Design for Government course

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The role of governments and public sector is of utmost importance in achieving sustainability, and now the world is witnessing designers helping just that. Helsinki Design Lab of Finland, MindLab of Denmark, and Public Policy Lab of New York are just the beginning, and the city of Helsinki has just hired three “city designers”.


DfG, a pilot course under Creative Sustainability

The emergent domain of design requires a new set of skills and the right mindset. Design For Government (DfG) is a pilot course under Aalto Creative Sustainability master’s programme focusing on exploring and building new design capabilities for governmental and public sector innovation with emphases on systems thinking and human-centred design. In the 10-week intensive studio course the masters students with diverse background work on real-world problem as well as getting right mixture of input from the top-tier experts from the field such as the former director of strategic design unit at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and the current deputy director of MindLab.

DfG consists of theory (cs0028) and case (cs0029) parts that together makes a 12-ECTS course. DfG will run from week 13 (24 – 28 March 2014) to week 22 (26 – 30 May 2014) for 10 weeks with a workload of 4 working days per week, that is 324 hours in total.

In theory part, students will get themselves acquainted with systems thinking and human-centred design tools and in case part concrete real-life projects will be commissioned from Finnish governmental organisations. For year 2014 DfG is getting the following projects from the Ministry of the Environment.


Cases commissioned for DfG 2014

Accessibility of buildings

The Ministry of the Environment is in the process of renewing Regulations and Guidelines for Barrier-free Building – that is accessibility of buildings. Accessibility in both old and new buildings is of growing national importance due to the ageing population that should be able to live independently at their homes in near future. The theme touches many other different groups as well – families with babies, people with disabilities, just to name a few.

Students of the DfG are given a chance to contribute to this process from many different angles: looking at how the current regulations work in practice, how to communicate them in a more attractive and understandable way, what kind of incentives might promote the cause and what are the practical implementation designs that would best serve the needs of the target groups.

Current versions of National Building Code relevant to accessibility: F1, F2, and G1


Plastic bag theme

Plastics, and more specifically plastic bags, are a major source of marine littering damaging the sea. Plastics contain hazardous chemicals that easily dissolves in water. In addition, microscopic plastic debris in the water cannot be removed and therefore the toxic chemicals may accumulate in marine fauna.

The EU commission is now preparing changes in a directive with the aim towards reduced number of plastic bags used in the member states, the proposal of which is now being reviewed by the member states. The proposal will be processed further during the Spring of 2014 and the national legislation or other policy measures will follow later. There are dissimilarities between EU nations regarding the issue: excessive plastic bag usage is a major problem in some member states while it is not relative insignificant in other states including Finland based on the current statistics. Consequently, a careful consideration is required for customised actions and policy measures for different countries.

The students of the DfG will work with the Ministry of the Environment, helping reframe the problem and rethink the information and communication of the matter from retail to disposal and recycling.



Designer and design researcher Seungho Lee, architect, designer and author Hella Hernberg, and design researcher and service designer Juha Kronqvist. More on DfG website



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