SPAN Helsinki: Meet Our Speakers
Learn about the technologists, artists, creatives, and companies excited to share their knowledge at our upcoming design conference
Explore how design and technology shape our everyday lives at #SPAN18, Google’s annual design conference. This year, SPAN ventures to Helsinki, Finland, on 1 November for a full day of talks, workshops, demos, and installations. From urbanism to conversation tech, typography, and environmental design, read about the many perspectives bringing SPAN to life.
Marko Ahtisaari Entrepreneur and Designer
- Over the past ten years, Ahtisaari was product design lead at Nokia and co-founded two technology companies—Dopplr and Sync Project.
- He is a professional musician and composer. His band, Construction, is a collaboration with fellow technologist Nadya Peek.
- Born in Finland, Ahtisaari has lived on three continents, in Helsinki, Dar es Salaam, and New York.
Astrom / Zimmer Studio
- Astrom / Zimmer is a Zürich-based design studio led by Anthon Astrom and Lukas Zimmer.
- Since founding Astrom / Zimmer in 2011, their work has received two Swiss Federal Design Awards.
- Astrom / Zimmer’s Werkbank is a table in the Sitterwerk Art Library—expanding on the ideas of a true free-hand library.
Tuuli Sotamaa & Kivi Sotamaa Founders, Ateljé Sotamaa
- Kivi Sotamaa and Tuuli Sotamaa are the brother and sister team behind Ateljé Sotamaa, a studio that believes architectural environments must appeal to our emotions, and seduce us into exploring new ways of being in the world.
- The studio is currently planning a walkable, 21st-century community made of custom versions of their Atelier House.
- Ateljé Sotamaa’s work also includes the award-winning Finnish pavilion at the 2017 Astana world expo, Natura Restaurant, and experiences at the Fazer Visitor Centre.
Linda Bergroth Designer
Bergroth splits her time between Paris and Helsinki, and works in the fields of spatial, product, and set design.
She established her studio when she was still a student and has never worked for anyone else.
Bergroth is passionate about traveling and small spaces. She dreams of designing a small boutique hotel where she can implement all her ideas and experience
James Bridle Artist and Writer
Bridle has researched the emergent style of pixelated and digitally influenced objects—coining the term “New Aesthetic.”
He is the author of the recent book New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future.
Bridle’s work Autonomous Trap 001 is a salt circle that captures self-driving cars by mimicking road markings.
Wally Brill Head of Conversation Design Advocacy and Education, Google
Brill worked as a DJ on Radio Caroline, a pirate radio station in the North Sea.
He spent time as a driver for the mob.
Brill’s previous career was as a music producer, where he worked with artists including Henry Badowski, Annabel Lamb, The Sound, Ofra Haza, and Voice Farm.
Rosa Tolnov Clausen Textile Designer and Researcher
- Clausen is a designer and PhD student at the Academy of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg, Sweden.
- Since she began weaving in 2009, her work has evolved to include a strong social component—where weaving is used as a tool for people to meet, have a break in everyday life, and relate to textiles in interactive and tactile ways.
- Clausen focuses on Nordic weaving traditions and takes them into a contemporary context—using mediums like polyurethane yarn and spray paint—to explore what happens at the intersection of conceptual projects and traditional techniques.
Stephanie Dinkins Transdisciplinary Artist and Associate Professor, Stony Brook University
Her work with artificially intelligent systems started with an attempt to become friends with an advanced humanoid robot.
Dinkins’ latest project, “Not The Only One,” is the multigenerational memoir of one black American family told from the “mind” of a voice-interactive AI.
Laura Väinölä Creative Director and Designer, Flora & Laura
Väinölä is the creator of Flora & Laura, an artful flower shop bringing magical flower stylings to everything from photoshoots to fashion presentations, window displays, and weddings.
She received Design Forum Finland’s Young Designer of the Year award for 2016.
Väinölä recently collaborated with director and sound designer Ezra Gould on a unique, nature-inspired installation at New York’s Triangle Arts Association.
