CUMULUS celebrates 10 years of the Kyoto Design Declaration in 2018

Kyoto Design Declaration is the statement of commitment by the members of CUMULUS to share the global responsibility for building sustainable, human-centered, creative societies. It affects 800.000 students, thousands of staff and more. The six declaration sub-headings to change the world are:

– Proposing new values and new ways of thinking
– An era of human centered development
– The imperative for designers to assume new roles
– Seeking collaboration in forwarding the ideals of sustainable development
– From education to global responsibility
– The power to make fundamental improvements to our world

Signed in Kyoto Japan on March 28, 2008 as the highlight of CUMULUS conference hosted by Kyoto Seika University at the same venue where Kyoto Protocol was adopted on December 11, 1997 in the Earth Summit further entering into force on February 16, 2005. By CUMULUS counting 124 global members at the time (currently over 250). Here also to rehearse; September 2015 with the birth of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Kyoto Design Declaration was created to enable sustainable designs and human-centered societies, through collaboration of institutions, business’ and individuals respecting the roots back to e.g. 1980´s when sustainability came more and more into the agenda of education and research in the disciplines CUMULUS represents.


Some steps of the Declaration

Cumulus focus is on enhancing academic forward steps and generate creative communities connecting all the continents and people. This is described by the author of the declaration Mr Yrjö Sotamaa, as a “mission to make societies and industry aware of the importance of culture, art, and design in building sustainable societies, creative economies, innovative regions and a better everyday life for all people.” This attitude brings about the declaration and members of Cumulus continue to work by the declarations approach. Cumulus President Emeritus Professor Mr Yrjo Sotamaa (Finnish designer with an MA in Interior Architecture and furniture design) is the author of the design declaration and past president of Cumulus and acted as the rector of the University of Art and Design Helsinki until his retirement with strong focus on building a sustainable future and the importance of art, design and media enabling further development of creative societies.


As summed up in various sources, the Kyoto Design Declarations main aim is highlighted by its statement of the commitment by the members of Cumulus, to act on being globally responsible for building sustainable, human-centered, creative societies. It suggests that it is important, globally, to maintain and continue local or traditional practices. It makes people to focus on sustainability as a form of collaboration and as design ethic. It also forms relationships based on addressed green issues and design proposals. Design thinking is the factor found at the core of the design manifesto. In co-operation with design thinking the importance of cultural traditional values are along. The design declaration states that in order to forward the ideals of sustainable development and design issues, members of Cumulus agree to commit to share and promote their knowledge on sustainable development by upholding a relationship with educational and cultural institutions, companies, government agencies, design and other professional agencies and NGO’s.

The Kyoto Design Declaration is a landmark and stepping stone of the shift in movement from materialistic and visible values to a more intellectual and mental approach towards all aspects of design. The declaration describes this as an era of ‘cultural productivity’ and when embedded with cultural influences and sustainable principles there is a great potential for an improved world through design society. The declaration provides benefits to all global communities in the form of economic, ecological, social and cultural benefits which will endeavor to improve quality of life through design durability.

Challenges: Design to Redefine Itself – more?

Through notions of the declaration, designers are made aware of ecological and social problems in the field of global development and sustainable design. This presents issues to address for design matters of education and research. ‘The declaration as such challenges design to redefine itself’ as said by Mr Sotamaa. The implementation of the declaration is an ongoing never ending process and very crucial, the question is how to enable that and make the declaration impact. Cumulus can in various ways invite its members, all students and academics and staff to live in a sustainable way impacted by curriculum, research, project work, daily-life in a campus etc.


The Declaration was signed in 2008 by 124 global members of Cumulus including the Cumulus President Christian Guellerin, Past President Yrjö Sotamaa and Cumulus Executive Board members Marjolijn Brussaard, Luisa Collina, Michael Krohn, Helmut Lueckenhausen, Fred Murrell, Raimo Nikkanen, Cristina Salerno and Xiao Yong with Rector Kan Shimamoto of Kyoto Seika University (host of the event) and contribution by Japan of Industrial Designer Takuo Hirano. The Declaration also received support from ICISID, BEDA, AIGA and EIDD, the four major international organizations, who continuously support and encourage the declaration.

Cumulus Green and other actions

One direct result from the Kyoto Design Declaration is Cumulus Green Award. Through this award that Cumulus is able to take action of the goals and aims stated in the Declaration. The intentions are e.g. to induce a response to design issues on sustainable societies through research and design projects. Design competitions are an example of how the declaration is put into a place. Enforcing designers, students and corporate professionals to follow the guidelines of the Kyoto Declaration enhancing their knowledge on the declarations´ main statement of building sustainable, human-centered, creative societies is one of the aims.

Read more about the Cumulus GREEN AWARD and its editions.

Among Cumulus Working Groups, Professor Peter Stebbing of University of Design Schwäbisch-Gmünd Germany initiated with his passionate colleagues Cumulus Sustainability Working Group that is going on led today by Professor Sara Hyltén-Cavallius with the team. The group has also published Cumulus Think Tank Changing Paradigms: Designing for a Sustainable Future by Stebbing and Ursula Tischner, available at the Cumulus website.

Cumulus Executive Board will go forward with the Declaration also following the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals SDGs signed in September 2015 together with Cumulus partners and other stakeholders. One positive kick-forward was recently given by the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Mrs, Ulla Tøernæs who handed over to Cumulus an inspiring letter to advance the SDGs and the work of Cumulus in June 2017 during the Cumulus conference hosted by Design School Kolding. Some steps forward will be experienced during Cumulus Paris conference 11-13 April 2018.

The Kyoto Design Declaration is influential to many realms and institutions of design and it is part of design history in regards to national global mapping. In order to create a successful global community, the Mayor of Helsinki in Finland, Mr Jussi Pajunen stated in his World Design Capital 2012 application that his city will use all means presented by design in the spirit of the Kyoto Declaration, Helsinki was then awarded with WDC12. Organizations such as World Design Organisation, ico-D, BEDA, IxDA, ADR, AIGA, ADI, DINZ, DESIS, NIF etc. not only those that originally supported the declaration but they are also involved in connecting their members across the continents, leaving an impact on millions of designers and people on earth also together with Cumulus.

Simplicity, confidence, action. A lot to redeem. This celebration never ends.

Printable version of the declaration: KDD2008


Kyoto Design Declaration, Cumulus Green Award
All rights reserved CILECT ® 2017. Read all the Terms of Use of the CILECT website. Programming by