Category Archives: Activities

Circular Material for Creative Industries: The Emerging Bioplastics

This is a research activity related to MaDe – Material Designers International Project. MADEC contributes to the project, the research activity, and workshops in the Politecnico di Milano. Our contribution mainly deals with Circular Materials for Creative Industries.

The project MaDe is run by the organizations Elisava, Ma-tt-er, and Politecnico di Milano and is funded by Creative Europe. MaDe is a competition, an event series, and a platform devoted to realizing the positive impact material designers can have across all creative sectors.

Material Designers are agents of change. They can design, redesign, reform, reuse, and redefine materials giving them an entirely new purpose. Increasing the potential of materials they can go on to research, advise, educate and communicate what materials are and can be in the immediate, near, and far future. These actions have the ability to implement positive social, economical, political, and environmental change across all sectors, towards a more responsibly designed future.

MADEC’s contribution addresses in MaDe the topic of the acceleration of the transition towards Circular Economy. This means the reorganization of product manufacturing on sustainability principles to reduce environmental footprint. In this problematic scenario, the topic of Circular Material research is fundamental for both consolidated enterprises and Creative Industries.
Pursuing the intent to give insight, after having briefly highlighted the connection between Creative Industry and design, the MADEC’s contribution clarifies the relationship among CE, sustainability, and material innovation, and present a number of bio-based plastics already developed and placed on the market thanks to giving voice to innovator sensibility and design research awareness according to EU Plastics Strategy.

In the transition toward the Circular Economy process, Design is called In this process, Design is called from the process beginning to establish a new relationship between resources and production.
Focusing on Circular Materials we have analyzed two success stories of Creative industries that have developed news circular materials and highlighting the role of the design-driven material innovation approach and its advisable implementation in CIs. These are Mogu, in Italy, and Sulapac in Finland.

The contribution to this issue is published in:

Ferrara, M. (2021) Circular Material for Creative Industries: The Emerging Bioplastics. In L. Clèries, V. Rognoli, S. Solanki, P. Llorach
Material Designers. Boosting talent towards circular economies (pp. 52-59) Barcelona: Creative Europe. ISBN 978-84-09-24439-3.

The Ultra Surfaces Vision

Investigating the relationship between the physical and the digital dimension of new surfaces has been one of the main tasks of MADEC in the last years.

On this topic, we give our contribution to the ICS_Materials research, Design Department, Politecnico di Milano.

After approaching a subtle link connecting surface design and emotional experience, we move on according to design praxis and develop the UltraSurfaces vision, a new material design vision taking advantage of the latest developments in electronic and smart materials, and their integration in layered substrates and other materials.

The Ultra Surfaces (USs) can detect phenomena in the environment, record and exchange data while being controlled by remote technologies, interact with users by changing their physical properties, like color, form, sound, or light emission, and providing feedback to the user. The USs go a step further than ubiquitous IoT, smart products, and environments, enabling new potentialities for any surface to be applied in Future Scenarios of spaces and products.

Adopting a Human and User-Centered Design approach, we have been envisioned Future Scenarios and concepts to convey a better understanding of USs, as well as their potentiality for applications and user’s appreciation.

We aim to catch the interest of material industries and highlight the challenges design is facing in exploiting the new hybrid materiality of USs.

The materials of reference in our analysis are the industrial laminated surfaces cellulose-based, currently produced by two Italian companies that were invited to collaborate in the research through educational activities, to be inspired by new visions and future scenarios.

The research is published in two different volume:

Ferrara, M., & Pasetti C. (2020). UltraSurfaces: A New Material Design Vision. In Ahram, T., Karwowski, W., Vergnano, A., Leali, F., Taiar, R. (Eds.) Intelligent Human Systems Integration 2020. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Intelligent Human Systems Integration (IHSI 2020): Integrating People and Intelligent Systems, pp. 909-15, February 19-21, 2020, Modena, Italy.

Ferrara, M. (2021) The Ultra Surfaces Vision. In Ferraro, V., Rognoli, V., ICS Materials. Interactive, connected, and smart materials, pp. 141-156. Milan: Franco Angeli
ISBN 9788835115649

Multisensorial experience and emotional involvement with surfaces

La ricerca “Materiali, design ed estetica. Esperienze e coinvolgimenti in Abet laminati”, è una collaborazione con l’azienda ABET Laminati. La ricerca svolta presso MADEC a partire dal 2018 intende contribuire all’avanzamento degli studi sulla percezione dei materiali, delineando una metodologia orientata al design, utile all’analisi delle implicazioni della matericità delle superfici. Queste implicazioni sottendono a coinvolgimenti da cui dipendono l’accettazione e l’apprezzamento di prodotti e innovazioni, insieme alla creazione di significati da parte degli utenti.

