By Giselle Carr
The Scandinavia House recently hosted the second of two lectures put on by the Cooper Hewitt Museum on Nordic Design Policy and Sustainability, focusing on design policies in the Nordic countries and the knowledge acquired in carrying out those policies. How does policy cultivate the right conditions for design markets to be competitive on a global scale and still be socially minded? Nordic countries have set a precedent for design policy in the global design community. Promoting good design that creates solutions to social, ethical, and environmental problems has proven over time to be good business for the Nordic design market. The panelists included:
Nille Juul-Sørensen – former chairman of board at Index Award, Arup (Denmark)
Lavrans Løvlie – Director, live|work (Norway)
Sam Peters – CEO, No Picnic (Sweden)
Ville Kokkonen – Design Director of Artek (Finland)
Halla Helgadottir – Managing Director Iceland Design Centre (Iceland)
In response to the question “How do these policies emerge?”, panelists described scenarios in their respective countries that were as varied as formal design councils that had been in existence for over 50 years, indirect support from the government by including design in other policies, or in some countries an absence of formal design policy altogether. The factor they all had in common was the recognition of design leadership as an engine of innovation in their respective countries, not only in terms of products but also services, as a force for transitioning to a creative economy. Representatives discussed the concept of design as “the sum of all constraints”; an overarching theme was the constraint of material inputs, as these countries acknowledged they were small and historically rich in services and innovation rather than raw materials or manufacturing power.
When asked how each of their countries quantified the success of their design efforts, representatives used numbers of innovations brought out by companies (increasing or decreasing), metrics regarding architecture or other key design industries within their countries, or percentages of companies using design in their processes. The most fascinating answer came from Helsinki’s Ville Kokkonen, who described their efforts to create an index based on Return on Design, much like the return on other investments.
Some of the themes for their selection as the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 are shown below:
1. Open city – preconditions for a better life for city dwellers
Inspiring ways for city residents to participate in and actively influence the development of their living environment. This is related, among other things, to the city environment, communality, sustainable development and the renewal of public services based on residents’ needs.
2. Global responsibility – a new role for design
Solutions that promote happiness and quality of life, such as projects where design and design thinking have a new role as triggers for change. The Design Capital is also searching for connections to people, organizations and solutions throughout the world.
3. Roots for new growth – Embedded Design
Utilize design as a source of growth in a sustainable way. The core idea of World Design Capital 2012 has been “Open Helsinki – Embedded Design in Life”. Embedded Design extends the area of applicability of design from goods to services and systems. It brings the methods of design and the needs of users to planning from the beginning.
These countries proved that a focus on design could yield positive results in their countries, as well as their international business strategy.