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 that 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 organised jointly by the MA-programs CoDE – Contemporary Design and FaCT – Fashion Clothing and Textile Design and it is a compulsory course for all first-year students. It was ran for the first time in fall 2018.

Projects 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 2018

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

Course Program

Contents of the course by year.

  • Published:
  • Updated:
URL copied!