Weeknotes Weeks 166-167

When a weeknote stretches to two weeks, we're flat out. This is a two-week-note. Marco's in Chicago with the mayor, Dan's in Milan giving a lecture at the Politecnico, and Justin's about to board a plane bound for Finland. In Helsinki, Kalle is with the Sitra gardening club planting herbs on the roof of the Sitra tower and I'm here, in my chair, typing this for you.

The Cumulus conference bought a torrent of design educators to town, old and new friends both. We enjoyed seeing Liz Danzico again, a prolific designer, author, educator, and tourer-of-Helsinki. Mariana Amatullo was visiting from Art Center in Pasadena, California where is the director of the Designmatters department. She spent a day and a half doing research for her PhD by interviewing stakeholders in our Design Exchange Programme and grilling us with thoughtful questions. Eduardo Staszowski and Lara Penin from Parsons School of Design Strategies dropped by too, and we had a good conversation about the differences between strategic design practice in a place like Finland which has a strong public sector and somewhere like the US which has a more fragmented landscape. Brenton Caffin was here briefly at the beginning of last week too. This is what the World Design Capital year is like.

With learning in the air, one of the things that popped up in each of these conversations was our position on the practice of strategic design and innovation more broadly. We call it legible practice and I've written up those notes in a separate post:

Doing things in the open is not the best way to help them grow. To encourage scale, we must do work in ways that are inviting, easily read, and digestible.

Dan has ben writing too. He has a book out as part of Stelka Press' inaugural series. It's called Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: a strategic design vocabulary and it rather provocatively argues for...

...A new vocabulary of design, one that needs to be smuggled into the upper echelons of power... Increasingly, effective design means engaging with the messy politics – the “dark matter” – taking place above the designer’s head.

If you're in Moscow on June 18th you can hear about this at his public lecture at Stelka.

Brickstarter continues apace. Right now we have a local web shop coding the first clickable mockup. It will be viewable on the Brickstarter website in due time, but not just yet. We're also reading, reflecting, and interviewing existing projects about their experiences with self-initiated development.

Tuomas Toivonen and Nene Tsuboi telling the tale of their <a href="http://kulttuurisauna.posterous.com/">Kulttuurisauna</a> in Merihaka, Helsinki.
Tuomas Toivonen and Nene Tsuboi telling the tale of their Kulttuurisauna in Merihaka, Helsinki.

Tristan Hughes explaining a community-developed <a href="http://meidankaupunki.wordpress.com/alternative-master-plan/">alternative masterplan proposal</a> for Meri-Rastila.
Tristan Hughes explaining a community-developed alternative masterplan proposal for Meri-Rastila.

It's basically impossible to get Kalle to stop talking about food, which is a good thing since that's what he's here to do. During the last Ravintolapäivä he operated a pop-up coffee stand which also served as a community idea collection point, resulting in some telling (and often humorous) drawings. Most of his time is spent wading through city webpages, collecting and sorting information about getting a food business off the ground. This will eventually be part of something we're calling This Is Not A Cookbook (a guide to Everything But The Food?) which will be part of the food entrepreneurship bootcamp we're planning for later this year.

I've been on the horn with groups US and Chile, coordinating a meeting for this summer to dig into two case studies for HDL 2012. It's constant logistics on that front at the moment as I attempt to wrangle diaries of 28 people in five time zones across the total of six case studies we're hoping to pull together. To amuse myself, I tinker with the spreadsheet that keeps all of this straight (and on budget). Two words: conditional formatting.

Marco and Justin are both 110% on Low2No at the moment as some critical decisions get made. On a much smaller scale, we had a few triage meetings about the renovation project that's ongoing in the current Sitra tower. Finland shuts down for all of July, which is a wonderful and maddening fact of the way of life here. This wreaks a special kind of havoc on production timelines and there was some danger that our 12th floor renovation would get pushed until after summer. After some decisive action I think we've narrowly managed to avoid that delay, and we're still currently on track to have the new spaces by August. Hyvää.

Left: the existing space. Right: after basic demolition. Renovation has begun.
Left: the existing space. Right: after basic demolition. Renovation has begun.

Then this happened:

The city has exploded into greens and blossoms as the trees come back to life, dusk and dawn melting into a continuum of tarry daylight. Welcome, summer.