Rediscovering The Power Of Simple Truths In The Rain:
Copenhagen’s 3daysofdesign

By David Hovenden

I consider myself to be fairly well travelled. I’ve set foot on all seven continents (eight, if you want to get into the whole New Zealand is its own continent debate). However as anyone who’s travelled extensively will tell you, there’s still a heck of a lot of places I want to go and as I’m now in my fifties, I’m likely not to get to all of them.

As such, I’ve employed an excel spreadsheet to list those places I want to go and formed a rough, rough plan as to how I might achieve them given the uncertain number of years of active travel that remains in front of me. Covid punched an ugly two-year hole in those plans while also casting the fragility of life into even more harsh light. I knew I had to get real about making decisions about which places I wanted to go and those that would stay on the esoteric ‘one day I’ll get there’ list.

Talk to anyone who’s travelled well, and they’ll also tell you the more you travel, the less it’s about selfies in front of the Eifel Tower and more about backstreet café discoveries and the people you meet and the experiences you have. Okay, I still love a selfie with a llama, but cultural immersion and understanding sits very much at the heart of why I travel and love it so much.

All of this, is a very long-winded way to explain how I found myself to be in Copenhagen this June during its 3daysofdesign conference.

Established in 2013, 3daysofdesign has since grown significantly in both scope and influence, becoming a key fixture in the global design calendar. It started as a collaborative effort among Copenhagen’s design community to showcase Danish design and has evolved into an international event attracting participants and visitors from around the world. The initiative aims to celebrate and promote design excellence through a series of exhibitions, product launches, workshops, and talks spread across various venues in Copenhagen.

That’s great, but why was this little Aussie with roots in the Australian marketing, advertising and media industry there?

Well, see above. I’m fortunate to travel for work a lot. The downside of travelling for work is that it does involve a lot of repetition. Despite my visceral hatred for it and everything it represents; I know I’ll most likely be back in Las Vegas next year. What’s more, so often have I been inside its hideous casino hotels, I kind of regard them as an annoying old acquaintance that time insists you now call them friend.

However, travelling to the same places also offers a springboard from where to launch holidays and personal experiences. I’ve seen more of the states than I probably otherwise would have had it not been to work and dear old Vegas.

What it also means, of course, is you seem to miss out on places you would otherwise think would have long been moved from the aspirational list onto the been there done that sheet on the excel doc many years ago.

One such place, and why I’m telling you all this of course, is the Scandinavian group of countries. So here I was, at last, in the middle of summer, standing in 14 degrees C and drizzly rain staring at a chair in a studio in downtown Copenhagen.

Enhanced Brand Storytelling

Good design is a powerful tool for storytelling. By observing how designers at 3daysofdesign tell stories through their creations, advertisers can learn new techniques for weaving compelling narratives into their campaigns. Whether it’s through the use of space, colour, materials, or innovative product design, the lessons learned can help Australian advertisers create more engaging and immersive brand experiences.

To give you some further context, I consider a visit to Ikea to be akin to dropping by the seventh ring of hell. So, when I say I genuinely enjoyed my time looking at chairs, lights, flooring (I kid you not!) it goes to the heart of how truly extraordinary the 3daysofdesign event really is.

And as all good marketers know, it’s the storytelling that hooks you in and makes you genuinely care and appreciate the artisanship before you. So many talks were delivered by third or fourth generation owners of family businesses who put their commitment to excellence, utility, the environment and civic duty to name but a few lofty values we saw in those three days ahead of mass expansion and profit.

What’s more, if you’re a first timer like me, the tour we were hosted on as part of the international press contingent meant we got to see the best the city has to offer in the way the locals travel. One minute we’d be at the House of Finn Juhl (Google him), the next we’d be on bikes with the hordes of local Copenhageners whizzing along the remarkably flat and dedicated cycle lanes to our next destination across town.

Then we’d be aboard a boat and cruising along a canal all the while marvelling at the amazing architecture on both sides of us; it’s truly a unique and remarkable way to take in the many sights and experiences Copenhagen has to offer.

As a side note, when we weren’t with the group, a Copenhagen Card, offers you three days of unlimited public transport (truly the best way to get around if you don’t want to bike) as well as free access to the literally hundreds of galleries and museum the city and surrounds has to offer.

