Study options

Contemporary Design - Design, Master of Arts (Art and Design)

What alternative materials can best replace plastic? How can traditional crafts be merged with contemporary design? What kind of products do we need in our changing society? The studies in Contemporary Design are driven by concrete, real-world needs. Students receive support not only to build their creative and professional confidence, but also to expand their thinking beyond conventional limitations, adopting an experimental design mindset.
Iittala Experimental Design Process


Master of Arts (Art and Design)

Application period:

30 Nov 2023 – 2 Jan 2024

Language of instruction:



2 years, full-time


Relevant Bachelor's degree

Field of study:

Art and Design


120 ECTS

Organising school:

School of Arts, Design and Architecture

Tuition fees:

For non-EU/EEA citizens, €15000/y (Master’s studies) Read more

Applying to master’s programmes


What alternative materials can best replace plastic? How can traditional crafts be merged with contemporary design? What kind of products do we need in our changing society? The studies in Contemporary Design are driven by concrete, real-world needs. Students receive support not only to build their creative and professional confidence, but also to expand their thinking beyond conventional limitations, adopting an experimental design mindset.

Contemporary Design (CoDe) is one of the three majors of the Master’s Programme in Design, the others being Fashion, Clothing and Textile Design (FaCT) and Collaborative and Industrial Design (CoID). In addition, the Master’s Programme in Design collaborates closely with the Master’s programme in Creative Sustainability (CS) and International Design Business Management (IDBM). All are two-year programmes, whereby students graduate with a Master of Arts degree in Design.

The Contemporary Design study option educates sensitive and visionary students who have the skills to propose radical solutions and responsible innovations for the future. The teaching methods place the most value on the creative process, without any predetermined outcome. We believe that the most radically creative solutions arise from freedom of expression. The result can be anything from pure art to a functional object.

Aalto University is now ranked 6th in the world in the field of art and design by QS World University Ranking. The world-class teaching and facilities ensure that, upon graduating from the study option, graduates are able to:

  • Execute material productions and experiments that demonstrate strong practical design skills
  • Reflect critically established design traditions and innovate in emerging fields of design
  • Implement recent technologies and materials in their artistic and design practices
  • Display strong artistic practice with an ability to argue for its relevance with research-based reasoning
  • Exhibit and promote their work and explain their position as part of a wider societal, cultural, and commercial context
  • Carry out collaboration with partners from societal, cultural, and commercial fields
  • Create future-oriented products, services, and systems as a member of a multidisciplinary or trans-disciplinary team and/or as an individual designer
  • Combine creativity, curiosity, continuous renewal and expression with analytical skills and practice
  • Understand how to lead and communicate design-driven, often complex processes with empathy, critical thinking, and research-founded reasoning
  • Comprehend how design contributes to socio-material transformations for a sustainable future
  • Undertake design research to build knowledge to support and justify the practical work, and to apply for education leading to a Doctor of Arts degree

Language of instruction

In the Contemporary Design studies, the language of instruction is English.

Tuition fees and scholarships

Aalto University’s tuition fee for master’s programmes taught in English is 15 000 euros per academic year. Tuition fees apply to citizens of countries other than those of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

Aalto University has a scholarship programme to support non-EU/EEA citizens who study in a fee-charging degree programme. The scholarship may cover 100% or 50% of the tuition fee.

More information on tuition fees and scholarships at Aalto University is available at the Scholarships and Tuition Fees webpage.

Structure of studies

Overall, the Master’s Programme in Design – Contemporary Design comprises a total of 120 ECTS credits. Main compulsory studies are selected from the major’s study offering. Students will also participate in joint studies of the Department of Design (12 ECTS) and will produce a thesis project around a design subject (30 ECTS). In addition, students choose elective studies according to their Personal Study Plan.

For more information about studies see Study Guide 2022-2024.

Master's Programme in Design


The first year introduces students to the contemporary design culture and critical design practices, considering its societal and environmental impact. Students will also explore varied materials, including biomaterials. As the studies evolve, students will develop their competencies with material-specific design, such as ceramics, glass, or wood.

The Contemporary Design study option has a small annual intake of students, assuring that each student receives individual guidance and attention. As for the Master’s thesis, students have a variety of approaches to complete the thesis. It may be a piece of theoretical, artistic, or applied research, a work of art or a combination of these. The thesis may also include a production component, for instance, a design, a work of art, an exhibition, or a project. Theses always include a written component.

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Upon joining Aalto University, students are welcomed to an international community of competent, creative, and responsible individuals. 15 % of the students and 40 % of the faculty in the University come from across the world, bridging students with the global design network. The School of Arts, Design and Architecture has strong connections to other leading design schools and universities across the globe. Students are encouraged to apply for internships and exchange studies as well as gain experience by taking part in international competitions, exhibitions, conferences, and trade fairs to further enrich their personal learning path. In addition, the Contemporary Design study option has an ongoing dialogue with exciting international brands.

Further study opportunities

Contemporary Design graduates are eligible to apply for doctoral studies.

Career opportunities

Design plays a pivotal role in the world we live in. From designing engaging experiences to the furnishings of our homes, we interact with designed objects and systems daily. With technology rapidly shaping the parameters and boundaries of the field, contemporary design is an incredibly diverse and exciting area to work in.

Master’s studies prepare graduates to advance their professional careers towards their personal areas of interest and specialisation. The Contemporary Design studies support the graduate in pursuing a career as a creative entrepreneur following one’s strong artistic vision and/or as a member of a collective or start-up together with others. The graduate is prepared to work in teams and projects in collaboration with companies, organisations and the public sector. The graduate may also continue to develop their design excellence and research skills through doctoral studies.

Research focus

Design research at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture is at the international forefront of sustainable design, practice-based design research, human-centered design, and co-design. Our research environment and culture enable goal-oriented research, imaginative experiments, critical discussion, and transdisciplinary collaboration.

Contemporary Design studies are strongly linked to different research groups. Prominent themes include design’s social and environmental responsibility, and conceptual and expressive possibilities of varied materials. An example of a recent research project that received international visibility is Working with Soil, addressing the ecological consequences of the human footprint through ceramic art. The project culminated in an exhibition at the Research Pavilion organised parallel to the Venice Biennale in summer 2019.

Co-operation with other parties

Multidisciplinary collaboration between the six Aalto University schools is extensive. The School of Arts, Design and Architecture has a long tradition of successfully collaborating with external partners on projects and courses and nurturing close relationships with several external stakeholders. Companies, research institutes, for-profit, not-for-profit, and public organizations frequently reach out to Aalto University as one of the leading design schools in Europe to work with students on real-world societal problems and business opportunities. In Aalto University CoDe is collaborating tightly with CHEMARTS courses, and acts as the coordinator for CHEMARTS summer school.

Applying to master’s programmes

Study-option-specific Admission Procedure and Evaluation Criteria 2024

Applicants meeting Aalto’s general eligibility criteria for master's studies will be evaluated and ranked according to the evaluation criteria that has been decided in advance for each study option. The applications to Master’s programme in Design - Contemporary Design will be evaluated based on the following criteria

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Contact information

Learning Services at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture

For enquiries regarding programme-specific application documents or studies in the programme, please contact Aalto ARTS Learning Services.

[email protected]

Admissions Services

For enquiries regarding the application process, obligatory application documents or English language proficiency, please contact Admissions Services.

[email protected]

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