A new collaborative project Finimalism: From ‘less is more’ to ‘more with less’

Finimalism, a collaborative project in architecture, fashion, and design, seeks to revitalize Finnish Design’s story while contributing to a better world. Project manager Katja Lindroos explains more.

Katja Lindroos. Photo: Ramon Maronier

While following the news stream, finding reasons for being cheerful can be challenging. Amidst the catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, global decision-makers struggle to reach a consensus even on the most necessary emission reductions. The consequences of an unsustainable lifestyle are reflected in regulations that complicate livelihoods for some and completely alter the lifestyles of others. These repercussions bolster protest movements and empower populists, bringing human distress to our doorsteps. Those who are privileged reveal their callous sides.

Perhaps Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and other radicals are right. Perhaps previous generations have robbed the present and future of their rightful legacy? Perhaps our sole opportunity lies in reducing, tightening, trimming, and imposing limits? Perhaps doing less is our only way forward?

‘Less is more,’ an oft-quoted maxim by architect and designer Mies van der Rohe, has long steered design ideals, championing the virtues of simplicity. Over time, it became almost synonymous with a modernist, consumption-driven lifestyle where minimalism served as a style rather than a principle guiding towards restraint.

The implementation of minimalism, emphasizing minimal elegance through precious materials at the expense of nature and the rights of the less fortunate, has fortunately fallen out of favor. Today, we require a new form of minimalism—one that radically reduces waste of natural resources and energy, rejects the exploitation of people, and combats thoughtlessness and indifference. Through this reduction—not despite it—we can achieve more: more value, beauty, and humanity. 

It’s about achieving more with less.

An impossible-sounding equation and still true. This superpower is called creativity. Everything radical is an easy target to cynicism and ridicule. Yet, above all else, creativity embodies a radical promise of hope. As Welsh writer Raymond Williams once proclaimed: “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.”

History has taught us that subscribing to the ideology of hope is simple, but as the commitment deepens, it becomes a challenge. Crafting solutions that nurture hope demands diligent effort and dedication. It requires the capacity to think in entirely new ways and, furthermore, the ability to envision and demonstrate to others a different, and better alternative.

Thanks to preceding generations, we possess evidence of realized hope, with many still within reach. Less than a century ago, Finland grappled with poverty and pervasive scarcity, necessitating decisive choices. Finland chose to invest in its future, focusing on its infants. The maternity box stands as an embodiment of the brand Finland and the country’s beloved design innovations. Initially intended for the poorest, it swiftly became a resource for all young families. A basic mattress within a cardboard box served as a newborn’s bed, easing the economic burden of the parents.

Another testament to the influence of creativity and empathy is designer Kaj Franck’s petite jug, now a classic, fitting snugly between two windows. In the post-war era, few could afford refrigerators. However, this item’s ingenuity ensured at least the preservation of cool milk without one.

Numerous such examples abound. Our architecture, fashion, and design uphold a legacy where scarcity doesn’t stifle creativity but fuels it. ‘More with less’ remains the unbroken chain of Finnish Design. The responsibility now falls upon us whether to carry this legacy forward into the future.

‘More with less’ remains the unbroken chain of Finnish Design. The responsibility now falls upon us whether to carry this legacy forward into the future.

Katja Lindroos

The idea for the Finimalism project emerged about a year ago, driven by the necessity to reinforce and rejuvenate the narrative of Finnish Design, thereby making its solutions visible in a world grappling with a sustainability crisis.  ‘More with less’ serves as the motto for the Finimalism project. This initiative is propelled by three organizations dedicated to Finnish architecture, fashion, and design: Archinfo, Fashion Finland, and Finnish Design Info. These entities have pooled their expertise and passion to support a common goal.

Finimalism is more than just an international campaign starting in 2024; fundamentally, it’s a platform crafted to facilitate cross-disciplinary and cross-country collaboration. Therefore, ‘finimalizing’ isn’t solely the exclusive domain of Finnish Design but rather a mindset crucial everywhere. Every well ‘finimalized’ solution merits communication, and every problem requiring radical reconsideration must be shared to foster resolution.

The founders of Finimalism have embraced the challenge of cooperative necessity, turning words into action. Within this initiative, the aim isn’t solely for enhanced communicative efficacy but also for a new, more sustainable model of collaboration itself. Simultaneously, the project measures the sustainability of its own actions, starting transparently with the site’s resource efficiency.

“I simply want to bring people together so they can get to know each other and gain from one another,” outlined Armi Ratia, the founder of Marimekko, expressing her goals. Recognizing that the superpower of creativity thrives in collaboration, Ratia understood that genuine sustainability is unattainable without it. Only together can we achieve more with less.

The website finimalism.fi will be published in December 2023.