The current year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tapio Wirkkala, perhaps the most iconic character in the history of Finnish design. Anniversary exhibitions, design works and discussions have reminded us not only of Wirkkala’s extraordinary talent as a designer and artist, but also of his contribution to the economic upturn of Finland. Wirkkala made glassware and wood sculptures, but he also designed industrial consumer goods and identities—long before brands and concepts were really even considered.
It is worthwhile to look at history, not to cling to the past but to look ahead. In the years when the reputation of Finnish Design was born, design was part of the change taking place in society and played an important role in creating new success (stories). In the 2010s, the world is a very different place from what it was in the 1950s and 1960s. For this reason the “how” design is utilized today is different. However, the “why” remains the same. Design was and is used to create usability, attractiveness and differentiation—in other words, competitive advantage.
What actually can be considered as design in a product or a service is a more difficult question. At the most basic level, all man-made objects are somehow the result of design. Thus, it could be argued that we are all designers. However, not everybody is a good designer. There are great differences among companies in terms of how they understand design, for what purposes it is used and at which level of the company’s hierarchy the decision-making takes place in design-related issues. The difference is visible in company performance. Where design is part of the company’s so called DNA growth is faster and more sustainable than in companies where design is treated only as the final detail/polish. *
How should design be defined today? Who should be interested in design? What is the significance of understanding design for small and startup ompanies? How could design help in discovering new business opportunities? And, finally, how is design valued by investors?
These questions will be addressed on 11 November at the Slush Engine Room, where Design Forum Finland has invited a panel of international experts from the fields of design, brand development and new business. The networking part of the event provides an opportunity for finding out in more detail how design can be integrated in a company’s core, and who are the possible partners available for doing this.
All the things that could be initiated and come out of 11 November can hardly be designed. However, there is one goal that can already be set: the event will have served its purpose if, by the end of it, the title of this article no longer needs a question mark.
Translated from Finnish by Delingua