Here’s several compelling reasons why I think anyone in advertising should take an active interest in this prestigious event:

Exposure to Cutting-Edge Design Trends

3daysofdesign is a premier event showcasing the latest trends and innovations in furniture, lighting, interior design, and lifestyle products. For Australian advertising professionals, attending this event offers first-hand exposure to cutting-edge design trends. By understanding these trends, advertisers can incorporate contemporary aesthetics and concepts into their campaigns, making them more relevant and appealing to modern audiences.

For us, this meant just realising how much sustainability and environmental consciousness has pervaded every corner of Danish design. The number of artisans working with wood that were aiming at either 100 per cent recycled or utilisation of the whole tree as well as harnessing new technologies to use waste products rather than harmful chemicals was amazing.

Inspiration for Creative Campaigns

Creativity is the lifeblood of advertising. Immersing oneself in a vibrant environment teeming with innovative designs and artistic expressions can provide a significant creative boost. The event’s installations, workshops, and product launches serve as a fertile ground for inspiration, enabling Australian advertisers to infuse their campaigns with fresh, avant-garde ideas that stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Again, for us, the notion that the world has enough rational thinkers and doers rung true. Again and again, designers and artisans referred to fun and playfulness and doing things just because they made them happy was a recurring theme. Unleash the inner child while never surrendering quality, utility and excellence would be an appropriate mantra.

Networking and Collaboration Opportunities

3daysofdesign attracts a diverse array of designers, architects, and creative professionals from around the world. This presents a golden opportunity for Australian advertisers to network with global industry leaders, forge new partnerships, and explore collaborative ventures. These connections can lead to cross-border projects, knowledge exchange, and the potential to bring innovative design thinking back to Australia’s advertising landscape.

Sitting at dinner with the urban planner for the extraordinary Carlsberg district gives you a sense of what Barangaroo could have been if our planners and designers had adopted the Danish approach of people first, design second and architecture third. Instead of an enormously priapic casino, we might have had mixed urban, commercial and leisure uses where people could really work, rest, eat and play.

Peter Bur Andersen is the founder and creative director of BRIQ, an innovative urban strategy and design firm based in Copenhagen. He established BRIQ in 2008 with the vision of helping brands co-create urban spaces that enhance the quality of life for their inhabitants, rather than just selling products or services.

Andersen’s background is architecture and urban planning, with a strong focus on creating dynamic and liveable urban environments. His approach to urban design emphasises the importance of understanding the narrative and historical context of a city or space. This perspective ensures that new developments are not only functional but also resonate with the community’s identity and needs​.

BRIQ has been involved in several high-profile projects, including the transformation of old industrial sites in Copenhagen such as North Harbour and the Carlsberg City District. These projects reflect Andersen’s commitment to revitalizing urban areas by integrating modern design with historical contexts. BRIQ also undertakes international projects, like designing the interiors for Nespresso’s headquarters in Switzerland and providing strategic support for Ingka Centres to transform retail spaces into social hubs​.

BRIQ’s methodology involves a deep dive into the unique characteristics of each project, balancing innovative design with practical constraints like budgets and client requirements. The firm works closely with developers, cultural institutions, and private companies to create spaces that foster a sense of community and belonging. This holistic approach ensures that the urban environments they design are not only aesthetically pleasing but also socially and economically sustainable​.

Insights into Sustainable Design Practices

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in both design and advertising. Many exhibits and discussions at 3daysofdesign focus on eco-friendly and sustainable design solutions. By engaging with these topics, Australian advertising professionals can gain valuable insights into sustainable practices and how to effectively communicate them to consumers. This knowledge is crucial for crafting campaigns that resonate with environmentally conscious audiences and align with global sustainability trends.

“Let’s explore what our understanding of what wood could be,” was just one of the extraordinary quotes I hurriedly scribbled down while attending a talk on an exhibition called “sawdust”, which was centred around where wood could be used an insulator, an acoustic modulator, or a more traditional structural component.

One of the many quaint sayings I adopted during my time in Copenhagen was if you don’t like the weather: what 10 minutes. As we zipped around town via ever inventive modes of sustainable travel, we found ourselves rugging up, stripping down and hiding under umbrellas as the notoriously changeable weather did its thing.

Exhibits numbered in their hundreds if not thousands and each depicted as being open for inspection with a string of hot pink balloons gaily announcing their presence. Dare to Dream was the theme for 2024 and it was very apt. Because dreaming for a better life is surely a simple truth that resonates will nearly all human beings. And if that’s not an actionable insight, I don’t know what is.