On February 29, 1968 a young group of engineers, designers, and architects approached the newly established Finnish National Fund for Research & Development (now Sitra) for support in organizing a summer seminar focused on the changing role of design. This was a reaction to the craft based tradition of design and the growing need to develop an industrial design-based approach to developing products and services.
The Industrial, Environment and Product Design Seminar (Helsinki Design Lab 1968) ran in two sessions on the island of Suomenlinna bringing together a diverse and rich group of minds. Included were Buckminster Fuller, Victor Papanek, Kaj Frank, Christopher Alexander, and Antti Nurmesniemi to mention only a few.
The challenge was to examine the emerging needs of a new world: Differing perspectives would need to come together in defining a new kind of design, one that could more effectively address the problems of its day.
This new definition of design brought together "engineering, human factors, production, and sales" knowledge, interfacing it with "technicians, doctors, psychologists, economists". This kind of thinking had the objective of broadening design to include "system design, computer use, human factors engineering, applied psychology, and anthropology."
In 1968 Sitra President Klaus Waris saw the need for the fund to support - especially in research that connected technical, industrial, and governance areas - activities that fell into a sort of "no-man's land". The group's call for a new kind of cross disciplinary collaborative form of design met this mission perfectly.