Helsinki has been developing the City and its services through design for a decade. Now, information about design activities and projects in Helsinki has been compiled in one place, the new Design Helsinki website.
“Helsinki is internationally recognised as a city that makes innovative use of design, and experts from Helsinki are popular speakers at international events and discussions. We have made bold decisions about using design in the development of the City and its services, but information about our activities or their extent has not been easily accessible. Thanks to the new Design Helsinki website, we have a single address to which we can direct both Finnish and international audiences interested in urban design,” says the Chief Design Officer of Helsinki Hanna Harris.
In a way, Helsinki’s design journey design started in 2012 when Helsinki was selected as the World Design Capital (WDC) together with the Cities of Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti. In 2014, Helsinki received City of Design status from Unesco, and in 2016, Helsinki was the first European city to hire a city-level chief design officer. The City’s internal design team, Helsinki Lab, also started operating around the same time.
”Next year will mark ten years from Helsinki’s year as the World Design Capital. This is something worth celebrating, and it is also worth highlighting how diversely design and designers have influenced the City’s development in the past decade – and what our plans for the future are. The new website meets this need,” says Harris, who started in her position as the second chief design officer of Helsinki in spring 2020.
Everyone benefits from design in Helsinki
In Helsinki, design projects are carried out with a cross-sectoral network of over 200 developers, design agencies and other partners. Helsinki Lab, a part of the City Executive Office, coordinates the City’s internal design operations together with the Chief Design Officer.
“Helsinki Lab’s purpose is to promote the use of design in the City’s development. We are the support pillar offering assistance and support for the City’s design projects. The Lab’s experts provide guidance for taking a user-centric perspective into consideration, procuring design services and promoting systemic changes,” says City Design Manager in charge of Helsinki Lab Päivi Hietanen.
The City of Helsinki has signed a framework agreement on service design with eight providers. There are about 75 projects carried out within the framework agreement every year, and the annual procurements are worth 2.5 million euros, approximately.
“Design is carried out throughout the City organisation, within all divisions, so design really does concern all Helsinki residents in one ways or another,” Hietanen emphasises.
Design and a user-centric approach have influenced the updates to the City’s digital services and the way the mobility of seniors is supported, among other things.
“The starting point of design thinking is understanding the customers’ needs. Helsinki exists for Helsinki residents, so understanding the wishes and needs of various demographic groups is key in the City’s development. In the last decade, design has become an inseparable part of the City’s operations,” Harris and Hietanen state, delighted.
More examples of design projects in Helsinki can be found under the Design Stories section of the Design Helsinki website.