Torino (Italy) – “The need to develop national design policies as soon as possible is becoming an urgent requirement felt all around the world, from Qatar to Costa Rica, from New Zealand to the Far East. Torino, on the strength of its title as the first World Design Capital, created in these two days of debate the conditions for international dialogue. The hope is that work begins immediately together to ensure that design, underpinned at the institutional level, will become more and more a strategic asset in the development of every country, proposing sustainable solutions to people’s real needs”.

With these words the President of BEDA (the European Design Association) Michael Thomson concluded in the Sala 500 of Lingotto in Torino on 6-7 November 2008, the international conference “Shaping the Global Design Agenda”, the last major event organised directly by the Organising Committee of Torino World Design Capital and co-ordinated by Michael Thomson himself, which aimed to offer a significant contribution to the understanding of design as an essential component in national strategies to stimulate the development of sustainable economic and cultural growth.

Above: Michael Thomson, Programming Director and Conference Chair of the Shaping the global agenda conference. Photo courtesy of

The panel of speakers was of outstanding quality, from 16 different countries: from Ibrahim Al Jaidah, Managing Director of the Arab Engineering Bureau of Qatar to Peter Dröll, Director of the Department of Innovation Policies of the European Commission; from David Kester, Chief Executive of the UK Design Council to Fumio Hasegawa, Deputy Director General for Industry and Commerce of the City of Nagoya; from Yrjö Sotamaa, President of the University of Art and Design of Helsinki to Peter Zec, Senator of Icsid (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design); from Song Weizu representing the Congress of the Municipal Committee of Beijing and Director of the Beijing Industrial Design Center to Ezio Manzini of the Politecnico of Milan.

Conference Speakers (top L-R): Andrea Bairati, Song Weizu, Ibrahim Al Jaidah, Peter Dröll (bottom L-R): David Kester, Fumio Hasegawa, Giorgiana Penòn Orlich, Yrjö Sotamaa.

The conference, attended by about 200 people, 50% of whom from abroad, opened with the message sent by the Minister for Economic Development Claudio Scajola, read by Andrea Granelli, a member of the Inter-ministerial Commission for the Development of Scientific and Technological Culture.

Minister Scajola declared that “Made in Italy Products are one of the five priority areas of Industria 2015, the economic policy tool deployed by the government to orientate development in our country in selected strategic sectors. 2009 will also be the European year of creativity and innovation and in some ways design can be considered the science of creativity. This is a great occasion that we cannot miss to construct European policies in this sector”.

Granelli continued: “It is also necessary to explore the new frontiers of design, such as the design of services and start work on “creative platforms” that create relations between the digital world and designers to investigate and give the best support to their creative process”.

Following him, Peter Zec stated that: “Design and architecture are driving forces for the economic and social development of a city. The World Design Capital project is the opportunity for the development of a region. We hope that many cities will want to compete to win the title of World Design Capital for 2012”. The bid process for the WDC 2012 designation was officially launched on the first day of the conference. Interested cities are encouraged to obtain more information and download the application form from the official World Design Capital

Visit to download WDC 2012 application form.

The need for integrated work on design supported by adequate government policies was the theme at the centre of the speech by Yrjö Sotamaa who underlined how, since 1999, the Finnish government has indicated amongst its planning guidelines the necessity to “integrate design into the national innovation system”. In the last five years, this has led to the creation of 100 interdisciplinary projects that have involved the world of education, industry and all trade professionals, for a total investment of 30 million. This policy is now bearing fruit, increasing skills and developing design infrastructures in industry. 25% of Finland’s exports today regard products with a high design content.

Ibrahim Al Jaidah warned against design that does not respect the cultural tradition of his country. “A national design policy does not exist in my country”, he declared. “Cities like Dubai or Doha are today an extraordinary market for architects and designers, and demand exceeds supply massively, so much so that my company has grown from 7 to 400 employees in just a few years. However, the astounding skyscrapers and buildings that are now being constructed represent an architecture that does not take into account our culture and traditions. Only recently, particularly in Doha, have buildings been designed that reinterpret traditional architecture in some way, architecture that took into account the climate, the winds and our everyday needs. Today, for example, restoration is beginning of the souks, the age-old markets – and with great success. A design policy must be sensitive to the culture and environment that surrounds it”.

The conference then continued with other significant speeches.

David Kester underlined in his contribution that “Think, do, monitor are the three key words on which good design policy should be based”. ‘Think’, because creative thinking is the basis of a designer’s work; ‘Do’, because any design project can make a small difference and many small differences make a big one; ‘Monitor’, because this is how it is possible to understand in advance where errors may be in hiding and to correct them”.

The talk by Fumio Hasegawa on the city of Nagoya was of great impact, illustrating a city that alone contributes 10% to the GDP of the whole of Japan and that can today count on 53 design schools and one of the world’s most advanced Design Centres. Thanks to a design project linked to differentiated refuse disposal, Nagoya has recently managed to cut the production of refuse by 30%.

In her speech, Giorgiana Penòn Orlich of the Costa Rican Ministry of Culture emphasised how design is part of the National Development Plan.

Ezio Manzini, co-ordinator of the panel on “Design and Society. Catalysing sustainable development” talked instead of the design of services, understood as the evolution of design in the 21st century. A century that awaits us in which the main industries will inevitably have to interact with social services, the regeneration of cities, environmental issues and the world of education.

The afternoon finished with the handover ceremony from Torino to Seoul. In the presence of the Deputy Mayor of Torino, Tom Dealessandri, of the Vice President of Torino 2008 World Design Capital and Regional Commissioner for Innovation, Industry and Energy, Andrea Bairati, Carlos Hinrichsen, President of Icsid (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) handed the plaque of World Design Capital for 2010 to the Deputy Mayor of Seoul, Mr. Kwon Young-Gull.

Above (L-R): Regional Commissioner for Innovation, Industry and Energy, Andrea Bairati; Icsid President, Carlos Hinrichsen; Deputy Mayor of Seoul, Kwon Young-Gull; WDC Founding Chair, Peter Zec.

The International Design Casa project took off in Torino at the same time as the Conference. Ten exhibitions from 15 countries around the world are open in various points of the city.

The locations of the International Design homes are:

  • Casa Austria – Sala Colonne, Castello del Valentino, Viale Mattioli 39
  • Casa Belgium – “Serra”, Piazzale Valdo Fusi
  • Casa South Korea (Seoul) – Palazzo Madama, Piazza Castello
  • Casa Central-Eastern Europe (Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia) – Artintown, Via Berthollet 25
  • Casa France – Spazio Azimut, Piazza Palazzo di Città 8
  • Casa Japan (Nagoya) – Antichi Chiostri, Via Garibaldi 25 and Palazzo Barolo, Via delle Orfane 7
  • Casa Norway – OGR Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Corso Castelfidardo 18
  • Casa Netherlands (Rotterdam) – Archivio di Stato, Via Piave 21
  • Casa Singapore – Turin Gallery, Via Maria Vittoria 6
  • Casa Spain (Barcelona) – OGR Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Corso Castelfidardo 18

All the Casas will be open until 13 November 11.00 – 20.00, with a special extension until midnight on 8 November.

For more information, please contacts

Torino 2008 World Design Capital
t: + 39 011 218213

Alessandro Bertin – Press office
m: +39 349 3102241

Stefano Fassone – Press office
m: +39 393 6929534

Andrea Springer – Communications Manager
t: + 1 514 448 4949 ext. 232