Contemporary Design

Critical Design Practices

Critical Design Practices is a master's level course mixing theory and practice. It introduces critical approaches to design addressing it as an evolving, political and activist field. Through the themes discussed in class, students gain insights into various viewpoints and topical themes within critical design practices. They might find one or more themes to use as inspiration in their own creative design practice and other courses in the future. The course consists of lectures, workshops, readings, discussions, and execution of a group project.

Critical Design Practices gives an introduction to different practices of critical design including speculative design, transition design, design activism, anti-fashion and their theoretical and historical foundations.

The course coaches the students to apply research-oriented critical approaches to analyze and reflect upon their actions, mindsets, methods and outputs on their own field of design practice. The course guides the students to understand the importance of curiosity on social, political, cultural and ecological issues and it provides skills to apply critical approaches as a springboard for groundbreaking designs dealing with relevant societal challenges.
During the course the students experiment with design challenges and use design as a vehicle for critical deliberation. In the end of the course the students exhibit and articulate a critical design statement. They learn to explicate the foundations of their critical stand.

The course was ran for the first time in fall 2018 and it was organised jointly by the MA-programs CoDE – Contemporary Design and FaCT – Fashion Clothing and Textile Design during 2018 and 2019. 

It is a compulsory course for all first-year CoDe students.

Professor Julia Lohmann

Projects 2021

Lectured by Julia Lohmann (CoDe), teaching assistant Aino Tuovinen


Through Critical Design by visiting lecturer Dr. Gillian Russell, Emily Carr University, Vancouver Canada 22.04.21

Methods of Speculative Design by visiting lecturer Prof. Tim Parsons, Arts Institute of Chicago and Jessica Charlesworth 27.04.21

Lecture by visiting lecturer Prof. Fiona Raby (Dunne & Raby), Parsons The New School, NYC 29.04.21

Lecture of Com-pa-ny Design Studio, Helsinki by Aamu Song & Johan Olin 04.05.21

Food Webs and Food Futures, Seminar by Dr. Seona Candy, University of Helsinki 11.05.21

Food Futures by Dr. Markéta Dolejšová 18.05.21

text, name of the project: The Harlets Trials and a light-bulb with dark background
Contemporary Design
a text "by attending to this funeral you give us permission to collect and use the data of your presence" on a black and rainbow coloured background

Virtual Funeral of a Data Ghost

by Hannakaisa Pekkala

Contemporary Design
Find Your Kin project banner image

Find Your Kin

by Johannes Kaarakainen

Contemporary Design
abstract turquoise photo
Contemporary Design
a header image with text "phenomenal power" with a forest in the background


by Kristoffer Heikkinen

Contemporary Design
an illustration of roman pillars and a person eating grapes in the middle

The Alliance

by Pauliina Holma

Contemporary Design

Projects 2019

Lectured by Julia Lohmann (CoDe) and Namkyu Chun (FaCT)


Critical, Civic, State Crafts by visiting lecturer: Dr. Otto von Busch

Contemporary Design
15,523 liters of water.

Artivism: 15,523 liters of water

It takes 15,523 liters of water to make a pair of jeans.

Contemporary Design
Extracting Ink

Beyond a Pen

Questioning impersonalized mass-production.

Contemporary Design
COMPANION and its owner


What is true companionship? What is the difference between a machine and a living creature?

Contemporary Design
Design activist in action

Design Activists

"Make design personal again."

Contemporary Design

Miten pallo makaa? - Podcast

A podcast that answers the most burning questions about the situation of our globe.

Contemporary Design
Space sketch

Performing Identity through Clothing

We will be considering fashion and clothing from the perspective of class and gender; as being the sort of things that are constructed, performed and reproduced.

Dress is so intimately related to our bodies, and thus profoundly connected to our sexual, cultural and gender identities. Fashion and clothing are instrumental in the process of socialisation into gender roles; they shape people's ideas of how a person should look (whether masculine or feminine). From this point of view, fashion both might help to nurture one's own identity or might confine in those existing strict gender norms.

Contemporary Design
Posthouse banner


A self-reflective space for you.

Contemporary Design
Virtual Environment

Subversive Reality

Immersive experience with VR

Contemporary Design
Sun Bleached Youth

Zine: Sun Bleached Youth

Sun Bleached Youth is a zine concept conveying information on environmental issues to the youth

Contemporary Design

Projects 2018

Lectured by Julia Lohmann, Pirjo Haikola (CoDe) and Annamarie Vänskä (FaCT)


Micro Utopias by visiting lecturer: Timo Rissanen. 13.9.2018
Broken Nature by visiting lecturer: Paola Antonelli. 20.9.2018 
Design for Change: Activism, Feminism & Politics. Panelists: Eva Berglund,
Guy Julier, Pirjo Haikola, Ramia Mazé. 25.9.2018 
Pinatex by visiting lecturer: Carmen Hijosa. 27.9.2018 


Decentralization of the decision-making: exploring the pros and cons of the current democratic system

Our group’s focus was on exploring the pros and cons of the current governmental decision-making model. The research covered the problems in the democratic decision making and searched for alternatives. The conclusion was that the current system is overloaded with problems dealing with human factors, bureaucracy and political entanglements, and that an ideal form of decision-making in the future should be based on long-set goals, long-term vision, facts over fiction, based on expert-driven committees, all this resulting in a feeling that the voters really can outspeak their minds and that every vote matters.

Aalto Art and Design Cases

Smellscapes of Helsinki: Local and Global Interactions

Understanding locality and sense of place in Helsinki through smells

Aalto Art and Design Cases

CAKEzine ...Identity through an alternative wedding literature

A zine that is dedicated to making strange the new familiar. The project is set out to reflect on understandings of identity by developing a critical approach to weddings.

Aalto Art and Design Cases
Cover image by Hanna Kutvonen


This project is rooted in the overconsumption and people’s psychology behind it, we choose Christmas as an agent to state our declaration. The guide is focused on the traditional Finnish Christmas, described in a rather ironic tone. It points out the necessities of the holiday, how and when it should be celebrated.

Aalto Art and Design Cases
More than a Basket

More than a Basket

Exploring birch bark, its heritage and its future in design.

Aalto Art and Design Cases
Cover image

Animal as a resource

This is a critical design project by Design students Maria Ahti, Niina Hyry and Iines Jakovlev.

Aalto Art and Design Cases
Interspecies Communication main image

Interspecies Communication

Plants are not silent. Tune in with them.

Aalto Art and Design Cases

Proverbs for the Digital Age

Collaboration Project for MA Course "Critical Design Practices", Fall 2018. Linnea Kilpi, Elisa Defossez, Megan McGlynn, Yuanyang Zhou.

Aalto Art and Design Cases
Everything you have wanted to know about plastic

Plastic 101

Everything you have wanted to know about plastic

Department of Design

Mind the Objects

Looking into emotional values in human-object relationship by becoming the agency of objects around us

Aalto Art and Design Cases

Keynote speeches

Micro Utopias

Keynote Lecture by Timo Rissanen


Broken Nature

Keynote lecture by Paola Antonelli

Paola Antonelli Broken Nature Lohmann Julia


Keynote lecture by Carmen Hijosa.

Carmen Hijosa Pinatex Julia Lohmann

Critical, Civic, State Crafts

Public lecture by Otto von Busch.

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