Some history

Selected dates and events from the Society's long history   Text: Researcher Auli Suortti-Vuorio, Design Forum Finland


The founding meeting of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design was held on 29 October 1875. The idea of a society that would promote Finland’s applied arts and training had been announced a year earlier, in October 1874, and the rules of the Society were ratified in April 1875.

The Society’s task was to maintain the vocational school Veistokoulu, which had started its operations in 1871 and was responsible for the higher professional training of Finland’s craftspeople. In the following century, the school developed into the University of Art and Design, which is now a part of Aalto University.

The second task of the Society was to take care of the artefacts collection obtained from the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair, from which the Museum of Applied Arts, today’s Design Museum, was formed. Management-wise, the museum was under the Society until 1989. The Society also held exhibitions and lecture events and maintained a library.

The founders of the Society and the vocational school were Swedish-speaking and liberal influencers of society, the most significant of them being Carl Gustaf Estlander, Professor of aesthetics and general literature at the University of Helsinki. He has also been called the father of the Finnish applied arts.

In 1875, the original name of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design was in Swedish Föreningen för konstfliten i Finland and later, according to the rules of 1892, Konstflitföreningen i Finland. Little by little, the society became more Finnish, and in 1907 the Finnish name Suomen Taideteollisuusyhdistys was also taken into use.



In the spring of 1881, the first Finnish applied arts exhibition was held in Helsinki.

The initiative for the exhibition came from the board of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, and the exhibition was realised in cooperation with the Friends of Finnish Handicraft. At the same time, the exhibition served as a preview for an international exhibition to be held in Moscow in 1882, as the collections presented in Moscow were selected from it.

The commissioner of the exhibition was the architect Jac. Ahrenberg. Applied art and craft products from all over the country were collected for the exhibition. The works of the students of Craft School were exhibited and, in fact, a group of students won first prize. Some of the exhibits were of foreign origin and were presented according to their historical style period.


In his 1875 pamphlet ‘Taideteollisuuden tyyssijoilla’ (‘Vid konstflitens härdar’), professor C.G. Estlander tells of his study trip to Europe and presents his idea of the Ateneum building. Though the building plan is disguised as a dreamlike vision, it is a rather detailed description of a house shared between the  fine and applied arts.

In addition to Estlander, people such as Viktor von Haartman, a Privy Councillor and the chair of the board of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, and Leo Mechelin, a senator and a member of the board, who both managed relations to the government and the city of Helsinki, spoke in favour of the Ateneum. In 1882, there was an international architectural competition to start the planning of the building, but the winning proposal was deemed to be too expensive and the design task was then given to the architect Theodor Höijer, who also became the director of the construction work.

At that time, the construction of the Ateneum was an expensive, large and demanding project that used a lot of the newest building technology. The opening ceremony of the Ateneum building was held on 18 November 1887. The Finnish Society of Crafts and Design owned four sevenths of the space and the Fine Arts Association of Finland owned the rest. The schools and museums maintained by these organisations moved into the Ateneum building.


The Finnish Society of Crafts and Design organised the first applied arts raffle in 1894. The aim was to use the raffle to grow the number of the society’s members and spread the idea of applied arts around the country. The society’s membership fee entitled you to one raffle ticket, meaning that every member of the society participated in the annually held raffle.

The Finnish Society of Crafts and Design organised design competitions for the main prizes, and up to the 1940s the main prizes were very valuable, e.g. they could be the furnishing of an entire room. Well-known artists, such as A. W. Finch and Eliel Saarinen, designed the prizes, but students of the industry were also commissioned.

The amount of winnings varied from dozens to hundreds, and at the beginning of the 20th century there could be over 300 prizes annually. There were raffle exhibitions in conjunction with the raffle, which were held at the Ateneum at the beginning of the 20th century.

The raffle prizes always represented the latest Finnish design, and through them and the prize exhibitions the newest applied arts trends spread among the general public. The raffles were also an important source of employment opportunities for the designers, whose works were obtained to be the prizes. The raffles were discontinued in the 1980s.


In the Paris World’s Fair of 1900, Finland got to have its own pavilion for the first time. It was designed by the young architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen.

