Building Resilient Futures: 2023 HKS Detroit Design Fellowship Applications Open

The HKS Detroit Design Fellowship (DDF) is a student design charrette that seeks to cultivate emerging design talent, excite and stimulate new design approaches and provide service to benefit the communities in which we live.

Since it began in 2009, the DDF has focused on the learning opportunities presented by pairing professionals with selected university students from some of the region’s top design programs.

In partnership with community organizations, DDF Fellows leverage design to solve challenges faced by Metro Detroit communities. In previous years, the DDF has worked with organizations such as Cass Community Social Services, Plymouth Coffee Bean Company and the City of Northville, Michigan.

The city of Detroit holds great significance as an historic hub of the American automotive industry and a cultural center known for its contributions to popular music. The city has endured and continues to navigate economic, social and educational challenges.

Due to population decline, suburban immigration and the emergence of charter schools, Detroit’s traditional public schools have experienced a decrease in student enrollment. This decline in enrollment has strained the finances of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, impacting available resources and educational opportunities. Additionally, the school district has struggled with low academic achievement, as evidenced by consistently below-average standardized test scores and graduation rates. Various factors, including high poverty, inadequate funding and a lack of resources, have contributed to the school district’s challenges. Detroit continues to harness the strength of its communities, embracing resilience as a fundamental value to create a better future. The heart of this year’s DDF design challenge is resilience – within, through and beyond the built environment.

Our partner this year

This year the DDF is partnering with Brilliant Detroit. This non-profit organization was founded in 2015 with the goal to provide a radically new approach to kindergarten readiness in Detroit neighborhoods. The idea was to create a unique delivery model in early childhood development by using underutilized housing stock to create early child and family centers in city neighborhoods.

Brilliant Detroit homes provide holistic services for children aged 0-8, predicated on evidence-based programs concerning health, family support and education. Brilliant Detroit was born to create kid success neighborhoods. In each of the organization’s locations, neighbors come together for activities and learning to assure school readiness and provide needed support for families. The DDF Fellows will work on a challenge that expands on this approach, exploring the power of design to build a more resilient future.

Location and Schedule

During three days of collaboration, DDF participants will investigate, iterate, and propose solutions, based on a design prompt. The workshop will begin on Friday, September 8 and culminate on Sunday, September 10.

A final review and public exhibition will be held Friday, September 15 as part of Detroit Month of Design, a citywide celebration of creativity. The exhibition will provide the community with the opportunity to learn more about the design process and actively participate in it. Registration for the final review and public exhibition will be available through the Detroit Month of Design website at

Specific 2023 DDF design challenge information will be presented to students selected to participate in the fellowship one week before the in-person collaboration.

HKS Detroit Address: Main St, #102C Northville, MI 48167

This year we are part of Detroit Month of Design

If you are in Detroit, we invite you to this year’s Detroit Design Fellowship student work exhibition in the MarxModa Detroit office on September 15. This event is part of the Detroit Month of Design, which is a citywide celebration of creativity that gathers designers and the greater community to celebrate Detroit’s role as a national and global design capital. Detroit is the first city in the U.S. to be named a UNESCO City of Design.

The exhibition is free to the public and provides an opportunity to learn about the Fellow’s work and the design process behind it. You can register on the MoD website.

Address: 751 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226
Time: 6 pm – 9 pm


Sixteen Fellows will be chosen by the design fellowship committee. All applicants will be notified of the status of their application via email within a week following the application deadline. Those selected for the Fellowship must submit a headshot photo and brief bio (up to 200 words) upon notification for inclusion in the welcome packet and website announcement.


DDF is open to college or university undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates (up to 1 year post graduation) of architecture, interior design, industrial design and other design programs.

The 2023 application period opens July 10 and closes on August 21.

To apply, please email the following information to [email protected]

  • Subject Line – “Application submission for DDF2023”
  • Personal Information – your name, school, major and year in school or year graduated.
  • Design Process – a description of your preferred design tools (Sketching skills, 3D modeling software, rendering software, etc.)
  • 11 X 17 Portfolio Page (PDF attachment) – this can be a single image, a sampling of previous work, collage or whatever you feel reflects who you are as a designer (no photos of yourself)
  • Statement of Interest (PDF attachment) – a paragraph explanation of what excites you about being part of the fellowship.

Meals will be provided to participants during the four days of the DDF. Hotel and travel arrangements will not be provided, however, and are the responsibility of the Fellows.

The decisions of the design fellowship committee are final. For any inquiries, please email: [email protected]