Weather and design, design and weather

This is just to remind ourselves that it does get, and stay, cold in Helsinki too. Here’s the link, though we hope by the time you visit the figures will be less spectacular.

There is indeed a lot of weather around, as Americans might say, and not just in Finland but across Europe it seems. But in Helsinki at least there’s less snow [below right], fortunately, as the snow falls of the last few days have been (mostly) lighter than they were at Christmas and as more of these [bottom] have been hard at work.

So far we haven’t dwelt too much on the way Helsinki secured its biggish scoop in the attentionscape by being nominated (or designated or whateverated) World Capital of Design for 2012. So there were our Progagonist, our Narrator and both their loved ones looking forward to being out of the way of spotlights, swarming tourists and unprecedented security measures … we mean not there to experience the 2012 Olympics in London, you see … safe in the relative obscurity but almost always pleasant ordinariness of Helsinki. And then this. And it does seem to be quite a big deal in that the logo and the phrase are routinely cropping up on Finnish websites and advertorials.

Mostly we (here at JHJ) associate design with consumables and the kinds of things that allow prominent product placement (remember that Sex and the City moment when someone crashes through a window with a giant Marimekko poppy in the background? No?) but with innovation and creativity so big an industry, design is now getting a wider airing. It’s architecture, planning, industrial systems, digital technology and probably design of social improvements too (though that’s just a hunch at this point).

And of course design(-ing), as a verb but particularly as a noun, a product, a thing, an object you can appreciate, sometimes touch and often also use for something … er useful, is something that is utterly, boringly, wonderfully everyday for your average Helsinkian. I mean it. I’m not sure that “your average Finn” actually goes in for this stuff with quite the same enthusiasm as rural or northern Finns, but I am sure that the word concept of “household name” was probably coined by a Finglish person.

Arabia, Iittala, Wirkkala, Sarpaneva, Marimekko, Sarvis, Nanso, Fiskars, Buster (er, must go check that one out – they’re boats), Vuokko, Hackman and so many more. Modern Finnish Design is abundantly available in books too, with delicious images. (Wirkkala’s plywood in the flesh – as it were – was so hard not to touch!) It’s hard for young designers to make it in this country with all this baggage. We here at JHJ plead guilty too.

While the hail – yes, ladies and gentlemen, and they say there was thunder in Espoo last night – rattled on the windows last night, we sat there in the kitchen and noticed that we too are afflicted with the Finnish disease: designitis. Tapio Wirkkala vase (a housewarming present so perhaps forgivable), Aino Aalto jug (ditto, ditto), Alvar Aalto circular table and chairs (own snobbish choice, but I do so like them and people appreciate being able to sit without ever bumping their knees on a leg other than when playing footsie) and table mats from Marimekko – our Protagonist’s very own choice – and retro advertising that we are old enough to remember by Erik Bruun. Crickey, even the blimmin’ tulips are from Finland. In December!!!!!!!!!

(They’ve lasted well though…)


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