Helsinki Design Week’s Annual Theme for 2024 is Underneath

“Design is still sadly often seen as a surface layer, a visual addition at the end of projects. Although beauty and harmony are necessities, there is a huge untapped, structural power of change in the design industry”, says Helsinki Design Week’s Programme Director Anni Korkman.

Anni Korkman. Photo: Heli Blåfield

All new launches presented at design festivals are preceded by a development phase. This creative process is often presented as mystical, and for good reason. We simply cannot say exactly where the ideas come from. It is impossible to learn how to perfectly replicate moments of insight. Designers answer the question about their sources of inspiration time and time again – simply because we want to learn to understand how someone invents and creates.

Underneath brings these pre-announcement stages to the surface and dives deep into the design process. In the autumn, Helsinki Design Week will again make new stories, shedding light on the most interesting phenomena and making design visible all around us.

The world needs a radical redesign and reconstruction. In September, Helsinki Design Week invites not only the entire design community, but also creators from other fields to participate in the discussion. In addition to designers and architects, we need engineers, researchers, entrepreneurs, economists and artists. Helsinki Design Week’s goal is to make the relationship of all these fields to design visible – and then to strengthen this relationship. Talking about the transformative forces of design among ourselves goes nowhere. Helsinki Design Week believes in cooperation.

Underneath invites us to reach deeper and further – to learn from the past and look to the future with an open mind. That’s why we want to offer the visitors and creators of our festival the opportunity to openly reflect on what is most important right now. What kind of reality are we working for now and in the future? The answer may be found underneath the surface.

Held every September, Helsinki Design Week has a continuing theme.

The theme trilogy, which began last year, is now in its middle part. The 2023 Once Upon a Time theme started a three-year story, the second part of which now dives deeper under the surface. The middle of the story is often the most convoluted; the characters face obstacles and we have to root for them. Similarly, the middle part of most processes is the most difficult; the initial enthusiasm may have died down, the research may lead in unexpected directions, and none of the experiments will produce the desired outcome. The team’s mutual relations crack, and the trust in one’s own work ceases. Many sectors are now in a difficult phase. The uncertain global situation and the accelerating pace of change force us into areas of discomfort and to the edge of big questions. Staying open and trusting are not always easy. It’s good to remember that even this phase will pass.

Helsinki Design Week’s activities are year-round, and our multi-year theme story continues where we left off last September. There are familiar partners and expected, recurring events, as well as surprises and new developments. HDW spreads to new spaces around the capital region, presents previously unknown factors, and brings new ideas and territorial conquests to the surface. In 2025, the 20th anniversary of the festival will be celebrated, when our story culminates – and continues.

Helsinki Design Week 6–15 September 2024. More details can be found here.