Helsinki Design Week, Helsinki Design Awards 2018

Helsinki Design Week, Helsinki Design Awards 2018

Award winners,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One of my favorite ideas inside the Helsinki city strategy is the combination of the “three big D’s” –  Design, Dialogue and Digitalization. Helsinki aims to be the most functional city in the world. These “three D’s” are the essential building blocks of this vision. In an international comparison Helsinki is doing well – we are a well-functioning, safe, predictable and open city that offers the most progressive everyday life in the world. However, in the growing global competition we still need to do more. We need to become greater than our immediate physical limitations. We need to create an impact that is relevant to the global community. Today we work with cities like Beijing and New York in order to find a way in which Helsinki can contribute even more. One of our strengths in these conversations is our ability to integrate design-thinking at every level.

Designers are used to solving complex problems with seemingly simple solutions. Many have the ability to see past the constrains of the everyday-life and imagine realities that some might label as only “dreams”. This ability to see beyond the norm and envision new ways of living and interaction is something that I as a city leader value the most.

In order to fulfil its mission Helsinki must excel in the use of design. In some ways we already do this. Many city life experiences in Helsinki are based on good design. However, in order to really own up to our reputation there are still many issues that need improving. City planning should be more people-centered and better organized. Traffic and mobility could be more efficient for people who use it. Interaction with city officials should be less off a puzzle. We must utilize design in order to find solutions to these and some other everyday issues. The other two “D’s” – digitalization and dialogue – might offer the tools.

“Trust” is the theme for the Helsinki Design Week in 2018. New sharing-based applications have created a world that more than ever before is based on trust. At the same time global developments have created a world where trust seems to be scarcer than ever. How to develop a world in which more and more services are based on the trust between people, and more and more problems are based on the distrust between people and the states. I think that a solution to this issue lies with the city. Cities are the future powerhouses of the world. Global problems are being defined and solutions made at the city level where interaction between people and decision-makers is natural. Our power is rooted in our scale – the human dimension is both a resource and a challenge. How can we make sure that cities live up to this challenge in the future? How can we better serve our communities? The answer to all of these questions is “trust”.

In the past year Helsinki has seen many new projects born which embody these topical conversations about trust.  One way in which we create more trust is developing the participation model, where citizens are better and more deeply engaged with the city level decision-making.  This Fall we’re hiring a new Chief Design Officer, who will continue the work Helsinki started after the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012. A month ago a new Chief Digital Officer begun his work. One of his main premises is that the digital transformation is not about technology but about the development of services. For already 3 years Helsinki Lab has developed service design thinking within the City organization in order to make us to utilize more design competence. A few weeks ago we announced the results of a pre-feasibility-study for a new architecture and design museum that brings together many of the ideas and values that define the Nordic design ideology. We are about to start the renovation of the City Hall lobby that will result in a new kind of work place where city officials and citizens work together to better the city. These are only a few examples of how seriously we take design thinking in the Helsinki city organization. They also define a concrete level of action of our strategic thought – Design, Dialogue, Digitalization.


Helsinki Design Awards is a celebration of innovation, quality, vision and transformational ideals. This year the awarded include many corners of the Finnish design tradition. All of them combined in their quest for originality and commitment to sustainability. Standing before you today I feel certain that our future is in good hands. I challenge us all to never accept second-rate, to never propose a half-way solution and always to search for the even better way forward. This is the Helsinki way and I challenge the world to follow.