Direct to content

Arts & culture

World Design Capital Helsinki revs up

By Anna Leikkari, January 2012

Photo: Gustavo Alavedra
World Design Capital Helsinki 2012, light show on Senate Square, FinlandThe grand opening of Helsinki World Design Capital 2012 was celebrated on New Year’s Eve at the Senate Square in Helsinki.

Helsinki is World Design Capital in 2012. It’s an exciting time to pose questions and seek fresh perspectives.

As 2012 commences, Helsinki starts its year as World Design Capital (WDC), together with the surrounding cities of Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti. As Finland is best known for great design in furniture, glassware and architecture, you might think that they’d form the focus for the year’s events, too.

They don’t. Helsinki is grasping the essence of the WDC initiative: “to promote and support cultural, social and financial uses of design.” The city is approaching the challenge by boldly posing questions and seeking answers, “emphasising openness, continuity, collaboration and the social dimensions of design.”

WDC Helsinki 2012 looks at design from a fresh perspective, showing how design is about more than individual objects or fashion – design is everywhere. Design is helping Helsinki to continually become an even better city, not just this year but in the future as well.

From elitist to embedded

What is design? What makes good design? Why is design necessary?

The answers to these questions are as multifaceted as Helsinki’s WDC 2012 programme. The grand opening ceremony on Senate Square on New Year’s Eve formed an exciting start. The festivities were open to the general public, in keeping with WDC organisers’ focus on bringing design closer to people’s everyday lives. WDC will also make Finnish inventions and ideas better known abroad – and this means more than the iconic vases designed by Alvar Aalto.

The best design combines form and function, and is often taken for granted, like the ergonomic, orange-handled scissors made by Fiskars.

Photos: Gustavo Alavedra
New Year resolutions in Helsinki, Finland  New Year resolutions in Helsinki, Finland
New Year’s resolutions designed in Helsinki.

Design can be old or new; large or small; pretty or controversial; visible or invisible. Design also often has a social or public dimension – public transport; municipal and private health care; political systems and schooling wouldn’t work without proper design.

In other words, design is not something that only rich people can afford. Design is embedded in life; it is user-centred and it is everywhere we look.

Design is everywhere

WDC 2012 boasts all kinds of events and exhibitions across the capital region. The ideas, submitted by designers and the public, are split into themes under architecture, urban planning, interior design, sustainable design, industrial design and communications design.

There are minor events – a walk around Helsinki to spot old shop signs – and grand concepts that will still be present after the year is over, such as the Chapel of Silence built on the square in Kamppi, downtown Helsinki. These projects and many others let people appreciate design amidst the city’s hustle and bustle

The design year also aims to create new projects that make Helsinki an even better city to live in, ranging from new service design to information visualisation projects. As the WDC Helsinki 2012 organisers put it: “We are not just creating a one-year spectacle, but sowing seeds for the future.”

Watch for more WDC Helsinki 2012 articles on thisisFINLAND throughout the year.

See also on thisisFINLAND:

Welcome to Finland, the design nation
Alvar Aalto
Helsinki has designs on the good life


World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 kicked off with a special New Year’s Eve celebration on Senate Square. See the highlights in our slideshow!

Photos: Gustavo Alavedra

Hosted by the Mayor of Helsinki, the public event featured a music selection by top Finnish performers in anticipation of the three-dimensional architectural projection In praise of Helsinki, which brought the Helsinki Cathedral to life in a way never seen before. Participants were also invited to make New Year’s resolutions at a special ‘Resolutions Bar’, and Finnish greeting mittens were used to greet and bid the audience farewell.


Note: "Next" and "Previous" buttons appear in the top corners when you roll your mouse over the photos.



World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 webpage 
WDC 2012 programme
WDC 2012 international events
We are Helsinki magazine, with articles on WDC 2012
International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID)


Bookmark and Share

Rate this article:

average: 0 / total: 0

© 1995 - 2015, thisisFINLAND
Published by the Finland Promotion Board
Produced by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Department for Communications