NEDS – North European Design Symposium

I had the chance to spend one day at the NEDS symposium, which was organized for the first time this year. I was left with mixed feelings about the day.

At least on friday the audience was unfortunately sparse. In an event like this You don’t only come for the speakers but also for the audience. It is also interesting that practically all the speakers of the North European symposium were Finnish. For the credibility of the event, a bit more international flavor would have been welcome.

The level of presentation was also quite uneven, but these were my top pics of the day.

Hannu Kähönen, Creadesign

Kähönen started by giving an overlook about the variety of types of design project that Creadesign in involved in. After which he went on to describe some of the outcomes of their work on the National Design Program which is led by the Ministry of Employment and Economy.

Major challenges were found in the fact that small and medium sized companies in general don’t have high enough appreciation of design. A four step classification was suggested in the design involvement of these companies:

  1. Design is a part of the company’s strategy
  2. Design is a part of product development and processes
  3. Design is used to enhance looks
  4. Design is not used at all

One key factor in the near future is reduction of industrial production in Finland, which in turn can lead to the loss of designers and jobs in the industry. At the same time South Korean and Asian companies are shoving a new found appreciation of design.

Finally Kähönen made the following SWOT analysis of design in Finland:

Strengths: Reputation, tradition and efficiency
Weaknesses: Lack of courage and narrow sightedness
Opportunities: Research and co-operation
Threats: The shift of production and know how to Asia

Jarmo Ritalahti, Haaga-Helia Polytechnic

Ritalahti presented the process that lead to the design of the polytechnics campus in Porvoo. The schools staff was highly involved in defining the specifications for the new facilities. The outcome of the process was a living lab environment for creativity and learning.

The new environment also enabled new educational goals. The emphasis has shifted to soft/meta competences. A higher appreciation of interaction and communication skills has also led to the students taking more responsibility of their studies and projects.


Martti Raevaara, Aalto University

Raevaara is the  second Vice President of Aalto University. Raevaara shared some interesting insights on the results that the University has achieved through structural changes. One of the most important developments has been the increased number of international applicants for professorships. This has lead to more competition for the posts and more qualified personnel. The main reason for the shift has been the new tenure track system. This has also served to change the age structure of professorships, where the high average age of professors is becoming problematic.

For an ex Aalto staff member like me, these news were inspiring. As I was still working and studying at the University of Art and Design when the new University was formed, the general reception was not all that positive.

 Jussi Kangasoja, Oulu University of Applied Sciences

Kangasoja presented two projection systems that he has been developing.

Seamless Design Space is a large 13 meters wide and 2.6 meters tall curved 180 degree  surface, onto which 3D models and mixed media can be projected. The environment can for instance be used as a testing environment for architectural designs where the future users of building can give feedback about the building during the design process.

Skin 360 is a solution for projecting on three dimensional objects. In the system multiple video projectors are used to project on any physical object. The 3D model of the targeted object is used to map the projections so that the images cover the object seamlessly.

Both of these applications were impressive and it was easy to find similarities with our work at Crucible Studio in the Alan01 and Unperformed installations. Although I must admit Kangasoja’s systems are technically superior, the user experience that he creates is very similar.