Contemporary Design

Design Practice in Social Context

The course acts as an introduction to: (1) Design practice in a social context, historically and theoretically; (2) Different positions, practices and practitioners in the field of design in a social context. (e.g. design activism, inclusion, transition design, open design, communities of practice, design thinking, participatory design, concepts of public and private space); (3) Practical methods enabling students to effectively research first-hand, generate and write their own briefs, manage their projects, as well as realising, communicating and presenting their outcomes.

The course was run 2018-2020
New course: Materials and Living Systems
Non-Human Stakeholders: Purple Seastar and Algae
Non-Human Stakeholders: Purple Seastar and Algae
Professor Julia Lohmann
Kristineberg, Amedeo Martines
Kristineberg Marine Biological Research Station in Sweden

Design in Social Context Projects 2020

Design Practice in Social Context at Kristineberg Marine Research Station, Sweden

How can design build bridges between disciplines? How can designers help address the complex challenges of a world in climate crisis? How do we make science relevant to people's lives? How do we design for both human and non-human stakeholders?

Since 2019, Aalto MA Contemporary Design (CoDe) students have explored these questions through collaborative, transdisciplinary projects with scientists at Kristineberg Marine Research Station, the local Seafarm seaweed farm and students and staff of KTH Stockholm. The project enables students to frame their design practice in a marine socio-ecological context, in terms of science communication, the development of biomaterials, processes and social and artistic activities and interventions – always linked to UN Sustainable Development Goals. Specific projects have addressed ocean pollution and acidification, using seaweed as a design material, empathy with non-human stakeholders and proposals for a residency project for Kristineberg Marine Research Station. Outcomes have been realised as research and concepts, materials and designed objects, films, communication design and performative interventions.

Student work from the Kristineberg Project has been exhibited as part of the international group exhibition Critical Tide on critical design and the ocean at the Design Museum Helsinki and the EU Committee of the Regions in Brussels, Belgium, and at Aalto University.

The project is an ongoing collaboration led by Aalto Professor of Practice in Contemporary Design Julia Lohmann and Professor Frederik Gröndahl of KTH Stockholm.

Exploring Seaweed as a Material

Anne Hirvonen, Emma Sivusalo and Jussi-Pekka Alanen explore whether biodegradable materials made from natural substances such as algae could replace non-biodegradable materials and have features that are crucial in disposable packaging?

Saccharina-Latissima hanging, photo: Anne Hirvonen

Baltic Neighbours, Stanisław MacLeod

Stanisław MacLeod
Baltic Neighbours proposes to explore the opportunities that arise in a new set of circumstances related to the isolation period following the outbreak of COVID-19. Using an entire building as a medium for the Baltic Sea to communicate through, a series of interventions took place to question the importance of the sea in our lives. The work that follows attempts to tune into themes of isolation, identity and well-being to create empathy and recognition of a non-human actor using a personified character of the Baltic Sea, who plays the role of a new neighbour in the apartment block in question.

Baltic Sea poster, Pictured: Ingy Hamdy

Bodies of Water, Amedeo Martines

The online platform where it is possible to "go to" the sea and be inspired.

Bodies of Water, Amedeo Martines

Ritual & Sustainability: A Proof of Concept for a Shell-Algae Based Burial Urn, George Seppala

This is a proof of concept for a biodegradable sea-burial urn made of algae and shells that facilitates a symbolic engagement between a deceased person and the ocean, a person who may have lived a life connected with the ocean, while also addressing the issues of a climate crisis concerning the ocean.

Urn for Sea-Burial

Breathing, Bingdie Huang

Marine creatures breathing, the ocean breathing, humans breathing.

Human, Illustration by Bingdie Huang

Blue Thoughts, Alicia Romero

Blue Thoughts is a short film that explores the relationships that we, as humans, have with the ocean.

Blue Thoughts

Minun Itämereni, Baltic sea in a shoebox, Anna Tolonen

A phenomenon based learning kit for primary students on life in the Baltic sea

Minun Itämereni


Students' portraits with their adopted creatures in Kristineberg workshop in April, 2019

Empathy: Design in a Social Context

Reaching out to non-human stakeholders

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