The pavilion was a total work of art in the style of art nouveau, and it also had traces of Finnish nationality and national romanticism. Axel Gallén (Akseli Gallen-Kallela from 1907 onwards) painted the main hall’s Kalevala-themed ceiling frescoes and designed the so-called Iris room, whose furnishing included the furniture from the famous furniture factory Iris, red clay ceramics of A. W. Finch and the textiles weaved by The Friends of Finnish Handicraft.

The Iris room is said to be the starting point of the Finnish national style and applied arts. Finland wanted to use the 1900 Paris pavilion to show the world that it was a culturally independent state separate from Russia.


In 1929, the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design and the Ornamo Art and Design Finland organisation began to organise annual exhibitions of applied arts. Fashion and clothing joined the exhibition for the first time in 1932, and the grand sculpture hall of Kunsthalle Helsinki was reserved for fashion.

The commissioner and exhibition architect of the annual exhibition was Arttu Brummer-Korvenkontio. The opening ceremony of the exhibition on 26 November 1932 was a big high society event, which was attended by the First Lady Ellen Svinhufvud.

The press was also very interested in the exhibition. The magazine Kotiliesi reckoned that fashion art was put forward in order to gain even more attention for applied arts. Renown Finnish fashion boutiques and businesses participated in the exhibition. The magazines showcased, among others, the red evening gown of Salon Ståhlberg, the Boutique Kuosmanen’s evening gown made from light brown silk, and the collection manufactured by Stockmann’s couture studio which included a black velvet evening coat. Sports clothes were also present, their fabrics weaved by the weavers of Greta Skogster.

The fashion creations were draped on statuesque metallic ‘mannequins’, which were designed by Elna Kiljander and manufactured by Taito Oy. Naturally, a fashion show was held in conjunction with the exhibition.


The predecessor of the Triennale di Milano was the Monza Biennial, which turned into a triennial in 1929 and moved to Milan, where an exhibition palace was built for the Triennale.

The Finnish Society of Crafts and Design and the Applied Art Association in Finland ORNAMO shared the responsibility for Finland’s section in the 1933 Triennale. Exhibition architect Harry Röneholm’s design was ingenious and suitable for the harsh budget; the exhibition tables were packing cases covered with Enso cardboard that had been painted black, and the display cabinets were ordinary shop cabinets and counters. 50 Finnish companies or creators participated in the exhibition.

Finland received a total of 34 prizes and Harry Röneholm, Elsa Elenius and Maija Kansanen received the Grand Prix prizes. The Italian press praised Finnish design, and both King Victor Emmanuel III and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini visited the Finnish section and purchased Finnish artefacts there. Finland’s success made industrial arts more appreciated among other industries, but the success and the publicity brought by it were not utilised like they would be in the 1950s.


The Housing Exhibition was opened in the Exhibition Hall on 7 October 1939, but due to the threat of war, it had to be shut down only four days later. However, despite the exhibition’s short duration, 15,000 people managed to visit it.

The exhibition was organised by the Asuntoreformiyhdistys, the Applied Art Association in Finland ORNAMO, the Finnish Association of Architects and the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design. Alvar Aalto acted as the chair of the exhibition committee and Kaj Englund as the exhibition architect.

The exhibition examined the housing question comprehensively and offered advice for the improvement of the quality of housing. Kaj and Li Englund had created interior designs for entire rooms for the exhibition. The exhibition also included a small farmer’s home furnished with Ilmari Tapiovaara furniture. Furniture made by Artek and the Kerava carpenter factory, among others, was on display. Of the textiles, the elegant furniture fabrics and curtains of Greta Skogster-Lehtinen, and of the lamps, the lamps of Paavo Tynell and Lisa Johansson-Pape, are mentioned.

The exhibition was international, for Finland’s neighbours Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Estonia all had their own sections in it.


After the Second World War, Finland did not participate in the Triennale di Milano until IX Triennale in 1951. Initially, Finland did not intend to participate at all due to lack of funding.

In 1950, Tapio Wirkkala presented the exhibition idea to H. O. Gummerus, Wärtsilä-Arabia’s PR Manager, and asked the company for financial support. Gummerus was immediately enthusiastic about the idea and recognised the opportunity to take Finnish design to the world. He negotiated the funding for the Finnish exhibition jointly from the state and private businesses such as Wärtsilä-Arabia, Iittala, Boman and Artek.

