UID 30 Years - a common design future through the lens of the past


UID's 30th anniversary saw alumni travel in from across the globe to celebrate the school's history and reunite with old friends. Together, alumni and students charted a path towards the future in design.

Text: Jens Persson, November 2019

On the eve of the anticipated anniversary Umeå city welcomed alumni, arriving from across the nation and the world, with a dense fog and a persistent drizzle. The bleak limbo of late November, lost somewhere between autumn and winter, doesn't offer up immediate associations to festivities and celebrations. That didn't stop alumni, students and staff from creating a truly memorable 30th birthday party for the school.

Thomas Olofsson, head of department, kicked off proceedings with an unexpected analogy, comparing UID to Hogwarts, the fairy tale school of witchcraft and Harry Potter's alma mater. The parallel was not so much aimed at quidditch and sorcery, but rather directed at the shared magical abilities possessed by students from both schools.

The audience of around 250 people that had gathered in the Project Studio was then treated to a trip down memory lane, via the screening of the film "UID - 30 Years in 30 Minutes". The montage of grainy videos and photos depicting fresh-faced students, memorable projects and momentous occasions was soundtracked with musical hits from the past three decades, including songs from Boyz II Men, Ace of Base and 50 Cent.

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A deluxe version of 'Wozzop Live' followed as programme directors took the stage to give updates from their respective programmes, detailing the exciting projects that are occupying the minds of students at this very moment. Here, visiting alumni got a first sneak peek into what kind of challenges and perspectives the school's students are currently working with.

'Studio Tours' connecting alumni and students

The next programme point allowed for a deep dive into the ongoing projects at UID. The 'Studio Tours' gave alumni an opportunity to walk around the programme studios and talk to students individually about their work. Before soon, the school premises were busy with lively discussions and impromptu student presentations.


"It really feels like coming back home! And it's interesting to see what students are doing at the moment. As an alumna, I'm quite interested in what the school is up to, and I'm also thinking about how I can contribute. From what I can see today, the student projects seem really relevant to the industry. Actually, walking around it feels like a you're in a design studio, rather than looking at school projects", says Akansha Aggarwal, who graduated from the MFA Programme in Interaction Design just last year.

Talking sustainability 

Next, the critical issue of sustainability in design was on the menu. First off, representatives from the UID Climate Action Group, a student enterprise, spoke about their activities to promote green thinking at UID. Initiatives include the Golden Seed Award, a climate march to the main campus and creating awareness among staff and students. 

A handful of notable alumni were then invited onto the stage to give a glimpse into their work with sustainability in their respective industries. Mall Alpere (Swedbank), Stina Engström (H&M), Oskar Ponnert (IKEA), Tom Woods (Opel) and Ann Granberg (ÅF) all gave fascinating accounts of the challenges a designer of today might encounter in the workplace in relation to sustainability issues. The segment ended with students in the audience asking the panel questions on subjects ranging from recyclability, to user-centred design, to systemic obstacles.

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A 'Creative Challenge' towards the future

The final part of the program saw the Project Studio turned into a chaotic hive of creativity. Divided into 18 groups, the 'Creative Challenge' tasked alumni, students and staff with charting a path in design towards the year 2039.

"We asked people in the room to imagine that it is 2039 and that they were talking to their loved ones. We wanted them to imagine what they were proud of and how design got us to that place. The next step was to share their imagined walk with the group and together decide on one idea and turn that into a tangible future scenario, also thinking about how UID can support that vision through education and research", said Brendon Clark, Associate Professor in Design Anthropology and Director of PhD studies.

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