Draft Helsinki stories

People have a million opinions on Helsinki – or do they?

Almost five months of broad qualitative research have been completed as part of the Helsinki brand project. This included a survey of Helsinki’s strengths and weaknesses and its near-term prospects.

A large number of studies, personal interviews, experience mapping with focus groups, competitor analyses and theme-generating workshops formed the content of the research. Well over a hundred city people participated in mapping out the initial phase. Authentic-sounding material has been gathered for the Helsinki story.


A bold leap

Many locals feel that Helsinki is known for its beautiful scenery such as its seascape, city greenery and architecture. The only problem is that vital content likely to draw outsiders to the city is missing. Life itself, in fact.

Studies suggest that few people know much about Helsinki, or find it interesting. At the same time, Finland is crying out for more jobs and vitality. As residents of Helsinki, we’ve got to take a bold leap in one direction or the other – otherwise lack of change will spell stagnation.

A comparative assessment of fifteen foreign cities provides a hint: you can transform ‘just getting by’ into a success story if sufficient townsfolk choose a new direction through their work and actions.

Whether or not a place becomes the world’s most talked-about city by some absolute measure is irrelevant: shared intent is the key issue in drawing level with others. We can improve our reputation abroad by being ambitious about improving our own ‘back garden’.


What do people care about?

“In city brand building, the key challenge is to form a broad understanding of the customer and transform it into a common message,” explains Tiina Toivola of the Kuudes Kerros design studio.

The city’s ‘customers’ include residents, experts, investors and tourists. Much is said in the name of such roles, even though only one person is doing the talking: one person, who is also affected by very human factors.

Helsinki has never been a destination for mass tourism. People who get along with others and appreciate quality of life, who value their own time more than money, come here. These are people who want to experience both peace and a city vibe, do things that matter and who appreciate creativity and diversity.

These universal needs are important to many people around the world.


Key stage

“A strong Helsinki story will arise if it unites enough people,” says Outi Leppälä of the City of Helsinki’s Marketing Unit.

Everyone that the Helsinki tale concerns are its owners and tellers. The next step in the brand work is therefore the most important in the process: over a period of five weeks, anyone who is interested can assess the draft themes of the story.

When thinking about your own Helsinki, cast your glance boldly into the future. Is your Helsinki 2020:

A city which allows more time for living?

A city in which I draw energy from our urban vibe and peace?

A city in which we build wellbeing together?

The world’s best city for being myself?


Or something else entirely?


Text: Riikka Lahdensuo
Picture: Jussi Hellsten

Draft concepts in brief

My Helsinki 2020:

A city which allows more time for living?

To me it’s important to be able to set aside a few hours per day for things I find interesting. So the key thing about the Helsinki of the future would be having more time than in other cities.

In Helsinki everyday life runs smoothly, because the city is a handy size, functional and safe. We work in a technological but open and people-friendly environment. Distances are short, and social and professional circles nicely compact. Tourists also love the city because they have time for lots of different things on the same day.

Helsinki is home to relaxed city dwellers, who don’t have to sit for hours in traffic jams, or at the office when they can telecommute. This leaves more time, which everyone can use just as they wish.


A city in which I draw energy from our urban vibe and peace?

I want a city to recharge my batteries rather than exhausting them. Helsinki is a city that refreshes people, where an urban vibe and peace can be found just a few steps away from each other. In what other capital city could you fish or relax in a hammock so close to the city centre?

In addition to its urban vibe and peace, Helsinki is full of fascinating contrasts and we will be known for our unique combination of these. They will include our cityscape and nature, summer and winter, light and dark, and family and working life.

People want to work in Helsinki since here we get things done, but in an open and friendly atmosphere. City dwellers thrive, because they are not left drained by their everyday lives. And we are known for our smooth logistics, even in the deepest winter frosts.


A city in which we build wellbeing together?

I find it important to do meaningful things. That’s why I want Helsinki to be known as a city of the communal age, in which the inhabitants build the world’s best everyday together.

While someone helps out in her own circle of friends, someone else could be contributing to events in his own neighbourhood, while a third teaches children from around the world how to write computer code.

Technology, efficient networks and the social media enable good ideas to take off quickly here. Helsinki is known as an inventive city in which we residents are building a new kind of wellbeing model together. This will be a model based on which we boldly look after each other.


The world’s best city for being myself?

To me it’s important to be my own, authentic self. That’s where I find my creativity, energy and new things. Helsinki is known for the fact that everyone can be just as they wish, no matter whether they are one of the crowd or not. It’s this authenticity that continuously generates a new city culture and unmissable events.

Helsinki is known as a city that has a creative atmosphere and strong culture of experimentation. This is a place of broad-minded innovation and departure from tradition in every way. City residents, business life and tourists all flourish in this crazy, unique atmosphere.