Designing Soul

Presented by the A:Space at Startup Maria as part of Helsinki Design Week, Designing Soul focuses on collaboration with Colour & Material Design.

Colour and material mastery is one of the most important design skills of the 21st Century.  It leads creative direction and business strategy; drives new forms, improves functionality, and impacts sustainability. Those senso-aesthetic properties of colour and materials build strong connections between products, environments, brands, and people. Understanding the importance of colour and material design is an increasingly sought after skill and sensitivity across all industries and disciplines. 

So how come you never hear about it?  Says professor Jaana Beidler, “Like a lot of things in design, this field is rapidly emerging.  We see this as an investment, as part of our economic legacy and identity.  Finland has always been on the cutting edge of design culture, Aalto [University] has taken great care to make sure we are preparing our students to be well versed in material innovation and colour as an emotional driver.’

The Designing Soul conference itself brings together world-class designers, artists, and creative directors from a multitude of fields and businesses to Helsinki. They will share their expertise and practices in using colour and material to create a sense of performance and soul for physical and digital products, events, and environments.

Speakers include Vanity Fair Corp. VP of Innovation Karen Reuther (The North Face, Vans, Timberland); environmental activist and founder of Brooklyn Fashion & Design Accelerator, Debera Johnson;  Helsinki City Chief Design Officer, Anne Stenros; Pasadena Art Center College of Design Chair of Product Design and Director of the Color, Materials and Trends Exploration Laboratory (CMTEL), Karen Hoffmann; material mutator and futurist Bart Hess who works with artists such as Lady Gaga, and many others.

The conference is presented by Beidler’s team and students by the recently launched A:Space — a collaborative hub nestled in Alvar Aalto’s iconic Otaniemi shopping mall.  This newly conceived space is the brainchild of Aalto University’s Design Department and students, offering co-working and meeting spaces, stage for lectures, a coffee shop, and top of the line Color and Material Exploration Lab and prototyping facility. 

Beidler continues, “Our aim here is pretty ambitious. We believe that colour and material design has an increasingly important and strategic role in the future of design and business. Industries and customers demands it. Designers can not do it alone. We are in the midst of a tipping point for a new era of collaboration.  Our students need to be open, daring, and well-versed. The goal is to blur the lines between education, ideation, and industry. So this conference serves as a platform for partnership and dialogue.  This is just the beginning.”

The conference takes place September 6th, 2016 at the newly launched Startup Maria ( More information, program, speakers, registeration and additional workshops online at