A Ragamuff chair on view at the Design Museum Helsinki through Sept. 24.


Scandinavian countries are known to take the lead in terms of promoting its multidisciplinary designers on the international stage, so it’s fitting that the Design Museum Helsinki and the Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo have launched an exhibition for the centenary of Finnish independence.

More than 1,000 designers and supporters turned up Thursday night in Helsinki to examine how design is challenging the present and shaping the future, according to Päivi Balomenos, the museum’s public relations and communications director. For the first time, six different rooms were set up for the “Enter and Encounter” exhibition, which is meant to have a forward-thinking spin about design and society. The themes are Techno Pastoral, Global Finn, Ecologies, Post-Industrial Crafts, Urban and Soft Systems. The work of Irene Kostas, the designer behind the ONAR clothing label, and Elina Määttänen, who has her own signature collection, are among the show’s 45 resources. There is also a maternity package to help new mothers in underdeveloped places be equipped for child care.

“Compared to the Finnish design history, the idea of design used to be very much product-based and now it has totally changed. It can actually be all kinds of things,” Balomenos said. “For example, in this exhibition we are showcasing Suomen Jäätelö artisan ice cream [with packaging and a spruce flavor] designed by the leading design company Artek, which is now part of Vitra. There is also two examples of the Culture and Sompa saunas, where saunas are built in reclaimed locations and people from all parts of society can visit for free. Basically, the objective is to show that the variation is rather large now in the field of design. In the Fifties, it had very much to do with wood, furniture and plastic. Now it can be anything in a way,” Balomenos said.

Highlighting digitalization, artificial intelligence and technology is also evident in such displays as the one about the ŌURA ring, a wearable device that tracks sleep to monitor personal health. The show also spotlights MaaS, or Mobility as a Service, which brings all means of travel together whether that’s a taxi, public transportation, a rental car or a bike share. The show is on view through Sept. 24.

“The exhibition’s global view is what’s most interesting. Often designers are thought of as lonely wolves working with their hands with wood but this shows how it is artist based. Now more and more designers are working as teams with not only non designers but also with researchers, engineers and all these other groups,” she said. “There is also a focus on sustainability and making things work better. Design in general wants to find answers to global problems. We’re showing Finnish designers, but many of them are not even working in Finland.”

To introduce others to Finnish design, another new exhibition at the museum, “100 Objects from Finland,” will soon tour five other countries.

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