College for Creative Studies: Product Design


Elizabeth Salonen

Mottoform (Helsinki, Finland)


Design wasn’t merely a career option for Elizabeth Salonen—you could say it’s been more of a calling. The Canadian-born designer grew up in a home filled with modern furniture, clothing, lamps and other objects created by members of her family.

“I knew when I was still young that I wanted to work in a creative field,” she said.

“When I discovered the field of industrial design, I knew it was for me!"

"I wanted to touch and feel the things I designed.”

Salonen was named 2012 Industrial Designer of the Year. This nomination is especially exciting since her industrial design firm Mottoform is based in Helsinki, which also happens to be World Design Capital for 2012 as designated by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid).

According to her nomination, “The work of Elizabeth Salonen displays remarkable high standard aesthetic ability and exemplary courage for a young female entrepreneur in a traditionally masculine sector. Her products are designed with a skill that extends to the very finest points of detail, drawing inspiration from an appreciation of the immediate surroundings and ecological materials.”

Salonen has designed several types of products, including concept cars (she previously worked as a colors/materials designer at Ford), precision sports watches, heart rate monitoring belts, lighting, graphic textile designs, furniture, housewares and tableware. Her designs for Suunto Lumi watches (the first women-specific outdoor sports watches) received an iF Product Design Award and a Red Dot Design Award. Her Helsinki Remade textiles exhibited in the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in South Korea and were included in “Graphics Alive 2,” the second design book of the best-selling series published by Victionary in Hong Kong as well as several other books and exhibitions. She has also been featured in many Finnish and international newspapers, magazines and design blogs.

“You can see the Nordic influences in my work—iconic forms, bold color, graphics and a desire to push the limits with materials and manufacturing processes,” she explained. “My inspiration comes from the small things in everyday life—a new ingredient, an artifact, people and their stories, water, motion… I enjoy the opportunity to design products that people need and use every day.”

Some of Salonen’s recent/upcoming projects range from lighting to textiles to furniture. She started working with Keraplast, a Finnish company that has produced several of her lighting designs using a thermoforming process. This spring/summer (2012), Salonen launched her second collection of textile designs for Finnish company Vallila; her autumn/winter (2012) prints will launch later this year. Salonen’s new furniture design prototypes (constructed from solid wood) will be revealed at Habitare 2012 (Furniture and Interior show in Helsinki) as part of a volunteer teaching project where students from a vocational school in Helsinki collaborate with designers to create products. Upcoming projects include houseware made from “clean” materials (wood, glass and ceramic).

“I like to give the products I design a personality, a surprise, or a new perspective.”

“As to the future? The sustainable, environmental aspect of design needs to be addressed in order to preserve the ecological future of this planet. That’s what I am doing with my work.”

More about Salonen can be found at ; visit  to view a recent interview about her collaboration with Vallila.