Designing growth for the city of Kolding

Developing a new vision for Kolding

More people moved away from the city than to it, the city brand awareness was low, and the residents ranked Kolding the least attractive city to live in, in the region. The challenges were clear in 2011 when we helped Kolding develop a new unique vision to drive growth and attract newcomers. The following years, the balance between the number of people leaving and moving to Kolding turned from negative to positive. And today, Kolding is well known and acknowledged as a design city and a part of UNESCO's global network of creative cities.

Kolding Case 1500X1090 Movingdata V1

Unique design vision

We developed a vision for Kolding that would distinguish it from other cities: Designing life. The vision means using design methods to improve life through entrepreneurship, social development, and education. This set a clear direction for Kolding and made it possible to improve the city's image. 

Kolding Case 2440X1090 Designerlivet V2

The process from unknown to acknowledged design city

We mapped the strengths and potentials of Kolding, 100 thought leaders explored scenarios for Kolding in a future game, 500 residents discussed three possible visions at a vision symposium, the vision was implemented and Kolding started to act as a design city.

Kolding Case 2440X1090 Timeline V2

Identity mapping

Kolding needed to identify, what could potentially make the city unique to develop a vision and image that would attract newcomers. We identified 6 authentic strengths and potentials and developed possible scenarios for a future Kolding. 

40 interviews with residents, politicians, and business leaders

Based on in-depth​ interviews with residents, politicians, and business leaders, and anthropological fieldwork, we analyzed the culture and structural characteristics of Kolding. We identified 6 key strengths, that had the potential to differentiate Kolding from other cities. 

  1. Education. Good educational offers compared to the Kolding's size.
  2. Nature. Rich nature and many outdoor activities close to the city.
  3. Culture. Rich theater and music scene and offers for families and older residents.
  4. Entrepreneurship. Many smaller companies due to entrepreneurial spirit.
  5. Design. Strong presence of design in the city and a rich history for design.
  6. Volunteering. High budget for local volunteering compared to other Danish cities.

Involving people from various aspects of the city in the discovery process ensured that the new vision would be authentic and resonate with different stakeholders in Kolding.

Many people asked, why we didn’t choose a local agency. I am very happy we chose Stagis. The way we focused on our authentic strengths and design thinking resulted in a product I don’t think we could have achieved with many others. Jørn Pedersen
Mayer, Kolding

Scenarios for the future

Building on the five authentic strengths, we developed four strategic directions for the future of Kolding. Each demonstrated a possible future scenario containing different possibilities, initiatives, and advantages. 

The strong presence of design in the city and its history was the most prominent potential. Therefore, all scenarios were built on design combined with one other strength. The scenarios created a foundation for discussing the direction of the new vision. 

Kolding Case 2440X1090 Scenarier V2

Strategic vision seminar

To further develop, explore and assess the strategic directions for the city, we designed a strategic vision seminar, where local thought leaders discussed four scenarios for the future Kolding. 

100 thought leaders explore future scenarios

We designed a game that challenged 100 thought leaders to take a trip 10 years into the future, and imagine what Kolding would be like in scenario A, B, C or D. The participants visited 6 different destinations on a map of Kolding. Each destination had a specific exercise, that required a brainstorm on possibilities for developing Kolding within the scenario. Using a gamified discussion activity not only made the discussions more concrete but also increased engagement.

Kolding Case 2440X1090 3
Kolding Case 2440X1090 Kort V2

Imagine you are the mayor of Kolding

The participants also gave speeches, as if they were the mayor of Kolding 10 years later, within each scenario. 

Kolding Case 2440X1090 Speaker V2

The speeches created an understanding of consequences and opportunities in each strategic direction and facilitated an informed discussion about what a new vision could mean for Kolding. As a result, the participants decided to eliminate scenario D from the further process, ending up with 3 scenarios for the next phase of the process.

Kolding Case 2440X1090 5

Resident participation

A vision for an area with almost 90.000 residents can not —and should not— be decided by the local politicians alone. Kolding and Stagis invited 500 local residents to join the discussion at a vision symposium.

Residents assess possible futures for Kolding

Local residents and representatives for business, sports organizations, and interest groups joined the discussion on what the future vision for Kolding should be. We presented three scenarios for a future Kolding through films, that showed examples of life in Kolding within each scenario. We facilitated a panel discussion and finally, the participants expressed which scenario they found most attractive. 

Kolding Hallen 1 L

The vision symposium was designed for participation and and ensured that residents had a real impact on Kolding's new vision. Throughout the day, participants could join the discussion and pose questions through text messages. 

Kolding Case 1500X1090 Invitation V2

Deciding a unique vision for Kolding

The opinions and ideas of 500 participants at the vision symposium and 100 thought leaders at the strategic vision seminar became vital information for the city council. The process made it possible to develop a vision that was both authentic and ambitious for Kolding. The final vision set clear direction for Kolding that has made it distinct from other cities. 

Together we design the possibilities for a better life, through entrepreneurship, social development, education, and knowledge. Vision for Kolding (abridged)

Living the city brand

The vision of Kolding is designing life. That means using design methods to improve life through entrepreneurship, social development, and education. Today, design is the center of a strong and well-known Kolding brand. In 2017, Kolding was admitted into UNESCO's global network of creative cities as City of Design. 

Leading the city through design processes

To help Kolding make the vision reality, we developed a strategy with recommendations for implementation and facilitated workshops with the municipality management to discuss how the vision would be lived in practice.

Kolding established a design department in the municipality that works to implement the vision and the development across the municipality. Thousands of employees in the municipality have been trained in design methods. As a result, Kolding Municipality has gone from traditional public governance institution to proactive institution that creates better services through design thinking. 

The fact that we can identify with the vision — our vision is forming our identity — the way we think and the way we present ourselves to others —makes it strong. Thomas Boe
City and development, Municipality of Kolding

The transformation from unknown city to creative design city has not gone unnoticed. The population started to grow, Danish Design Award is hosted in Kolding as well as Copenhagen, and Kolding is collaborating with cities such as Barcelona, Detroit, and Sidney as part of UNESCO's global network for creative cities. 

Danish Design Award Kolding B732px