Helsinki Design Week is produced by design service agency Luovi Ltd. Luovi was founded in 1995 by Kari Korkman, and it began with producing products such as bags and laptop cases. Helsinki Design Week has its origins in 2001 when Luovi was launching a new collection of bags in an exhibition called DesignPartners01. The exhibitions continued in 2002 in the Design Museum and in 2003 at the Cable Factory.
Events held in parallel with the exhibitions started to develop and grow, and it became natural to rethink of these activities as a city festival. A network was needed that could gather creative minds together and promote design, and thus Luovi founded and registered Helsinki Design Week in 2005. The goal was to develop the city as an environment for creative industry.
Since 2005, Helsinki Design Week has been organized annually in September.
The first ever Helsinki Design Week presented events such as the Design Market and Open Studios, which have since then been established as regular entries in the Helsinki Design Week programme. In 2006 Helsinki Design Week brought the hugely popular PechaKucha Nights to Finland. The Children’s Weekend, which is now held annually during the last weekend of the design week, became part of the festival in 2013.
In 2010 Helsinki Design Week discovered the Old Customs Warehouse in Katajanokka and leased the building to make it into a hub for culture. The Old Customs Warehouse served as the main venue for Helsinki Design Week in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Since 2009 Helsinki Design Week has organized its programme around themes. The first themes were “Come to the light” (2009) and “Storytelling” (2010).
In 2012, Helsinki was the World Design Capital. As Helsinki Design Week was one of the key components of the year, the nomination and its legacy was reflected in the HDW programmes of 2011, 2012 and 2013 with the themes “WDC pre-party” (2011), “Co-creation” (2012) and “Action!” (2013). In 2014 Helsinki Design Week celebrated its 10th anniversary with the theme “Take the Leap”.
The 2015 theme “Time Machine” gathered a total of 200 events that spread throughout the city, and the Lars Sonck -designed L3 Warehouse in Jätkäsaari served as the main venue of the festival.
In 2016 Helsinki Design Week put together 256 events under the theme “Better” and reached 158 000 visitors. The main installation – a bubble around The Three Smiths statue – achieved 34,000 visitors during seven days.
In 2017, Helsinki Design Week organised over 250 events in collaboration with it’s partners which examined the city through the theme of “Q&A”. The festival, which gathered 161 000 visitors to the city centre, delighted them for example in the form of tram discussions when HKL’s old culture tram transformed into design’s afterwork carriage. As it went around the Helsinki’s different districts, it served as a conversation platform between the citizens and different organisations.
In 2018, Helsinki Design Week worked as a platform for about 240 events all over Helsinki area in collaboration with it’s partners. The theme “Trust” was in the core of many of the events. There was about 170 000 people visiting all the events in the official festival programme.The new Children’s Design Week provided children with a creative program and promoted design education and the knowledge of the built environment and Helsinki Design Week took over the Helsinki City Hall with discussions, installations and workshops.
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