More than a clustering of eye-catching events, the 2012 Detroit Design Festival is a chance for designers, artists and the people who love them to come together.

The second year for the fest kicks off Wednesday, Sept. 19 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 23 at locations all over the city. 66 events ranging from gallery shows to a pop-up playground seek to attract design students, professionals, the simply curious and even the next generation.

"We really want to make kids feel a part of it," said Melinda Anderson, events director for the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), which puts on the event. "These are our future designers and it's great to get them exposed to design now."

No kids, but love "Blade Runner"? There's a talk for that. Could care less about graphic design, but into fashion? You have a couple choices. Don't know where to start? Take an art bike tour with Wheelhouse Detroit or visit the DDF Hub at Woodward Avenue and Erskine Street. DC3 will be in a transformed Michigan State University parking garage to answer questions and help people navigate the events.

A quick glance at the festival's website shows an almost overwhelming number of activities, but this year's fest is actually more streamlined. In 2011, 10,000 attended more than 80 events in eight days.

"After last year's festival we did a survey and some of the feedback said it was too spread out [and that] there were too many events, so we scaled it down," Anderson explained. "This year we've done a better job, I think, of clustering these experiences together to make them more accessible to people. It makes sense to really focus on the quality."

Eastern Market After Dark is one of the large-scale "experiences," with more than 15 shops, artist studios, galleries and hackerspaces open to the public in a concentrated area Thursday evening.

The total number of DDF events has gone down, but there are many more creatives involved on the back end, 300 people total organizing the happenings. Part of the goal of the fest, both as it occurs and in the planning stages, is to spur collaboration between individuals in the design world.

"One of the needs we heard come up over and over again is a need for physical and virtual platforms where practitioners can share their work beyond Detroit city limits," said DC3 Director Matt Clayson. "How do we create intentional collisions between designers and creatives in Detroit and those who value and support that work as a vehicle for social and economic change?"

Clayson pointed to the area's high number of designers -- the state has the most industrial and commercial designers in the country, and the creative sector is one of the largest employers in the Detroit area, behind healthcare and business service -- but acknowledged that the connectedness still isn't there, with many creatives spread out, tucked away in places like GM's Tech Center.

"We have all the natural assets and the human assets. How do you begin to concentrate those assets … to really show Detroit as a creative force to be reckoned with?" Clayson asked.

Along with the Drinks x Design events and a forthcoming online network, DDF is one of the major ways Clayson and DC3 attempt to do exactly that.

"Design means transformation to me," Anderson said. "We hope these connections made by designers and community groups continues to move Detroit forward."

Below, see some of the most exciting, free events happening for the 2012 Detroit Design Festival, and find the rest at their website.

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  • Creating Play, Pop-Up Playground, Saturday / Sunday

    Bring the kids! DDF says the <a href="">Creating Play area</a> will have a playground, art installation designed by children, tire garden and painting station.

  • 'Syd Mead: Progressions,' Wednesday - Saturday

    Visual futurist Syd Mead has a resume that spans decades: you've seen his work in films like Blade Runner, Aliens and Tron. On Friday, he'll <a href="">give a talk</a> at College for Creative Studies' Taubman Center. If you miss it, there will also be a show of his paintings, "<a href="">Syd Mead: Progressions</a>," running through Saturday. <em>Flickr photo <a href="">by Cea</a>.</em>

  • Blacksmithing Demos At Fortress Studios, Saturday / Sunday

    Wood firing, wheel throwing, blacksmithing hand forging, blacksmithing power hammer and many other things you wish you knew how to do <a href="">will be demonstrated</a> at Fortress Studios Saturday and Sunday.

  • 'archiCULTURAL SHIFT' Exhibition, Panel Discussion , Friday - Sunday

    A Friday panel and exhibition open through Sunday at the MIES Storefront will critically examine the role of architecture in culture and how the medium may need to evolve in the future. While that may sound a little academic for non-architecture nerds, anyone can certainly enjoy the SPACEBUSTER structure that will briefly live in the parking lot, pictured, designed by Berlin's Raumlabor. <em>Flickr photo <a href="">by laverrue</a></em>.

