Category Archives: Teaching

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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“MARBLE VISIONS” material design for living futures

Scuola del Design del Politecnico di Milano & MADEC
in partnership con Campo Marmi


Dal 2  al 6 maggio 2016  il workshop MARBLE VISIONS: material design for living futures dedicato alle nuove visioni progettuali del product design dedicate al marmo.

Docente responsabile: Prof.ssa Marinella Ferrara
Visiting Professor: Vincenzo Castellana
Tutor: Stefano Parisi

Politecnico di Milano // Design School
Corso di Laurea in Design del Prodotto
Design Workshop // sez. P2
Maggio 2016



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


La luminescenza come stimolo di progetto

Tesi di laurea di Naike Cogliati

La luminescenza è un fenomeno tanto affascinante quanto poco approfondito. Scientificamente è definita “emissione di radiazione elettromagnetica a seguito di sollecitazioni di diverso tipo”e si manifesta come capacità di un materiale di assorbire energia e di restituirla successivamente sotto forma di luce. Le sue forme più conosciute sono la fluorescenza e la fosforescenza. Esistono però altre declinazioni del fenomeno altrettanto interessanti, quali la bio-, termo-, sono-, chemio-, radio-, tribo- ed elettro- luminescenza.

Continue reading La luminescenza come stimolo di progetto

Plastiche rigenerate e nuovi packaging per il food

di Naike Cogliati

Ogni anno, nel secondo semestre, il Politecnico di Milano organizza una settimana di workshop con la collaborazione di importanti aziende nel panorama europeo.
Nella settimana dal 12 al 16 maggio 2014, presso la Scuola del Design e più precisamente all’interno del corso di laurea in Design del Prodotto Industriale, si è tenuto il workshop progettuale “Material Design. To Pack Mediterranean Food”, coordinato da Marinella Ferrara con la partecipazione dei visiting professor Vincenzo Castellana (ADI) e Mao Hong Ping (Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute, Cina).


Continue reading Plastiche rigenerate e nuovi packaging per il food