Gummerus was sent to the Triennale as a representative of the Finnish state. With his language skills, he took the role of helper and liaison to the Triennale organisation for not only Finland but also other participating countries. H. O. Gummerus was a journalist by education and had lived in Rome in his childhood and youth, as his father Herman Gummerus had served as Finland’s Envoy to Rome. Later, he had studied in Paris and New York.  In October 1952, he became the first Director of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, and from there began his work as a promoter of Finnish design, lasting almost a quarter of a century.

The IX Triennale di Milano in 1951 was an international breakthrough and a great victory for the Finnish applied arts. The Finns received a total of 25 awards, six of which were the highest prizes, the Grand Prix. Tapio Wirkkala was the exhibition commissioner and exhibition architect and won three Grand Prix, one of which was for exhibition architecture.

The Finnish section was simplified and elegant. According to Wirkkala, austerity and minimalism were stylistic means for disguising the shortage and deprivation that prevailed in post-war Finland. There was an abundance of glass and ceramics on display in the exhibition, but only a few textiles, for example.

Foreign magazine reviews praised the objects’ stripped-down design language and restrained colour scheme, and the objects were found to reflect Finnish nature. The Italian magazine Domus dedicated 14 pages with pictures for the Finnish section. The success gave rise to talk of “the miracle of Milan”.


Design in Scandinavia was an extensive joint exhibition of the Nordic applied arts that toured 24 localities in the United States and Canada in 1954–1957.

Elizabeth Gordon, the editor-in-chief of the American magazine House Beautiful, gave the idea for the exhibition. The project was led by H. O. Gummerus, the Director of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design. The exhibition architecture was designed by Danish architect Erik Herlöw and the exhibition artefacts were presented by theme, not as separate sections of each country. Tapio Wirkkala designed the visual image of the logo, poster and catalogues of the exhibition.

The exhibition was a great success and had over 650,000 visitors. Design in Scandinavia also held importance for Finland’s international relations; it helped show the Americans that Finland was a part of Scandinavia as an independent, Western democracy.


In November 1957, the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design held the first extensive exhibition that examined industrial consumables and industrial design in Kunsthalle Helsinki.

The exhibition was designed by interior designer Ilmari Tapiovaara. In Tapiovaara’s words, the exhibition was a way to show what the term ‘industrial design’ meant and how it differed from exclusive applied arts. Finnish applied art exhibitions had been criticised for showcasing luxurious unique artefacts and forgetting the ordinary everyday objects. This exhibition was also a way to improve cooperation with industry and assure the consumer of the competitiveness of Finnish products.

The exhibition had been divided into different sections which each had its own symbol representing the subjects or shapes found in nature. These included a honeycomb cell, a giant eye and an egg. The main attraction of the exhibition was the first Finnish People’s Car, manufactured by Wihurin Uusi Autokoriteollisuus Oy, which ultimately did not go into production. According to the press, the exhibition showcased objects ‘from a light button to a crane.’ New product groups included plastic items, leather products, household appliances and radio devices.

Over 11,000 people visited the exhibition and guided tours of the exhibition led by designers were held. The exhibition was also reported on in several radio programmes and on the TES Television.



An applied arts exhibition showcasing Finnish glass and textiles was opened in Rio de Janeiro in February 1958. It was designed by Timo Sarpaneva and produced by the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design. It was the first showcasing of the Finnish applied arts in South America.

Glass art was represented by both older and newer creators, such as Arttu Brummer, Alvar Aalto, Göran Hongell, Gunnel Nyman, Tapio Wirkkala and Timo Sarpaneva. Of the art textiles, the tapestries of Eva Anttila, the textiles of Dora Jung and the Finnish rya rugs are mentioned, among others. Furniture of Alvar Aalto was also included in the exhibition.

Both the press and the public were very exited about what they saw, and a magazine praised the exhibition as ‘a fairytale-like experience.’ A Rio paper was sad to see the exhibition end, because ‘there are some exhibitions that should be permanent in nature.’ When the exhibition tranferred to Museu de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo in early 1959, local paper A Gazeta wrote: ‘Until now, Finland has simply been to us a country of newspaper material and cellulose — But to those who visit the Finnish exhibition, it will also be a country of homely comfort, relaxed eyes, and loveliness of living.’ In 1959, the exhibition also toured in Buenos Aires and Montevideo.



