An international Non-Governmental Organization or an NGO was founded by the name of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) in 1957. What is the purpose of said organization, you ask? It’s rather simple; they promote industrial design profession and emphasize on its capability to help generate better systems, experiences, products, etc. They also focus on creating better industries and businesses, with the end objective being an environment and society that is beautiful yet efficient.


What started as a mere 12 professional design associations as founding members now includes more than 140 such member organizations which come from more than 40 nations, creating collaborative efforts in these countries to help them to be heard by the international society in concerns relating to the same. In 2015, the organization passed a motion to change its name to World Design Organisation or WDO, which will begin to be in effect from the 1st January 2017. The organisation also holds the United Nations Special Consultative Status.



But what is the World Design Capital?

One of the programmes started by the organizations includes the World Design Capital. This is a programme that focuses and highlights, bringing forth cities of the world that use designing in an innovative manner, working to improve the social, environmental, economic and cultural lives of the citizens of these cities. The idea behind ding this is rather simple actually. We all know that the world shifted from rural to urban life in a very short span of time. And while in countries like India, the urbanization process is still ongoing, the countries in the west have gotten past it already. So in a world where urban population is definitely more than rural population, the importance of intelligent designing becoming pertinent to help make these urbanized and often overpopulated cities, more efficient, attractive and liveable.

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And the objective of every nation is to have cities that are attractive, not just visually, but on all other qualitative and quantitative matters such as economic growth, cultural variation, etc. Every two years, World Design Capital is held as a promotion platform for cities, throughout the course of the year, for them to showcase all of their accomplishments that have been able to give the citizens an improved life through good designs. This will allow the city to do many other such things such as attract investments and tourism and get known internationally, showcasing their achievements to the whole world. And of course, which city would not want to be appreciated and applauded as a beautifully structured and efficiently planned city? They open the doors to sophistication and innovation in a whole new context.



Okay, so what are the cities that have achieved this target?

Till date 6 cities have been designated as World Design Capitals.

  1. Torino (2008)
  2. Seoul (2010)
  3. Helsinki (2012)
  4. Cape Town (2014)
  5. Taipei (2016)
  6. Mexico City (2018)

These cities have done everything that the WDC speaks of, innovation in design leading to improvements in life. They have included design into various aspects of the city and life of the people, to help them improve it, allowing them to deal with problems of urbanization not just for the current period, but for years to come even after being designated so.

How about going through these cities, one at a time?

TORINO, Italy (2008)

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The city of Torino, or Turin is located in Northern Italy, on the banks of the Po River, with the western Alpine Arch surrounding it, in front of the Susa Valley. The city is also the capital of the Piedmont region. Known for its art galleries, opera houses, piazzas and libraries, it also has a particularly rich culture and history. It was the first capital city of the country, back in 1861.

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In the year 2008, more than 340 different initiatives were held in the city which included a variety of things, everything from conferences and design activities to workshops and exhibitions, even fairs. Through this, the city was successful in attracting investments, creating public and private networking models and increasing the visibility of the city. All aspects saw major improvements, from things as small as ordinary citizens and opinion leaders to the bigger aspects such as public administration and schools.

SEOUL, South Korea (2010)

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The largest Metropolis of South Korea, Seoul is also the capital city of the country. Internationally speaking, the city is the 15th largest in the. The city is situated on the river Han, and was founded in the 18 BCE, by Baekje. The city is home to 5 of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites; Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, Hwaseong Fortress, Changdeok Palace, Jongmyo Shrine and the Namhansanseon.

Seoul demonstrated leadership in urban design and implemented and achieved economic, cultural and social improvements through the same. Adopting the theme “Design for All’, the events held at Seoul showcased the focus on design and objective of rising as a part of the global design community. Through its status as World Design Capital in 2010, Seoul was able to increase it’s brand value to US $800 million.

HELSINKI, Finland (2012)

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The capital city of Finland, is Helsinki, located on the shore of Gulf of Finland. It is the most populous municipality in the country. The northernmost metro area of the world, it is the fourth largest amongst the Nordic Countries. One of Europe’s major city, it is also the hub for all of Finland’s important financial, research, political, cultural and educational centres.

The city set the theme for their designation as “Embedded Design”. The city showed great participation, going as high as 90% citizens recognizing the World Design Capital Designation of the city. On top of that two thirds of the city’s population participating in various events of the WDC. Through this designation, heavy efforts were made to include design as a permanent feature of their development. Further initiatives were taken by the city to continue this, even after the designation in 2012.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (2014)

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The city seats the National Parliament and is famous for its harbours, and boasts of its multicultural nature. It is considered to be a good visiting destination, with a rich history. Many have criticized the city for its low levels of development, but they proved their want to do better by bidding to participate as the WDC.

The city recognized the fact that they had several problems and challenges that needed to be taken care of, and one way of taking care of them in the best way possible would be to let them participate. The theme was set as Live Designs – Transform Lives. The city was able to create for itself, a legacy of effective and noteworthy decisions which eventually enabled improvements in the lives of ordinary people.

So what’s going on Taipei?

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The WDC designation of Taipei started off in the form of a New Year’s Eve celebration. A musical concert was held along with a firework display. Since, several events have been conducted such as the International Design Solution Design Gala, an Exhibition, Networking meetings of cities and their representatives, conferences, forums, etc. Several other local level open events have been conducted already and more to be conducted in the coming months. This is expected to be yet another successful designation.



And in the future? Mexico City, I said.

Mexico City will be the first of the Americas to receive this designation. The city plans to improve on various parameters which include health, security and communication as the basic focal points, especially regeneration in the areas of low-income. The activities are expected to lead to a successful showcase for the city, showing how far they have come and developed.