shows them how they can use design for all their special needs.


We must continue to do everything we can to establish and further develop Graz as one of the most dynamic locations in Europe. Furthermore the naming of Graz as a UNESCO City of Design is a mission for the future linked to clear objectives and for which there is also a clear political commitment. This commitment will mean actively filling the years ahead of us with life – with ideas, with innovation, with new ways of thinking and with a clear political and economic mandate. We aim to increase employment in the creative scene still further. We intend to establish design and creativity as formal principles in our city and to continue on the successful path of Graz as a UNESCO City of Design.


Mag. Siegfried Nagl


The creative industries are a long established cross-sectional element for the major core issues of the Economic Strategy 2020 in the dynamic business location Styria: environmental technology, life sciences and mobility will call the tune in the coming years and decades.


Styria was named European Entrepreneurial Region 2013 by the EU Committee of the Regions – and with an R&D ratio of 7.4 % it is already number one in Austria. Our mission is to further strengthen the potential of the creative industries and by doing so to demonstrate that creativity and design are crucial components of social and economic progress.


When we established Creative Industries Styria in 2007 the foundation stone was already laid for the Graz UNESCO City of Design application. Today, almost three years after Graz was named a UNESCO City of Design, it is quite plain: this distinction is not the finale, but only the start of a challenging mission, which is to add power to the significance of creativity and to ensure that it is networked ever more intensively with crafts, trade and industry. The relevance of design is never more evident than in their products and services: as a business location asset, as a unique distinguishing factor in product development and as an effective lever at work in the business location Styria.


Dr. Christian Buchmann


Design. A single word with so many associations. A term that can cover many different meanings that do not at first appear to have much in common. But one thing is certain: the concept of design is always a concept of quality, even when design is simply used as a prefix, as a one syllable statement put in front of “fashion”, “shoes” or “outlet”. “What is the task of design?” continues to be a meaningful question we pose that demands an answer – both in modern and contemporary terms. Design is far more than the mere styling of products; it is the establishing of a link between form and function as an intelligent solution creating tangible value and real uses for people.


Graz – a UNESCO City of Design since March 2011 and as a direct consequence a member of the UNESCO Creative City Network – is thoroughly committed to making design a central issue. And to do this wherever it is perceived, meaning in the city environment itself, in exhibitions, at festivals and in a great many other situations ranging from the large number of small and big events, calls and competitions, in walks and talks, at presentations and discussions, all of these are well suited for bringing the term ‘design’ across to people in a sound and adequate way, for presenting it in a comprehensive form and thoroughly adjusting it when necessary to meet the requirements. The current activity report can thus be read entirely in line with the following scenario: as the documentation for a complex process of opening up awareness. It naturally involves a great deal more than this too: it points to the chances and potentials that arise for positioning a city such as Graz, it provides a taste of future developments in the areas of product design, it points out the role of design in a social context where everyone can be a participant, moreover extending the horizon and seeing developments in their global setting. Quite simply: it shows all that design is capable of.


We are not by any means dealing with a thin ridge of the landscape here in Graz and in Styria, but we are up against a terrain that needs to be ever better prepared: latest estimates indicate that some 410,000 people in Europe are currently working in the design field here and they are responsible for an annual turnover of 36 billion euros. Styria is a leader in the field with around 4,000 creative industry companies and one billion euros gross value added from the core creative industries alone. This means: design and its significance for the economy as a whole is not a niche issue, nor an orchid growing side-line, it is a central factor for the economy and the creation of value. Because design involves us all! A UNESCO City of Design has every right to pride itself on this development. And this is also a fact that emerges from the report. Three years as a City of Design have turned the international spotlights on Graz; the city has become a hub and fulcrum not only for the region, but extending far beyond it. Join us on this journey through the past three years. And pass on the word to others on all you have seen or read about Graz.


This activity report for 2011 to 2013 shows what activities Graz carried out as a UNESCO City of Design, including numerous local events such as Designmonat Graz and international projects that were chiefly realised in the frame of UNESCO Creative Cities Network.


Mag. Eberhard Schrempf


Graz as a UNESCO City of Design


Graz joined the Creative Cities Network as a UNESCO City of Design on 14 March 2011. This date not only marks a beginning, but also the conclusion of a long and intensive period of preparation which laid the foundation stone for the later UNESCO City of Design activities of the Styrian provincial capital.


The application made by Graz cannot be seen aside from the context of the complex series of developments, which included one of the most important milestones in the history of the city: the successful hosting of the European Cultural Capital year 2003. “Graz 2003 – European Capital of Culture” brought pioneer work for the international positioning of Graz in so many respects and it remains to this day a living example of successful organisation and implementation for an enormously complex task. Graz rose to international prominence with the Cultural Capital year, through spectacular architectural projects such as the Kunsthaus Graz or the Murinsel artificial island, which contributed greatly to developing the image of Graz as a city of cultural sophistication and the arts that is open to the world.


Positioning is a crucial advantage in the competition between cities for those which like Graz are “second cities” – and not internationally known capitals. In the case of Graz this development took a decisive stride in the direction of the creative industries. By November 2006 the Styrian Joanneum Research institute had already published the “Potential Analysis of the Creative Economy in Graz and its Surroundings” – pointing out all the excellent opportunities that exist for the creative industries in Styria. The report was full of dramatic headings and catch phrases like “integral component”, “creative potential in entirely new areas”, “boosting employment figures”, “a model for the economy of the future” and they were a further clarion call to get active and support the development and expansion of the creative industries. Political reaction to these developments was fast and efficient. The creative industries were declared a major strength of the Styrian economy. All that lacked now was the installation of a central hub, a network organisation capable of functioning as a contact point for the concerns and issues of the creative people involved. Creative Industries Styria was established in 2007 to provide this function and it has been carrying out important development and networking activities ever since, promoting cohesion within the creative scene and enabling targeted communication to the outside world from this focal centre. It takes on the roles of an agency and a contact partner in this work, serving both creative industry companies and other businesses interested in cooperation and partnerships with these creative firms.


