Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


After successfully completing this course, students should be able to: (1) Understand how to use hands-on material exploration as a method for material research, and how to associate material research as a tool in a design process by applying research results to a new design concept; (2) Are familiar with varying concepts of biomaterials, especially the potential of biomaterials in the context of design for sustainability; (3) Have the skills to search information related to the research topic, make a plan based on a chosen research method, carry out the experiments individually or in small teams as well as record and present their process and discoveries; (4) Learn to challenge material values, aesthetics and new/old crafting methods to create unique material driven approach that can be utilized in their later work. (5) To contextualise design practice in a social context, the course aims to position it in the expanding field of design. Students may furthermore explore positions, practice forms and practitioners in the fields of design activism, inclusive design, transition design, open design, communities of practice, design thinking, participatory design, public and private space; (6) Apply theoretical, practical, activist and reflective methods of design in a social context in their own field of design.



Credits: 10

Schedule: 14.09.2021 - 21.10.2021

Teacher in charge (valid for whole curriculum period):

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Anna-Marie van der Lei, Julia Grundmann

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

CEFR level (valid for whole curriculum period):

Language of instruction and studies (applies in this implementation):

Teaching language: English. Languages of study attainment: English


  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    As biomaterial is a broad and currently widely used term, the students learn to explore and discover new perspectives to biomaterials within their systems and understand how to create their own creative approach towards these materials.  In the course we explore, understand and work with bio-materials and their systemic contexts: natural / social / lifecycle. Depending of the annual topic, the course may be executed in collaboration with a company or organization. The core of the course is to design an innovative concept in the given context, and to execute process-driven, hands-on material experimentation that aims to use material exploration as a source for practice-based design research. The background research, process documentation and final presentation/exhibition are an important part of the learning process. 

    2020 the course will focus on funghi and forests

    2021 the course will focus on algae and the ocean

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Assessment Methods and Criteria (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

    Documentation and content of background research, material design process and hands-on experimentations; quality of personal learning diary; visual and verbal commu

  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    270 h

    Contact teaching: lectures, site visits, group discussions, assignments and final presentation 90 h

    Independent work: literature study, writing assignments, studio work in groups and individually 160 h

    Personal reflection 30 h


Study Material
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Papanek, Victor (1992). Design for the real world: Human Ecology and Social Change. London: Thames and Hudson. (selected chapters)

    Material Driven Design (MDD): A Method to Design for Material Experiences

    Grow-Made Textiles Professor Carole Collet, Design & Living Systems Lab, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts , London, UK.


Substitutes for Courses
SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

    11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

    12 Responsible Production and Consumption

    13 Climate Action

    14 Life Below Water

    15 Life on Land


Further Information
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Passing the course requires attending 80% of the contact sessions (lectures, excursions, group meetings and feedback discussions)

    Teaching Period:

    2020-2021 Autumn I

    2021-2022 Autumn I

    Course Homepage:

    Registration for Courses: Sisu replaces Oodi on 9 August, 2021. Priority order to courses is according to the order of priority decided by the Academic committee for School of Arts, Design and Architecture:

    Minimum 10 students - maximum 24

    The order of priority for admitting students to courses at Aalto ARTS 1.1.2018 onwards (approved by The Committee of Arts, Design and Architecture on 10.10.2017)

    The order of priority is as follows:

    1. students for whom the course is compulsory for their major/programme and who have scheduled it for the current academic year in their personal study plan (HOPS);

    2. exchange students for whom the course is a part of his/her officially approved learning agreement and scheduled to be taken during the current semester;

    3. students for whom the course is compulsory for their major/programme and who have not completed it yet;

    4. students, for whom the course is part of his/her major s or programme s alternative studies and has been scheduled in the student's PSP (HOPS) for the current academic year

    5. students, for whom the course is part of his/her major s or programme s alternative studies and who have not completed the requisite number of credits for alternative studies yet;

    6. students for whom the course is compulsory for their minor;

    7. students, for whom the course is part of his/her minor subject s alternative studies and who have not completed the requisite number of credits for alternative studies yet;

    8. students who have applied for the course through a student mobility scheme (internal mobility within Aalto University, flexible study right (JOO) studies etc.);

    9. other students.