Helsinki (Finland) – The World Design Capital 2012 year has ended in Helsinki and has brought about a greater understanding of the possibilities of design that has helped Helsinki raise its profile as a design destination and further expanded the use of design in Finland.

In 2012, Finns discussed design more than ever before, and Finnish design attracted unprecedented levels of international attention.

The focus of World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 was on building better cities through long-term development projects and although it is still too early to evaluate the success of these development projects, initial results suggest that the WDC Helsinki 2012 year has made Helsinki a city that is both more open and better attuned to the needs of its residents.

The first glimpse into the year’s legacy is summarised in the ten theses that were published in November 2012. The year helped citizens gain a deeper insight into the importance of design and its impact on their daily life, highlighted the user’s perspective in design, and promoted the use of design in solving problems in different environments. Design also contributed towards better well-being services, student library services, airport security checks, ways of working, work wear, new signage system for the entire Helsinki area, and more.


Over the course of the year, WDC Helsinki 2012 also served as a meeting place for the global design community. Its programme was made up of a total of 580 projects that increased the understanding of the importance of design. Visitor numbers for the events, exhibitions and destinations as a whole were well upwards of one million, and the WDC Helsinki 2012 programme also left a mark in most residents’ lives or surroundings through the different development projects. Of the total of 2,800 events held throughout the year, 90% were open to the general public and 80% were completely free.

2012 brought a record number of visitors to Helsinki and to the supporting cities of Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti. But although the WDC Helsinki 2012 is year now over, there will still be many places to visit, such as the Kamppi Chapel and the new Helsinki University Main Library in the Kaisa House, which together attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors in 2012. The two will remain permanent fixtures and architectural attractions in Helsinki, while at the same time serving as examples of outstanding service design.

The Abattoir, a new hub for food and culture that got off to a flying start in 2012, will not only stay open but also expand in the coming years. A new public sauna, Kulttuurisauna, will open its doors in the first months of 2013 and will be bringing joy to local residents and visitors alike for the next 30 years at least. The Finnish Nature Centre Haltia will open to the public in March 2013, introducing visitors to nature destinations found across Finland – and only a short drive away from the Helsinki city centre.

Some of the summer destinations to continue beyond 2012 include Turn Table – The Urban Garden and the exercise equipment put up as part of the “Get in Form” project. The popular jogging tracks around the Töölönlahti Bay afford wonderful views of Helsinki’s landmarks, such as Finlandia Hall, and now there’s also a chance to get in an ab workout, for example. Helsinki residents are so taken with the outdoor fitness equipment that they have kept them in use throughout the winter season, despite a blanket of snow up to tens of centimetres deep.

Take a look at some of the moments of the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 events in the Icsid photo gallery.

About World Design Capital® (WDC)

While there are many awards that recognise individual accomplishments in design, the World Design Capital designation is unique as it aims to focus on the broader essence of design’s impact on urban spaces, economies and citizens. The designation provides a distinctive opportunity for cities to feature their accomplishments in attracting and promoting innovative design, as well as highlight their successes in urban revitalisation strategies.

The World Design Capital is an initiative established and managed by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. Past cities to hold the title include Torino (Italy) in 2008 and Seoul (South Korea) in 2010. The City of Helsinki (Finland) is currently implementing its programme for 2012 under the theme of Open Helsinki: Embedding Design in Life, whilst preparations for Cape Town (South Africa) are underway for 2014.