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January 2019



Trends and events: design year 2019

Despite the great changes of the design field, the yearly design calendar is yet based on various international trade fairs and events focusing on product design. Big design events take place every month somewhere around the world. Though the fairs concentrate on products, larger themes and topics emerge with them, too.

Responsibility and sustainable consuming have been on the increase for some years now, and surely becoming stronger and stronger topics. In designing consumer goods, materials and a certain timelessness are underlined, and products are more often designed for a longer life and in regard to their whole life cycle. On the other hand, the international media predicts the end of Scandinavian minimalism and the rise of a more abundant and colourful style, which is contradictory to the demand for timelessness.

The Finnish design year usually starts in February, with Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair. There, new products are launched and hints on general trends and styles of the year are received, although the fair focuses on furniture and interiors. After Stockholm we head for Reykjavik, Iceland, where DesignMarch exhibits Icelandic design and many kinds of cross-disciplinary events. The Icelandic design scene is rather small but open to try new combinations with various other fields.

A must for all design enthusiasts is Salone del Mobile in Milan in April. Last year there were over 1,100 exhibitors in the main event. Above all, Milan is an important media event which no design media or professional blog leaves uncommented. In spite of all that hype and trends, sustainable development is gaining ground here, too.

It's delightful how many cities in Finland are keen to arrange their own design events. The first venue in late winter is Rovaniemi. Arctic Design Week, the northernmost design event of the world mercifully takes place in March when winter is hopefully fading. This year's theme is Design for Happiness. The program will be published soon.

Design Week Kuopio is arranged in April, with a Design Triennial as its novelty. This first time it includes a two-day seminar and an evening event. How many are aware that the roots of design in Savolax reach to 1884, only a little later than the activities of the Finnish Society of Craft and Design, began in 1875? A society of local ladies, founded in 1860, started a craft school in 1884 which later evolved to design academy Muotoiluakatemia. In 2002 it became part of Savonia University of Applied Sciences. Thus, the 135th birthday will be celebrated in Kuopio! TADA Week in Tampere is usually in August and there are plans to organize Turku Design Festival this year, too, but these dates are not published yet.

The biggest and most beautiful of Finnish design events is of course Helsinki Design Week at the beginning of September. It has evolved from a plain design week into a collective urban event, with the versatile network of the metropolitan area as its asset. HDW efficiently operates as an umbrella organization, taking care of marketing and coordinating programs produced mainly by others. Its visibility has also grown from local to national.

At the same time in September, the Habitare interior, design and furniture fair is arranged in Helsinki. It is aimed at ordinary consumers, as compared to the trade fair in Stockholm. The importance of Habitare is enhanced with several special exhibitions such as the prize exhibition of Vuoden Huiput, the competition of visual communications and design. The International Friend of Habitare is Alberto Alessi.

In design discourse, ecological design and the circular economy reflect today's situation, and reciprocally design-related topics have arrived in general conversation. Design is, after all, one of commonly used organizational tools nowadays, and user experience and service design are widely discussed. Added value to the customer becomes subtler and more individual, when competitive advantage and distinction are sought for. Services and products must be able to produce personal value and meaning to their buyers or users, supplying just a need is no more enough.

Design Forum Finland's themes in 2019 are, too, value and meaning, and the topics and speakers of our events relate to these current concepts. We will again arrange Design Forum Talk and Date events, participate in SuomiAreena public debate forum in July and continue our training program of strategic design. The Young Designer of the Year prize will be announced in August and the Kaj Franck Design Prize in November. There are also plans to organize the Fennia Prize design competition in the autumn.

But the most important piece of design news in 2019 concerns the #uusimuseo project, the new Architecture and Design Museum. The working group examining the merger of the two museums should publish the new museum concept by the end of February. A report of the new organization and management is scheduled for the spring and decisions should be made in autumn. If the plans come true, the new museum will open in 2025 – and it will be the best Architecture and Design Museum in the world.

Photo: Osma Harvilahti: New Colour, at Design Museum 5 April–26 May 2019