Design types in diversified city administration: The case City of Helsinki

Sampsa Hyysalo, Kaisa Savolainen*, Antti Pirinen, Tuuli Mattelmäki, Päivi Hietanen, Meri Virta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Design is increasingly used to develop public services, and considerations have arisen regarding how to gain best value from it. Design ladders and design maturity models are commonly also referenced in the public sector, but we argue that their adequate use must rest on an informed view of the diversity of design activities in public-sector organizations. The world’s major cities are large and highly diversified organizations. Our inductive case study of one of them, the city of Helsinki, reveals 23 design activities, distinct in terms of the process, outcomes or agency that design has. These activities can be grouped into six different clusters. These lay the ground for each other and support the cultural transformation of the organization into being a more citizen-centric organization. At the same time, they also create a design management challenge and confusion over what ‘design’ is and what it can do.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-398
Number of pages19
JournalThe Design Journal
Issue number3
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • City organization
  • human-centred design
  • public sector
  • service design


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