portrait of Cindy Kohtala


Dr Cindy Kohtala is Professor in Design for Sustainability at the Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden. Her research bridges design and Science & Technology Studies (STS). She examines open design and localizing production in industrial transition: how active citizens experiment with “sustainability” through hacking and making at the grassroots, and how they involve publics in imagining and enacting alternative sustainability futures and infrastructures. She explores ways researchers and activists can collaborate on knowledge-making using design-led methods in sustainability transformation. 

BIO (long)

Dr Cindy Kohtala is Professor in Design for Sustainability at the Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University, Sweden. Prior to this she completed her doctorate and postdoctoral research period at Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Design, Finland. Her research is positioned in design research and Science & Technology Studies (STS) foregrounding values-in-design, grassroots activism and socio-environmental sustainability. She is interested in grassroots participation: how active people engage themselves in sustainability concerns and how they encourage wider publics to materially participate in locally relevant and socially good design and production. She examines technology subcultures involved in open design, open hardware, maker culture, hacking and shared community technology workshops (e.g. fab labs), considering their roles in industrial transition. She is interested in feminist, postcolonial, postcapitalist, socialist and justice-oriented perspectives that seek to re-politicize peer production, maker culture and the sharing economy to reveal how power is held and distributed.

Dr Kohtala also lectures and writes about design-for-sustainability, Product-Service System (PSS) design, open design, co-design, distributed economies and design activism. She is an active member of the international LeNS (Learning Network for Sustainability) network and the design-for-sustainability network o2 Global. She has taught design and research courses at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD levels, and she has been a guest teacher in design-for-sustainability courses in Mexico, China and India. She was actively involved in the Creative Sustainability Master’s Programme, Department of Design, Aalto University. She has participated in several urban activism initiatives in Helsinki.