In autumn 1963, Martti Vuorenjuuri, the director of domestic operations at the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, produced on Tesvisio TV canal a regular TV programme that told internationally about the problems of design.

The project was related to the fact that the Finnish Society of Craft and Design’s operations had picked up, and it is an interesting part of the active and contemporary communications policy of the society in the 1960s. Normal communications operations naturally included press releases and press conferences related to domestic and foreign exhibitions and other events organised by the society.

From the beginning of the 1950s to the end of the 1970s, the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design collected a lot of newspaper articles about Finnish design. Through the press clipping service of the Finnish Cultural Foundation, 1,537 of these articles were collected in 1963.


The 14th Triennale di Milano had barely been open for two hours when radical protestors and students occupied the Triennale palace. They shouted: Triennale is dead, Triennale is closed, Milan is Paris!

The building’s walls were vandalised with slogans and exhibition artefacts were destroyed and stolen. The exhibition had to be closed down and it remained closed for three weeks. No prizes were awarded.

‘The Large Number’ had been selected as the theme of the exhibition, referring to the big societal changes in the sectors of architecture and design, among others. However, in Europe’s volatile summer of 1968, protestors deemed the exhibition to be fascist and capitalistic. According to them, the Triennale did not respond to the world’s big issues, such as famine and poverty.

Yrjö Kukkapuro was Finland’s exhibition architect, and the section was bathed in bright colours, pursuant to the theme of ‘Human and colour.’The vast majority of the products were everyday objects, but there were also 60s jewellery art and unique glass and ceramics artefacts.

A committee, led by H. O. Gummerus, the Director of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design and the exhibition commissioner of Finland’s section, began to ponder the Triennale’s future and need for a change.


A new version of the Design in Scandinavia exhibition toured Australia from 1968 to 1969. The first exhibition venue was Western Australian Art Gallery in Perth in February–March 1968.

The Nordic countries were represented at the opening ceremony by H. O. Gummerus, Managing Director of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, who was the prime mover of the entire exhibition project. The last exhibition was seen in Canberra at the turn of the year 1968–1969.

The exhibition architect was Antti Nurmesniemi, who also designed the exhibition catalogue and poster. The catalogue text was written by the Swedish journalist Ulf Hård af Segerstad, who also wrote a great deal about Finnish design. The general secretary of the exhibition was Ulla Tarras-Wahlberg. She toured with the exhibition to all seven exhibition sites. Later in her career, she acted as the director of both the Swedish and Norwegian applied arts associations.

The exhibition attracted a lot of attention and was visited by a total of 200,000 visitors. Sales exhibitions were held in department stores. Australian TV and radio broadcast more than five hours of programming on the exhibition, and the exhibition was accompanied by presentations on the Scandinavian lifestyle, society and economy. The exhibition included 23 companies and 43 designers from Finland.


At Finland’s suggestion, the Nordic countries participated in the 1973 Triennale di Milano with a joint section. The theme of the exhibition was ‘The Child’s Environment’ and the exhibition architect was architect Tapio Periäinen.

Tapio Periäinen compiled the exhibition material together with experts from the applied arts organisations of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Later, he worked as the Managing Director of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design in 1975–1994.

The exhibition was an ideological and declaratory themed exhibition.  Its aim was to present the relationship between the child and the environment and the solutions for this found in Scandinavia. The exhibition space was a kind of playroom, dominated by big balls and sculptures by Rauni Liukko. They were complemented by wall texts and slideshows. The huge balls inspired children to play, and the schoolchildren who came to the Triennale went outright berserk, as exhibition hostess Elisabeth Stenius stated in her report.

The Triennale was attended by a total of 100,000 visitors. The Nordic section was the only foreign section to receive a Grand Prix. In connection with the Triennale, the 50th anniversary exhibition of the Triennale was also organised, to which 22 Finnish participants had been invited.


The 100th anniversary of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design was celebrated in a grand style.

On the day of the founding of the society, 29 October, at 10 am, an anniversary meeting was held at the society’s premises at Unioninkatu 30, to which the members of the society’s administrative bodies had been invited. The meeting was chaired by Jussi Saukkonen, chairperson of the administrative board of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design.

