Design studies in Aalto University – Onni’s experiences

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Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture, located in Finland, is the leading design school in Northern Europe and the 7th in global rankings. It offers a high quality 3 year Bachelor’s Programme in Design, after which the students are admitted the right to continue to Aalto University’s master’s programmes. 

But what is the design programme like in practice? What does the application process include and how should one prepare for it? We interviewed our former student Onni Anttoora who started in the English design programme in 2019. Onni tells about his experiences and gives a good picture of the application process as well as the studying itself!

Application process to the design programme

To date, the application process has remained fairly similar to when Onni applied for the programme. The application process to the programme contains three main parts: preliminary assignments, intake assignments and an interview. The interview is highly important in the application process as it gives half of the points that determine whether you get in or don’t. 

Image: Onni Anttoora

At the time Onni applied, the preliminary assignments were given about a month to complete. The assignments included writing a motivation letter and a timeline of an applicant’s own life, as well as finding an important topic from the media and designing a product related to that. Onni saw that the pre-assignments already gave some insight into the studies and how design can be used to solve societal problems.

The applicants who passed the preliminary assignments were given the intake assignments, which they had to complete in two weeks. The year Onni applied, the task was to complete four assignments and present them in the form of a video. The assignments included verbal argumentation for a design related topic, problem-solving, as well as designing and building a 3D product.

Onni gives tips on applying:

“When applying, it is important to focus on your argumentation as well as in your critical and analytical thinking. You can’t just design a nice looking product and expect to get in. It is crucial that you are able to justify why such a product is worth making in the first place. The professor in charge of the programme also emphasizes the importance of argumentation and the ability to speak for one’s own work.”

Studying design at Aalto

According to Onni, one of the most valuable aspects of the design programme in Aalto University is diversity. As the programme is taught in English, it attracts students from all over the world. At the start of Onni’s studies, there were students from 11 different nationalities in his class.

“For example, when discussing societal issues, it is really valuable that there are people from many different countries and backgrounds,” Onni says.

Image: Onni Anttoora

The course projects are challenging and they highlight problem-solving but also the ability to find relevant problems to solve. Onni’s first course project included learning 3D modeling, building a 3D printer that prints ceramics and printing an object on that printer. The students had to justify why such an object should be designed and present the need for which it is intended.

In another course that Onni found especially interesting, the idea was to study over-consumption and consider how to address it through design. The course included seven weeks of research on the topic, writing an own design brief to solve a problem related to the topic, and finally, answering the design brief within an additional seven weeks.

In the courses, students are very rarely given a predetermined design problem to solve. As Onni says,

“The degree tries to teach that designers cannot only be problem solvers, but they must also be problem finders. It is an integral part of a designer’s expertise.”

Image: Onni Anttoora

The structure of the studies

The design programme offers some elective studies, but Onni says that within the courses the students are often able to freely choose the topics and problems, which makes the customization of the programme easier.

Also, after the bachelor’s studies, a student can select from several different master’s programmes and choose one that matches their interests. In Aalto University, the graduates of bachelor in design can major in their master level studies, for example, in:

  • Collaborative & Industrial Design
  • Creative Sustainability
  • International Design Business Management
  • New Media
  • Visual Communication Design

Got curious? The admissions to this programme are organized once a year, and the next one is right around the corner! The preliminary assignments are published on 15 December 2021 and the application period starts 5 January 2022! 

Contact us for more information about the application and the programme! Check also studyinfo.fi for additional information.

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Aalto BA in Design program - Elina's experience

Aalto BA in Design program - Elina's experience

Elina has studied in Aalto University’s BA program in Design for two years. During that…
Be the early bird who gets the study place - design edition

Be the early bird who gets the study place - design edition

Are you dreaming about a career in the field of design? Have you already found…
Aalto BA in Design  – See works that got Elina in!

Aalto BA in Design – See works that got Elina in!

Starting from a young age, Elina has wanted to became a designer. This wish became…