running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

All Hail Helsinki

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Helsinki may not be Berlin, Paris, New York, London or even Edinburgh, but the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) announced last week that Helsinki is to become the World Design Capital in 2012. This biennial award is in recognition of a city's contribution to and use of design as an effective tool for social, cultural and economic development.

Helsinki has produced well-known global brands like Nokia, Kone and Marimekko, is home to the highly-rated University of Art and Design Helsinki and has a design quarter, the 'Design District Helsinki' - an area full of design and antique shops, fashion stores, museums, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques.

Helsinki also boasts an annual Design Week - a festival aimed at introducing people to new design by exhibiting a multi-disciplinary take on design.

HDW logo

A Finnish TV Channel, Basso Televisio, did a recent feature on the festival on its arts program Cultivate, which neatly explains the whole idea.

The festival this year included a cultural collaboration with Madrid - the 'Helsinki Madrid FinDesign'. This project provides the main exhibition for the Finnish Design Month in Madrid, which is currently in full swing, having started on 4 November 2009 at the Contemporary Art Center in Matadero.

The exhibition runs till January 10th, and features several hundred products from Finnish companies and designers representing many different design areas and viewpoints.

Overall you get the impression that Helsinki takes design very seriously. The creative sector is re-shaping Helsinki’s economy and enhancing the citizens’ quality of life. The collaborative aspect to this feels really authentic, and it all sounds very progressive. It's also a welcome throwback to the halcyon days of modernism, and the belief that the way we design our environment is as important has how we treat it.

Here in Edinburgh, we could do with a little bit of that authenticity, and perhaps even a design week.


Helsinki - World Design Capital 2012
DIESEL.com - Cultivate
World Design Capital Project.