Helsinki beat out the Dutch city of Eindhoven for the title . The title is designed to highlight cities that use design to improve the social, cultural and economic life of its residents.
The winner of the title must organise design-related events throughout the year.
The congress, which is organised by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, is currently meeting in Singapore.
Helsinki's application included Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti, which lies 100 km to the north. Businesses, universities and the government worked together on the application.
“Helsinki has a vibrant design tradition but we also know that we must go further, beyond the edge of our limits and test the boundaries of design. The WDC project is an important step in this process and will help Helsinki to put design in a truly unique position in our society," said Helsinki mayor Jussi Pajunen when Helsinki was announced as a finalist.
A total of 46 cities from 27 countries applied for the title. The distinction is awarded every other year. Helsinki follows Torino, Italy and Seoul, South Korea in holding the honour.
”Helsinki has not been in the global spotlight in such a way since the 1952 Olympics. The international design community will be paying attention to the city,” said Helsinki’s cultural director Pekka Timonen to the Foreign Ministry's online newsletter Kauppapolitiikka.