Between the 13th and 17th of September 2012, we travelled to Scandinavia and witnessed the Design Week of the World Design Capital – Helsinki. With a rich design and craft history as well as a highly progressive technological output, and a vision for healthy sustainable communities; this city has a lot of knowledge to offer to the world. At first sight coming into the city, it is obvious that the entire environment is delicately and finely branded by the World Design Capital 2012 with Alvar Aalto as the godfather of their design heritage.
The PechaKucha night presented the audience with a variety of speakers from Asia, India, Australia, and Europe. They all sprung from various disciplines and yet spoke about the design thinking and process behind their work. The event took place in an old warehouse and the interiors were designed by Marimekko.
At an old cable factory transformed to a massive exhibition hall, Design Week’s Co-Creating exhibition introduced work from designers from Germany, Slovenia, and Taipei. From tofu stools, to interactive photo booths that analyzed your racial features and colorful watch shaped reminder notes, one can find a bit of everything from the latest creations in the global design scene.
Like most design weeks around the world, design studios have ‘Open Studio’ days where the public can enter their workplace, and see what it is like to work there. Luckily right before our visit, Pentagram had relocated in Helsinki to what used to be a hat factory. The interiors are all white with some vibrant flashes of color. The space is immaculate, with high ceilings and three floors. They even had a brainstorming room with a light installation in the ceiling that changes color to influence the designers’ mood. But the nicest part about this studio was hat all employees, no matter their position, sit together in an open space.
Much of the creative scene in Helsinki is owed to the great University of Art, Architecture and Design AALTO/ TAIK. So we visited the media lab and design departments to get a taste of the inspiration and fell in love with the large screens with a complete assortment of video games in the studios and the interiors (including swings) of their kitchens !
One of the most popular workshops for all ages was the LEGO workshop. The participants were hard at work throughout the week-long event, creating post-modern and fantasy-world architectural structures for a white LEGO city.
Another interesting workshop was the Open Data Cooking where participants used food ingredients to create data visualizations. These examples are about alcohol consumption in Finland and non-Finnish minorities represented by their national food.
Throughout Helsinki an easily recognizable community initiative is the urban gardening spots which allow city residents to plant their own food in their neighborhood. This added a new dimension to the city within a sustainability context and design for social innovation.
A smart method for exhibiting in open air spaces whilst encouraging recycling proved to be the use of containers that were redesigned for Helsinki Design Week. Many of these colorful containers were used as small exhibition spaces, souvenir shops and cafes.
And finally we ended our week of inspiration with a film about Pablo Ferro, the man behind some of the best film title designs of all time.