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San Diego and Tijuana seek to make history with designation as a World Design Capital in 2024.

As the world turns its sights to Paris for the next Olympic Games, North America is in the running to host a history-making international event of its own in 2024. For the first time, two cities on either side of the US-Mexico border have teamed up to host a global gathering some call the "Olympics of Design and Innovation."

Separated by an international border but bonded through culture and history, San Diego and Tijuana have taken the unprecedented step of partnering to pursue designation as the 2024 World Design Capital. Close collaboration, trade and cross-border innovation is nothing new to what is referred to as the Cali-Baja megaregion. Coming on the heels of the pandemic, socio-political shifts, and continued regional growth, the World Design Capital 2024 bid is a unifying platform that can elevate the region globally.

"Nothing exemplifies international connectivity like a transformative initiative that literally crosses borders, spans two countries, and helps the world (re)design the future" said Michele Morris, president of the Design Forward Alliance, the entity that is spearheading the bid. "This is about showing the world that we are more than just a border or two border cities. We are one regional home to 7 million people who are more alike than they are different and who partner in many incredible and groundbreaking ways. It is also about shedding global light on the pioneering design and innovation powerhouse we are together."

If successful, the busiest border crossing in the Western Hemisphere would reveal itself as home to world-class designers, scientists, artists, architects, musicians, engineers, educators, and leaders helping to build the interconnected and resilient communities needed in the 21st century. The designation will also highlight the role design and human-centered work plays in addressing complex challenges like social equity and justice, climate action, affordable housing/homelessness, mobility, etc.

"The design and innovation that spans our international border is simply unparalleled," said Laura Araujo, Director of Binational Affairs for Tijuana Innovadora and Co-Chair of the initiative's Site Visit Experience Committee. "We are a binational megaregion that is far from just a tourist destination, but rather an epicenter of life-changing science, innovation, and design that is changing the world. We are excited to share that story."

The World Design Organization an international group representing thousands of designers around the world, announced that the San Diego-Tijuana binational region had advanced to the final selection round, up against Moscow for the coveted designation. San Diego would be the first U.S. city ever to receive the designation. Tijuana would be its country's second city to hold the title, following Mexico City in 2018.

The bid is being led by the Design Forward Alliance, with the full support of both local governments, including the mayors of San Diego and Tijuana. The cross-border collaborative has brought together organizations such as the University of California San Diego's Design Lab, the Burnham Center for Community Enhancement (BCCA), the Smart Border Coalition, Tijuana Innovadora, the American Institute of Architects, CETYS Universidad, The Wrethinking Foundation, and private companies such as San Diego-based biotech powerhouse Illumina – which was once named "the world's smartest company."

"Innovation and design are the lifeblood of the San Diego-Tijuana region. As the theme of our proposal says, changing the world begins at home," said Tad Parzen, President and CEO of the BCCA. "Our region has a unique story to tell, and it's through a history of collaboration and civic engagement focused on putting our communities before ourselves, that we have achieved so much. It's this culture that has fostered many important discoveries and continues to attract interest and investment in our region."

Every two years, the WDO recognizes cities for their effective use of design to drive economic, social, cultural, and environmental development. The rotating World Design Capital showcases best practices in sustainable design-led urban policy and innovation that improve quality of life.

2024 will mark the ninth cycle for the World Design Capital program. Previous designations include Torino (2008), Seoul (2010), Helsinki (2012), Cape - Town (2014), Taipei (2016), Mexico City (2018), Lille Metropole (2020). Valencia holds the title for 2022.

The Design Forward Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that promotes the value of design for economic, civic, and social development, and is dedicated to building San Diego's capacity and reputation as a global leader in design and innovation.

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