A few days ago, Niti Bhan wrote a thought provoking post on Core77 on whether Helsinki should receive the World Design Capital 2012 title.
Niti expressed some scepticism that such a title would provide much added value. Yet, the biennial designation of a World Design Capital (WDC) is not given to cities that are already publicly seen as design centres (she mentions San Francisco and Milan), but instead to cities that use design (and design thinking) as a strategic tool in their urban transformation.
Turin, Italy held the zero edition of the event last year (see my Core77 interview with Turin WDC director Paolo Zini on this site). It grasped the opportunity with both hands, organised a series of cutting edge events, and the city has been able to reposition itself internationally thanks to the global attention those generated.
In 2010 the title will go to Seoul, South Korea, and the organisers are using design to rethink the very make-up of its urban fabric, and strive to promote Seoul as a creative powerhouse in the region.
The 2012 host city has not been designated yet: the choice is now between Eindhoven and Helsinki.
Both cities are actively and strategically engaged in re-positioning their urban futures. In fact, they are much more engaged in these matters than Milan or San Francisco are.
It is therefore my hope that both Eindhoven and Helsinki will eventually become World Design Capitals - they can both use some boost and will use it well.
Mark Vanderbeeken is a senior partner at Experientia, an international experience design consultancy, based in Turin, Italy. He is also the author of the successful experience design blog Putting People First. Mark is a specialist in visioning, identity development and strategic communications and worked in Italy, Denmark, the USA and Belgium. He was communications manager of Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, European communications coordinator for the World Wide Fund for Nature (or WWF), marketing director of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects (USA) and chief press officer of Antwerp 93, Cultural Capital of Europe (Belgium).