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Graduates of the Design Connections doctoral programme pioneering design research

The tenth anniversary of the Design Connections doctoral programme at the Department of Design was marked with a seminar on 12 Feb.
Newly conferred happy doctors at the Ceremonial Conferment of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. In the picture: Kirsikka Vaajakallio, Jung Joo Lee, Tuuli Mattelmäki and Kirsi Niinimäki. Photo: Lasse Lecklin

A total of 12 doctors have already graduated from the programme and four of them now work as professors.

The history of the doctoral programme, the thoughts of the graduates about their training and the future of design research were discussed at the anniversary seminar.

The Design Connections doctoral programme was launched in 2006. The first Doctor of Arts graduated in 2009 and the last doctoral candidates of the programme will receive their degrees this year.

In terms of its results, the programme has been a success. According to Turkka Keinonen, Professor at the Department of Design, one reason is that ten years ago the time was right for a doctoral programme in design. There was a need for experts in design research and the graduate school was a response to this need. The funding came from the Academy of Finland and Tekes.

'Status of design research became an existing thing with this programme,' said Keinonen, summing up the programme impacts.

Likewise, the fact that the studies were genuinely tailored to the needs of the Department of Design was an essential recipe for success.

'The department had to go its own way and create the basis for the work because there were no examples to follow,' Keinonen says, talking about the early years.

The doctoral programme helped to create broad-based design expertise

Design Connections has pioneered doctoral studies in the field of design.

In her address, Anna Valtonen, Dean of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, highlighted the fact that as a result of the doctoral programme, Finland can now boast a high-quality design research community.

'As design is assuming an increasingly important role in our society, many other design universities in other countries would also be very happy to have equally high-quality research resources.'

A total of 12 doctors have already graduated from the programme and four of them are now working as professors in four different universities in Finland, Denmark and Singapore. In their doctoral dissertations, the graduates extensively discussed dimensions of design and analysed the changes in the field of design.

Katja Soini, a graduate of the programme, works as Development Manager at Vahanen Group. She says that in her current job she is able to have a design-oriented mindset.

'An engineer-driven community is proud to have as its member a Doctor of Arts who can take a broad view of the issues and focus on the design perspective,' Soini explains.

In the view of Salu Ylirisku, who works as Professor at the University of Southern Denmark, the emphasis in the programme was on the participants’ own strengths, while at the same time they were provided with the tools for reflecting on different matters.

Design research is assuming an increasingly important role

Professors Oscar Person and Sampsa Hyysalo discussed the future of the research field.

The aim is to further improve the ARTS level of doctoral courses offering, and to have one annual intake of doctoral candidates. International cooperation and cooperation with companies will also be increased.

The evolution of design thinking will transform and change the business in the future. It is also clear that knowledge from other technologies needs to be used, and close cooperation with other academic disciplines is required.

'You may have noticed that whenever there are for ex. big social problems, who are called for help? The Designers,' Person says.

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