Beautiful by design

CommerceDesignWinnipeg commemorates exceptional design of public spaces

Photo by Lauren Siddall.

Beautification is a common goal for most metropolises. Cities quickly turn into masses of concrete where buildings become cookie-cutter and plants growing in the cracks of pavement offer the only hint of vibrance.

Enter CommerceDesign.

CommerceDesignWinnipeg – an initiative of StorefrontMB, a non-profit organization dedicated to the awareness of architecture, design, and urbanism, in partnership with Downtown Winnipeg BIZ – aims to motivate local merchants to improve the aesthetic of their businesses and thus, improve the aesthetic of our city.

CommerceDesign is a program that rewards businesses for investing in the quality of their establishments and by doing so, hopefully encourages more businesses to do the same. It recognizes that storefront businesses are important extensions of public spaces, streetscapes, and places, and have a significant impact on the image of our city,” explained David Penner, StorefrontMB president.

Though this is only the third year the program has been in Winnipeg, CommerceDesign has already had a positive effect on cities globally – including New York, Luxembourg, and Marseilles – after being established in Montreal 20 years ago.

The sustained efforts of CommerceDesign in the founding city have proven to the public, and to business owners, the value of good design. The program was created with the goal of encouraging Montreal merchants and restaurant owners to invest in the design quality of their establishments. After 10 successful years of the program, the city obtained designation as a UNESCO City of Design in 2006.

“The program was developed and fine-tuned by Montreal over a number of years and has proven to positively influence how high quality design is valued. It fosters a hunger for all things design,” explained Penner.

Big picture, it promotes a higher quality urban environment.”

CommerceDesign works by framing the initiative as a contest to captivate the competitive.

Each year, the contest begins with a call for entries from the business and design communities. A jury of professional designers and distinguished laypeople is assembled to review the submissions and tour the facilities, a process that takes a day and a half,” said Penner.

“Jurors look for interior design and storefronts that are harmonious, functional, and strengthen the branding of the businesses themselves. They should demonstrate that high quality design is more than the sum of its parts. Or even better, they create a milieu that inspires, surprises, and lifts people.”

From there, the polls open to the public to determine the People’s Choice winner. Between July 31 and Oct. 31, patrons are encouraged to visit the vendors and vote online for “the most beautiful business” of those pre-selected by the jurors.

The Winnipeg contestants for this year include SMITH, Lunch Bell Bistro, the Merchant Kitchen & Bar, Yoga Public, Beet Happening, and Green Apple Skateboard Shop – with the winner receiving a significant promotional campaign to reinforce their efforts of beautification.

Our ultimate goal is for all new businesses to invest in the quality of their establishments and for Winnipeg to foster its reputation as an emerging city of design.”

For more information and to vote for your favourite, visit