Crafting Strategies for Sustainable Economic Growth

In 2014, Michigan was home to a rich pool of industrial designers, contributing significantly to the state’s technology and manufacturing sectors. However, this talent was dispersed among various design organizations and initiatives, leading to fragmentation. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) saw an opportunity to catalyze economic growth by consolidating and expanding this talent pool, positioning Michigan as a premier hub for industrial design professionals and boosting economic prosperity for the state.


Economic Development

Michigan’s design community was fragmented, consisting of disparate organizations and initiatives. The challenge was to unify these entities and attract design talent to the state.

Building a non-profit from scratch

Sundberg-Ferar’s conducted in-depth research with the various entities operating in this sector to identify insights including challenges, opportunities,  best practices, out-of-state examples and other personal experiences. We synthesized this research into 5 key themes for strategic development, including the establishment of a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the industrial design economy in Michigan.

With direct government funding, Sundberg-Ferar initiated the creation of the Michigan Design Council (MDC). This council has since operated independently for over 8 years, focusing on two core pillars: attracting industrial design talent to Michigan through a robust professional network and cultivating talent from kindergarten through college via comprehensive programming and education.

“I never realized how much things that industrial designers do are similar to what I was doing, so I think it opened a new door to creativity [for me].”

– Jillian, student participant in MDC programs

Self-Sustaining Success

The Michigan Design Council stands as a testament to Sundberg-Ferar’s ability to leverage government funding effectively. Over the past 8 years, it has been instrumental in promoting and sustaining Michigan’s industrial design sector. The council’s self-sustaining model underscores its success in unifying government, industry, and academia to nurture and retain industrial design talent within the state, validating the integrity and efficiency of Sundberg-Ferar’s approach in leveraging public funds for impactful and enduring initiatives.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation: Crafting Strategies for Sustainable Economic Growth

Human Impact

This project and subsequent state-wide programs have revolutionized creative education and talent-retention in Michigan. By offering continuous programming and education in creative problem-solving and design thinking from elementary school through college, these initiatives bridge the talent development journey. They empower Michigan’s youth to cultivate their creative talents and envision careers in industrial design and related fields, shaping their aspirations into professional pathways within the state’s vibrant creative community.

Learn about the Michigan Design Council at

Business Impact

The project laid the foundation for ongoing efforts to attract, develop, and retain industrial design talent in Michigan. The state continues to lead in design-enabled industries, maintaining the highest density of industrial designers in the nation—a testament to the project’s forward-thinking strategy.

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