Bringing up new designers

Helsinki Design Week presents design from a number of fields as well as fashion, architecture and urban culture, also for children.

Finland is known for established and famous designers, but for a few days the youngest generation takes over Finnish design. Helsinki Design Week Children’s Weekend offers many free events to budding designers.

At Children’s Weekend kids can create a time machine out of Lego blocks or learn how to weave designs into a chain link fence. They can build huts or test the seaworthiness of their own miniature boats.

“I don’t know much about robotics so I’m excited about the electronic bug garden,” says Reetta Turtiainen. “That’s where you can build a motorised bug.”

Turtiainen has a lot to be excited about, because she is the coordinator for the event. Activities for kids have been featured at Helsinki Design Week since 2013, but they have proven to be so popular that the offering has expanded each year. Now the event in Helsinki includes 20 free activities on design and architecture for children.

“The most important thing is participating,” continues Turtiainen.

“This is not just going to a museum and looking at design – although that is important – but this is playing and experiencing. Kids need to try things themselves, to experiment with new materials and processes they might not otherwise be familiar with from home or school.”

Enriching experience

Helsinki Design Week Children's Weekend is about experimenting new materials and processes.

Helsinki Design Week Children’s Weekend is about experimenting new materials and processes.Photo: Aino Huovio

When people think of design they might imagine architecture, fashion or industrial design. These might not seem like activities for children, but Turtiainen disagrees. The event isn’t necessarily to recruit the next generation of designers but instead to expose kids to the fun of it.

“This may not be design as adults understand it, but kids don’t have to understand design,” Turtiainen explains. “The experiences enrich their lives.”

Parent David Kaye agrees. He signed up to take his boys, aged nine and seven, to Children’s Weekend. He points out that his generation had to make their own fun while kids today are more likely to have their heads buried in electronic devices.

“I remember building all sorts of stuff, including my own go-kart. We didn’t have help; we just experimented and made it up as we went and that was half the fun,” Kaye says. “I think all kids should go out and find random things and start building, creating, experimenting and playing. The real world is not contained within the confines of a five-inch screen.”

Be a child again

At Children’s Weekend everyone can be a child again.Kuva: Aino Huovio

Organisers set out to build a programme with a diverse group of activities with a variety of partners. Kids can use different materials to create characters and tell stories with the publisher Etana, build and float ships with the help of Silja Line, or use Lego blocks with Arkki, the School of Architecture for Children and Youth.

Helsinki Design Week remains geared towards adults, but Kaye points out that design is especially important for children. He says kids should understand and embrace design from a young age. Children are uninhibited and nothing is impossible to them.

“Design is not just about aesthetics but also problem solving,” he says. “It is how we react and interact with our world. Good design helps us live and enjoy life in new and better ways. The way a child’s mind works is magical: so many ideas and free thoughts. As we grow up, society tells us what to do. It restricts our creativity and makes us rationalise everything. Oh, to be a child again!”

Children’s Weekend is open to everyone and they have no age limits.

By David J. Cord, September 2015