Design is Transforming Massachusetts


What is design? It’s simple: design is a plan.

Designers are experts trained to plan the best possible product, service, or place. They do this by becoming the link between industry and consumers; they research, iterate, communicate, test, take a step back, and then take a big step forward. Many Massachusetts companies are experiencing transformative moments; they've realized they cannot grow without design, and they’ve all made a long-term decision to integrate design into their operations. Whether they’re building a shoe, a hospital or a safety razor, their stories share a faith in the process of re-invention.

Industrial, apparel, graphic, and environmental design are competitive tools; they enable products and services that benefit the end-user, whether it’s a business or a consumer. But most importantly, design creates vision, stability and growth, which means jobs and a healthy economy.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has one of the strongest design ‘clusters’ in the United States. In 2008, there were 47,617 individuals in the state who worked for design companies or provided design services to other sectors. Boston boasts the second-largest design cluster in the country, and employment growth in design has exceeded the Commonwealth employment average. Our state’s design capacity is clearly an area of growing competitive importance.

Stefane Barbeau, Executive Director, DIGMA


Not only are Massachusetts design enterprises an important and growing source of employment, but, perhaps more notably, the state’s unique and often ‘behind the scenes’ design assets are critical to the competitiveness of other key economic clusters. For example, few know that the state is a center of shoe design - a major reason that companies such as Reebok, New Balance, Converse and Puma are headquartered here. With one of the highest proportions of architects in the U.S., our firms are responsible for some of the more innovative, environmentally-sustainable buildings around the world. Our world-class schools feed this strong cluster; the Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s graduates are integrating seamlessly into local product and business innovations, and the MIT MediaLab is sought actively for deep corporate partnerships because it is known globally as one of the foremost centers of design leadership. The state’s design talent will, without question, play a key role in the future - helping to design new and innovative solutions to our most pressing social and economic challenges.

Beth Siegel, President of Mt. Auburn Associates


“STAYING IN MASSACHUSETTS AFTER ARCHITECTURE GRAD SCHOOL HAS PROVEN TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION OF MY CAREER. BEING ABLE TO WORK AT THE INTERSECTION OF OUR INTIMATE BUT INVENTIVE DESIGN COMMUNITY AND THE REGION'S UNPARALLELED INTELLECTUAL RESOURCES HAS MADE BEING IN MASSACHUSETTS A TRUE CATALYST FOR OUR WORK AND PRACTICE.”

DAVID HACIN, FOUNDER HACIN & ASSOCIATES

Designers must be agile. Design helps all sectors of society uncover new ways of thinking about places, things, technology and services that will make life better in the extraordinarily diverse 21st century. Good design now is consequential design. Massachusetts’ deep concentration of talent and research generates some of the most transformative ideas and entities in the world. Our designers are able to connect the dots across the exploding knowledge hubs of science, social science and technology. The Boston metro area is home to 80+ colleges and universities with every imaginable discipline, world-class research and hundreds of thousands of students. Boston, though dramatically smaller than New York or Los Angeles, has the nation’s third highest concentration of foreign students. Massachusetts offers a global education and innovation hotbed for any designer invested in making a difference.

Valerie Fletcher, Executive Director, Institute for Human Centered Design


“I surf, design, start brands and love lobster. When we launched our own functional training brand NOBULL last year, the decision to call MA our home was an easy one.” - Michael Schaeffer / Founder, NOBULL
Former Creative Director, Reebok

I came to Boston as an Undecided major at Northeastern and ended up studying architecture. One thing sort of led to another. . . While beginning my professional career (in architecture), I started making things out of wool felt, founded a company, and then a second company, which was ultimately acquired by Knoll. I met my husband here, we started our family here and out of necessity are deeply involved in the design community. I feel Boston is small enough that I am always running into someone creative, and I am constantly excited by how the mix of the new and the old, the contemporary and historic—architecture and people—can blend and work together so well.

Kelly Smith, Founder, FilzFelt


As the human experience becomes ever more important to the success of products and services, designers, who have a tradition of putting people first, have a prominent role to play across the Massachusetts economy. Industries ranging from medical devices, to advanced manufacturing, to healthcare, robotics and banking –to name just a few of the cornerstones of our economy– have an advantage by having access to the world-class design talent the locates in Massachusetts. Similarly, designers have unique opportunities to thrive in this rich technology environment, while continuing to put people first.  

Carlos Martinez-Vela, PhD Engineering, MIT, Innovation Consultant

“LIVING AND WORKING IN MASSACHUSETTS HAS BEEN VITAL TO MY PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE. IT’S A THRIVING HUB OF DEEP CULTURE AND SOPHISTICATED BRAINPOWER IMMERSED IN PRACTICAL CIRCUMSTANCE, AND I COUNT ON IT TO FUEL INNOVATIVE THINKING AND MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS.”

Brian Matt, Founder & Chairman ALTITUDE


A storied port of entry with a global constitution that belies its size, Boston is an exciting seedbed where design will continue to achieve significant international benchmarks in civic engagement. The Commonwealth is poised to be a leading catalyst in design because of its deep foundations in education. DIGMA is mindful of our design resources’ cumulative value as engines of culture. In this nexus, Massachusetts College of Art and Design is an incredible context, an educational pathway where the entry leads directly from ground zero to the upper echelon of creative engagement. The Commonwealth remains a pioneer in new approaches in design education—and although it has often sat and watched other distant institutions and states embed its innovations at a faster clip—it is on the verge of an unprecedented era of collaboration that will build connective tissue between its excellent, diverse and heterogeneous public practices of design.

Ezra Shales, PhD, Professor of Design History, History of Art Department, Massachusetts College of Art and Design



Why MA? Because Massachusetts is a network of connections. Boston is a hub - it is not just a tag line - a place that connects design and technology, academia and start-ups, talented graduates and experienced professionals, businesses and innovation and each node in the network is world class. Innovation happens when new connections are made. Frog is a global company; we have no headquarters, and we have to be in Boston because of the extraordinary talent that lives and works here. Design and innovation consultancies like Frog are just a small part of the global ecosystem that thrives in Boston and Massachusetts. The design ecosystem connects to other clusters of excellence in technology, healthcare, finance, education and media that push the boundaries of what we do and give all of us an innovative edge. We work with one another, learn from one another, and steal people and ideas from one another. It’s a virtuous cycle: talent attracts talent, and talent is the most vital part of any business.

Harry West, CEO, Frog