Danish Design Centre Year One: We’re off to a great start
8. February 2016
The Danish Design Centre (DDC) has set out on an ambitious journey. Recently, I wrote about the principles guiding this journey. But how far have we come by now? And where are we headed? In this second part of the story about the DDC Year One, I will try to answer these questions.

New directions, new competencies, new surroundings
2015 was a year of transformation for the DDC’s strategic direction, organisation and  physical surroundings.

To look at the latter point first, we sold and moved out of the building on H. C. Andersens Boulevard and moved into the half-timbered yellow buildings in the former military storage facility  Fæstningens Materialgård, 30 Frederiksholms Kanal. This is going to be the DDC’s residence until 2018, when we move into Realdania’s exciting new complex BLOX, which is going to house the Innovation Hub for architecture, construction, urban development and design.

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Fæstningens Materialgård, home of DDC until 2018.

Under the leadership of a newly appointed HUB director, the DDC, along with the Danish Architecture Centre (DAC), the International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP), Copenhagen Solutions Lab (CSL), Kraks Fond – Institute for Urban Economic Research, INDEX: Design to Improve Life and the Danish Fashion Institute, has already begun to develop the foundation for the new Innovation Hub, which is going to serve as the basis for all the activities at BLOX. Together, we aim to help Danish companies create, produce and export tomorrow’s solutions.

In order to build a strong, common framework for the  national design organisations, the DDC has also played a leading role in establishing the new commercial foundation Design Society, which comprises the DDC, INDEX, Danish Fashion Institute and Copenhagen Fashion Week. In connection with this change, the DDC has been converted from a foundation to a company. I look forward to seeing how we can achieve new synergies in the interaction of the three design organisations in the years to come. In 2016, we have scheduled six joint development meetings, where the more than 60 employees in the three organisations are going to share knowledge and explore new possibilities for collaboration.

In 2015, we therefore, restructured our organization and welcomed new colleagues who bring in new, strong competencies within design, business development, technology, anthropology, media and communication – almost twenty new colleagues in the course of 2015. Naturally, this has been an extensive process, with more than 100 applicants for most vacancies. The many new employees have added new dynamics and drive to the organisation, and I look forward to the many positive results that our team is going to create in in 2016, to the benefit of the DDC’s users and stakeholders.

What have we achieved, then, with our new team and added competencies? We have focused on three areas in particular:

  • First, we have defined new strategic goals for the DDC.
  • Second, we have intensified our communication about design.
  • Third, we have pulled up our sleeves and launched and completed a series of new initiatives

New goals for Danish design promotion
First of all, the strategic basis for the DDC has undergone significant changes. In late 2015, our board introduced a new strategy for the DDC, which sets the course for the new organization. This move introduces a new business model for the broad national design promotion efforts, which places a stronger emphasis on action and effect and focuses less on knowledge and analysis as goals in themselves. I described the principles and focus areas of the strategy in my previous blog entry; a full-text version of the strategy is available on this website. Specifically, the DDC is introducing five strategic focus areas – so-called platforms:

  • DesignCities
  • DesignDimensions
  • DesignHealth
  • Future Business Models
  • Future Fabrication

The purpose of the five platforms, each headed by one or two DDC staff members, is to develop the palette of new initiatives and programmes that the DDC is going to focus on in the coming years.

Design on the agenda
As the second focus area in 2015, the DDC has sought to engage as much as possible with companies and the design industry. In total, about 1,000 individuals have taken part in DDC events over the course of the year, ranging from business leaders and business developers over design professionals to national, regional and municipal decision-makers. Some of the key events were:

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Discussions and networking is part of DDC’s events.

Design Dimensions, where the DDC, CBS, Designmuseum Danmark and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design co-hosted four seminars on design as a factor in strategy and business, design as cultural heritage, design attitude and design education.

The DDC’s new event format Design a.m./p.m.: As the name suggest, these are morning and evening events. The goal of the events  is to let some of the most interesting contemporary voices share their perspectives on the potentials of design and its role and conditions in today’s society, inspire the audience and create an productive and relevant space for companies and design professionals to meet in order to exchange experiences and acquire new knowledge. Some of these events were organised in cooperation with DAC. In 2015, the following themes were debated:

  • Designing for policy
  • Collaborative Design
  • A friendly nudge?
  • Future factories
  • From Big Data to intelligent solutions?
  • From hospital to hospitality?
  • Sustainable processes
  • Growing pains
  • Service design for business

As part of the initial research phase for the Future Fabrication platform, the DDC also established a partnerships with DAC to stage the Sprout Talent Week, a week-long development process, where young designers and architects used climate data from the Dome of Visions at Kalvebod Brygge to develop concrete, working prototypes. Based in part on experiences from these events, the DDC has established collaborations with Idemo Lab, Attention Group and FabLab Roskilde University about future fabrication as a strategic platform with a focus on testing design methods in relation to new production technologies.

The work on the platform Design Future Fabrication was kicked off with four inspiring workshops. Here, key stakeholders were invited to explore and qualify the role of design in a new production landscape shaped by sophisticated production technologies, global open-source trends and easily accessible hardware. The workshops produced many inspiring insights and a strong potential for the ongoing work and specific initiatives.

