Tapio Wirkkala's long professional association with Rosenthal AG in Germany began in 1956. He made a considerable contribution to the output of this group of companies, designing eight porcelain tableware services for Rosenthal and seven for Thomas, in addition to over 200 different porcelain objects (vases, dishes etc.)

The first of these products was the Finlandia service, which was produced from 1957 until  1973. One of Wirkkala's best-known services for Rosenthal was Variation, which inspired Walter Gropius when he was designing Rosenthal's new plant in Selb. The tableware included ornament, such as a cloud motif by Rut Bryk for the Century service.

Wirkkala's working method involved the making of numerous prototypes to study the ergonomic properties of tableware. He also developed techniques, such as etched porcelain, known as "silk matte" at Rosenthal.