By Laura Palotie

What inspires designers? Who and what is shaping design conversation today? What is the role of design in cultural exchange and the evolution of society? These questions have surfaced, in a variety of forms, during Helsinki’s 2012 Design Capital year, and on Thursday, October 18th, an international group of designers gathered at Marimekko’s Manhattan flagship shop to share their design philosophies.

The event’s fast-moving format allowed design professionals from eight different organizations to share their thoughts. Each presenter was asked to prepare 20 slides and spend no more than 20 seconds explaining each slide; beyond these requirements, the format was free.

Parsons professor Timo Rissanen spoke of his project promoting sustainability,  15%, which sells plain white T-shirts alongside the fabric scraps created in their manufacturing. The shirts are made and sold at Helsinki’s Amos Anderson museum as part of this year’s Boutique exhibit.

Aamu Song and Johan Olin, whose tiny Salakauppa (“secret shop”) in the centre of Helsinki puts a quirky spin on everyday items, gave the audience a tongue-in-cheek Finnish lesson (the word for “earth,” for example, is “maailma,” which literally translates to “ground air”). Idealist Group‘s creative director Saku Tuominen, meanwhile, spoke about the ways in which design thinking can be the basis for a better work-life balance.

Kristian Lazzaro of‘s vintage shop, NYC & Company‘s chief creative officer Willy Wong, Artek‘s design director Ville Kokkonen and Lynn Shanahan, president ofMarimekko North America, also described their organizations’ unique approaches to design.

The event was part of the wrap-up of New Finnish Design CITY, a ten-month long project addressing the role of design in urban life through lectures, exhibits and other events. The initiative, which launched in February, was organized by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York and the Consulate General of Finland in New York. Thursday’s event was held in collaboration with Marimekko and Surface magazine.