Istanbul is Turkey's largest city and one of the world's largest metropolises with approximately 15 million inhabitants. It is a city of encounters, transitions and interactions, bridging two continents. It has been a centre of civilizations, cultures and international trade throughout its history that bequeathed a multi-layered cultural heritage, serving as an inspiration for innovative design ideas and a rich source for traditional arts and crafts. Istanbul's thriving creative sector employees 140,000 professionals and accounts for 74.5% of the country's turnover. The city also presided as the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) for three terms and was designated as European Capital of Culture in 2010.
As a design hub, Istanbul has a lively event programme, hosting more than 20 internationally renowned design events every year, such as Istanbul Design Biennial, Design Week Turkey, EcoDesign Conference and Fashion Week Istanbul. The city boasts a significant number of cultural infrastructures, including 41 congress centres and 225 art galleries. Istanbul's cultural venues organised 4,315 events in 2016 alone, including international film, music and theatre festivals, art and design biennials. Istanbul is also home to 27 universities that all offer education programmes related to design.
Innovation and creativity are the main components of Istanbul's vision and recent policies. Creative industries are primarily promoted by the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology, Istanbul Development Agency and Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. The Istanbul Development Agency (ISTKA) was also instrumental in anchoring creativity and innovation within the Istanbul 2023 Vision, as well as the Creative Industries Council (YEKON) which raises awareness about urban issues among citizens. Through the 39 Cities One Istanbul programme, support of urban strategies tailored to each of the city's 39 districts was featured as part of a broader vision for Istanbul's sustainable development.
As a Creative City of Design, Istanbul envisages:
- organising the Design City Istanbul Summit, which will create a global platform for designers and creative sectors to address current urban issues;
- linking design and crafts fields through the Usta & Designer Programme, enabling cross-cutting co-creation;
- implementing the Documentation Programme seeking to create an open, comprehensive, and regularly updated inventory of written, audio, visual work and data related to crafts, modern design, and creative industries in Istanbul;
- establishing the Istanbul Design and Innovation Centre (IDIC), which will provide a hub for the design ecosystem stakeholders;
- implementing the Design and Experience Exchange Programme aimed to promote the exchange of knowledge, experience and best practices between designers;
- supporting partnerships towards sustainable architecture, green technology, and smarter cities; and
- developing the Cross Creative Learning Programme, in partnership with Mexico City, a platform for exchanging design approaches, opportunities and challenges.