Creative Industries Styria initiated a broad spectrum of activities in its function as an application manager from 2008, to sound out expectations and resistance and above all to enter into an active communication process with the local stakeholders. The chances and opportunities arising from a UNESCO City of Design application were all weighed up in numerous talks and discussion rounds with people from the creative industries. The “City of Design Board” – an advisory expert body – was set up to provide strategic support for the many activities in the context of the UNESCO City of Design. A first draft of the application was submitted to UNESCO in Paris in July 2009 and following a number of revisions it was made available for expert appraisal in June 2010. What made the Graz application so special was the open and public manner in which the entire application process was handled. The “public” aspect here was keeping the people of the city informed from the start about each successive procedure step. The application itself was published as a magazine achieving a broad readership and bringing in as many participating people as possible. Other very good reasons prompted this effort too; “design” is a relatively vague term in German and not something for presenting to people with no preparation or explanations. A contemporary understanding of design does not focus on a finishing touch or surface flourishes, but on the provision of form and shape in a fully integrated process through all the development phases of products and services for our society. It is precisely in this wider dimension of design - a context not immediately apparent to many people - that tangible design policy measures need to be established and communicated. Design and the creative industries, however, were emerging as issues of major significance throughout this period and as subjects for thoroughly controversial discussion. A vitally important objective has been achieved as a result, that of establishing design as a general concern for society. The greater the level of vital support that has poured in here from many sources – and by no means only from the creative industries themselves – the stronger the resistance, or even rejection, the issue has also encountered. Design as a comprehensive creative process appeared altogether too unfamiliar to some, and capacity to deal with it in these terms had clearly never been acquired previously. The powerful political will to establish the design issue in city and regional policy is highly gratifying in this context, while in contrast the largely instinctive scepticism and ignorance with which it is often instinctively blocked is sobering.


Graz as a “Candidate City” actively used the period until the decision was made to further develop and establish its positioning as a city of design. Because one thing was plain to everyone involved: even if acceptance in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network was not forthcoming, the focus on design and the creative industries would on no account be abandoned. This period was used for example for the intensive work on the development of the Designmonat Graz, which since its beginnings in 2009 has firmly established itself as a regular event on the calendar for domestic and international creative designers. The Designmonat Graz has succeeded in bundling and condensing all the energy of the creative industries within a single four week period, making it clearly visible to all, with the objective of establishing the broadest possible awareness for the significance of design as an important economic success factor.


Extending beyond this, Creative Industries Styria has initiated numerous projects for making the issue of design in the city visible to everyone. These include the “Jakominiviertel” city quarter project, which has attracted great international attention by the settling and establishing of creative industries in what had previously been a structurally weak area; the “City Furnishing” and “Designers in Residence” projects for bringing designers and entrepreneurs together, or the “Experiencing Business” scheme, which has made Styrian companies accessible to a large public with highly ambitious works tours together with designers. Creative Industries Styria simultaneously reinforced its global network activities to give Graz an even more forceful presence in the international arena. South East Asia was chosen as a major focus in this work. Design as a vital business issue for Graz takes its place in a thoroughly appealing business environment: companies here show enormous innovative strength, while the city has a high density of universities and institutions of higher learning. All of this is linked to creative industries with a substantial share in the gross value added – an altogether remarkable starting point for achieving powerful international presence. International networking was thus an important priority for Graz on this solid foundation long before the repositioning as a City of Design. Graz as a seat of learning and a city with a very high student population (61.300 in total) has long exerted a strong pull throughout southern and south-eastern Europe. It was thus no surprise that the networking activities thrust ahead and made great advances in this region too during the UNESCO City of Design application process. Relationships were sought with existing members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, and also to every other metropolis with a flourishing design scene. Maintaining contact with those partners will not only allow us to benchmark our own position, but will also provide incentives on how to establish global design on a local basis, thus creating fruitful relations with the economy as a whole. The Styrian designforum was established at the Kunsthaus Graz in 2010. It is one of 3 Austrian-wide designforums which give designers and design projects the opportunity to reach a broad public through modern presentation and exhibition areas in the centre of the city. This, in turn, will pave the way for a centre of urban dialogue, competence and communication that addresses all aspects of design in its many different forms.


When Graz was appointed a UNESCO City of Design, a Key Account Management office was immediately installed in the Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism Development. This strategically important office serves as an interface and information hub with the aim of familiarising all municipal administration units with the subject of City of Design. Among its tasks are regular meetings with the heads of all twenty-eight municipal departments. In addition to communicating information, the aim is also to identify starting points and potential projects in order to ensure active involvement of the departments and to firmly entrench an inclusive, modern concept of design in the long term. Networking and internationality remain at the focus of activities after 2011 too, as reflected in the association’s own formats.Networking and an international profile have remained an important focus of activity even after Graz had been selected as a UNESCO City of Design in 2011, with an effect also extending to the own medial formats. The Designmonat Graz is intentionally global. Two UNESCO Cities of Design have so far been directly represented in Graz: Buenos Aires in 2012 and Nagoya in 2013. Saint-Étienne is on the programme for 2014. The French city has been a UNESCO City of Design since 2011 and among other activities it was the destination for a Creative Industries Styria Network visit in October 2013; the City of Graz had already participated in the Saint-Étienne Design Biennale 2013 in the spring. The City of Graz, Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism Development, itself moved the UNESCO City of Design issue even more firmly into the centre of attention in autumn 2013 by establishing an own administrative office (“Creative City Management”).