  • '#awakening: A Dance+Film+Music Festival,' Thursday - Sunday

    From ballet to hip hop, Tangent Gallery and Lafayette Greens will be the site of a full schedule of music, art and dance. The event, which will also have a panel discussion about digital media, youth culture and community arts in Detroit, is organized by blackhackerspace art + design collective and Detroit Dance Project.

  • Ziggy Johnson Tribute, Saturday

    A free <a href="">bus tour of Detroit's jazz history</a> (<a href="">register at Eventbrite</a>) is part of the longer event hosted by Glenna Johnson, celebrating her father, producer, choreographer and dancer Ziggy Johnson.

  • Lafayette Park Guided Walking Tours, Sunday

    <a href="">Take a stroll Sunday</a> through Detroit's architectural history. The Lafayette Park neighborhood was designed collaboratively between architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and urban planner Ludwig Hilberseimer.

  • 'Getting There; Personal Cartography Of Detroit', Thursday

    The <a href="">show at the DC3 accelerator gallery</a> asked artists and makers to map their city.

  • 'Cosmo(s)politan - An Evening of Film And Video', S

    'Cosmo(s)politan' offers music, refreshments in a social lounge, letterpress services and of course, experimental film from a diverse group of filmmakers. According to the organizers, the films "explore the mysticism and absurdity of urban dwelling." It all takes place at the Jam Handy, which used to be a film production studio and has been converted into a venue and performance space.

  • 'Surveying Greatness: The Work Of Corrado Parducci,' Wednesday - Saturday

    Architectural sculptor Corrado Parducci was extremely talented -- and prolific. You can<a href="">see his masterful touch on buildings all over Detroit</a>. The Parducci Society has organized an <a href="">exhibition of his work</a> documented by photographer Jack P. Johnson, which can be seen at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library through Saturday.

  • Eastern Market After Dark, Thursday

    Thursday evening, the <a href="">creative side of Eastern Market will come out to play</a>, with galleries like Red Bull House of Art, pictured, open late. Letterpress studios Signal Return and Salt and Cedar, the Workroom boutique, the OmniCorpDetroit makerspace and many other destinations will open their doors for art shows and events.

  • 'Storied' At Lincoln Street Art Park, Friday - Sunday

    <a href="">The "Storied" exhibition</a> at the Lincoln Street Art Park features mixed media work exploring the genre of storytelling. In addition, they'll have a small lending library. We're pretty sure an art park (weather permitting) is a perfect place to relax with a book on your Detroit Design Fest downtime.

  • 'Imaging Detroit,' Friday - Saturday

    Imaging Detroit promises a "<a href="">pop-up agora</a>" at Perrien Park at Chene Street and East Warren, opening Friday evening and continuing through Saturay, with installations, screenings and discussions about the city. <a href="">See their website</a> for more details.

  • Hopscotch Detroit, Saturday

    Hopscotch Detroit made themselves an honorable mission -- to <a href="">make the longest hopscotch course</a> ... ever. Kids and grown-up kids can come out Saturday to watch the spectacle, hop in the squares, and maybe chalk in a few themselves. The course is set to stretch more than 4 miles from Midtown to downtown. As a bonus, <a href="">their route will take you past many of the DDF events</a>.

  • Yamasaki Building Tour, Thursday - Saturday

    <a href="">Take a tour</a> of Wayne State University's four buildings designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect behind the World Trade Center.

  • Better Block Detroit, Saturday / Sunday

    On Saturday and Sunday at E Grand Boulevard and St Antoine Street, <a href="">you'll find Better Block</a>, a project of the U.S. Green Building Council and Wayne State University. With food, drink, entertainment and art, they'll demonstrate the positive effects of placemaking and complete streets, aiming to make the block "a model of what can happen when sustainable design is applied to an underserved urban area."

  • 'Working Title (An Exhibition On How We Work),' Wednesday - Friday

    "Michigan has been at the forefront of developing the look and feel of our work environment ," say the "Working Title" organizers. The show at <a href="">a pop-up gallery</a> sponsored by Compuware will be open during DDF, with work from local artists, a Michigan furniture manufacturer and interactive elements.

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