Montreal (Canada) – In 2007, the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) appointed the designation of World Design Capital® (WDC) 2010 to the city of Seoul, South Korea. As Seoul’s WDC term is nearing its end, more than 350 participants gathered on 8 December 2010 for the WDC Seoul International Conference and Convocation Ceremony to review the progress the city has made throughout this year.

Held at The Shilla Hotel in Seoul, the conference was themed “Proliferation of Design Value through the World Design Capital” and was hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. It was an opportunity to invite distinguished guests and experts in the fields of economy, society, culture as well as design, to wrap up the year of WDC Seoul 2010, and share the achievements of Seoul as a design-led city strengthened by its WDC designation.

During its term as the World Design Capital, Seoul placed tremendous efforts on various design-related projects all under the umbrella of “Design for All”. The year kicked off with the WDC New Year’s Eve Festival, which was closely followed by a variety of commemorative events including the WDC Global Design Cities Summit, during which the Seoul Design Declaration transpired. Other events included, the Seoul Design Market, and the World Design Survey™ 2010 project, as well as the WDC Citizens Design Competition and the Children’s Creativeness Camp held on Children’s Day, which were organised in an attempt to foster interaction and citizen participation as part of the WDC programme. An International Design Workshop on Universal Design was held, as well as the Seoul Design Fair and the Seoul Design Assets Exhibition, which contributed to increasing the city’s brand value and identity.

Design in the city has in recent years been increasingly seen from a broad perspective not only in city planning and architecture, but also in industrial and service design. Through projects such as the Han River Renaissance and Mount Namsan Renaissance, these and other efforts have been established to improve the quality of life for Seoulites, as well as raise the city’s competitiveness. As such, Seoul has grown out of its past “growth-first” principle that ignored quality of life, and has opened itself up to new horizons to unveil a new, more-considerate city through design.

Throughout the course of the past year, Seoul has placed tremendous efforts on sharing its new urban identity and its vision for the future as it leveraged its title as WDC.

Seoul was appointed WDC 2010 following the pilot project and appointment of Torino, Italy as WDC in 2008. Since its nomination, Seoul has attempted to apply itself and demonstrate from an urban design perspective that its designation was awarded because it showed such impressive design leadership and a concrete plan to achieve social, economical and cultural development via design.

In an interview with Korean press Arirang News, Seoul City Mayor Oh Se-hoon was reported to have said that “The selection of the city as ‘World Design Capital 2010’ in 2007 played a crucial role in the establishment of Seoul’s status as a leading design city and transforming itself into an attractive city that is appealing to visit, invest in and live in.”

Mayor Oh has stressed the importance of the city’s designation as a World Design Capital to promoting its international brand and its image as a modern urban city. He further emphasised that urban design is not merely a matter of convenience, aesthetics, and safety but an “essential element for survival in the 21st century” in view of the competition between cities for investment, tourism and talent, as well as maintaining and raising the happiness index among its residents and visitors. Against this backdrop, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has leveraged the WDC 2010 designation to accelerate the city’s global status.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Mark Breitenberg stated that “The WDC is more than just a project or a programme – it’s a global movement. A movement towards an understanding that design does impact and affect quality of human life.” Today, design has become an essential factor not only in business fields but also in all areas including culture, politics, administration, society, and education. As a result, developing strategies for promoting and advancing design is now being recognised as one of the core necessities for corporations as well as governments.

Both the City of Torino and of course most recently, the City of Seoul understood this movement and have used the momentum created by the WDC to win public and private support to continue working on design-led initiatives within their cities, in addition to implementing many new and exciting promotional events.

“Seoul in 2010 as World Design Capital has shown the world the importance of design in the development of new ideas and new ways of thinking. Design is important now because it is fundamentally about transforming the existing world into a better one,” stated Breitenberg. “I believe that people will look back at the first 20 years of this new century as a time when there were fundamental changes to the world. Out of this recession will come a new birth, a renaissance. And I believe that the World Design Capitals will have provided many of the solutions and models for this renaissance. The WDC is a laboratory for the future, and cities will learn from the accomplishments of these honoured cities.”

Seoul has proven that design is not a one-time development endeavour. It has not just been about embellishing its surface and adding ornament to the city, but rather about the process of securing safety and heightening the level of convenience and comfort for the people of Seoul and enhancing their quality of life and their civic pride. For Seoul, the WDC has always been about, and for its people and even as the year of the WDC comes to an end, these efforts shall continue to reap results in the future.

Seoul hands the WDC title over to Helsinki
A World Design Capital is nominated every two years by Icsid based on that city’s efforts to improve its urban environment through design. As such, the WDC title was officially transferred to the Finnish capital of Helsinki during the WDC Convocation Ceremony held immediately following the conference. The event was presided by Dr. Mark Breitenberg, 2009-2011 President of Icsid, where the symbolic WDC plaque was passed on to Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen. Also in attendance was the Mayor of Lahti, Jyrki Myllyvirta on behalf of the supporting Finnish municipalities of Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti that will support Helsinki’s WDC title in 2012.

Sustainable development, a high quality environment and engaging the population were central themes of Seoul’s World Design Capital year. The same themes will continue to be emphasised in Helsinki in 2012.

For more information, please contact:
Andrea Springer
WDC Programme Director, Icsid
t: + 1 514 448 4949 ext. 232

About the World Design Capital

The World Design Capital® (WDC) project is a biennial international designation created to identify and recognise cities that have effectively used design to revive the city and improve its quality of life. Applications for the WDC 2014 designation are currently being accepted until 31 March 2011.

Under the direction of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid), the WDC will promote the importance of good design strengthening and empowering cities to use design to position their competitive advantages from a social, cultural and economic point of view.