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It’s Official: San Diego-Tijuana Named World Design Capital 2024 at Signing Ceremony

Although the World Design Organization (WDO) announced that the San Diego-Tijuana region’s proposal to become the new World Design Capital (WDC) for 2024 won the tender over Moscow in November 2021 , it was not until the signing ceremony on Friday that the designation became official.

Every two years since 2008, the WDO reviews proposals from cities around the world to become the next design capital of the world. The international non-governmental organization “recognizes cities for their effective use of design to drive economic, social, cultural and environmental development,” as stated on their website.

“This is the first time two cities have been recognized for coming together to transform their future through design,” WDO Chairman David Kusuma said during the signing ceremony’s opening remarks. It is also the first time that an American city has been selected. The first city to be awarded this title was Turin in Italy in 2008, and more recently in 2022, Valencia in Spain.

The effort to bring WDC to San Diego began with UCSD’s The Design Lab under Don Norman with businessman and philanthropist Malin Burnham coming up with the idea of ​​including Tijuana in the bid. “I want to recognize that San Diego is the most important corner of the United States,” Burnham said during a pre-ceremony panel. “And the same with Tijuana, it’s the most important corner of Mexico. What we build cannot be duplicated by any other place in the world. Norman and Burnham, along with former Associate Vice-Chancellor for Public Programs Mary Walshok, were recognized as 2024 World Design Capital recipients for their design advice and work.

Mary Walshok, Malin Burnham and Don Norman chat during a panel before the World Design Capital 2024 signing ceremony.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego-Tijuana region – with more than 7 million residents and 121 million pedestrian border crossings annually – will host a year-long program of events and activities that will bring together the binational community through the power and impact of design. Apart from putting the region on the world stage, it is also expected to boost the tourism industry.

The WDC 2024 committee, led by CEO Carlos de la Mora, plans to highlight the region’s bi-national efforts and collaborations through conferences, art installations, exhibitions, symposia, design competitions , performances, design tours and more. The main areas of intervention will be: art, culture and the creation of spaces; weather and sustainability; design; education; health and wellbeing; innovation, science and technology and land use planning. “The goal is to improve the lives of our citizens in both cities,” Tijuana Economic Development Secretary Alejandro Mungaray said on behalf of Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero.

The ceremony concluded with WDO officials, representatives from San Diego and Tijuana, and founding partners signing the official proclamation designating the region as the 2024 Design Capital of the World.

“I believe San Diego and Tijuana are the future,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said at the ceremony. “Issues such as immigration, climate change, housing, infrastructure and transportation really require our two cities to work closely together and use design-based solutions to address these issues.”

Mayor Todd Gloria speaks at the World Design Capital 2024 signing ceremony.

Mayor Todd Gloria speaks at the World Design Capital 2024 signing ceremony.

(Lucia Serrano)

WDC 2024’s five-member board is chaired by Mai Nyugen, Norman’s successor as head of the Design Lab. It also includes Jonathan Glus, executive director of the San Diego Arts and Culture Commission; Ernesto Chávez, director of binational affairs for the city of Tijuana; Tad Parzen, president and CEO of the Burnham Center for Community Advancement; and Anna Quackenbush, President of the Design Forward Alliance.

Its five partners are the UC San Diego Design Lab, the Burnham Center for Community Advance, the Design Forward Alliance, and the two cities of San Diego and Tijuana.

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