For alumni

Elisa Luoto: We build a bridge between designers and manufacturers

An entrepreneur in the design industry urges students to build a cooperation network during their studies actively. Studies brought Luoto and Heidi Maria Huovinen together and their common study path laid the foundation for mutual trust and a desire to work together as design entrepreneurs.
Kuva: Elisa Luoto ja Heidi Maria Huovinen
Elisa Luoto on the left, Heidi Maria Huovinen on the right

1. What do you do and why?

I am the CEO and co-founder of Young Finnish Design. Our company promotes  new Finnish design by bringing together designers and manufacturers. We want to create a new channel for designers to get their work into production and onto the market, as our own experiences have shown us how difficult it is for young designers to make progress with their products.

I trained as a designer and interior architect, and I graduated as a Master of Arts from Aalto University and my training inspired me to promote new Finnish design and to set up a company for this purpose. We essentially survey the design needs of manufacturers and then communicate these to designers. Our office is located at the Aalto Campus Startup Sauna.

2. How did you become co-founder / CEO of Young Finnish Design?

Establishing a company has never been for me an end in itself, but rather a means for furthering the goal of our operations to promote new Finnish design. When I founded the company together with Heidi Maria Huovinen, we decided together that I would be the CEO. Huovinen’s role has, from the beginning, been more focused on design work, and she is indeed responsible for our company’s visual look and other design-related matters.

We have made the whole journey together in our studies at Aalto University, and this shared journey has laid a good foundation of trust and desire to work together as design entrepreneurs. Our joint strength is in our innovative  and creative thinking and we enjoy getting into the flow of creative thinking and visualising  the future goals of Young Finnish Design.

3. What have been the highlights of your career?

The highlights most definitely include the prizes received at Habitar in 2019. Alberto Alessi awarded a prize to our stand in the ‘NEXT Future’ category, which is an incredible tribute to our work. Besides that, our two chairs won the prizes for best products.

Other highlights of our career have included the selection of Young Finnish Design as one of the Kiuas Accelerator teams for Startup Sauna in summer of 2018, and the Tempo project approved by Business Finland. Also, one of the best things has been to start a business and work together with my best friend; there is probably nothing better than that.

4. What are the most important qualities for a designer?

It is a little difficult to answer this question because there is no single correct answer! In the field of design, a furniture and product designer should understand a bit of everything. This is important to get new designs into production and therefore  to the end-users themselves. 

However, the starting point is that products are designed to meet certain needs and be used by someone. I would say that one of the most important qualities is problem-solving skills and the ability to engage in a fruitful dialogue with one’s partners.

5. How did studying at Aalto prepare you for working life?

Studying at Aalto has laid the foundation for my identity as a designer and developed my creative thinking skills, which are also very useful  in my working life. During the studies, there was a particular focus to work in the workshop and produce 1:1 models of school work with my own hands.

During my studies, I have learned to work both independently and in groups, which has allowed me to practice taking the initiative and responsibility, and to develop my social skills. In my case, what was most important was that I found my current work partner Heidi Huovinen through my studies, as together we are a thousand times stronger and bolder than we are on our own.

6. What advice would you give yourself if you were studying now?

Actively build a collaborative network during your studies and develop your product portfolio to be as comprehensive as possible, and characteristic of your particular style. 

Take part in entrepreneurial training and also build a network with business students. If I had done this, it would have significantly supported my entrepreneurship. Seek to get started in working life as early as possible and be brave!

7. What are your expectations for the future?

The aim is to build Young Finnish Design into an organisation that promotes design and to find new approaches for birthing cooperation between designers and manufacturers. I look forward to a new era in the field of design – a long-awaited one.

I believe that the utilisation of digital channels and new tools will also play a crucial role in the promotion of design. My passion is to promote Finnish design through cooperation, both now and onwards into the future!

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