Design PF

Max Julian Fischer, Lena Mertel

at Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden

The students of BA in Industrial Design about their semester abroad


Hey, I’m Max. I study Industrial Design in Pforzheim and I want to give you a glimpse on my experience during my exchange semester at the Umeå Institute of Design (UID) during spring 2018. 

How is the life in Umeå?

Umeå is a student town with about 39.000 students. The city is located in the north of sweden at the Ume River near the Gulf of Bothnia. There are some small lakes nearby and the Skuleskogen National Park is about 150 km down south. Because the city has so many students the University takes a big part of the city itself. In some suburbs like “Ålidhem” live almost only students. All of the student rooms have their own bathroom and are located in corridors with four to twelve other persons. There is a big Fitness Center called “IKSU” nearby with a swimming pool and many sport courts like ones for beach volleyball, basketball or squash. On the campus are four student union houses. “IKSU” and these houses are a good spot to get in contact with other students. The city center is quite small with some nice Restaurants, Cafe’s and clubs like två fiskare, Rost, Hundra or Rex. 

What is it like to study at the Umeå Institute of Design?
The Art campus including the UID is located a bit apart from the main campus, very beautifully, at the Ume River. The Design Institute has one “Industrial Design“ bachelor program in Swedish, one “Industrial Intensive Design program” and three Master Programs (MA Transportation Design, MA Advanced Product Design & MA Interaction Design).

As a Pforzheim exchange student I got into the Industrial Design Intensive program, which is mainly for people who want to get in the design field without a specific design background. Consequently the age (20-42) and the former profession ranges from artists, people who have worked in communication services, to engineers, and even a dentist is participating.

In terms of content the course covers projects of various fields of the design discipline over four weeks.

In general, the most notable difference is the very human centered design philosophy of the UID. Intensive research and efforts to gain deep insights of the user is the main focus. As they understand design as a process to solve problems, many of the former UID students go after graduation to design driven companies like Microsoft, IDEO or frog design. The UID takes care of a huge Alumni network all over the world. During their degree show in summer they invite companies and agencies and arrange portfolio meetings with interested students and their guests.

Why the UID?

In summary I would say the discussions with the people, their broad range of different inspiring backgrounds and the worldwide Alumni network are the reasons why the UID a special place. And of course the beautiful north of Sweden.


I attended the Industrial Design Intensive Course at Umeå Institute of Design, UID, located on the Umea River next to the art museum Bildmuseet and the architecture school. 18 kind people with 14 different nationalities were waiting for me in January 2018 in our studio. The Industrial Design Intensive course is one year long and most people of the group took part in it since August 2017. Five new exchange students swapped places with those who participated in the first semester of the course. The IDI exists independently and appeals especially to people who want to get an insight into different design disciplines, or the subject design itself. This is, why people with completely different backgrounds come together, many of them have already worked and have completed studies, in this case engineering, languages, marketing, free arts and even medicine. This mix of different ages and backgrounds made frequent teamwork even more interesting and diverse. In the second half of the year, which I participated in, Interaction Design, Transportation Design and Service Design were among the topics covered, providing valuable insights into other design fields. Professors and staff from other programs taught us, as well as guest lecturer gave an insight in the subjects of design. Further there have been interesting and challenging cooperations which led to completely new projects.

The institute offers everything a student could wish for, a large student kitchen, public and private space to work in, workshops, a room with Wacom boards and cozy Fika (Swedish coffee break) places. If you do not cook for yourself, you have the opportunity to have lunch at the attached museums restaurant. The building complex can be entered at any time with the student ID card. Every second Friday, the students of a design department organizes a pub in the school where you can establish contacts with other creatives.

Most students live in Alidhem, 10 minutes by bus from the faculty. It is also possible to walk or ride by bike to school, for those who are especially brave, even in snow and ice. 

From the UID you can reach the city center and Vasaplan bus station in 5 minutes by bus. There are the Utopia shopping center, other shops and cafes, even a guitar museum, the city church and the Väven cultural center, a worth seeing complex of city library, hotels and restaurants. Winter and summer activities are very popular in and outside the IKSU Sport, a fitness center, where a lot of different activities are offered. Almost every student spends part of his free time there. Furthermore, there is the Västerbotten Museum to mention which gives an insight into the past of Umeå and the culture.

International pubs and dinners, ice swimming, barbecues, ski trips, a tour to the moose farm and other recreational activities around Umeå are offered as events in the buddy groups, where you can register at the beginning of the semester.

By the ferry you can travel very cheap to Finland on Tuesdays, there are various ski resorts and also Norway to reach, and flights to Stockholm are cheap as well if you book early enough.

The acquaintances I made and the experiences in the exchange semester at the university, even though these were less product focused, have brought me further in my skills and mindsets and I am glad that I took the opportunity to spend a term at this great and diverse Institute. The most important thing is that you make friends for life with incredibly people from all over the world.