Together with the labour union Djøf, the DDC launched the seminar series New paths to design-based business development. In four seminars, Djøf’s members work with design methods as a tool in the strategic development and implementation of new business models in companies. The seminar series offers insight into effective design methods and experiences from relevant business cases to inspire the decision-makers to use design as a device for navigating in and addressing complex challenges.

Prototyping, programming and scaling initiatives
Our third focus area has been a targeted effort to implement existing programmes and launch new ones. Here are the main programmes:

In Scaling by Design the DDC worked closely together with ten product design companies in an effort to chart their successes and their barriers to growth. This effort unfolded as a prototyping process that tested various hypotheses about what is keeping these companies from scaling. With the experiences from this process, in 2016 the DDC is going to work with six to eight small product design companies and actors from the eco-system around them in an effort to develop and carry out a more targeted programme where the participating companies use design methods to acquire new competences, a more targeted business concept and model and insights into the use of design methods as a driver of business development and added growth.

Visiting bObles as part of Scaling by Design project.

In the PLUS programme, the DDC, working with Design denmark, the Confederation of Danish Industry and the Technical University of Denmark, brings companies and designers together around an innovation challenge. The DDC facilitates a good match between the two parties (and possibly other actors), follows up and documents the outcome of the collaboration. The first eight partnerships were established in 2014, and most are set to end by the end of 2015.  In 2016, a further eight to ten design partnerships are going to be established, with a call for applications going out in March.

In 2015, the DDC and Design denmark also launched Denmark’s new design prize, Danish Design Award, which celebrates the difference design can make for industry and society at large. The award highlights the impact of design and aims to stimulate the use of design in companies. The timing of the launch coincided with the 50th anniversary of Danish industrial design. The Danish Design Award is handed out on 7 April 2016 at the HQ building of the Confederation of Danish Industry.

The DDC has played a lead role in the business track of the ambitious EU programme Design for Europe. In 2014 and 2015 the programme launched a website presenting best-practice cases, articles and tools as well as a large number of workshops and conferences. The goal is to increase and improve the use of design in business, industry and the public sector and to promote a stronger design policy in the European Union’s member countries.

Together with the Confederation of Danish Industry, the DDC has initiated a large-scale effort to measure design-based value creation in Danish companies, Exploring Design Impact. The initiatives aims to determine the best way to make design investments, identify the right way to lead, organise and anchor design and examine the specific barriers within the companies themselves that keep them from using design to increase their value creation. A kick-off event was held for the programme in  early January 2016.

The sharing economy and new collaborative business models also mark an interesting development from a design angle. Therefore, the DDC engaged in the project We economy with support from an independent fund and in cooperation with the Think Tank DEA and project developer Peter Hesseldahl. In 2015, three seminars were held for participants from business and industry: ‘Collaborative Sustainability’, ‘Fair Share – dilemmas in a digital job market’ and ‘The sharing economy: Is your business model ready for the future?’. The project also included interviews and the development of eight Danish business cases that describe aspects of the sharing economy with a view to inspiring Danish companies. The business cases are online at the project website,

In 2015, the DDC took part in Folkemødet – The People’s Political Festival on the Danish island of Bornholm together with DAC, Bolius, Copenhagen Solutions Lab and Kraks Fond – Institute for Urban Economic Research under the heading ‘Together we develop tomorrow’s Denmark’. At the event, DDC was the main organiser of the event ‘Furniture, wind turbines and medicine’ about internationalisation, new technology and new consumption patterns that present Danish companies with new challenges as well as opportunities. The DDC also contributed to several other events and workshops during the political festival.

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In October 2015, DDC hosted a study tour of Danish design for a group of Australian CEOs.

What's next?
The year 2015 was busy indeed. If anything, however, the year ahead looks to become even busier. Fortunately, we now have a bigger crew. As I see it, our main task will be to consolidate the strategy and organisation that DDC has developed. We have built it, and it seems right, but we need to see it work in practice and over the long term. Therefore, we have several major tasks ahead of us for 2016:

Implementation and action: Even more than last year, the DDC needs to put its nose to the grindstone, so to speak. We have to deliver high value in all our interactions with companies, designers and decision-makers over the course of the year. To achieve that, we need to be targeted and precise in our efforts and bring all the DDC’s competences into play in the right partnerships.

Measuring impact: Together with INDEX and the Danish Fashion Institute (within the framework of the Design Society), the DDC has launched a systematic effort aimed at analysing how the business impact of the three companies’ activities can be measured and documented. Or, briefly put: What is the value of our activities? The process should result in an impact measurement system consisting of strategy, guidelines and competence development, which is expected to be ready in the first quarter of 2016. In just three years, our common goal is to achieve added growth and job creation at a value of DKK 500 million as a result of our efforts.

Communication strategy, identity and physical setting: During the first six months of 2016, we are going to develop a new direction for the DDC’s communication and a new visual identity. Both elements will be based on qualitative and quantitative insights into target group behaviour, awareness etc. acquired through new research, which will be translated into a new, impactful digital presence for the DDC. We are also going to transform our physical space in Fæstningens Materialgård, in part to create a much more creative and conducive setting for our work and in part to explore what sort of presence the DDC should have at BLOX when we move in very soon.

We have every reason to roll up our sleeves and to look forward to an exciting and eventful year here at the beginning of 2016. That does not diminish the tremendous sense of pride I feel in the huge strides that our team has already made. After all, taking a thousand steps has to begin with the act of taking the first. We hope that you will join us on this journey!