La ricerca propone un approccio transdisciplinare tra design/estetica pragmatica/neuropsicologia che mira alla comprensione della complessità dei processi percettivi. Trae dall’Estetica pragmatica, in particolare dalla Somaestetica, l’attenzione al congiunto corpo-mente- emozioni, e ai risvolti in termini di esperienza estetica.

Published in:

Ferrara M. (2020) Per un’estetica delle superfici. Esperienza multisensoriale e coinvolgimenti emotivi. In G. Di
Bucchianico, R. Fagnoni, L. Pietroni, D. Piscitelli, R. Riccini (eds) 100 anni dal Bauhaus. Le prospettive della ricerca di
design, p.186-193. Società Italiana Design.

Augmented Materials for Tangible Interfaces: Experimenting with Young Designers

This paper deals with the design of emerging, augmented, ICS materials in the framework of a Design-Driven Material Innovation approach, presenting a selection of concepts of Tangible Interfaces, developed during a workshop held at Politecnico di Milano. In the attempt to include digital tech- nologies in product and interior design, enhancing human experience and new perspectives for next interactive products, young designers were asked to explore the new possibilities offered by these novel materials in an Experiencing Prototyping and Smart Aesthetics framework. The core of the paper focuses on the outcomes and the analysis of this experience between research and educa- tional activity. The last part refers to the ongoing shift within Design Schools, where the educational mission is increasingly promoting workshops and part- nerships with design oriented companies. The novel technological landscape implies indeed this sort of collaborations, as Design Schools can effectively assist companies in making evidence based decisions.

Starting from an object of everyday use, but with a strong tactile appealing, like a sponge, two of the young designers chose to install within four switches all connected to a speaker, able to reproduce the different sounds related to each of the switchers. Beyond generating a playful almost-living-object, they were able to augment a common yellow sponge only by adding basic components to its physical structure, generating a perceptive dis- placement, while adding a stress-relieving connotation. Such a basic concept disclosed in all its simplicity as an interesting starting point for further developments and future designs. The manipulation of ready-at-hand technology, in a Tinkering scenario, led then to a natural process of implementation of what just the day before represented an unexplored field, somehow challenging and intimidating.

The second concept deals with a more poetic and conceptual design, providing an interesting outcome on the side of augmented textile interfaces. Starting again with a Tinkering based session, two students were intrigued by the direct observation and manipulation of a 12 RGB led ring that inspired them to create a design offering a highly sensorial experience, thanks just to a piece of fabric embedded with an Arduino microprocessor. Connecting indeed a 12 RGB led ring to an Arduino the two students were able to revisit the traditional design of a clock, while rethinking the communicational code relating a human being to a watch or a clock. They used a different color for the led lights, setting the color red for the hours and the blue for the minutes. When the two rays combined, the concept automatically released a purple light. And just to provide a stronger involvement on the user’s side, they manually embroidered the Roman numeral, from zero to twelve, on the fabric. As often suggested while implementing technology to objects of common use, especially for those with a strong culturally rooted design, referring to metaphors helps enhance a UCD User Centered Design approach [11]. Expressing an idea in terms of another, which is basically what metaphors do, both through the language as well as the graphic code, represents a way to shorten the distance, instead of generating a skeptical attitude. So that, metaphors, but also archetypal shapes, while awakening the evocative moments humans tend to go through when approaching novel products or objects [12], do work as useful artifices to stem any prejudice eventually linked to the implementation of emerging technology on objects of everyday use. If well balanced with a multisensory stimulation they can then produce new Smart User Experiences and full-body involvements.

A third concept was inspired by the basic idea of a flower blooming in the presence of light. It aimed to bring the chosen polymeric material to life, letting the petals bloom, once enlightened by a light source. A photo resistor captures light and activates a servomotor that makes the petals move, while switching on the led lights positioned on the corolla. Again, thanks to Arduino and a basic circuit, the concept produced inter- esting outcomes, succeeding in meeting the desired sensorial involvement. The more basic the idea is, with the embedding of electronics just where not expected, the deeper the Smart User Experience can be. Reproducing all the magic of a blooming flower through a simple structure in an artificial context delivered a strong payoff to the students themselves, encouraging their research and inspiring for future scenarios.

