From the margins to the top: How the School of Arts, Design and Architecture rose to the international forefront

New book tells about leadership and vision guiding the change.
Pro arte utili_kirjan kansi_kirjoittajat_kuva_Annukka Mäkijärvi

In the global QS World University 2021 ranking, Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture (former University of Art and Design Helsinki) has been evaluated sixth best in the world in the field of design and art. How has success come about?

Pro Arte Utili – multidisciplinary cooperation as a basis of success (Design Museum, 2021) is a topical book on managing success and describing how Finnish art and design education and research rose to the international top, as well as the decisions and vision behind the change.

The authors are Helena Hyvönen, Pekka Korvenmaa, Ossi Naukkarinen, Martti Raevaara, Pekka Saarela, Yrjö Sotamaa and Anna Valtonen. Past and current long-time management personnel of the school share their personal views on the school’s development and the factors that have influenced it.

The main focus of the book is in the last 30 years, especially looking at the period when Aalto University was conceived and took shape. At the same time it maintains a future-oriented perspective: What can current builders of the future learn from this development? How to manage success and change?

One of the key strengths of the school, as well as of Aalto University has been that we have been thinking boldly and about the future."

Yrjö Sotamaa, professor emeritus

Striving for renewal with an emphasis on societal impact

The book describes how the school has evolved alongside the Finnish society developing and opening up. The authors discuss internationalization, strategic thinking, research and pedagogical development, sustainable development and multidisciplinary cooperation. All these factors have had a key role in that the school’s teaching and research have risen to the international top.

Pro Arte Utili_kirja_Aalto_ARTS_150_juhlavuosi_2021

With determined development and a base of strong operational values and an open operating culture, the school has become one of the world’s most respected educational institutions in its field.

‘One of the key strengths of the school, as well as of Aalto University has been that we have been thinking boldly and about the future,’ says Mr Yrjö Sotamaa, who was the school’s long-term rector.

‘The cooperation and diversity of people thinking differently is as important. It also involves challenging the way we think and implementing ideas created together.’

Since its establishment, the school has characteristically striven for renewal, with an emphasis on societal impact. The school has contributed to strengthening the importance of design and creative industries in societal discussion, decision-making and national development. Societal impact was a particularly visible aspect in the university reform of the early 2000s. On the initiative of Yrjö Sotamaa, the preparations for Aalto University were begun.

Aalto University has improved markedly in rankings specific to science, art, technology and business, and places high in ranking lists comparing young universities. School of Arts, Design and Architecture strengthens the significance of human-centred and human-oriented innovation in the university community.

Finnish education in art and design turns 150 this year. With their book, the authors want to celebrate this anniversary and encourage the school to keep developing and renewing the fields they represent.

PRO ARTE UTILI – multidisciplinary cooperation as a basis of success

Authors: Helena Hyvönen, Pekka Korvenmaa, Ossi Naukkarinen, Martti Raevaara, Pekka Saarela, Yrjö Sotamaa, Anna Valtonen
Publication: 360 pages, Finnish and English versions
Price: 50 €
Purchase at: Aalto University Shop, Otaniementie 14, Väre, Espoo. (
Design Museum, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, Helsinki. (


Yrjö Sotamaa, professor emeritus, [email protected]

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