The City of Design in Denmark: Kolding


An Exclusive Interview with the Mayor of Kolding and the Head of Design of the Kolding Municipality.

Slottet morgenlys DSC7139 Preben Mathiesen

Let’s Hear from the Mayor of Kolding


The most complicated part of implementing top-down policies was facilitating communication between the city council and the people, and creating a decision-making process that properly involved both parties. Resolving to settle the problems caused by structural population changes and taxation, the city government urged the municipal council to put forward a plan: KOLDING-WE DESIGN FOR LIFE.

The Kolding government and the municipal council unanimously agreed that there was no consensus on what “design” meant among the citizens. At that time, most of Kolding’s citizens thought that design could only be applied to objects, not ideas. The concept of design thinking seemed to have never occurred to them. Thus, the first goal of the Kolding municipality was to change people’s opinions about design.

Slottet morgenlys DSC7139 Preben Mathiesen

Mayor of Kolding Jørn Pedersen plays a crucial role in developing this vision. “For the municipality of Kolding, the most important task is to find a balance between the vision’s ideals and the reality of daily practicalities,” said the mayor, “Meanwhile, the city government needs to be redesigned into a more flexible and innovative organization.” The key to attaining this goal is to “remove the air of authority and get closer to people.”

World Design Capital 2016 Taipei also looking forward to inviting Kolding join the International signature events in Taipei. Jørn Pedersen takes great pride in policies that infuse design thinking into the educational system. From kindergartens to PhD programs, every academic institution in Kolding bases their courses and training on design thinking. Once design has become an integral part of everyday life, no one should ever question what design can do for them.

The profile of Kolding, Danmark

  • the 7th biggest city in Danmark
  • A Danish seaport located at the head of Kolding Fjord in the Region of Southern Denmark.
  • 605 km2, and with a population of 92,000
  • famous for Design School Kolding (Designskolen Kolding) in Europe, specialized in communication, fashion, industrial design.

The vision “KOLDING-WE DESIGN FOR LIFE” was a 2011 proposal brought forward by the municipality of Kolding. The city invited nearly 1,000 citizens and representatives from different organizations to partake in relevant workshops and meetings. The vision is a ten-year program based on four themes and ten initiatives. The municipal council approved the proposal in December 2012.

University of Southern Denmark (SDU) -Plaza
University of Southern Denmark (SDU)

A Design Mentor for the Public Sector

The new department “design secretariat” was established to help realize the vision and build a city of design. They created a design thinking manual titled KK Model for the municipal government, and cooperated with the human resources department on interdepartmental policymaking management. The municipality launched the Public Private Partnership project in 2016 in order to provide a comprehensive hardware and software system for elderly care. The project was from the very beginning infused by Design Thinking.

The design secretariat is a relatively small department staffed by no more than 5 employees, including the head of design. The staff is mainly composed of administrative and design professionals. In addition, the department works with design and innovation experts for consultation.

The Kolding Government Invites Proposals for Social Design projects from MADE DESIGN

The design secretariat is also responsible for the management of proposed projects. So far, the department has reviewed more than 94 projects. Although proposers might not receive any cash for their projects, they have the chance to win 20,000 DKK (100,000 NTD) if they win the competition organized by the design secretariat.

Denmark’s healthcare project “Super Hospitals” began in 2011. The goal is to lower the number of patients in each hospital through the integration of communal medical service systems. Hospitals in Kolding underwent inside-out transformations. Here are some examples:

Kitchen re-design

Redesign the kitchen/menu in the hospitals 

Elder patients stay in the hospitals for longer terms because not many people enjoy the food the hospitals provided. The project re-examined the procedure and content of meals. They allow patients order online and change the way to put dishes. The project successfully reduced average length of stay from 6.8 days to 5.3 days, and saved medical resources.


Redesign emergency room for better waiting experience 

People who go to the emergency room for instant cure for their pains might need to know that they are on the right track, and that someone is taking care of them – even if they have to wait for their turn. The project redesigned the space and waiting process. For example, setting up monitors to present “patient tracking system” with initials, sending SMS to inform the waiting list, and decorating the wall with profile pictures of healthcare professionals.