The meeting announced the establishment of the 100th anniversary foundation of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design. The task of the new foundation was to support and promote the Finnish applied arts field in its entirety. Managing Director H. O. Gummerus was invited as an honorary member of the society. After the anniversary meeting, the society received congratulations.

The official 100th anniversary celebration was held in the Assembly Hall of the University of Helsinki on the evening of 29 October 1975, and the President of the Republic, Urho Kekkonen, honoured the celebration with his presence. The 100th anniversary celebrations also included an extensive history exhibition “100 vuotta suomalaista taideteollisuutta” (100 years of Finnish applied arts), which was on display at the Ateneum Art Museum from 31 October to 7 December.  The exhibition architecture was designed by Antti Nurmesniemi.

The 100-year history of the society, “Finnish Design 1875–1975”, was written by Erik Kruskopf, and the graphic design of the book was executed by Timo Sarpaneva and Erik Bruun. Sarpaneva also designed a commemorative stamp. The anniversary year of the society was extensively covered in both the domestic and foreign press, and at the same time the current state and future of Finnish design were discussed.


The Finnish Society of Crafts and Design held the first Suomi muotoilee (“Finland designs”) exhibition around the turn of the year in 1979 and 1980 in the spaces of the Museum of Applied Arts.

The exhibition was a large joint exhibition of the design industry and it continued the tradition of the shared annual exhibitions of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design and the Applied Art Association in Finland ORNAMO, which had come to an end in 1960. Now there was again a market for an extensive display of domestic design.

The Suomi muotoilee exhibition was a way to give as comprehensive a picture as possible of the contemporary state of design. From handicrafts to industrial design, the whole design field was represented. The exhibition products were selected by a panel founded by the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design in 1979, which worked together with Ornamo. The architecture of the Suomi muotoilee 1 exhibition was designed by industrial designers Barbro Kulvik and Antti Siltavuori, and the exhibition took over all the exhibition floors of the Museum of Applied Arts opened in June.

The exhibition was met with acclaim from both the press and the public. The newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet described the exhibition as surprising, refreshing, high-quality and one that gave new hope. In the beginning, the Suomi muotoilee exhibitions were held annually, but then they were held every other year, ten times in total. The last exhibition, Suomi muotoilee 10, was held after a five-year break in 1998 at Design Forum Finland. Several of the exhibitions also toured Finland and, as slightly altered versions, abroad.


In August-September 1979, the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Helsinki Festival held an exhibition that showcased Finnish Functionalism.

The exhibition was held in the recently renovated Kunsthalle Helsinki and it was a part of the Helsinki Festival programme. Kirmo Mikkola acted as the exhibition architect and Timo Keinänen was responsible for the collecting of the applied arts artefacts and the research of the section.

The exhibition illuminated Modernism, how the Functionalism phenomenon had arrived in Finland in the 1920s and 1930s, and how Functionalism had given people faith in the future. The different manifestations of Functionalism were presented in the sectors of fine arts, applied arts, architecture, literature, film, theatre and music.

In the following years, the Funkis exhibition toured the Nordic countries and East Germany. The opening ceremony of the exhibition, held in 1985 in the Ausstellungszentrum am Fernsehturm (the TV tower) of East Berlin, was grand, and the exhibition attracted as many as 24,000 visitors.


Design Forum was founded in 1987 to promote industrial design. Design Forum was a joint project of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, industry companies and Ornamo Art and Design Finland.

For years, Finnish industry had demanded that industrial products and design be more strongly brought to the forefront and that industrial products should have a permanent exhibition space in Greater Helsinki. The role models of Design Forum were the design forums operating in several other countries, such as Design Council in London and the corresponding institutes in Denmark, Sweden and Japan.

Design Forum’s duty was to be an information centre serving industry, business life, designers, media and the public. Its forms of activity were exhibitions, launch parties of new products, communications, and creating the so-called design registry.

Design Forum operated in Vientitalo, at Etelä-Esplanadi 8.  In 1990, Design Forum and the company service unit of the Ministry of Trade and Industry started the province-specific design representative activity, whose aim was to help SMEs utilise design in their products and business.


The new rules of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design came into effect in 1991. According to them, the society maintained Design Forum Finland, the promotion centre of Finnish design.

