Study objectives

The Contemporary Design Programme supports students to discover and advance their individual creative processes and in linking them to the problem-solving processes and methods of others. Students are working in a multifaceted learning environment that provides support for creativity, as well as critical and analytical thinking. The program bridges research and design, and it provides students with strong foundation in practice-based research. It educates sensitive and visionary students who have skills to propose radical solutions and responsible innovations for the future.

After graduation the students:

• have strong practical design skills for material productions and experiments

• can critically reflect and innovate on established design traditions, emerging interpretations of design and their own design practice

• display a strong artistic vision and are able to take responsibility, argument and stand behind their work as a designer

• are able to profit from emerging technologies and materials in their artistic and design practices

• understand how the field of contemporary design works internationally and how their own work is connected to broader developments in society and commercial opportunities

• have experience in exhibiting and curatorial practices in the fields of design and contemporary craft, as well as how to connect their work to external partners and sponsors

• are familiar with means to commercialize design and design-driven innovations

Career opportunities

The program serves as an Academic Lab where contemporary design and a strong design heritage mix and integrate with research and technology, advanced materials and manufacturing methods and entrepreneurial mindset resulting in nontraditional and innovation-focused solutions.

Contemporary Design Programme graduates an alumni network of talents. The network supports the graduate to pursue 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 for work in teams and projects in collaboration with companies, organizations and the public sector. The graduate may also continue to develop one’s design excellence and research skills through doctoral studies.

Content of the studies

The Contemporary Design Programme enables designers to nurture an artistic mindset in a multidisciplinary environment that fuels design innovations as well as personal and business engagements. In the program, design is understood in a broad sense including experimental and conceptual works from the spheres of critical and speculative design, experimental design, contemporary craft and product design.

The education prepares the students to develop their own creative and experimental processes to explore and materialize ideas, concepts and final designs. Alongside their own creative work, students study in multidisciplinary teams and develop their skills to present, exhibit, produce and commercialize their design works and talent.

The education is studio-based with close connections to real life, critically merging features of hands-on material exploration and fabrication with observations of contemporary and emerging phenomena. Students tackle the phenomena through collaborative exploration in the field, material experimentation in the studio, reflective discussions and documentation with fellow students, faculty and collaborators. This approach leads the students to discover the value of research, studio experimentation and argumentation skills.

Admission Procedure & Programme-specific Requirements

The selection happens through the Aalto ARTS master student’s admission process. We seek candidates who already possess basic skills in some design field, and have a passion to both deepen and broaden their knowledge. In addition, the applicant should have:

  • willingness to engage in critical thinking and to find one’s own path to contribute to the socially and ecologically sustainable world as a designer
  • earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (Art and Design) or completed equivalent studies
  • fluent English (oral and written)

Relevant former studies and working experience is appreciated, as well as art, design and craft related activities.

The application process consists of two phases. In the first phase, students are evaluated based on the application as a whole, including portfolio, previous studies, CV and letter of motivation. In the second phase, the most suitable applicants are invited for an interview, from which a smaller subset of applicants is offered a study place.


In the portfolio, applicants display work that shows their artistic expression and design skills. The portfolio must contain diverse samples of the applicant’s previous artistic, professional and/or scientific activity.

The portfolio can include illustrations, drawings, photographs and technical drawings. The works that are displayed in the portfolio must be catalogued, listing at least the title and/or theme, materials used, size, purpose and year of completion of each piece. The catalogue must also detail where and when the work has been exhibited, displayed or published and whether the work is based on individual or group work. The contribution of the applicant in the work should be stated in case the work has been completed in a group. The applicant’s name, address and phone number and the degree programme applied for must be indicated clearly in the portfolio.

The portfolio should be uploaded as a single PDF-file. The uploaded PDF-file should not exceed 100 MB. The intake committee will only evaluate the material displayed in the PDF-file. Links to external material, such as website, or videos will not be considered during the intake process.

Motivation letter (in the application form, max 4000 characters)

In the motivation letter, the applicant should explain the reasons for applying to Contemporary Programme. The letter should also indicate what are the main and particular areas of interests in the field as well as goals and expectations for the studies to be completed in the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. The applicant can describe his/her strengths and interests, as well as a vision of art and design, aspects related to work and creative goals.


The application must include the applicant’s CV with personal data, educational background, work experience, exhibitions, publications and articles, awards and grants, study trips and positions of trust.

Stage II: Interview

Selected applicants from Stage I will be invited for a face to face interview. The interviews can be conducted over Skype or telephone if necessary. The interview is intended to evaluate the applicant’s potential to complete the studies successfully.

Program taught in:
  • English

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This course is Campus based
Start Date
2 years
15,000 EUR
For non-EU/EEA citizens, €15000/year.
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The application period for studies starting in autumn 2019 runs from 3 December 2018 to 12 January 2019.
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The application period for studies starting in autumn 2019 runs from 3 December 2018 to 12 January 2019.
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