Last week I visited Helsinki for the first time. It was at the behest of my client Nokia, who wanted me there for an afternoon’s workshop. It can be hard to get an impression of a place in such a short space of time, especially when you are working for most of it, but Helsinki seemed at once strange and familiar, with its unusual mix of Scandinavian and quasi-Soviet architecture, and often striking juxtaposition of old and new.

What won me over to the city and its people (apart from feeling incredibly safe as I trod unfamiliar streets, even at the dead of night) was its endearing quirkiness. For example, after said workshop, Kokoro & Moi, the buzzy design company who’d hosted the workshop, invited us to a totally mad ‘cake party’, organised as part of Helsinki Design Week. Fashion, architectural and graphic designers had been challenged to create a conceptual piece (of cake). These were exhibited to a discerning crowd of designery types at a chi-chi furniture store. Among the various entrants were a cake as a giant coin, a loose self-portrait, and a chocolate offering shaped as a poo. Kokoro & Moi’s effort was a ‘build-it-yourself’ cake – plain sponge slices on which you could plaster jam, cream or hundreds and thousands with the provided plastic spades. A flouring of self-expression, you could say.


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