The office spaces and operations of the society’s office and the former Design Forum merged. The new premises were located at Fabianinkatu 10. For the first time in its history, the society now had its own exhibition space in Helsinki. A bigger exhibition space, the Hall, was meant for showcasing industrial design and more extensive temporary exhibitions. The Gallery was suitable for handicraft exhibitions, among others. The new spaces also housed office and storage spaces and also a small shop of Finnish design. Interior designer Simo Heikkilä was responsible for designing the facilities.

The opening ceremony of the new spaces was held on 10 December 1991. In 1881, 110 years earlier, in the house located in the same spot on Fabianinkatu, the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design and the Friends of Finnish Handicraft had organised the first Finnish applied arts exhibition.


The Maamme exhibition was held in honour of the 75th anniversary of Finnish independence. It was on display at Design Forum’s exhibition space on Fabianinkatu from 9 January to 1 February 1992.

Thirty craftspersons and designers from different fields were invited to the exhibition and given the opportunity to freely interpret Finland and Finnishness in their works. The exhibition as a whole was diverse and open-minded, comprising works from unique crafts to industrial design. The exhibition work group was chaired by Managing Director Tapio Periäinen, and the exhibition architecture and graphic design were carried out by the young interior architect Stefan Lindfors.

The realisation of the exhibition was a kind of tent camp where individual works were displayed in tent-like spaces bordered by sheer white curtains. The exhibition poster designed by Lindfors attracted attention with its boldness. It was a “happy lion”, a colourful adaptation of the traditional Finnish heraldic lion.


Radio City broadcast live from Design Forum Finland on the Day of Design on 10 December 1993. The day’s chosen theme was furniture design, which fit well with the Habitaren huippuja (‘The Best of Habitare’) exhibition held at the time.

In the afternoon, three discussions were also held. Their topics included the ecologic nature of products, the design representative activity’s meaning to SMEs, and the education of the furniture sector, among others. The theme day attracted 400 interested visitors to Design Forum Finland and they were served Christmas porridge, as was customary.

In 1993, design was a topic of conversation even at the ministry level. Design Forum Finland gave its statement on the KUPOLI Kulttuuripolitiikan linjat report (the national cultural policy) of the Ministry of Education and on the Council of State’s culturopolitical account.  The report of the strategy committee of industrial design, set by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was published and Director Tapio Periäinen had been heard as an expert consultant in the preparation stage of the report.


From Dreams to Reality was a joint design exhibition of the Nordic and Baltic countries in 1993–1994. The initiative for the exhibition came in June 1990 from Estonians who had visited the extensive NordForm 90 exhibition in Malmö. The first official exhibition meeting between Nordic and Baltic design organisations was held in Tallinn as early as September 1990. From Dreams to Reality was organised by the Scandinavian Design Council, a joint body of Nordic design organisations, and the Baltic Crafts and Design Committee. Juri Kermik from Estonia was chosen as the exhibition architect and Torben Skov from Denmark as the graphic designer. The exhibition’s Nordic secretariat was located at Design Forum in Helsinki and the Baltic secretariat at the Art Museum of Estonia in Tallinn.

The exhibition concept reflected the differences and different histories of the Nordic and Baltic countries. The Nordic countries displayed almost exclusively industrial design and serial production, while the Baltic countries displayed colourful handicrafts due to their traditions and history. The exhibition was extensive: there were 550 products and product lines on display. 240 creators from eight countries participated in the exhibition. The travelling exhibition was first opened in Tallinn on 21 June 1993, and a design conference was also held in connection with it. After that, the exhibition was on display in Vilnius, Riga and Gothenburg and finally at the Cable Factory in Helsinki in the summer of 1994.

The exhibition had both cultural and political significance for the Baltic countries. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania regained their independence in 1991 as preparations for the exhibition project were underway. For many Baltic visitors, the exhibition was their first contact with Scandinavian design. The Nordic countries wanted to show how wide-ranging design can be, and their exhibition focused on everyday objects and social design. On the other hand, the exhibition cooperation promoted the cultural independence of the Baltic countries. Baltic people wanted to network with Nordic design circles. Design Forum Finland helped bring Nordic design thinking to Estonia and other Baltic countries and advised on practices related to the organisation of exhibitions, among other things. The political significance of the exhibition was already evident from its name. The exhibition broke the cultural isolation of the Baltic countries that had lasted for almost 50 years.


