Public defence in Design, MA Kaisu Savola

'Disrespectful thoughts about design' - How Finnish design developed a social and environmental conscience
Poster for a 1970s design conference called 'With whom do you feel your solidarity' with a drawn image of three hands with different skin tones holding one another.
Image: Aalto University Archives, Ornamo Collection. Designer unknown.

MA Kaisu Savola will defend the thesis ‘Disrespectful thoughts about design’: Social, political and environmental values in Finnish design, 1960-1980 on 24 March 2023 at 12:00 in Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Design, in lecture hall H304, Otakaari 1, Espoo, and online in Zoom.

Opponent: Prof. Catharine Rossi, UCA Canterbury, UK
Custos: Prof. Guy Julier, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Design

The public defence will also be organized via remote technology. Follow defence:

Zoom Quick Guide:

Thesis available for public display 10 days prior to the defence at:
Doctoral theses in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture:

Public defence announcement:

In the field of design history, there is a shared understanding that the design profession was born alongside the capitalist ideology of maximising profit, and with the purpose of fulfilling industry’s needs to produce desirable products effectively. This doctoral thesis explores a generation of design students and design professionals in Finland, in the 1960s and 1970s, as they became aware of the two contradictory faces of design: one that is complicit in overproduction, overconsumption and social inequality, and the other capable of examining and addressing the very same issues it has co-created. This awareness prompted the development of design education and professional design practice not dictated by the values and expectations of industry or commerce, but shaped by feelings of social responsibility, environmental concerns and politically leftist motivations.

This thesis fills a gap in the history of Finnish design by giving a detailed account of not only a specific set of values developing within the field, but also of the initial steps of becoming the academic profession it is today. The purpose has been to widen the understanding of what kind of design is worthy of the historian’s attention in the first place. The research therefore moves beyond the commonly seen selection of industrially produced or hand-crafted, highly aestheticised objects that have become synonymous with Finnish design. Instead, it investigates and analyses anonymous student work, rural craft traditions, temporary installations, medical instruments, seminar posters, dairy distribution systems, industrial machinery, development projects and workplace ergonomics, to name a few. In an international context, the thesis provides a geographically, politically and culturally specific account of social and environmental responsibility that swept over the global design field during the 1960s and 1970s. It also argues that, at this moment in time, there is an equally urgent need to see design as a profession able to reconsider and realign its goals and values.

Contact information of doctoral candidate:


[email protected]


050 5434794

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