Family and future at UID22 as the grad show returns


For the first time since 2019, the Design Talks & Degree Show was back in the shape of a real-life event. Combining the best from the digital and physical worlds, UID22 was an event defined by inclusion, focused on a more resilient future.

At UID22, 49 graduates pitched their visions for a different, and better, future, presenting everything from a vulva-kit, to autonomous vehicles, to AI-assisted grieving. Three-minute presentations followed by a professional exhibition of physical models gave visitors a glimpse of how to take on the challenges facing our global society. The Golden Seed Award, a student-initiated price, put further focus on sustainability in design. The event ended with keynotes by leading designers and a spirited panel discussion led by Daniela Bohlinger.

A physical event with many digital followers

A physical event, allowing designers to meet in person and have tangible experiences, added soul and substance to the experience. However, the digital world has its benefits and by combining these two, UID managed to create an inclusive event according to Demian Horst, Head of Department.

"With a modular setup of the agenda, inspired by a digital event, students and companies had great opportunities for networking, and around 30 companies from all over the world signed up students for interviews".

2UID22 attendees gather along the bank of the Ume river during intervals between grad project pitches.

Graduates who couldn't make it to Umeå presented and signed thir own digital "wall of fame" to mimick the physical event, as over 4000 people followed the live stream online.

Broader perspective on sustainability

Sustainability has become an ever-present perspective in current UID design projects, where Mother Earth is often referred to as a stakeholder. The focus has shifted from what to how and broadened into other areas, such as regenerative agriculture and medication. The students show responsibility for the effect their design might have on the planet and put a focus on how to make make a difference on a broader societal, systemic level. One of the attendees applauds the responsible mindset. 

"I appreciate that many projects have a wide sustainability scope and that the students dare to think big", says Joel Grundström from SMS Evoko. 

Social sustainability gets more focus this year, for example through My Enetjärn whose vulva-kit creates awareness about vaginal microbiome by empowering the individual.

1My Enetjärn talking about her degree project 'Floae' on bacterial vaginosis.

Many products are now designed to work in a circular economy, in cooperation with companies like Volvo and Electrolux. More obvious problems are also taken care of this year which Mårten Skoger from Ericsson has looked forward to seeing.

"All the disposable waste in healthcare has irritated me, so I was happy to see that the diabetes project addresses that", says Mårten who mainly came here to look for new talents.

The pandemic effect on design

Autonomous vehicles and AI pops up in a number of projects, with a focus on how to create trust for these new technologies. Participants could also see the efect off the pandemic in this year's transportation design concepts, something that Nathalie Hübscher from design agency Kiska in Austria was curious about. 

"From my HR perspective I think that we will need solutions in the future where you can work from a vehicle", raises Nathalie who also gave credit to the school for a very well structured event, a level she is not used to.

The UID atmosphere

UID students and alumni talk about "the UID family" and the friendly and supportive atmosphere, something that was truly present thorughout the student pitches. Graduates are nervous, of course, but it's obvious that they feel support from the audience.

4The exhibition kicked off in the evening of day 1 as particpants got to explore the student designs and discuss indivudally with their creators.

"It's not that much of a competition within UID, but more a feeling of cooperation and becoming great together", says Rebecka Rosenlind, a former student of UID. "Own initiatives are welcomed, and the school has become more circular design focused because the students wanted that", she continues.

Jens Asserlind from McKinsey Design misses his time in Umeå as a progressive oasis where the long winter makes you focus. It's obvious that Umeå has a special place in the hearts of the alumni community.

Already looking at next year

Demian Horst, Head of Institute, is already looking forward to next year's event and reveals that he is aiming at a cooperation that would make the event even bigger.
He ended UID22 with an impassioned speech about how the pandemic made us all become quiet and how dangerous perfection could be.

"Go out there, make mistakes, do it with noise!"