Finally, the fourth concept consists in an interactive panel especially conceived for chromotherapy. The students involved installed between two thin layers of a squared white stretch cotton fabric an RGB recognition sensor connected to an Arduino card. Once activated, the light shades produced a sort of “wow effect” in contrast with the minimalism of the design. The communicational code associated to colors, combined with the electronic components, generated an interesting prototype of an interactive material interface. Another starting point then for future implementations, in a Somaesthetics framework, where human body discloses as the tools of tools, the medium of our being, perception and action in relation to the physical world.

Activity published in:

Ferrara, M.; Russo, A. C. (2019). Augmented Materials for Tangible Interfaces: Experimenting with Young Designers. Outcomes and Analysis. In W. Karwowski, T. Ahram (eds) Intelligent Human Systems Integration (pp.667-673). Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Intelligent Human Systems Integration (IHSI 2019): Integrating People and Intelligent Systems, February 7-10, 2019, San Diego, California. Springer DOI:10.1007/978-3-030-11051-2.

The expressive-sensorial qualities of self-made bio-plastics

The workshop “The expressive-sensorial qualities of self-made bio-plastics” has been held during the 18th Creative Marathon – International Workshops from the 18-21 December 2017 in Barcelona.

DIY-Materials are defined as materials created through individual or collective self-production experiences, often by techniques and processes of the designer’s own invention, as a result of a process of tinkering with materials. When the designer initiates a self-production path aimed at obtaining the material, she or he realizes that this process is closely related to the study and design of the expressive-sensorial dimension of the material itself. This dimension is characterized by the qualities set determining the sensory relationship with the user, the identity and the recognizability of the material. The expressive-sensorial dimension has a great impact on the definition of the whole materials experience, which is the experience that people have through or with materials. In this workshop, using the recipes for self-produced bioplastics and the approach based on material tinkering, i.e. creative and playful direct experimentation with materials, we want to focus on the qualities of the expressive-sensorial dimension such as touch, texture, transparency, gloss, and color, in order to develop and envision meaningful materials experiences. Furthermore, we encourage students to hack the initial recipes by adding other ingredients and components that could elicit unique aesthetics and smart behaviors. The output is a collection of materials samples embodying different expressive-sensorial qualities. The goal of the workshop is to create the foundations for a material education based on direct experimentation with materials for the acknowledgment and design of their expressive-sensorial dimension.

The laboratory held by the MADEC expert group (Valentina Rognoli, Marinella Ferrara, Camilo Ayala Garcia, Stefano Parisi) and Barbara Pollini stimulated the experimentation of the students with a basic sensory expressive product. These were presented in a final of the workshop where groups of students presented their experiments in a narrative structure of material visions.

More info at the following link:



di Stefano Parisi

Eterni, statici, freddi. Marmi, pietre e graniti sono spesso considerati materiali caratterizzati da un’identità ben consolidata e immutabile. Tuttavia grazie allo sviluppo di tecniche produttive, come le sempre più diffuse tecnologie a controllo numerico, e all’integrazione del processo creativo è possibile ampliarne le possibilità espressive, conferendo una nuova dimensione esperienziale e identitaria e stravolgendo le convenzioni.

Questo approccio è stato il fulcro del workshop “Marble Visions. Material Design for Living Futures” che tra il 2 e il 6 maggio si è tenuto presso il Politecnico di Milano in collaborazione con MADEC e l’azienda siciliana Campo Marmi di Giovanni Campo che da quattro generazioni si occupa di lavorazioni di materiali lapidei locali, nazionali e internazionali per l’edilizia e che sotto la guida del figlio Giuseppe si è posta una nuova sfida: la produzione di una collezione di arredi e complementi in materiali lapidei per l’abitare contemporaneo in cui ricerca per il futuro e tradizione siano coniugati.
46 studenti del Corso di Laurea in Design del Prodotto Industriale, provenienti da 9 nazionalità diverse, sono stati guidati in cinque intense giornate dai docenti Prof.ssa Marinella Ferrara e Prof. Vincenzo Castellana e dal tutor Stefano Parisi.

Punto di partenza dei progetti: il materiale.

1. samples tasting

4. laboratotio

“Un’attività fondamentale nel workshop è stata sottoporre agli studenti i campioni di materiali” spiega la docente e coordinatrice del workshop Marinella Ferrara “Interagendo con i diversi materiali gli studenti hanno potuto conoscerne in modo diretto le proprietà tecniche e le qualità sensoriali comprendendone i limiti e le possibilità”.
A partire da questo momento di scoperta dei materiali gli studenti sono stati guidati nello sviluppo e definizione di “visioni materiche” allo scopo di narrare, plasmare e caratterizzare i materiali lapidei secondo inedite modalità espressive in grado di esaltare la sensorialità dei materiali al fine di creare un’esperienza ricca, stimolante ed emozionante.

