Arctic Design

The main purpose of the Arctic Design Cluster is to make local businesses, products and services nationally and internationally competitive by utilising the knowledge from research, art and design specialisation. The cluster brings together expertise on arctic conditions, culture and knowledge on materials and aspires to resolve the challenges of sparsely populated area. At the heart of the cluster is Arctic Design Centre where the businesses, science and art meet.

The Arctic Design Centre of Expertise, created by the faculty of art at the University of Lapland, promotes cooperation between the local businesses, educational institutions, the city of Rovaniemi and regional development organisations. At the centre of expertise small design enterprises can create and test their prototypes with the new technologies developed by the university and get access to the exhibition spaces. The Arctic Design Centre can boost the innovation of new products and re-design of mature ones.

The Arctic Design Cluster has a vision to become a world leader in artic design research by 2020. The goal of this research is a deep understanding of the arctic environment, everyday life, minority cultures and heritage. Furthermore, the research aims at making the arctic environment more visible in the choices of materials and type of the design. At the end, research problems are becoming more complex and more holistic view of different research disciplines is needed. The multi-disciplinary research team can utilise the design research in an all-rounded manner.

The Arctic Design Cluster aims at being part of at least 15 potential synergy and collaboration projects by the year 2020. Leaders of the next cluster projects shall be global enterprises surrounded by consortiums with high level researchers and businesses. Attractiveness for business involvement rises from the bright ideas, high quality research and other companies with investment capabilities.

The backbone of the cluster is formed by the research of arctic designing including: service design, product design, interaction design and applied visual arts.

Service design develops new service concepts, expands expertise and supply quality of services in close cooperation with local, national and international businesses and the public sector. Service design produces award-winning and internationally esteemed research, as well as creative activities and service concepts of a high quality.

Product design innovates international cutting-edge products that are individualised and ready for production. Product design utilises 3D models and physical prototypes of high quality conveying the design vision and expertise. Product design prototypes enable the testing and development of new product ideas, evaluation of the products by consumers and communicating the innovations to larger audiences.

Interaction design creates practical and innovative interfaces for physical and digital products, product concepts and services. It combines international cutting edge research, participatory methods and design expertise from different fields.

Applied visual arts combines participatory environmental art to service design in ways that are culturally sensitive, attractive for tourists and take into account expertise in Arctic conditions.

Cluster Manager Satu Miettinen


2017 – 2020

  • Linking the Arctic design cluster internationally
  • European cluster co-elaboration
  • Finding the answers to societal needs in the Arctic Area
  • Accelerating design driven entrepreneurs
    in the region
  • Support innovative start-ups
  • Create fast prototypes in development environments
  • Contribute to the Academic arena by publishing research papers based on Arctic Design.

Case examples of cooperation

Start-ups networking and cooperating with the University of Lapland

A design center and network called ARCTA – Arctic Art & Design Labs, is built around the expertise of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Lapland. Arcta provides services especially for startups and SMEs in the region, as well as public service organizations in the early stages of product development. The services include practical support for various design projects and the development of design services.

The University of Lapland coordinates and provides business premises for startup entrepreneurs. Laboratories and university facilities offer opportunities for business cooperation and the innovation of new products or services. Examples of two startups working in Arcta and doing close cooperation with the University of Lapland are Tarinapaja Oy and Silhaus.

Production company and creative studio Tarinapaja Oy was founded in 2017. Tuomas Toivainen, the founder of Tarinapaja, started making the animated series Crazy – Crazier – Junior High already in 2014 and did for the first season almost everything from animation to composing the music by himself. The company was established after more animators and a work group were needed to make the series. Today, the series is a co-production of Tarinapaja Oy and Animagency and employs several experts in the field.

In the spring 2021, Toivainen organized an animation course at the University of Lapland for those interested in animation. The course originated from Toivainen’s own idea of ​​employing and bringing skilled people and creative know-how of Lapland together. The course is a good example of cooperation between Tarinapaja and the University of Lapland, and similar activities are planned to be organized also in the future. University of Lapland offers good opportunities and facilities for such cooperation.

Tarinapaja’s premises are located in ARCTA, Arctic Art & Design Labs of the University of Lapland, together with other startup entrepreneurs. While working, Toivainen also studies audiovisual media culture himself. The facilities of the University of Lapland provide a platform to work, meet and network with other inspiring and like-minded people. The possibilities for cooperation are limitless.

At the moment, COVID-19 is restricting the operations, and- overcoming the pandemic is already an issue for many companies. Face-to-face networking is not as accessible as was before. Luckily Toivainen’s animation course was possible to be implemented as contact teaching, which was the highlight of restricted everyday life during the pandemic for many students. Now we work together and try to survive through the pandemic, says Toivainen.

Read more about Tarinapaja Oy here.

Tarinapaja Oy

Silhaus is a startup company that has been operating since 2016. Silhaus is producing applied and participatory art to be easily accessible. Art activities have been developed f.ex. in the assisted living homes for the elderly and in children’s cultural network of the city of Rovaniemi. According to research, art increases overall well-being. The aim of Silhaus is to bring art and culture into the everyday lives of organizations and to introduce a new kind of operating culture. Art can deepen the experiences in the events or boost innovative development work. Silhaus’ target groups are children and youth, the elderly, work communities and companies.

Silhaus has been collaborating tightly with the University of Lapland which has benefitted the company.

– My industry is still developing and new, so there are several areas of cooperation with the university, says Niina Oinas, the founder of Silhaus. The cooperation has brought new networks and Silhaus has been involved in planning various projects aiming at developing and instilling the industry. Project plans have been related to bringing art into social, health care and welfare services.

Silhaus has an office in ARCTA, Arctic Art & Design Labs -of the University of Lapland. Oinas was attracted by the ARCTA’s workspaces and a more social working environment compared to a home office. The university can contribute remarkably to this new and evolving field in promoting the arts through research and education.

Oinas is particularly interested in the role of research in developing the field. The role of arts is constantly developing around the world.

– In a way, internationalisation has been in mind, but first we need to clarify the industry and make it more sustainable within the Finnish society, says Oinas.

Read more about Silhaus here.