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Activist Designers: Design 99

Gina Reichert, an architectural designer, and her husband, artist Mitch Cope, are the duo behind Design 99, an organization in Detroit that creates everything from bathroom tile designs to neighborhood planning strategies. They set up shop—–quite literally as a shop—–in August 2007, offering design services for 99 cents a minute or $99 per house call. “We put design in a retail environment because people know how to enter a store and ask questions,” Reichert says. “A lot of people disregard design not because they’re uninterested but because they don’t think they have access to it.”

 

 

Design 99

The couple closed their store in 2009 in order to focus on a community project. The year before, they purchased a foreclosed house in a rough-and-tumble East Detroit neighborhood for $1,900 and have since turned it into what they call the Power House. The structure serves as a hands-on demonstration center for sustainable design—–it runs on solar power and wind energy and will eventually power other homes in the neighborhood—–but it also aims to motivate other individuals to take action to improve their own communities.

The project has since expanded to include ten homes in the area, and Reichert and Cope are currently at work planning a community skateboard park, job-training programs, and a bike shop. “Design is a combination of public service, problem solving, and creative ideas,” Reichert says.

“It’s great to have a client but sometimes it’s good to go out into the physical environment, critique and analyze it, and think about what you could do.” And when Reichert and Cope walk around their block, ideas for improvement instantly start flowing.

  • Young Guns Dwell graphic

    Young Designers

    Branching out and doing your own thing is a brave and bold move at any time and any age. That said, the 21 visionaries we profile here—–designers 
of interiors, graphics, architecture, exhibitions, furniture, landscapes, 
and communities both online and off—–are all younger than 40 and are building their careers in the United States during an economic recession. Their mediums range wildly, from high-end residential town houses 
to urban postindustrial landscapes, but what they all share are uncommon tenacity and highly personal approaches to blazing their own paths. We’ve found editors who reinvented themselves as unconventional bloggers when their magazine shuttered; community activists who are transforming foreclosed houses in Detroit into models of environmental sustainability; and designers who’ve built burgeoning furniture companies in their own backyards. Neither an exhaustive compendium nor an exclusive best-of list, this roundup is a sampling of rising stars whose work continues to catch our eyes and imaginations.

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