Graz and Styria, the creative industries have been part of the local and regional economic strategies for more than 10 years. Hereby, they emphasize the increasing importance of creative and innovative work which accompanies and significantly shapes the change from a society based on production to a knowledge and service society. The work of the future will be knowledge-intensive, highly specialized and innovation-orientated, which also defines the economic and sociological framework for the creative industries. This requires economic directions in order to be able to keep pace with those developments. It also calls for a clear position and awareness what it really means to lay conscious emphasis on the creative industries and what we are talking about when we refer to creativity in general and design in particular. 

The term ‘design’ faces a couple of difficulties which persistently impede or at least complicate the generally common interpretation of the word. The connotation of the draft, the sketch, is almost entirely missing in German, which in turn shifts its meaning, namely from the actual relevant function of the elaborate creation to the level of the superficial enhancement. Graz, since its application as a UNESCO City of Design, which dates back to the year 2008, has been working on anchoring a modern and contemporary conception of design in the awareness of the city and its inhabitants.


For Graz, being a City of Design does not mean to achieve one-off effects but to perceive design as a holistic achievement of creation permeating all aspects of life. The assumption is that the function of design is to primarily facilitate people’s life, hence, it solely serves the human being in her/ his manifold situations of life and work.


All activities of the City of Graz as a UNESCO City of Design are based on this conceptual background and parallel in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO, which majorly contribute to the sustainable improvement of all humans’ living situations. The City of Graz, for example when working on current projects of urban development, puts a special focus on a modern and intelligent infrastructure. The project ‘Smart City Graz’ covers two plots (in the vicinity of Waagner-Biro-Strasse, Grazer Hauptbahnhof and Graz-Reininghaus), on which they implement the vision of a low-emission city saving energy and resources as well as offering the highest possible quality of life. In 2013, the local council has anchored ‘Smart City’ in the urban development concept as a principle of urban development. In the Smart City Graz Waagner Biro Quarter there should be about 3,800 additional people living until 2025. In total, the city provides 1,500 jobs and private project partners and the City of Graz will invest about 330 million Euro in the new part of the city.

Design – in its comprehensive meaning – does play an important role in these development projects and also the strategic, location-based considerations assign a key function to design and creativity. Hereby, there are three focused goals: First, Graz wants to expand its role as a European design hotspot. This will strengthen its reputation as a City of Design and will support the local and regional economy, also aloof from the creative industries in the narrower sense, for design also majorly influences the hotel and restaurant business and tourism in general. In 2016, the city recorded for the third time in a row more than one million overnight stays, which for sure is also based on Graz’s affinity for design, culture and creativity. The old city part of Graz, for example, has been a UNESCO world cultural heritage since 1999 and in 2003 Graz was the European Capital of Culture. The award ‘UNESCO City of Design’ is thus the logical continuation of the taken path.

A further strategic goal is – secondly – to push design and creativity as economic boosters. For this purpose, Graz as a capital city and economic center of Styria, holds a very favorable position. The Province of Styria has a lot of economic clusters, thus grown economic regional strengths, and is considered a pioneer in terms of clustering. In Graz, especially in future fields and leading themes such as Mobility, Eco Tech, Health Tech and Green Tech, they create innovative solutions for future challenges, in which design is used equally as a development and management tool. This further requires to empower Graz as a location of education and training where they offer numerous design degree courses that reflect design in its full range and pass on top know-how in terms of design to the next generations.

The (creative) industries of Graz – thirdly – aspire to international networks as the factors of success. Due to the basic social and economic change, networking is of paramount importance. As a UNESCO City of Design there are excellent links – not just for the creative industries but also for the entire spectrum of the Graz- and Styria-based economy. This requires an active role as a UNESCO City of Design, which emphasizes that design and creativity are passionately experienced in the city. 


For further information see the full Monitoring Report 2011–2016 here