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 further info about Contemporary Design MA you can reach out to our associate professor:

Associate Professor, Practice Led Design Research (Department of Design, Master’s Programme in Contemporary Design)

Tel. +358 50 3722 168
[email protected]

School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University
PO Box 31000,  FI-00076 AALTO, FINLAND


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.

Crusade, Pietro Lora

Critical Design Practices

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


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.

STEPS. Floor tiles. Caspar Åkerblom and Liisa Vuorenpää. Material: stained stoneware and engobe

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.

Linda Mandell_Barrier_LJ1A9611

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.

Glass Challenge 2018

Wood Studio Design Project

Wood Studio Design project CoDe

wood studio_unknown

Materials and Living Systems

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

a birdhouse made of mycelium hanging from a tree

Creative Digital Design

Want to experience VR, really focus on 3D printing or maybe you would like to design purely virtual goods – feel free to join the course!

close-up of a digitally created crystal chip

Parametric CAD

During the course the student is introduced to the basics of parametric 3D CAD modeling.

parametric CAD blueprint

Professors and Lecturers

Professor Maarit Mäkelä

Associate Professor, Practice Led Design Research

prof Maarit Mäkelä. Photo Anne Kinnunen

Professor Julia Lohmann

Professor of Practice in Contemporary Design


Professor Pirjo Kääriäinen

Professor in Design driven fibre innovation, CHEMARTS

Pirjo Kääriäinen

Lecturer Simo Puintila

Lecturer Simo Puintila

Simo puintila_CoDe

Lecturer Nathalie Lautenbacher

Lecturer Nathalie Lautenbacher

Nathalie Lautenbacher in her studio

Lecturer Anna van der Lei

Lecturer in Contemporary Design

Resource Wisdom Designs for a Cooler_Planet heroimage design Aino Salonen and Oona Raadelma
Campus, Cooperation, Research & Art Published:

The Designs for a Cooler Planet exhibition showcases 30 projects for a more sustainable future

What is wise to design for future generations in a world of plenty?
Designs for a Cooler Planet 2020: Race for the Future
Research & Art Published:

Designs for a Cooler Planet — Helsinki Design Week 2020

Helsinki Design Week at Otaniemi showcases inspiring future designs related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Julia Lohmann's Department of Seaweed at WEF. Photo: Mikko Raskinen
Research & Art, Studies Published:

Julia Lohmann: ‘We know too much and do too little’

Lohmann’s magnificent seaweed pavilion won the sustainable design category for Dezeen Awards 2020.
What is contemporary design?
Research & Art, Studies Published:

Contemporary design enables critical reflection

Design is the method with which we shape our world. The new MA Contemporary Design combines material-led design with critical and conceptual thinking practices.
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