Department of Design

Aalto Design Research

Aalto Design Research is at the international forefront of enquiry into and through design.
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Our Research

Our research environment fosters goal-oriented research, imaginative experiments, critical discussion and cross-disciplinary enquiry.

We work with businesses, scientists, technologists, sociologists, policymakers, public sector organisations and communities of interest towards a more just and sustainable world. 

Aalto Design Research has three, interlinked foci:  Design for Sustainability, Collaborative and Human-Centred Design and Practice-Based Design Research.


Julia Lohmannin Hidaka Ohmu. Kuva: Mikko Raskinen

Design for Sustainability

Development of new sustainable materials, research on product/service systems for sustainability, sustainable consumption and research on sustainability transitions.

Department of Design
Aalto Sustainability Hub community

Collaborative and Human-Centred Design

Collaborative and Human-Centred Design research includes co-design, service design, interaction design, user experience, end-user innovation and open design.

Department of Design
Prof. Maarit Mäkelä and her work

Practice-Based Design Research

Practice-based design research includes artistic research, design-driven exploration on emerging technologies and materials, and the action research–oriented development of new design methods and approaches.

Department of Design

We also research design management and innovations as well as contemporary and historical issues of design culture and society. Our work extends to applied research that serves industry and the public sector.

Aalto Design Research seeks both rigour and high societal relevance. A high proportion of its work involves multi- and trans-disciplinary collaboration. It is also characterized by engagement with societal challenges and collaborations with organizations in the private and public sectors and with civil society actors.

Research Groups

The research foci of the Department of Design are pursued in seven research groups. In addition the Department of Design has expertise in design strategy, design management and innovation research and in research on the historical and cultural significance of design.

Earth-Dialogue ceramics research by Maarit Mäkelä

Empirica | Research on Art, Design and Culture

Group approaches research with an attitude, where making, acting and engaging play important roles. The group’s goal is to develop exploratory research methods, where art and design related practices are utilized in experimental ways. Find out more.

Ioncell coat | Design by Anna-Mari Leppisaari | Photo by Eeva Suorlahti

Fashion/Textile Futures

The Fashion/Textile Futures research group explores new perspectives on human-centered design research. The group approaches research in the field of fashion, clothing and textiles in multi-faceted ways. A strong research focus is on sustainable and circular fashion and textiles, but group members’ research activities and strengths also include material-based research, aesthetics and creativity studies, practice-based research, and strategic fashion and textile management. Find out more.

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INUSE | The users and innovation research group

Researches the roles users play in design and innovation. Strategic choice and development of collaborative arrangements, user innovation communities and pathways of user contributions are the areas, on which we focus our multidisciplinary research. Find out more.

NODUS Research Group seminar

NODUS | Sustainable design research group

Sustainability challenges require a restructuring of institutions and organizations in the local, regional and global scale. The NODUS group studies design solutions, business models, bottom up initiatives and governance innovations which hold potential to contribute to sustainability. NODUS utilises and promotes transdisciplinary research and co-creative approaches in knowledge generation. Socio-ecological-technological system transformations, sustainability science, practice theory, self-organizing systems, participatory and collaborative design, and futures studies are the central concepts for the group. Find out more.

SDIM Research Group

SDIM | Strategic Design Integration and Management research group

The Strategic Design Integration and Management (SDIM) research group organises researchers with an interest in design management and the organisational adoption, implementation and leadership of designers and design-based practices at the Department of Design. Find out more.

AMRI project (Photo: Aalto University)

ENCORE | Engaging Co-design research group

The ENCORE team explores constantly application fields for co-design through hands-on exploration and ambitious research. The visionary competence stems mostly from industrial design spiced with engineering, architecture and anthropology. Find out more.

Embodied Design Research Group design work

Embodied Design Research Group

Embodied design (ED) can be seen as a design agenda. Current computing systems treat human beings mostly as connected minds, quite completely disregarding our bodily engagement with the world. Embodied design embraces the human body as a central resource for action, communication, and play. Find out more.

Department Of Design | Latest Publications

Latest research output and publications from the Department of Design.

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Aalto University's Research Portal

Aalto Design Research in Numbers

We currently supervise over 50 active students within our doctoral programme  and we achieve around 40 peer-reviewed articles and books annually. The number of international peer-review journal articles has grown 400% since 2012. The qualitative improvement is visible in the increase of publications in top-of-the-field (the world’s top 10%) outlets, which has grown from 1–2 annually in 2011–2013 to 18 in 2016:  about a 1000% increase. 

In the University's Research, Art and Impact (RAI) assessment of 2018, the Department of Design's research was described by an international expert panel as 'one of the top design departments in the world...There clearly is buzz about what the Department of Design is producing.'

In 2015 the Aalto ARTS Crown indicator was 2.14 and in 2016 it was 2.65. This indicates the status of a global leader in research among the art-based design schools and is the highest crown score among Aalto’s six schools. The Department of Design is a major contributor to both the volume of articles and the number of citations in the crown score.

in 2020, Aalto Design ranked 7th in QS

Aalto University’s Art & Design now 7th best in the world according to the annual QS Ranking

number of post-doctoral students in design

There are now 14 post-doctoral researchers engaged in our research activities.

num of phd students

There are now 52 active doctoral students enrolled in our research community.

num of exhibitions in 2019 at Aalto Design Research

We organised or took part in 71 exhibitions in 2019.

num of research groups at Aalto Design Research

We are a research community of 7 research groups with diverse backgrounds.

Design Research News

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?
Särkyvää-keramiikka näyttely EMMA-museossa toukokuu2021_elokuu2022_kuva_Ari KArttunen_EMMA_2021
Cooperation, Research & Art Published:

Let ceramics challenge you at the EMMA Museum

The newly opened exhibition reflects on our relationship to ceramics, clay and the environment.
Leevi Ikäheimo's anatomical outfit (2020). Photo: Mika Kailes
Cooperation, Research & Art Published:

The exhibition Intimacy featured at the Design Museum

The exhibition Intimacy opens this autumn at the Design Musem and will explore the intimate relationship between the body and the clothes we wear.
Tummatukkainen nainen katsoo suoraan kameraan, hänellä on punainen mekko yllään ja taustalla vaalea seinä
Research & Art Published:

‘Materials shape our understanding of the environment’

Dissertation of the Month: Bilge Aktaş believes that if we start paying more attention to what happens in the world beyond humans, we can start repairing our relationship with the environment.

Design Research Events

The relevance of design for sustainability
Online event

#1 DesignTalks: The relevance of design for sustainability

The first Design Talks will discuss why design is relevant for sustainability transformations with Idil Gaziulusoy (Aalto University) and Kimmo Timonen (Adventure Club). Everyone is welcome to join!
The relevance of design for corporations
Online event

#2 DesignTalks: The relevance of design for corporations

All companies can substantially benefit from design. Tua Björklund (Aalto University) and Juho Paasonen (Posti) will share their findings. Everyone is welcome to join!
The relevance of design for cities
Online event

#3 DesignTalks: The relevance of design for cities

Why design is especially useful for cities? Núria Solsona (Aalto University) and Päivi Hietanen (City of Helsinki) are sharing their insights. Everyone is welcome to join!

Doctoral Studies at Aalto Design Research

Studying for a doctorate with us

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Aalto University, Otaniemi stories: Anna Kholina, doctoral student in Design / photographer: Sinikoski

Contact Aalto Design Research

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