The Finnish Society of Crafts and Design was founded in 1875, when Finland was still under Russian control. The founders of the society were a group of influential people in the cultural arena and captains of industry. Examples were sought among Europe's foremost schools of industrial arts and crafts.
At first the society maintained a school which taught manual skills and assembled a collection of international industrial arts and crafts. On the initiative of a founder of the society, Professor of Aesthetics Carl Gustaf Estlander, a major new construction project was carried out together with the Finnish Fine Arts Association. The building which resulted from this, the Ateneum, became a museum and institute of education for Finnish fine art and industrial arts.
Gradually the school grew and won an established place as the leading Finnish college in its field. In 1965 it became owned by the Finnish state and it later became a university, the University of Art and Design Helsinki. Today it is the School of Arts, Design and Architecture of the Aalto University. The society also founded the Museum of Art and Design, which after an eventful history became owned by an independent foundation in 1989. Today it is called Design Museum.
The history of the society also includes the famous Finnish sections at Milan Triennales in the 1950s and '60s, the golden age of Finnish design, when many prestigious designers won awards and international fame with their products. The society also actively arranged touring exhibitions of Finnish and Nordic design. The best-known of these toured the USA in the 1950s and Australia and Asia in the 1960s. International activities have therefore always played an important part in the society's work.
After divesting itself of the school and museum, the society turned its efforts in a new direction. At the end of the 1980s, a new, international name was adopted, Design Forum Finland. The core business was to promote design among small and medium-sized industry as well as international operations. Operations settled down in the form of exhibitions in Finland and abroad, publicity and communications, publications, competitions and awards.
In 2015 the Society faced great changes. Design Forum Finland got a new strategy where its activities were mainly aimed at enhancing the use of design in SMEs.
The School of Arts and Crafts in Helsinki is founded.
Finland’s first exhibition of applied art in the Society’s premises in the centre of Helsinki.
The Society organized Finnish participation for the first time in the Milan Triennial.
The Design in Scandinavia exhibition produced by the Society tours Canada and USA.
The Museum of Applied Arts, maintained by the Society, is reopened in Korkeavuorenkatu street in Helsinki.
With support from Finnish industries, the Society and the Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo establish Design Forum to promote industrial design.
The Pro Finnish Design Prize is instituted together with Fennia Group.
The first Kaj Franck Design Prize is awarded in collaboration with the Finnish Fair Foundation.
The 125th anniversary of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design. The Young Designer of the Year Prize and the Estlander Prize are instituted in honour of the anniversary year. Design Forum Finland and Design Forum Shop relocated to Sanoma House in Helsinki. The launching of the ARMI project for an information centre serving architecture, design and the building industry.
Design Forum Finland relocates all its activities to no. 7 Erottajankatu street in the centre of Helsinki.
An extensive design export project HIRAMEKI Design × Finland in Tokyo. Finnish Design Business Association FDBA and Finnish Design Management Association FDMA are founded.
Helsinki with its partner cities is Icsid's World Design Capital.
Design Forum Shop is closed down in August.
The Finnish Society of Crafts and Design is founded 29 October,
Finland’s own, widely noted pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair
The Finnish department at the Milan Triennial designed by Tapio Wirkkala. This event marked the beginning of international success for Finnish design.
The Institute of Applied Art (former Central School of Applied Art) transferred from the Society to the State of Finland
The Society establishes the magazine Form Function Finland.
The Museum of Applied Arts is transferred from the Society to the care of a separate foundation.
The Society starts to maintain Design Forum Finland, a promotion centre for Finnish design. Design Forum Finland’s new exhibition rooms and Design Forum Shop are opened to the public in Fabianinkatu street in the centre of Helsinki.
The Young Forum series of exhibitions is launched and the magazine Form Function Finland is renewed.
A new international design competition, the Fennia Prize, replacing the Pro Finnish Design Prize, is held for the first time.
The 130th anniversary year of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design. Design Forum Finland coordinates the national Design Year of 2005. The publication of the magazine Form Function Finland is discontinued. Design District Helsinki is founded.
Design Forum Finland coordinates the 100th anniversary year of designer Kaj Franck.
The exhibitions are discontinued. Design Forum Showroom, the joint two-year project of Finnish design organizations, funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, is opened at Erottajankatu 9.
Design Forum Finland moves to Unioninkatu 24. The new strategy and activities are launched. The Finnish Society of Crafts and Design has its 140th anniversary 29 October 2015.