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Estonian design – innovative and accessible

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By Piret Mägi  •  06.08.2019

Estonian designers spend a lot of time and effort on analysing the concept of design and making it as consumer-friendly as possible. 

This is why discussions of design can be found in the work of start-ups and in the programmes of the seminars and training events of companies, the development plans of industries, the school system and many other places, and they’re quickly becoming interwoven. By the way, there is a designer for every 800 citizens in this country. Impressive, isn’t it?

Estonian design always tries to meet certain requirements, which can be seen even during the shortest visit: an extreme focus on quality, Nordic minimalism under the slogan ‘less is more’, the skilful use of natural materials, and smart and often quirky ideas and solutions. A lot of attention is given to sustainability, both in production and consumption. Local beauty products keep gaining fans and the popularity of quality food, cafes and restaurants, which often also showcase local design (interior design, packaging, crockery, visual graphics, services), is increasing.

Our generation can enjoy everything on offer using constantly developing technology and devices: you can check out the Tallinn Design Map on your smartphone (paper versions are available in our Tourist Information Centre), BikeIDBarkingBolt – all Estonian start-ups – are remodelling our traffic culture; HUUM electrical heaters are a compact and beautiful cocoon-like addition to saunas; even Richard Branson speaks highly of the fast and affordable cross-border financial transactions of TransferWiseWolfPrint prints out 3D joints and bones used to prepare complicated surgeries. If you fear that the infectious plenitude of design will overheat your senses, you should look for the first Estonian organic ice cream LaMuu, which is delicious. The story of how the packaging for the ice cream was designed is also an inspiring lesson in itself. Shall I continue?

If you would like to find something for yourself in the vast selection of Estonian design, then design shops are the best places to visit – they also operate as showrooms and give visitors a quick overview of local trends.

If you arrive in Tallinn by ferry, you should head straight for the Estonian Design House to take a look at their impressive selection of various types of products. The shop also sells clothes created by Reet Aus, a world-renowned promoter of up-cycling and sustainable design. After that walk past the Fat Margaret Tower and you will soon get to the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, where you can always enjoy large-scale and inspiring exhibitions of design. It’s a must-see place for taking some time out and inhaling a good dose of local design vibes at the same time.

There are many studios and shops right here in the Old Town, which have become firm favourites of many Estonian design friends. The elegant Marimo boutique sells Marimo designer clothes, but also offers a small selection of lingerie, shoes and body care products for women with finer tastes.

If you’re not too tired yet, you should definitely also visit TALI (where you will find the charming heart-shaped brooches cut out of enamel dishes by Urmas Lüüs, which can also be found in galleries elsewhere in world - take it or take it!), Les Petites. TALI also has room to display smaller items of furniture and various home décor products. The shop also offers a great selection of modern designer jewellery.

The clothes of Estonian designers can also be found in the women's department of Kaubamaja department store: Tiina by Tiina Talumees, Ülle Pohjonheimo and many others. The flagship store of Estonian fashion design, the Baltika Group, is called Moetänav and it is located in the Baltika Kvartal, which has become very popular among locals. It is only a short walk away and also has an outlet corner. You can see, experience and purchase design during the highly concentrated Design Night, which is usually held in the second half of September.

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