Exploring Materials invites you to get inspired by physical forms and substances. Materials are like words. The richer your design vocabulary, the more design solutions you can see and express. Foam, mesh, wood, plastic, and wire each have behaviors and properties that suggest different types of structure, surface, and connection. Each has its place, consequences, and cost. Understanding materials is essential to design, and understanding materials through hands-on experiment is absolutely crucial. Use this book to begin looking at design with new eyes. Ignore what you already know, and find out how substances such as cardboard, cloth, metal, and rope can yield surprising structures with unexpected functions.
Best-selling author Ellen Lupton and her colleague Inna Alesina bring their collective design experiences to this informative and fun volume. The book opens with case studies of the design process. Lively examples show how designers can interact with physical materials to jump-start the course of thinking and inventing and how they can involve real people and real environments to take a fresh look at real problems. At the core of the book is a visual glossary of materials, organized both to inspire and inform. Everyday uses of each material are juxtaposed with experimental projects that reveal how designers from around the world have exploited materials in surprising and creative ways. The book concludes with a section on making it real, moving beyond the prototype to create a product that can be manufactured and marketed.
This colorful and accessible work speaks to a generational shift in design thinking and design culture. Today, there is a broad movement to think critically and creatively about materials--where they come from, how they function, and where they end up at the end of the day. There is also growing interest in making and crafting, engaging with objects and the environment in a direct way. Exploring Materials embraces this new wave of thinking and brings the complexities and joys of the material world into your hands.
Inna Alesina is an independent product designer and a faculty member in the environmental design department at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).
Ellen Lupton is a writer, curator, graphic designer, and director of the graphic design master of fine arts program at MICA. She has written and edited numerous books on design, including Thinking with Type; D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself; D.I.Y. Kids; and Graphic Design: The New Basics.
Baltimores Design Conversations Take Aim at Invention, Core 77:
"This is a good book for students, educators, designers, and those like to make and tinker with objects."
— Andrea Shea
"Brilliant book. Ellen Lupton rocks. My ex-students who are attending RISD and Pratt would have loved seeing this book. So I'd like to share it with a new class this winter, as well as the AP/Graphic Design PLC that has recently started in Washington state. In addition, my architect-friend has a new student-focused business, Behind the Eye Studio in Seattle--she will love this too... and may order some. Thanks!"
— Wyn Pottinger-Levy
"Exploring Materials has enough content that it could be read as different texts for different audiences. Basically an ID course in materials in a book, students and potential students could use it as a foundation or as a resource, while professionals in practice could look to each chapter for tips and tricks. Finally, even those of us jaded enough to think we know it all could use it to revisit the sorts of wide eyed exploration of the world that we did as kids (or art students)."