HDL Studios 2010
Within Finland, HDL is developing its own experiments that bring leading strategic designers together with content experts to develop applied solutions for real world problems currently faced by government. During the summer of 2010 we are ran three invitational studios focusing on the high level themes of education, ageing, and sustainability.
We believe that there’s no better way to develop new knowledge than to actively explore the solution to real world problems—and the HDL Studios are the key tool in this strategy. Helsinki Design Lab Studios are a platform for using strategic design to address real-world challenges within the Finnish context. Each studio brings together eight people from all over the world to apply their expertise to a specific challenge chosen in cooperation with government at the city and national levels.
HDL Education studio
Who’s Really Failing? Dropouts as lead users for education in a diverse world
Are dropouts failing in their studies, or is the system failing to support these individuals? Dropouts are a leading indicator that reveals the ultimate challenge and opportunity for education—how to become more relevant in the ever changing, diversifying world. For all the effort and money spent on early intervention, special education, and counselling, not all students’ learning needs are sufficiently met. Simply put, the main concern is to expand the learning environment to reach everyone, including those individuals who learn best in different ways, in different environments, and with different skills, interests or intelligences.
More information in the Education Dossier.
HDL Sustainability Studio
Delivering Sustainability: A pathway to carbon neutrality in the built environment
Finland can achieve carbon neutrality in the coming decades. In fact, relative to other nations, carbon neutrality is low hanging fruit for Finland. Its massive carbon sink, growing use of low carbon energy sources, and effective policy implementation make the reduction a realistic and tenable goal. The opportunity for this studio is to make this value proposition and to design a pathway to carbon neutrality for the near and long-term. This marks the first comprehensive effort to design a clean, green and smart development strategy for Finland—not in 2020—not in 2050—but now.
More information in the Sustainability Dossier.
HDL Ageing Studio
Extending Well-Being: Rethinking welfare for an ageing society
With Europe’s most rapidly ageing population, Finland faces a daunting challenge in light of the imminent retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. The onset of sudden strains and intense pressures will draw increased attention to shortcomings of the existing welfaresystem. To make good on the social contract between generations, Finland must rethink how and why it delivers welfare services to the elderly, as well as redefine the general understanding of all life stages. As the largest demographic shift since the post-war era, the coming decades will necessitate innovation in the broadest understandings of what it means to be elderly.
More information in the Ageing Dossier.
But.... What is a studio?
The studio concept has at least three key facets: it’s a way of working, it’s a physical space dedicated to the project, and it’s an effective team.
Perhaps most importantly, the studio is a mind set. To be “in studio” is to collaboratively work towards a solution. This way of working nurtures ideas that exist at the intersection of areas of expertise. Design creates a space to see challenges without bias. In effect, the studio is a shortcut towards making sure every aspect of a problem is seen, and therefore prepares the ground to designing more effective solutions.
In a studio the focus is on using plausible scenarios and collaboratively working through iterations rather than waiting for individual ideas to be complete and perfect before they are expressed. By switching between group work and individual work, the studio is able to produce a diverse range of possibilities while also leveraging the power of collaboration.
Studios are organized around specific challenges. Exploring the territory of that challenge may require pursuing seemingly unrelated or divergent ideas, but without a clearly delineated starting point it’s impossible to develop effective solutions. In the case of HDL, we begin each of our studios with a challenge briefing. This is a 30-50 page document which outlines the challenge and offers a brief summary of the “key dimensions” of the problem. The challenge briefing is indicative rather than exhaustive, and is intended merely as a starting point that will necessarily evolve as the studio progresses.
Using a term borrowed from design education, a “studio” is also a physical environment where a small team work together. Design studios are often very open and easily reconfigured, as opposed to locking everyone away in private offices. A good studio spaces supports different modes of working or even relaxing—sometimes the best ideas come over lunch! Our studio space is in the heart of Helsinki on a quiet, pedestrian patch of Kalevankatu. Behind three arched windows, just above the hustle of the cobblestone street below, is the home away from home for our visiting teams.
Finally, a studio is a group of individuals who form a coherent team. Using a rule of thumb borrowed from NASA, the ideal number of participants in a studio is about eight people. Any less than eight and the diversity of viewpoints is limited; any more and it’s hard to have a single conversation. If teams of eight enough are good to put a man on the moon, we think it’s good enough for us too.
As a small group, a studio is as powerful as it is diverse, and with a room full of identical people there’s little chance for new ideas to spark. Helsinki Design Lab has carefully developed the studio teams to represent a diverse set of perspectives in terms of cultural background, professional expertise, and experience. Of the eight people in each of our studios, two are strategic designers who will guide the discussion towards synthesis.
Each of the HDL Studios in 2010 spent one week here in Finland, during which time they were totally immersed in the problem—be it ageing, education, or sustainability. With access to governmental decision makers, everyday citizens, and anyone else they see fit to confer with, the studio’s goal was to develop a road map to strategic improvement. This roadmap and a “top ten” list of actionable opportunities to get us there, form the basis of Helsinki Design Lab’s ongoing work centered around these themes.