A bold vision to “reinvent the American dream” in Detroit

Philip Lauri wants to re-imagine the city of Detroit. He is the founder and director of Detroit Lives! a social brand dedicated to launching projects and ideas that will strengthen Detroit as a community and city.

Detroit Lives! has captured the attention of media ranging from Monocle to Time. And no wonder: Detroit Lives! constantly finds bold and imaginative ways to create a positive vibe about Detroit. For example, Philip and a peer once snuck into the abandoned (and iconic) Michigan Central Depot train station, arranged scrap metal to etch the message Detroit Lives! in the snowy ground where the main hall used to be, and then sold prints of the resulting image — an iconic portrayal of the city’s past and potential future trajectory.

Detroit Lives! is a creative multimedia effort. In addition to guerilla art, Detroit Lives! sponsors community goodwill projects, sells merchandise displaying its ubiquitous Detroit Lives! branding message, creates films, and generates editorial content on its blog – just like a multi-channel brand.

Philip, a Detroit native, founded Detroit Lives! after returning to Detroit in 2008. I interviewed him recently to better understand Detroit Lives! and how he’s improving public perception of the city. This is his story.

What’s the mission of Detroit Lives! in one sentence?

The mission of Detroit Lives! is to re-imagine Detroit.

We seek to help create a new and more positive image of Detroit. We manifest ourselves just as any brand does — like Nike, for example.

Nike makes basketball shoes, hockey sticks, skate decks, short films, clothing — you name it. Detroit Lives! does something similar, just on behalf of a city. We make T-shirts, posters, and paper goods that we sell in retail outlets – products that carry positive messages about Detroit. We make films that relate the message of possibility from the mysterious underbelly of Detroit.

We paint murals to make people smile. And we have a blog to create engaging dialog about Detroit.

We aim to create collisions of culture in the city, essentially bringing together Detroit residents in ways they might not have expected in order to envision a new future for the city.

Continue reading