The Kaj Franck Design Prize shows the changes in design profession

The Kaj Franck Design Prize, established by Design Forum Finland and the Finnish Fair Foundation, was awarded for the 28th time this autumn.

For the first time, the receiver, instead of one single designer, was a group: the six partners of the design agency Aivan, Jarkko Jämsén, Minka Koukkunen, Aleksi Kuokka, Antti Mäkelä, Aki Suvanto and Saku Sysiö. The prize rules have allowed this since the very beginning, but not only now the first team of designers was awarded.

The Kaj Franck Design Prize is a recognition of an outstanding designer career. The list of prizewinners is the list of the most outstanding Finnish designers as well, including Oiva Toikka, Eero Aarnio, Harri Koskinen and Björn Weckström, among other persons. None of them has made his or her production alone, of course, but in several cases the input of one single designer has been so crucial that the finished product is only signed with one name.

In today’s world the objects of design work are complicated, often large and calling for various skills. The expertise of a single designer is no more enough, the joint skills of teams and agencies are now what counts. This was also plain to see in this year’s selection of the prizewinner.

The six partners of Aivan run the agency jointly. Each partner has his or her own strong area: boat design is Jämsén’s, management and economy Koukkunen’s, graphic design Suvanto’s forte, as an example. Together, the teams led by the partners are able to realize complicated and extensive design assignments. This multidisciplinarity and an ambitious approach to assignments is what the partners themselves see as the greatest asset of Aivan.

The prize jury especially appreciated the team’s comprehensive touch on design, uncompromising quality and the consistent development of the agency’s own design DNA. Several brands constructed by the agency have become international successes and the boats designed by the subsidiary Navia Design have in particular attracted attention. The prize jury also noted that though the agency has not made much noise about its doings, there has been plenty of work – work well done has created good reputation which has turned into growth.

The Kaj Franck Design Prize exhibition is currently on show at the Design Museum’s Gallery in Helsinki. The exhibition both showcases the works by Aivan and opens up the varying aspects of design work – quite literally, too, as some products are exhibited as dismantled into their components. There are also prototypes, from cardboard mockups up to finished products, making it easy to follow the development of forms and design. The exhibition ends on 12 January 2020.

Photo: Starship Technologies, delivery robot, Aivan