No room for public sector complacency on design

The Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo is urging the public sector to make bolder, more active use of design in developing its service offering. As public spending is cut, new demands are being placed on the services provided by Finland’s local authorities. The available resources must be carefully targeted and providers need to work hard to ensure that all services and facilities are both accessible and appealing to the public.

“It’s simply not good enough to continue doing things like they’ve always been done before. Public investment is the key way to incorporate design expertise into the development of our public services. The really important thing to bear in mind is that designers have the ability to see services from the users’ perspective. Good design is key to developing local authority provision and the municipalities in general,” Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council’s Regional Mayor Ossi Savolainen says.

Ornamo and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council have worked together for the past three years to enhance public procurement through design.

The design profession is ideally-placed to offer expertise in strategic thinking and public engagement in services and across spatial, product and creative design as well as city planning. This brings added value to the commissioners of public services.

“User-driven design allows service providers to maximise their limited resources by directing them at services that are delivered at the right time and at the right capacity. Design can improve services across a number settings, including hospitals, nurseries and care homes, as well as the online environment,” Asta Boman-Björkell, Senior Advisor at Ornamo, explains.

She is calling on local authority service developers and commissioning and purchasing units to make active use of the benefits good design can offer, while also encouraging designers to get to grips with the public sector procurement processes – a significant business opportunity for an increasing number of design businesses.

New guide to public procurement for the design sector

The decision to purchase design services is often made along with other investment and, as such, the procurement process may be difficult to get to grips with. Practices are still on their way to becoming established and, for some time, there have been calls for authoritative guidance on the issue.

In response to the demand, Ornamo is publishing a guide that brings together useful information and practical case studies, written from the point of view of both commissioners and designers. Vaikuttavaa vuoropuhelua! Opas tulokselliseen muotoiluhankintaan (Effective dialogue! A guide to purchasing design) is the first publication of its kind in Finland. It is the culmination of a long-standing collaboration between Ornamo and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council to develop public sector purchasing through design.