Contemporary Design


Contemporary Design MA

The Contemporary Design Programme supports students to discover and advance their individual creative processes and in linking them to the problem-solving processes and methods of others. Students are working in a multifaceted learning environment that provides support for creativity, as well as critical and analytical thinking. It educates sensitive and visionary students who have skills to propose radical solutions and responsible innovations for the future.

In the programme, students learn strong practical design skills for material productions and experiments. They also learn to profit from emerging technologies and materials in their artistic and design practices. During their studies, students learn to critically reflect and innovate on established design traditions, emerging interpretations of design and their own design practice. The program trains students to display a strong artistic vision and take responsibility, argument and stand behind their work as a designer.

Students are also trained to understand how the field of contemporary design works internationally and how their own work is connected to broader developments in society and commercial opportunities. They gain experience in exhibiting and curatorial practices in the fields of design and contemporary craft, as well as how to connect their work to external partners and sponsors. The graduates are familiar with means to commercialize design and design driven innovations.

The program bridges research and design, and it provides students with strong foundation in practice-based research. The students learn skills in gathering and analyzing information and applying it to design and research. The programme provides students with skills needed to continue in doctoral studies.

Education Content

The Contemporary Design Programme enables designers to nurture an artistic mindset in a multidisciplinary environment that fuels design innovations as well as personal and business engagements. In the program design is understood in a broad sense including experimental and conceptual works from the spheres of critical and speculative design, experimental design, contemporary craft and product design.

The education prepares the students to develop their own creative and experimental processes to explore and materialize ideas, concepts and final designs. Alongside their own creative work, students study in multidisciplinary teams and develop their skills to present, exhibit, produce and commercialize their design works and talent. The education is studio-based with close connections to real life, critically merging features of hands-on material exploration and fabrication with observations of contemporary and emerging phenomena.


For more info on studies structure please visit into.aalto curriculum page


Personal Exploration

The aim of the course is to provide challenging environment for action, where the student is encouraged to experiment his/her ideas related to a given theme with a brave and open-minded attitude.


Critical Design Practices

Critical Design Practices is an MA level course by programmes Contemporary Design and Fashion and Collection Design mixing theory and practice.


Curating and Storytelling

The students learn to professionalize their ideas, and present their ideas to relevant stakeholders. At the end of the course the student should be capable to present a coherent exhibition and/or catalogue plan that is based on clearly curated narration.

Curating and Storytelling_CoDe

Product and Form I + II

The topics of the course belong to the fundamentals of design capability. The course gives the students an opportunity to focus on form and aesthetics and deepen their skills.

Product and Form CoDe

Product Design in Ceramics

The practical realization of a design project in ceramics, the theme of which changes yearly: from tabletop to surface design and others. The task is to design small scale utilitarian objects.

Nathalie_Lautenbacher_AlitaloJaLeskela_photo Eeva Suorlahti_CoDe_LowRes

Design Practice in Social Context

The course introduces students to design as a social practice. Students will be asked to address a real concern in a real community context, by generating and responding to one or a number of real life briefs in that chosen community.


Experimental Design

The course follows a pre-determined and changing topic that establishes the frame inside which the students work. Each time a different corporate partner is involved in determining the characteristics of the introduced course case.

Experimental Design

Colour and Sensorial Design

Our perception of the world is built on multiple senses. Visual information, such as colour, dominates and provides first impressions, while the other senses of hearing, taste, smell and touch shape the overall experience. Colour and sensorial design play two overlapping roles: they provide functionality while creating character through aesthetic attributes.


Bio Materiality

As biomaterial is a broad and currently widely used term, the students learn to explore and discover new perspectives to biomaterials and understand how to create their own creative approach towards these materials.

bio materiality

Glass Challenge

The aim of the course is to encourage students to refine and articulate a personal approach to the discipline and improve skills in communicating ideas and getting familiar with the co-operative nature of glass making practices.


Wood Studio Design project

Wood Studio Design project CoDe

wood studio CoDe

Professors and Lecturers

Professor Maarit Mäkelä

Associate Professor, Practice Led Design Research


Professor Julia Lohmann

Professor of Practice in Contemporary Design


Professor Pirjo Kääriäinen

Professor in Design driven fibre innovation, CHEMARTS

Pirjo Kääriäinen

Professor Jaana Beidler

Associate Professor, Color and Material Design


Lecturer Simo Puintila

Lecturer Simo Puintila

Simo puintila_CoDe

Lecturer Nathalie Lautenbacher

Lecturer Nathalie Lautenbacher

Nathalie Lautenbacher in her studio

University Teacher Anna van der Lei

University Teacher in Contemporary Design

University Teacher Gianluca Giabardo

University Teacher in Contemporary Design

Gianluca Giabardo - photo: Elisa Testori
Redesigning everything for sustainability. Illustration by Marika Latsone
Research & Art Published:

We need to redesign everything—but how?

Meeting sustainable development goals requires more collaboration between disciplines.
Sediment sampling in the historical centre of Venice with the Limnos sampler provided by the Finnish Environmental Institute SYKE. Image: Pauliina Purhonen
Research & Art, Studies Published:

The trip to Venice—in the words of the students

Contemporary design students spent a week in Venice setting up the exhibition and gathering soil samples for the research.
Coiling vases from the local earthenware and painting the vases with the local earth in Earth Laboratory, Venice, August 2019. Photo: Catharina Kajander
Research & Art Published:

Working with contaminated soil in Venice

Revealing human traces in Venice Biennale.
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