University of Helsinki joins the Design Factory Global Network

Third time’s the charm has never been more accurate. If you land at Helsinki Airport, you can get in your car and reach three different design factories within an hour. The Design Factory Global Network is honoured to welcome Viikki Food Design Factory from University of Helsinki to the network.

By Marthe Dehli

“It all started with my colleague Reetta Kivelä’s vision and a visit to Aalto Design Factory where we were intrigued by the way they operate and teach,” says Viikki Food Design Factory (VFDF) founder Laura Forsman.

We decided to join the DF Lab training provided by the Design Factory Global Network  team this spring, and the rest is – as they say – history!

VFDF became the 34th member of the Design Factory Global Network (DFGN) in July this year, and is University of Helsinki’s home of food innovation activities. By bringing together food and innovation experts, they aim to create new sustainable solutions related to primary production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food. In order to kick off the activities and gather further inspiration, founders Kivelä and Forsman and 15 other delegates from relevant parts of the university spent a full late-October day workshopping at Aalto Design Factory (ADF). 

“The VFDF crew were the first group we were able to host in-house since February 2020,” says DFGN strategist Pävi Oinonen.

That, and the fact that they are located almost next door, made it especially exciting to welcome them. If I get to be cheesy, I’d say that VFDF’s focus on food innovation and sustainability brings a new flavour to the network.

The visitors started their ADF experience with an interactive tour of the premises. Instead of a tour guide, they were given a map and told to find their own way. As they worked their way through the building, they met different experts, technicians, and researchers. After lunch followed an experiment workshop, where the participants themselves designed experiments they want to bring to their own design factory

“We like to put our visitors to work,” says Kalevi Ekman, founder and janitor of ADF. The man whose vision has made him a bit of a prophet – now even in his own country! – started ADF in 2008 and has led the interdisciplinary course Product Development Project even longer.

By allowing them to experience the design factory instead of just looking at it, they get a much better idea of what the place is about, how the philosophy works in reality, and what kind of experiences we aim to create for our students.

In the end, four different experiments came out of the workshop, and VFDF founders Kivelä and Forsman are looking forward to the calendar changing to 2022.

The workshop was a wonderful opportunity for us to engage a larger group of people in our design factory activities. Together we were able to develop several projects that we are very excited to put into practice!

PS! The third design factory within an hour’s car drive from Helsinki Airport is HAMK DF at Häme University of Applied Sciences.


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