Things do not change. We change them. Democracy lives from the fact that we shape it.
Is there something wrong with our democracy?
Democracy is our form of government. And it is our way of life. We are used to speaking our minds, taking our own actions and shaping our lives. Democracy is much more than just voting. It takes place in everyday life – wherever people live together. But our world is in disarray. Anti-democratic forces are on the rise, economic interests are priotised over the common good, the important issues of our time remain unaddressed. Finding solutions to these is now the greatest challenge for democracy. And thus for all of us.
Bad news for all non-voters: you can't escape democracy.
What can design do?
Design – many people think of fashion, furniture, pretty things. But the purely aesthetic design, the beautification, is only a small part of what design can do. Rather, design is characterised by the spirit of questioning conditions, thinking towards the future and changing matters. And we need all this today more than ever. Design can contribute positively to many social issues. For example, by designing recyclable products and resource-efficient solutions. But also by designing democratic processes that strengthen our togetherness. So ultimately, no less than the improvement of our lives.
And what does that have to do with me?
Democracy cannot be taken for granted. It thrives on the involvement of society, on participation, on taking part. But this also means that democracy only works if many people participate and become active. And that is exactly what we want to call for. We want to start a movement! A movement in which we participate in democracy by keeping our eyes open for the problems of our time. In which we shape our life together, disputatiously and creatively. In which we are the designers of our democracy.
Democracy takes place on our doorstep. In the kebab shop, at the hairdresser’s, in the football stadium. And sometimes in politics.
Let’s create a new togetherness.
What we certainly don’t need for a better life is more things. Always designing new products does not bring us closer to each other. Instead, we want to create spaces and design places where different people can meet. That’s what we call atmospheres. Democracy lives not only in parliaments and universities, but also in our everyday life together. The more we meet, exchange and share our lives with each other, the easier it is to form a common picture of a world worth living in. Design must now focus on creating such atmospheres.
If we want to live in a better future, we must first form a picture of it.
Good solutions need good problems.
“Everything should become better somehow.” Because we are so preoccupied with the problems of the present, we often do not have a clear idea of the future we want. Yet it is important to have a goal in mind to work towards. That’s why we have to start developing visions and utopias with the means of design, in all important areas of living together: housing, mobility, health, climate, education, media, energy or consumption. It is only if we have positive images of the future in our minds that we can we approach it confidently and energetically.
This is exactly where it starts.
No one is saying that these are easy tasks that lie ahead of us. We are in a comprehensive transformation in which we have to learn to stop doing all those things that have negative consequences for global humanity and for future generations. It doesn’t require reforms, it requires a revolution. The Frankfurt RhineMain region has often been exemplary in such comprehensive social transformations. From the invention of printing technology by Johannes Gutenberg from Mainz, the reform movement of Art Nouveau in Darmstadt to the German Werkbund and the “new Frankfurt”, the region has repeatedly been the starting point for design movements and social awakening.
The living, economic and cultural area of Frankfurt RhineMain has often been a model region for comprehensive social transformation through design and applied science.
With “Design for Democracy. Atmospheres for a better life”, the city of Frankfurt am Main and the RhineMain region are applying for the title of “World Design Capital” in 2026.
The World Design Organization™, based in Montreal, Canada, is a non-governmental organisation with over 170 members in more than 40 countries. Since 1957, when it was still known as the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, it has promoted design that effectively meets people’s needs and aspirations. Every second year, it awards the title World Design Capital® to cities for their effective use of design to promote cultural, economic, social and environmental development. The title launches a year-round programme showcasing the best work in design-driven urban development.
The application is sponsored by the City of Frankfurt am Main under the leadership of the Department of Culture and Science in cooperation with the cities, districts and municipalities of the Frankfurt RhineMain region and the State of Hesse, supported by the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain and on the initiative of the Werkbundakademie Darmstadt e.V. Our goal is to work with citizens, students, creative professionals, scientists, architects and designers to advance design ideas for social, urban and cultural developments and thus strengthen the sustainable design of our region.
Real change does not need anyone to lead the way. It is much more important that everyone moves.
Design for Democracy is on the move
We are not applying for this title to decorate ourselves with it. Rather, we want to use the application as an opportunity to organise our movement for a democratic culture of freedom and a better life. Through it, we want to bring people together and share our optimism to create a better life – not only for ourselves, but also for future generations.