Department of Design

Aalto Design Research

Aalto Design Research is at the international forefront of enquiry into and through design.
Main image of Aalto Design Research Page

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 four interlinked foci: Design for Sustainability, Codesign and Human-Centred Design, Practice-Based Design Research and Materials, Textile & Fashion Design.

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

Codesign and Human-Centred Design

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

Department of Design
Shimmering Wood photos by Eeva Suorlahti

Materials, Textile & Fashion Design

Research on fashion and textile design and design strategies, and textile and fashion knowledge building, particularly sustainable fashion and textiles.

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 five 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.

Empirica – Research on art, design and culture (external link)

Group approaches research with an attitude, where making, acting and engaging play important roles.

Empirica tutkimusryhmän työtä

ENCORE - Engaging Co-design Research Group

The ENCORE research group 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.


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.

Sofia Ilmonen Biocolour

INUSE - The Users and Innovation Research Group

Researches designer-user relations in sociotechnical change.

INUSE transition arena workshop - panorama of indoor space with groups discussing around whiteboards

NODUS – Sustainable Design Research Group

NODUS Sustainable Design Research Group undertakes transdisciplinary design research for sustainable futures.

Nodus tutkimusryhmäläisiä keskustelemassa

Design Culture Research Group

Exploring the significance of design in contemporary society.


The Department of Design also features more informally organized knowledge sharing networks across its groups and focus areas.

Väre-buildings hall with impressive wooden staircase

DesignSTS Network

Network connecting and facilitating knowledge sharing among researchers whose work intertwines design and science and technology studies.

Department of Design
People sitting around tables

Design integration and transformation network

Design integration and transformation network coordinates knowledge sharing across research focal areas in design.

Department of Design

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

    A teacher and two researchers smiling and sorting through paper presentations in a classroom
    Research & Art Published:

    Empathy in design and digitalisation – Aalto University researchers hold workshops for students at Arabia Comprehensive School

    Aalto University researchers organised workshops for seventh graders, whose creative thinking skills were put to the test in designing future information services
    Woman touching a long-sleeved Marimekko Unikko shirt on display
    Research & Art Published:

    Lab-grown pigments and food by-products: The future of natural textile dyes

    As the environmental impact of the fashion and textile industries becomes clearer, the demand and need for sustainable alternatives is growing. One international research group aims to replace toxic synthetic dyes with natural alternatives, ranging from plants to microbes to food waste.
    Studies Published:

    Good design benefits us all – welcome to open DesignTalks lecture series

    Join us for our open lecture series discussing about the relevance of design in different contexts.
    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?

    Design Research Events

    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

    Contact us

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