In 2014 Dundee was named the UK’s first, and remains to be the only, UNESCO City of Design.

The City of Design title was awarded to 12 other cities prior to Dundee’s designation and the network now includes 31 Cities of Design.

Dundee is a dynamic city with a strong cultural identity and history of innovation and creativity. It has been recognised by UNESCO for its diverse contributions to fields including, medical research, comics, video games and is now home to V&A Dundee: Scotland’s first design museum. The title recognises the design innovations Dundee has contributed to the world, including aspirin, biomedical research which has led to hundreds of new cancer drugs, comics including the Beano and Dandy, orange marmalade, video games including Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.

With a population of 148,000, but serving a wider travel to work area of 500,000, Dundee has, time and again, reinvented itself, focusing on design and creativity to promote economic growth. In the 19th century, it was the world centre of the jute textile industry, resulting in rapid industrial development. It was also a major home to a dynamic digital media industry, respected higher-education institutions and creative industries.

Dundee has used culture and creativity as key drivers of social and economic regeneration. The city still faces significant challenges with the collapse of its traditional industrial base, the legacy of long-term, inter-generational unemployment, and serious social, health and economic problems, but it is tackling these through the Waterfront regeneration, partnership strategies to create jobs, increase confidence and raise aspirations.

As a Creative City of Design, Dundee envisages:

  • using design as a cornerstone in addressing both social inequalities and opportunities that exist in the city;
  • sharing experiences and knowledge about digital design, including links between game design and the arts and sciences as well as contemporary art and design;
  • setting up collaborative projects on interdisciplinary design, combining multiple design approaches to solve social challenges;
  • focusing on social design, redesigning public service and community engagement; and
  • fostering public discourse on the place and contribution of design in contemporary society.

Dundee City of Design have developed and produced a number of events following the designation to develop these actions points, including: Dundee Design Festival, Dundee Design Month and Dundee Design Parade. For more information on our programme please see our Events Page.

Dundee City of Design’s fundamental principals informing the action plan 2019-2022 are, to:

Celebrate and demonstrate the impact of design, engaging citizens in design, the work of designers and opportunities for co-design.

Champion Dundee’s designers by promoting their talent, supporting their creative and commercial success, and involving them in decisions.

Actively participate in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network/Collaborate and share in developing projects and learnings from other UNESCO Cities of Design.

To find out more about why Dundee is a UNESCO City of Design you can view and download a presentation here and view our City Values here.


Why Dundee?

DC Thomson & Co produces over 200 million magazines, newspapers and comics every year; including The Beano, The Dandy and The Courier.

James Bowman Lindsay sent the first ever wireless radio broadcast in 1832 from Dundee.

Thomas John MacLagan developed the earliest form of aspirin in 1876, which was then further developed by German researchers. The microscope he used is still in the Tayside Medical History Museum.

James Chalmers, who died here in 1853 and is buried in the Howff, invented the first adhesive postage stamp.

Dundee University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (DJCAD) is consistently ranked in the top 10% of the UK’s art and design schools.

Jane Gowans is one of Professional Jeweller Magazine’s Hot 100, with designs worn by singer Emeli Sande and actress Emma Thompson.

Hayley Scanlan graduated from DJCAD before setting up her successful business. Hayley is the only designer to ever win the Scottish Young Designer of the Year award twice.

The original Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings games were created in Dundee in the 1990s by former Abertay University student Dave Jones.

Abertay University is ranked in the world’s top 25 universities for teaching game design, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Abertay launched the world’s first Computer Games Technology degree in 1997, which was later followed by specialist courses in art, audio and game design.

Dundee has many digital pioneers, from digital toy makers Denki, to porting Minecraft on to Xbox and PlayStation thanks to 4J Studios, to 3D mapping innovators eeGeo.

Guerilla Tea developed Play to Cure in partnership with scientists at Cancer Research UK, a game where you help process breast cancer data by navigating your way around an asteroid field.

Space Budgie are designing Glitchspace, an innovative game that enables you to learn programming skills while you play.

Patrick Geddes, the founder of the modern town planning movement, was a professor at Dundee University. He coined the phrase “think global, act local”.

All the cultural activity in the city is amplified by Creative Dundee who support creative talent to base, grow and sustain their practice in and around the city. They connect opportunities and amplify the city’s creative pulse through events which encourage cross-sector collaboration and networking to develop the local creative and cultural sectors.

Dundee UNESCO City of Design Partners:

Dundee Partnership

Dundee City Council

Dundee City

Leisure & Culture Dundee

Creative Dundee

V&A Museum of Design Dundee

The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum

Dundee Contemporary Arts

Dundee Heritage Trust

University of Dundee

Abertay University

Dundee and Angus College

Dundee Civic Trust

The Dundee Partnership is responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts and opinions in this summary of its bid to join the Creative Cities Network, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organisation