Classic Makers (Klassikon tekijät) exhibition celebrated the 120th anniversary of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design. The extensive exhibition was held at Design Forum premises on Fabianinkatu in the summer of 1995.

Eleven well-known designers were invited to the exhibition: Bertel Gardberg, Fujiwo Ishimoto, Yrjö Kukkapuro, Irma Kukkasjärvi, Antti Nurmesniemi, Vuokko Nurmesniemi, Ritva Puotila, Timo Sarpaneva, Pirkko Stenros, Marja Suna and Oiva Toikka. Classic Makers exhibited designers who were involved in creating the concept of Finnish Design and let them choose one of their works that stood above all others. The exhibition included both classic products and new products from the 1990s.

The aim of the exhibition was to show that the classics did not create themselves, but that a classic product was based on solid professional skills, product development and good cooperation between the designer and producer. To paraphrase Managing Director Anne Stenros: the creation of a classic also required insight, luck and the right timing. The exhibition was designed by architect Pentti Kareoja, and the large portraits of the creators featured in the exhibition were photographed by photographer Jussi Aalto. The international version of the exhibition toured China and the United States in 1996 and Milan in 1997. It also included works by Alvar Aalto, Kaj Franck and Tapio Wirkkala.


The series of Young Forum displays began in 1996. The exhibition was a part of the celebration of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design’s 120th anniversary.

The aim was to highlight a new generation and their design image alongside the traditions of design and renown creators. The exhibition series was realised with annually changing themes from 1996 to 2000 and once more in 2004.

The first Young Forum ‘96 was an expansive, national and juried exhibition of young designers. Esa Laaksonen acted as the exhibition architect and Anne Stenros, CEO of Design Forum Finland, as the chair of the exhibition work group.

The theme of the exhibition was open-minded and the approach was unprejudiced. Quality was the only criterion that had been defined in advance, but the exhibition also accepted prototypes and sketches. Originally, almost 500 products were in the running, of which 78 were put on show in the exhibition. The young designers’ values, the use of new materials and timeliness were all evident in the products. The exhibition was also a way to encourage companies to hire young designers.

The Young Forum exhibitions toured both Finland and abroad extensively, visiting countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Hungary and Japan.


The comprehensive Young Nordic Design – The Generation X exhibition showcased the newest ideas of young Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic designers.

The products reflected the Nordic design tradition: the stripped-down expression of form, practicality, sparse materials and high quality, but they also showed signs of international influences. Some of the exhibition objects were final products, some were experiments, and others utilised new technology and materials.

The exhibition was organised by Design Forum Finland and it was made in cooperation with its Nordic sister organisations. The exhibition was opened in the Scandinavia House, New York City, in November 2000.  It got a lot of attention from the American press and e.g. The New York Times published two long articles related to it.

The exhibition toured the United States and Mexico from 2000 to 2001. It was seen in Design Forum Finland in Helsinki and in the joint Nordic embassy building in Berlin in 2001. In 2002, it continued its tour in Canada, after which it was presented in Glasgow and Reykjavik.


The year 2000, the 125th anniversary year of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, was full of events and changes. Design Forum Finland’s exhibition and shop premises moved to Sanoma House in early 2000, and the first exhibition in the new premises, Young Forum 2000, opened the anniversary year in February.

The society’s 125th anniversary exhibition “Finnish Design 125” was on display at Design Forum Finland during the summer. The exhibition comprising 125 objects was designed by Simo Heikkilä and its graphic look by Aimo Katajamäki. The exhibition toured extensively around the world in 2001–2004, visiting Central Europe, St Petersburg, Australia, New Zealand and Kuala Lumpur, among other places.

The society’s 125th anniversary celebration was held on 17 November 2000 at the new auditorium of the National Museum. In connection with the celebration, Ei vain muodon vuoksi, the history of the society written by Pekka Suhonen, was published. In honour of the anniversary, the Estlander Medal, designed by painter Tero Laaksonen, was struck.

Named after Carl-Gustaf Estlander, one of the founders of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, the Estlander Prize was awarded for the first time at the 125th anniversary celebration. It was awarded to journalist Carla Enbom and writer Pekka Suhonen. Gold and silver Estlander medals were also awarded at the ceremony. The gold medals were awarded to Antti Nurmesniemi and Timo Sarpaneva.