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Dec 26, 2009

TalkingDesign: TURN interviews Paola Zini

Reflection on the Torino World Design Capital initiative.

The TURN Design Collective gets its name from its birthplace, Turin. Located in the north of Italy, with a population of about a million people, Turin was designated World Design Capital in 2008, the first city to receive the designation for an entire year.

TURN: How did Turin acquire the designation of the first World Design Capital?

Paola Zini: Already within the first strategic plan of the City of Turin (2000), design was considered as a potential area of development, promotion and innovation. Thus begins a journey that in 2005 brought the city of Turin to run as a candidate to host the headquarters of ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design). Turin was in competition with many other cities around the world and finished second place.
However, the city had a unique chance to tell its story and the process of transformation, to highlight the many creative hotbeds of the city. I believe this is reason it was chosen by ICSID to become the pilot project of World Design Capital.

TURN: What exactly does it mean for a city to manage a title of such magnitude?

Paola Zini: First, it is important to say that it was not only the City’s responsability to manage the prize: local municipal authorities and the Piedmontese region design system joined in the efforts to direct, coordinate and promote activities of Turin World Design Capital.

This structure, representative of several entities, created a calendar of open and flexible activities, in which various design organisms found a voice: from design schools to professionals, from businesses to public administration.

TURN: Looking back, what benefits did Torino obtain from hosting the World Design Capital?

Paola Zini: From the beginning one of the objectives of Torino World Design Capital was to position Turin on the European map of Cities of Design: in this sense having become part of an international design network and having obtained extensive media coverage during this International Year of  Design was significant. This was further strengthened by a revamping of Turino’s identity started more than ten years ago as well as hosting the Winter Olympics of 2006.

Torino World Design Capital was an opportunity for exchange, collaborations, experimentation with new projects, bringing the entire system to a greater awareness and confidence in the creative potential of the Piedmont Region.



TURN: The experience of Torino World Design Capital has generated a multitude of ideas and reflections on the relationship between design and the urban environment; which of these seem to you particularly meaningful?

Paola Zini: Torino World Design Capital indeed focused many of its activities on the relationship between Design and City. Among the more significant experiences, was a dialogue about the following:

Geodesign engaged the collaboration between designers, communities and businesses in 43 virtuous triangles activated around specific needs and the International Summer School called upon 200 students from around the world to work on issues such as mobility, security and health, starting from an analysis by public and private entities, searching for valid solutions at a global level.

TURN: Which of these ideas could become a good thematic suggestion for a city (Berlin, Singapore, San Francisco…) wishing to organize a Design Week?

Paola Zini: Turin chose to become an laboratory for a way of thinking about service-oriented design. Exploring the world through design, is, I think, a good way to steer events, festivals and design weeks justifiably related to the exhibition of products, professionals and businesses but with immense potential for multidisciplinary dialogue.

More about TURN: TURN comprises more than 400 professionals who operate in the creative and design fields within the metropolitan confines of Turin, gathered in associated studios, agencies, societies, professional groups or individuals. The designers who recognize themselves as ‘Turners’ represent a critical mass unparalleled in the Italian design scene. TURN aspires to serve as a model for the European community.

In short, TURN operates through a wide-range of cultural activities: meetings, events with national and international visibility, annual promotional campaigns devoted to “Doing and Thinking about Design Today”, and, in general, actions of high visual impact. The community promotes its members, their professionalism, their initiatives and their projects. Always aligned towards constructive dialogue, TURN works to raise awareness about common themes of contemporary design and to create opportunities for exchange for its associates.

For the TURN Design Collective, design covers three main activities: Product Design (things), Environmental Design (places) and Communication Design (messages). TURN recognizes a broad and updated meaning in the word ‘design’, which reflects the vocation of the designer to ponder about society, about their own willingness to find a role within it and the need to exercise a profession which resolves issues in our contemporary world.

Paola Zini received her degree in Economics at the University of Turin. She is a strategic consultant on design projects for public and private companies. From 2006 to 2009, she was Director of the Torino 2008 World Design Capital Organizing Committee, formed ad hoc on the occasion of the biennal ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) award given to Torino, as a city where design showed to be a key factor for the cultural, social and economic development. From 2000 to 2006 she was responsible for the business & education area of the Turin municipality strategic plan, which has strongly influenced the city identity transformation process and the Winter Olympic Games delivery, as well. From 1998 to 2000, she coordinated an education and cooperation project for the SME (small and medium enterprises) across Italy and Brasil.

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