Tonje Værdal Frydenlund Managing Director, Snøhetta Oslo
- Snøhetta—pronounced [ˈsnøːˌhɛtɑ]—began as a collaborative architectural and landscape workshop in 1987 and has remained true to its trans-disciplinary way of thinking since its inception.
- The studio’s name was inspired by Dovrefjell—a mountain range in the middle of Norway—where Snøhetta is the highest peak.
- Their work includes everything from museums, landscapes, and products to reindeer observatories and dollhouses.
Dan Hill Associate Director, Arup
- Hill is Head of Arup Digital Studio, a multidisciplinary strategic, service, and interaction design team.
- He started his career working on the urban regeneration of Manchester, and has since worked on city strategy and urban development projects worldwide.
- Hill is the author of the influential book “Dark Matter & Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary” (Strelka Press, 2012).
Isabelle Olsson Design Director, Google
- Olsson wanted to become a magician while growing up in Sweden and was influenced by Scandinavian minimalist design from a young age.
- She was named one of Fast Company’s most creative people in business for 2017 and was selected by Glamour magazine as one of the 35 Women Under 35 Who Are Changing the Tech Industry.
- Her ultimate goal as a designer is to make people's lives easier and more beautiful.
- Based in The Hague, Netherlands, RNDR creates visualizations, coding programs, and creative interactions across different media, ranging from interactive installations to print.
- Even though RNDR was established in 2017, the studio’s founding members have years of experience as partners, computer scientists, designers, and developers at LUST and LUSTlab.
- One of the studio’s core projects is OPENRNDR, an open-source framework for creative coding that simplifies writing real-time, audio-visual interactive software.
Sanne Schuurman Art Director, Envisions
- Schuurman co-founded Envisions in 2016 with fellow students— Iwan Pol and Simone Post—from the Design Academy in Eindhoven.
- She recently led progressive design workshops with students at the Visual College of Art and Design in Vancouver.
- In collaboration with Envisions and the plastic recycling company ECO-oh, Schuurman is currently working on the development of sustainable composites.
Lauri Toikka and Florian Schick Type Designers, Schick Toikka
Located in Berlin and Helsinki, Schick Toikka creates high-quality retail fonts and custom typefaces for a wide range of organizations worldwide.
In 2018, the foundry published Merged Contours, a retrospective and specimen book featuring nine of their favorite designers, illustrators, and artists.
Varjo VR/XR product company
Based in Helsinki, Varjo creates immersive VR/XR hardware and software—merging real and virtual worlds at human-eye resolution.
The company’s Mixed Reality prototype uses two cameras shooting 90 frames per second to create footage that is 40x the capture resolution of comparable technology.
Varjo plans to launch the first human-eye resolution VR headset at the end of 2018.
Anni Vartola Architecture Critic, Senior Lecturer, and Bookmonger
- Vartola’s most recent work includes curating the Mind-Building exhibition for the Pavilion of Finland at the Venice Biennale 2018.
- She was a member of the jury of the Biennial Review of Finnish Architecture for the Museum of Finnish Architecture in 2018.
- When Vartola is not teaching or writing, she devotes her time to her online architecture bookshop.
Lucas Zanotto Designer and Director
ARQUOIA Fine art and game design studio
- ARQUOIA is an artist duo—founded by sculptor Anne-Katrin Altwein and real-time graphics artist Raphael Wolf—dedicated to blurring the lines between technology and art.
- They believe games are an ideal medium to encounter oneself on a level that lies beyond abstract thinking and human consciousness.
- The duo’s avant-garde first-person game AENTITY—featured at SPAN 2018—functions more like an art gallery than a game, as it envelopes players in mesmerizing imagery and moods.
Dlareme Game Designer
- Since 2014 dlareme has released five games on itch.io—Rain, Compass, Velvet, Ribbon, and Liquorice.
- Their latest game Liquorice—featured at SPAN 2018—is a first-person interactive synthesizer, musical puzzle, and open-ended mystery.
- Operating at a hyperreal 70 BPM, Liquorice allows players to explore one-of-a-kind sonic landscapes by listening attentively and reacting to what they hear.