(EKSIG 2017)

Editors: Elvin Karana, Elisa Giaccardi, Nithikul Nimkulrat, Kristina Niedderer, Serena Camere

conference proceedings, 2017

‘Material’ has been a central point of research and practice agendas for decades in design. In the field of art, Focillon (1934) and Dewey (1980) emphasized the unique role of ‘material engagement’ in one’s process of thinking and reflecting. Material engagement in craft is a means to logically think, learn and understand through sensing and immediate experience of materials (Ingold, 2013; Nimkulrat, 2012; Adamson 2007). Through such practical inquiries one can understand the relationship between material, process and form (Niedderer, 2012).

In HCI, tinkering is an important part of interaction design processes concerned with crafting interactive artifacts that blend physical and digital materials (Zimmerman et al. 2007; Löwgren & Stolterman 2004; Buxton 2007; Holmquist 2012; Sundström et al., 2010). Tinkering with materials is a way of bringing material considerations early into the design process (Giaccardi & Candy 2009). It also has motivated designers to seek an expanded vocabulary to speak of the ways in which digital and physical materials come into relation (Wiberg 2013), describe computational properties (Vallgårda and Sokoler, 2010), and elicit unique expressions through digital materials (Bergström et al., 2011; Isbister & Höök, 2007; Löwgren, 2006; Tsaknaki et al., 2014).

When it comes to product design, many designers in the history of design have explored and engaged the diverse texture and finishing possibilities of materials, alongside phenomenological considerations on the merits of using particular materials for particular products (Manzini, 1986; Ashby & Johnson, 2002; Karana et al., 2014). Today we still see such an approach in some pioneer product design work: see for example the works of Tokujin Yoshioka (paper, glass), Piet Hein Eek (scrap wood), Paulo Ulian (marble), and Alberto Meda (carbon-fibre composites).

Over the last decade, we observe an ever-increasing interest in creating and designing with new materials (Karana et al., 2016; Rognoli et al., 2015; Wilkes et al., 2015). Suzanne Lee uses microbial cellulose composed of millions of tiny bacteria to produce clothing in her bathtub (; Carol Colette, in “This is Alive” (2013) (, invites us to imagine a world in which plants grow product, and bacteria is genetically reprogrammed; Anna Vallgårda (2009) introduces the notion of ‘computational composites’, a new design space in which conventional materials (like wood) become more expressive and adaptable through computation. The emergence of such new materials and approaches offers opportunity for achieving new material experiences in design. But as materials acquire new agency and interactional possibilities (whether algorithmic, biological or chemical), how do we work with such alive, active and adaptive materials? And as materials acquire connectivity (whether digital or organic) and thus fluctuate within more fluid situations of use and needs, how do we understand the movements, temporalities and relationships of a material in relation to other materials? This calls for different skill sets, different way of understanding and mobilizing materials in design.

This conference sees a diverse range of researchers and practitioners whose work is centered on the experiential knowledge of working with emerging materials that are Alive, Active and Adaptive.


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Ashby, M., & Johnson, K. (2002). Materials and Design. The Art and Science of Material Selection in Product Design. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Bergström, J. et al. 2011. Becoming materials: material forms and forms of practice. Digital Creativity, 21(3), 155-172.

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Giaccardi, E., & Candy, L. (2009). Creativity and Cognition 2007: Materialities of Creativity. Leonardo, 42(3), 194-196.

Giaccardi, E., & Karana, E. (2015, April). Foundations of materials experience: An approach for HCI. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2447-2456). ACM.

Holmquist, L. E. (2012). Grounded Innovation: Strategies for Creating Digital Products. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufman.

Ingold, T. (2013). Making. London, UK: Routledge.

Isbister, K., & Höök, K. (2007, April). Supple interfaces: designing and evaluating for richer human connections and experiences. In CHI'07 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 2853-2856). ACM.

Karana, E., Pedgley, O., & Rognoli, V. (2014). Materials Experience: Fundamentals of Materials and Design. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Karana E., Barati, B., Rognoli V., Zeeuw Van Der Laan, A., (2015). Material Driven Design (MDD): A Method To Design For Material Experiences. International Journal of Design, 9(2), 35-54.

Karana, E., Pedgley, O., Rognoli, V., & Korsunsky, A. (2016). Emerging material experiences. Materials & Design, 90, 1248-1250.

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Niedderer, K. (2012). Exploring Elastic Movement as a Medium for Complex Emotional Expression in Silver Design. International Journal of Design, 6(3), 57-69.

Nimkulrat, N. (2012). Hands-on intellect: integrating craft practice into design research. International Journal of Design, 6(3), 1-14.

Rognoli, V., Bianchini, M., Maffei, S., & Karana, E. (2015). DIY materials. Materials & Design, 86, 692-702.

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Tsaknaki, V., Fernaeus, Y., & Schaub, M. (2014, June). Leather as a material for crafting interactive and physical artifacts. In Proceedings of the 2014 conference on Designing interactive systems (pp. 5-14). ACM.

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Vallgårda, A., & Sokoler, T. (2010). A material strategy: Exploring the material properties of computers. International Journal of Design, 4(3), 1-14.

Wiberg, M., Ishii, H., Dourish, P., Vallgårda, A., Kerridge, T., Sundström, P., ... & Rolston, M. (2013). Materiality matters---experience materials. interactions, 20(2), 54-57.

Wilkes, S., Wongsriruksa, S., Howes, P., Gamester, R., Witchel, H., Conreen, M., Laughlin, Z. & Miodownik, M. (2016). Design tools for interdisciplinary translation of material experiences. Materials & Design, 90, 1228-1237.

Zimmerman, J., Forlizzi, J., & Evenson, S. (2007, April). Research through design as a method for interaction design research in HCI. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 493-502).

Alive. Active. Adaptive. is the International Conference 2017 of the Design Research Society Special Interest Group on Experiential Knowledge (EKSIG 2017) hosted by Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, 19-20 June 2017.

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Suggested Citation: Karana, E., Giaccardi, E., Nimkulrat, N., Niedderer, K. & Camere, S. (eds.) (2017). Alive. Active. Adaptive. Proceedings of International Conference 2015 of the Design Research Society Special Interest Group on Experiential Knowledge (EKSIG 2017). Delft, The Netherlands: Delft University of Technology.