World Design Capital Helsinki 2012

Through the theme of “embedded design”, World Design Capital® Helsinki 2012 showcased innovative design as a fundamental tool to address the everyday needs of citizens. Over 90% of Helsinki citizens recognized the City’s WDC 2012 designation, with two thirds of the population taking part in WDC activities. For Helsinki, World Design Capital introduced design as a permanent and significant component of the city’s development. Helsinki then launched Design Driven City, a two-year programme, to ensure the WDC legacy continues well after the 2012 designation.



WDC Helsinki 2012 strengthened citizens’ understanding of the value of design, increased interest in urban development, and enhanced Finland’s reputation as a design nation on the international stage.

Beyond 2012, the Design Driven City initiative, concluded in December 2015, made sure design thinking had truly implanted itself within the city. Focusing on embedding design into everyday processes, a hotline was created to give any city employee the opportunity to consult with a designer. An informal network of ‘design agents’ was also created in order to break down silos and make it easier for people to exchange and see what design could do for them.

Impact Assessment

*Finnish only


Signature Events

New Year’s Eve of Design

Focused on design-led new year’s resolutions, New Year’s Eve of Design was held in the heart of Helsinki in the Senate Square. Co-hosts Icsid President Prof. Soon-in Lee and Mayor of Helsinki Jussi Pajunen were joined by local citizens and guests from around the world to ring in the new year as World Design Capital Helsinki 2012.

Design Gala

Icsid announced the first recipient of the World Design Impact Prize to Kenyan-based Planning System Services Ltd. for their Community Cooker project. The award was given during the World Design Capital® (WDC) Design Gala in Lahti (Finland), where close to 600 distinguished guests gathered from the international design community.

International Design House Exhibition

Everyday Discoveries – International Design House Exhibition was held in Suvilahti in September 2012. Hundreds of designers from 23 countries set up “design houses” at the exhibition to offer concrete examples of design solutions that different countries have for similar everyday situations. In addition to the indoor exhibition space in Suvilahti, the exhibition also extended to the outdoor container village.

Convocation Ceremony

While Helsinki’s WDC Closing Summit marked the end of the city’s appointment, the event was immediately followed by the WDC Convocation Ceremony in honour of the City of Cape Town as the next WDC in 2014. Accompanied by a supporting delegation from South Africa, including the Mayor of Stellenbosch, Mr. Conrad Sidego, Alderman Patricia de Lille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town expressed that “The central thesis of the City of Cape Town’s approach to the World Design Capital 2014 will support the premise that excellence in design is using what you have to realise what you want. What we hope to do is design the change we want to see in our city, using the very building blocks of which our city is comprised.”


Local Highlights

Ideas Forum

Held in 2010 to prepare the way for the WDC year, the Ideas Forum was an invitation to a culture of open action and a promise of continuity. Thousands of citizens participated in the brainstorming process. Approximately one hundred sessions were held in Helsinki and the municipalities of Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti, where more than two thousand ideas for WDC Helsinki 2012 were proposed.

WDC Helsinki 2012 Pavilion

The Pavilion, built by a team from Aalto University Wood Studio in collaboration with the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Design Museum, became the heart of the action for more than 100 summer days during the WDC year. An open space both literally and figuratively, it brought people together to find out about WDC, enjoy arts and culture, and exchange about the design heritage and future of the city.


Kauko Cafe

How important is design in everyday life? The team at hasan & partners decided to create a unique café experience with Kauko, where remote participants could control the height of chairs and tables in the restaurant, as well as the lighting, and the music simply by using their smartphone. The answer? Yes, design is important in everyday life, whether you are initially aware of it or not.

Open Identity Helsinki

The visual identity of WDC Helsinki 2012 was built around the idea of openness. A project led by Kokoro & Moi, workshops were held in Helsinki and Shanghai. The resulting brand identity featured hundreds of graphic interpretations of the main WDC themes by people of all ages, nationalities and different backgrounds.




WDC Helsinki 2012 New Year’s Eve of Design

WDC Helsinki 2012 Open Helsinki

Monocle Film | Most Liveable City: Helsinki

WDC Helsinki 2012 Kauko Café

WDC 2012 Designer Portraits: Elina Aalto

Aalto University Celebrates WDC 2012

WDC 2012 Designer Portraits: Petteri Kolinen