Material Studies

My material was the plastic command hooks. The sensor design I came up with would be a hook that signaled to your phone when the phone was hooked to it. This would trigger specific settings on the phone. For example, if the hook was in the car it could block incoming messages or calls to prevent distracted driving. The specific settings would be set by the user.

I dont think the life or flow of the material was ever perceptible to me. Plastic lasts a very long time, and this specific plastic was hard to break or change. It seemed very permanent, and it was hard to imagine that the material ever had a life before, and will continue to have a life after.

I think starting with a material is an interesting approach to design. By experimenting with the material, I learned about properties I would not have otherwise considered. For example, when we tapped the materials with a fork, the plastic hooks were scratched. I would have never considered this characteristic of the material if it weren’t for that exercise.

However, starting with a material can also be limiting. In my case, the hooks clearly had one purpose (to hook things) and it would be very difficult to repurpose them. I think if I had chosen a material that was more easily manipulated it would have worked better for this assignment.


Material Studies

My material is aluminum foil. I did a lot of experiments including folding it, unfolding it, holding a lighter to it, and trying to restore it to it’s initial form. In all of my observations of aluminum foil the one that stood out to me was the fact that it made noise when you touched it. I thought this would be an interesting path to take because when people use aluminum foil it usually isn’t to make noise. My invention is a new percussion instrument that can be plugged into to a laptop to create new music! One of my favorite parts of the reading was when the talked about materials being like a riddle. I feel like making music sort of like a riddle too, you need to figure out what beat goes with the song. There are so many different ways to make noise using tin foil you could probably make a whole song using it. The life of aluminum foil is interesting. It is very malleable, so you can shape it into a lot of different things; however, I could never get it back to its original smoothness.

Material Studies

I brought string as the material that I studied. I designed a couple actuators/sensors that utilized some of the material traits I found while studying my material. The first design was a device that could 3-d print with sting. My idea came from wanting to have the touch feel aspects of a physical form of an image I saw on my mobile device .  One of the traits I found string possessed was that the material tended to be quite malleable and would allow for multiple layers of string to be laid on top of each other to create a physical form. Another sensor that I thought of was a physical representation of a todo list. As the items got checked off the list the string would unwrap to physically mark your achievements. This would allow the user to have a sense of accomplishment and understanding of the tasks completed on the list.
During our investigation of the materials the flow did become present because I stopped thinking about how the material behaved as string and let it express itself through its traits. By throwing it around and experimenting with the string I got to see another side to what the material could do and what tasks it could perform. For example while holding  up the string to the light I could see that the ends of the string were unraveling which led me to think about how string could display different types of information.

Some of the benefits to starting design by working with a specific material is it forces you to be creative. By forcing designers to adhere to a specific material they must really consider the capabilities and limitations of the material assigned to them. It could also later on contribute to a solution for some of our environmental problems. What if designers could only use plastic bottles and plastic bags to create their designs. Would there be a reduction of items that go to waste? A limitation of designing around a material is that material might be limited on its capabilities to perform the task you want to perform.

Bottle Caps


The material that I brought to class were Coca-Cola bottle caps. The bottle caps can are magnetic so they can stick to metal surfaces. If they had a GPS  location. It can track your location. so if you want to come back to that location you can stick it to a metal surface it can be tracked to its last location.


While experimenting with my material I would say that the life of the material became perceptible to me. When it comes to bottle caps, they usually have a very short lifespan.

I believe that the benefits of starting a design with the particular material are that you can focus on just that one material. And the limitations is basically the opposite,  which is you can only work with that material, you can not expand it. You are basically limited to your design.


Material Studies – Binder Clips

IMG_1848.JPGI chose to use binder clips as the material for this assignment. While there were many characteristics that I found interesting, the two most prominent were its clasp strength and the fact that, when one blows through the center space, it makes a whistle sound.

Taking the latter into consideration, I thought the clip might be useful as a sensor to measure breath strength and lung capacity. The length of the whistle, as well as its loudness, could be measured with an app.  The sensor would be useful for administering asthma tests and other breathing ailment exams, as well as helping athletes increase their performance.

Its clasp strength could also serve as an actuator in the field of time management. If a student procrastinates on an assignment, the binder clip will pinch the individual with increasing strength until the assignment is done.

When examining the material, I believe I was able to perceive its life.When I blew through it, I imagined how the metal was bent and the plastic was molded. I saw the hinges where the metal arms were initially joined to the clasp, beginning its life.  It is hard to articulate, but the binder clip felt more “alive” after looking at many of its characteristics – it became less of an inorganic object and took on a more “personable” role. It made me think about what would become of it in the years after we depart, in a way that other objects haven’t previously.

When starting with a specific material for a design, one benefit is that it enables an individual to learn about all of the characteristics of the material. It may have different uses (such as the breath strength sensor above) that were initially overlooked, or more obscure. It also helps the designer build a relationship with the material, seeing it as more than something to be used and tossed aside when not needed anymore.

However, using a specific material for a design limits one to the characteristics of the material; metal and plastic, in such a specific configuration, can only do so much. In addition, one may lose sight of the design altogether, and instead focus on what they can do with a material. It can be time-consuming when considering close deadlines, as well. In spite of these detriments, my overall experience with the material study felt beneficial, and is something I would like to do again in the future.

Material Studies

The material I chose to analyze for this study was cardboard. Cardboard is a very inexpensive, yet useful paper-based material. It’s quite rigid, and hold’s it’s shape well. It is, however, quite fragile, and is prone to tearing and/or folding. Cardboard can be used for creating temporary enclosures, and is relatively safe for the environment.

Given it’s easily puncturable/tearable paper surface, cardboard could serve as a good sensor in detecting damage to something. Say, for example, a cardboard phone case could provide information as to if the phone has encountered any trauma, as the cardboard would be punctured/torn.

On the other hand, cardboard could also serve as a good actuator. Cardboard’s tendency to fold and crease evenly could be harnessed and utilized in sensing hinges and their angles.

The benefits of using cardboard in either of these ways include saving tons of material money, as cardboard is very inexpensive. cardboard can also be very easily recycled, leaving a much smaller carbon footprint than plastic alternatives.

Limitations include it’s very easily damaged nature, making cardboard products quite flimsy and essentially one-time use. Using cardboard for anything permanent doesn’t tend to work well.

Material Studies

Following Ingold’s call to follow the materials and attend to what a material does over what we think it is, we are going to do an exercise in materials driven design.

Prior to 10/18
Collect one kind of material throughout your daily life. You do not need to purchase anything, but you may want to collect enough to allow yourself to experiment with or destroy some of it.

On 10/18
We will begin class by writing about the materials, studying their forms, properties, and behaviors in detail. We will then subject the material to various tests to see how they behave. Drawing from these observations we will design sensors and actuators that tease their form and function from the materials.

On 10/20
Please turn in a blog post with the following information:

  • descriptions of your material sensors and/or actuators
  • a reflection on the following:
    • while experimenting with the materials and designing your sensor and actuator,  would you say the “life” or “flow” of the material ever became perceptible to you. If so, in what ways? If not, why not?
    • what would you say are the benefits and limitations of starting design by working with particular materials?