Ideas and the Matter: What will we be made of and what will the world be made of?

di Chiara Catgiu

Finally, the book born from the compendium of Madec’s one-year research is out.

Contributors come from several and diverse disciplines (medicine, biotechnology, engineering, art, anthropology, architecture and design), which design thoughts are fed by.

What will we be made of and what will the world be made of? Sciences and technologies are extending design fields, modifying materials and everything that surround us, even our body, redefining on a perceptive level the boundary between things and us.

To identify the actual evolution of the relationship between sciences, knowledge and design, Madec (Material Design Culture Research Centre) of Politecnico di Milano, started in 2014 a wide debate with a series of contributions about innovation trajectories with well known scholars of many disciplines, researchers, professionals and companies.

This public debate, entitled “Ideas and the matter” opens new options for design action today, new ideas, and the definition of design approaches, contributing to the development of a new methodology of creativity-driven material innovation that, in a world full of opportunities but also problems to be solved, helps design to play a role of “giving new meanings”, through designing materials and things with a critical approach.

This is a mission designers cannot abdicate, following the successes of “Design Thinking”, which was opening up to social innovation challenges and achieving creative solutions beyond the reach of conventional structure and method. Innovative materials have been estimated to underpin directly or indirectly 70% of all technical innovations and this percentage is estimated to be steadily growing in the period to 2030. However, multi-functional, reliable, well-performing, safe, sustainable, recyclable materials are essential but not always sufficient for the commercial success of products.1

Upstream collaboration between product designers, material scientists and engineers is critically important to link the market pull with the potential of new materials and technologically advanced systems and creative solutions.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Terzo Paradiso.

iCub, the humanoid robot developed at IIT as part of the EU Project RobotCub.

Ecovative Design, Mushroom Packaging, 2015.

Austeja Platukyte, That’s it, biodegradable packaging from algae-based material, 2016.

Amy Karle, Regenerative Reliquary, 2016.

In the last few years, “Design Thinking” has gained popularity and it is now seen as an exciting new paradigm for dealing with problems in sectors as far as IT, Business, Education and Medicine. This potential success challenges the design research community to provide unambiguous answers to two key questions: “What is the core of Design Thinking?” and “What could it bring to practitioners and organizations in other fields?”.2

At the same time, “Open Innovation” is a go-to process stimulating way of creating positive change in production.3

The open innovation paradigm can be interpreted to go beyond just using external sources of innovation such as customers, rival companies, and academic institutions, and can be as much a change in the use, management, and employment of intellectual property as it is in the technical and research driven generation of intellectual property. In this sense, it is understood as the systematic encouragement and exploration of a wide range of internal and external sources for innovative opportunities, the integration of this exploration with firm capabilities and resources, and the exploitation of these opportunities through multiple channels.

The book can be bought at the following link


2 Kees Dorst, Design Studies, Vol 32 No. 6 November 2011, “The core of ‘design thinking’ and its application”