2. revisioni

3. laboratorio

Parallelamente gli studenti hanno portato avanti un processo di analisi del vivere contemporaneo, evidenziando criticità e possibilità e prevedendo futuribili comportamenti e contaminazioni. Esito del workshop sono 13 collezioni di complementi d’arredo che intendono essere potenziali generatori di nuovi comportamenti assecondando azioni emergenti e rituali codificati o in mutazione nel paesaggio domestico contemporaneo nell’indoor e outdoor. Durante l’ultima giornata di workshop i progetti sono stati presentati all’azienda Campo Marmo.

“È notevole la creatività applicata dagli studenti e che ha permesso di generare idee fresche e innovative sia tecnicamente che esteticamente” affermano Giovanni e Giuseppe Campo sottolineando il valore del contributo che giovani professionisti e studenti di design possono offrire a un’azienda di piccole-medie dimensioni e auspicando di proseguire in questa direzione”

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Stone Reinforced Ecoconcrete Open innovation project

Le Idee e la Materia 2016 presenta:

Stone Reinforced Ecoconcrete
Open innovation project

Giovedì 12 maggio 2016 | ore 14,30 – 17,00
Aula Gialla / 4° piano | Politecnico di Milano / Dipartimento di Design | via Durando 38/A / Milano – Bovisa

All’evento sarà presentato il progetto per lo sviluppo di un nuovo composito a base di fibre in basalto. Obiettivo dell’incontro è valutare l’interesse di più partner alla partecipazione e al finanziamento della prima fase di lavoro che si concluderà nel novembre 2016.


ore 14.30
Introduzione del gruppo di lavoro e presentazione partecipanti
prof. Marinella Ferrara (Politecnico di Milano / MADEC)

Interventi / collegamento con
Elisa Tonda (Head of the Business and Industry Unit in the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch
Lucia Chierchia (Open Innovation Director Electrolux Group

Presentazione del progetto
Enrico Benco (GS4C)
prof. Giulio Ceppi (Politecnico di Milano / MADEC)
Intervento di
prof. Roberto Frassine (ASSOCOMPOSITI)

ore 16,00

ore 16.15
Call for participation

ore 17,00
Chiusura lavori







Manuela Celi
Marinella Ferrara
con il contributo di MADEC

Corso di Laurea in Design del Prodotto Industriale
Laboratorio di Teorie e pratiche del Progetto | sez. P5
Aula CT 65 | Campus Bovisa | Scuola del Design | Politecnico di Milano


PDF programma

22 marzo ’16 – h 9.30
Chiara Lecce, PhD Politecnico di Milano, MADEC
Franco Albini: il design e la materia tra tradizione e innovazione

5 Aprile ’16 – h 9.30
Emilio Tremolada, Fotografo
Fotografare il design 1926-2016

19 Aprile ’16 – h 9.30
Stefania Piotti, Esperta di Culture Orientali
Vuoto e materia nel design giapponese

10 maggio ’16 – h 9.30
Anna Cecilia Russo, Estetologa, giornalista e curatrice, PhD alla Sorbonne
La sedia tra comunicazione ed estetica

17 maggio ’16 – h 9.30
Sara Ferrari, designer
Design Ingredients

24 maggio ’16– h 9.30
Stefano Parisi, designer
Materials Design

PDF programma-3

manifesti seminari-1


Nuovi materiali per costruire il domani

Intervento di Marinella Ferrara, coordinatore di MADEC, al Forum del Design, il primo appuntamento prosumer dedicato al Design Thinking.

L’evento si è tenuto il 21 ottobre 2014 nell’ Auditorium di Palazzo Lombardia a Milano. Un’intensa giornata di incontri, di riflessione e di lavoro in cui imprenditori, designer, giornalisti e opinion leader hanno affrontato il tema del Design come paradigma della cultura contemporanea e media tra gli oggetti
e le persone.
Nuovi materiali per costruire il domani è il titolo del workshop di idee dedicato ai nuovi materiali per il design e l’architettura, e all’innovazione progettuale che sperimenta e interpreta i nuovi materiali.
Marinella Ferrara, coordinatore di MADEC, nel suo intervento ha delineato il futuro del progetto con i materiali smart, che offrono un’interazione aumentata con il fruitore aprendo nuove sfide al design  che caratterizzeranno il nostro futuro.