What is arctic design


The task for Arctic design is to support the sustainable development of the Arctic region. In extreme circumstances, we have always been able to respect scarce resources, the sustainability of nature, and practicality.

Arctic design is special competence for the development of business products, services, and strategies. It is also increasingly a tool for the development of public sector service content.

Awareness of the special cultures, conditions, and environment of the Arctic is the starting point for responsible planning for Arctic design experts.


Functionality and sustainability are leading features of Arctic design.

Nordic design has always emphasised functionality and accessibility alongside aesthetics. Today, the demands of sustainable development make accessibility and functionality even more visible.

The sustainable lifecycle of products and services is at the heart of Arctic design. There is a need to pay more attention to the use of raw materials and the impacts of product consumption on the environment in the long term.


Investing in design expertise is an investment in commercial success and the future.

Design expertise can be visible:

  • in the product’s pleasant appearance
    service fluency
  • with a good customer experience
  • in an attractive brand
  • at its best, it will be visible in all of these.

We asked the recipients Lifetime Achievement Award of the Arctic Design Awards how they would define Arctic design. This is what they answered.

Designer Heikki Koivurova, Lifetime Achievement Award 2022,

“Perhaps you could depict Arctic design as uncomplicated and timeless – just as the everyday tools of people in the Arctic have always been. Scarce resources have been and should be used wisely.

Without any wasting. Without emphasising anything unnecessary. Behind everything is a certain degree of ‘honesty’ and respect for the individual – and nature. Ingenuity is also often employed, i.e. the same tool or utensil can be used for many things. Due to long distances and difficult terrain to traverse, everything unessential is excluded: The curved-up beaks of the Sámi boots act as ski bindings, the parallel long-log fire refuels itself, the darkness of a sod hut repels mosquitoes, wolves eat any weak links in their pack, a sheath knife is used for eating, killing, a tool for making other tools, and so on.

Here – if anywhere – less is more!”

Honorary Doctor Anu Pentik, Lifetime Achievement Award 2020,

“Is Arctic an emotional state or a genuine experience? Should the designer live in the northern regions?

I have observed the northern annual cycle for over 50 years. The powerful colours of snow and ice, darkness, the Northern Lights, the quick burst of spring, sky colours, and the vibrant autumnal foliage of ruska. Vivid!

A couple of years ago, when I was making the new ceramic GUKSI SERIES, I wondered whether I could achieve a form that displayed clarity, purity, and peacefulness – devoid of anything unnecessary. This is how I would summarise the message conveyed by Arctic design”.

Anu Pentik

Industrial Counsellor Antero Ikäheimo, Lifetime Achievement Award 2019,

“It was back in 1970 that I purchased the manufacturing rights for the Nola playground equipment from Sweden, with the intention of utilising the slow-growing pine of the northern regions. I quickly got started with products that had already been tested. I soon found out that the serial sizes of the products were small and the freight costs of mainly ready-assembled products were high.

Early on I realised that the domestic market would be insufficient. I decided that by using the right modular system and components based on the system, I could achieve longer production series, more economical packaging, a wide range of product variations, and lower freight costs. As a self-taught product designer, I quickly received feedback on the rough log architecture, and I was able to involve several of Finland’s most renowned designers for development purposes. In this way, our products gradually gained more advanced forms.

Before the mid-80s, our designers invested in a 3D design system that took us to a whole new level in product and spatial design.

Today, around 30 of our designers and planners complement our collection, not only using northern wood, but also with electronics, metal structures and plastic, and even stainless steel. When our products can last up to decades, both Arctic and tropical conditions, both visually and structurally, we can safely say that our products have been designed well”.

We asked the inspirational speakers and designer hosts of Creative North Sessions events how they define arctic design. This is how they answered.

Architect Aleksi Niemeläinen, Futudesign Oy, Helsinki

“The important themes of Nordic design in 2030:

  • minimalism = resource wise
  • circular economy = things are used up
  • solution-oriented = where and how
  • calmness = the equivalent of a flood of information
  • shamanism = originality

Nordic Design = People:

  • helpfulness
  • straightforwardness
  • courage
  • solution orientation”

Architect Aleksi Niemeläinen