Why I spent over a thousand hours on Dash

Published on
September 12, 2018

In the year 2017 I spent well over one thousand hours on a project that you’re probably all somewhat familiar with: Dash, the design hackathon. Many people have asked me what on earth made me spend so much time on it and what kept me going even when the times were not that easy. It wasn’t Redbull, mindfulness nor cocaine, but something else.

The First Steps: how it all began

It all began a bit by accident. I had met my soon to be co-lead Axel Cedercreutz at a couple of sitsi-parties organized by Teknologföreningen, but we didn’t know each other that well. Then one cold morning, when I was sitting in a subway on my way to work, he sent me a message saying something along the lines of “Hi Iida! How are you? :)” He told me a story about how he’d been quite active at Aaltoes, the group of people who organize many entrepreneurship-oriented events by students for students. He’d noticed that one thing was missing - the ARTS-people. He studied at the School of Science himself, and he wanted to develop the community towards being truly multidisciplinary by bringing in people from the ARTS-community and creative fields. We decided to meet up over a cup of coffee and talk about what could get the people of the creative fields on board too. Even though I went to the meeting even a bit cautious of not getting myself involved in anything big and time-consuming, I got completely taken over by Axel’s intriguing idea. And before I noticed, the most intensive year of my life had begun.

Getting real: Dash in the making

The spring was fairly easy - we were gathering a team, having long discussions about our goals and creating the brand. It was not that hard to stay motivated, because everything was so fun and new. I learnt so much about branding, funding and project management, just to mention a few, that time flew by. Everyone else was excited too, and not at all stressed out. At least I hadn’t yet even wrapped my head around the fact that this event was actually going to happen.

In the summer things began to get real. We were pitching Dash to the first partners, and some of them believed in us so firmly that they actually invested thousands of euros in the project. Even though this felt amazing, around that time we also began to see the “other side of the coin”. Since this was the first time ever Dash was organized and none of us had any prior experience on similar projects, from time to time at least I felt really lost. This feeling combined with longer and longer working days started to weigh on our shoulders. At this point the thing that motivated me to keep pushing my limits was the simple fact that I believed in our cause from the bottom of my heart. What cause, you might ask. And even if you wouldn’t, I’m going to tell you, because this is a blog and I can write whatever I want to.

The Ideology: why we need projects like Dash

I major in design, and it seems to me that at least in the eye of the public young Finnish designers don’t really have a natural place in the world. When you think about Finnish design, probably the first thing that comes to your mind is the good old star designers, or sankarimuotoilijat, as we say in Finnish. You know, the bearded old men who sit alone in forests all day long gathering inspiration, like Tapio Wirkkala. These characters have had such a huge impact on the entire Finnish design scene that we still haven’t quite gotten past it. All the big design houses still sell their classic products, only every year in fresh new colours.

Then on the other hand there’s the modern designer, who works in a multidisciplinary team, solves problems, tells stories and makes sure that the end user is kept in mind. There are a lot of people who appreciate this kind of design, but an even larger group of professionals who could really benefit from this potential if they only knew how. And here’s where Dash steps in. I truly believe, that Dash is the best possible platform to bring out the whole variety of what can be accomplished through design thinking. It’s about time that also the public sees what the designers can do. Finnish design is coming out of the woods and into the modern world, making everything better.

The Final Sprint: almost wearing out

Even though I had never been as inspired before, I’m not going to lie, the fall was rough. There was so much to do and so little time, that all of us were starting to get very tired. Still, even on the worst days I kept going. There were days, when I’d wake up already stressed out thinking about my to do -list, and fall asleep on my laptop in the wee hours because the work just never stopped. Knowing that you’re doing things for a good cause can only get you so far, and if that had been the only thing motivating me, I might not have made it through. During those times I found that the biggest source of motivation was the people around me. If you have worked on a similar project, you know what I mean. And if you haven’t, I don’t know if I can even explain how it feels to have a group of amazing people working for the same cause, and see them exceed themselves over and over again. I’m talking about the entire Dash-team, each and every person who used their precious time on our project, but also all other people of Aalto who had different projects but the same burning passion. And I can’t not mention Axel, my co-lead. He was so thoroughly devoted to Dash that it was simply contagious. Even in the rare moments of doubt he got me believing again and again. Seriously, if you ever have a chance, hire that guy.

Over One Thousand Hours: was it all worth it?

Eventually the time that we’d been waiting for was upon us. Not everything was as ready as we had wished, but it was okay - nothing ever is. And I do admit that during the actual event Rebull played a huge part in keeping me energized, even though I still said no to mindfulness and cocaine. And now when I look back on it all, I’m simply thankful for everything. Our team gave Dash our all, and I’m so proud of each and every person who worked for the common goal. I see Dash growing to be more and more impactful, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings. To sum it up, I don’t regret a single hour I spent on Dash, and I might want to spend another thousand sometime in the future.

Iida Palosuo

Design Student at Aalto University

Director of Dash 2017

Chair of Nuoret Designerit ry