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Living Material Experiences: Facilitating Experiential Understanding of Living Materials in Material Driven Design

Research Group: Biobased Art and Design

This research project aims to facilitate a holistic understanding of living material’ experiences in material-driven design. It focusses on novel design research approaches that not only foreground the role of material qualities but also the role of novel narrative forms in shaping our experiences with materials.   

The need for decreasing the usage of non-renewable resources in design have brought attention to the usage of living organisms as a potential resource for new material and product development. Biodesign integrates biological processes and living organisms (e.g. plants and organisms such as bacteria, algae and fungi) into design processes (Myers, 2012). Living organisms are often utilised to achieve sustainable material alternatives and novel material expressions in nonliving’ artefacts. Elvin Karana (2020) suggests, however, that livingness can be extended into living artefacts, whereby the design outcomes go beyond being a merely sustainable alternative. Mobilising livingness’ in a products use time and envisioning livingness’ as a persistent material quality’ in everyday products can offer novel interactions, responsive behaviours, and new ways of doing and living. But, how would these artefacts be received by end users? And how does design facilitate this understanding? 

To date, in understanding biobased material experiences, the utmost scholarly attention has been given to the user studies in which the relationships between certain material qualities (e.g. tactile roughness, gloss, etc.) and meanings and emotions (e.g. comfort, surprise) have been explored. The unique qualities of living materials, such as their temporal qualities affected by the wellbeing of organisms (i.e., their growth and reproduction), has not been part of the landscape of design research and practice.  

Positioned in between two institutes (TU Delft and Avans University), the project aims to explore the factors influencing living material’ experiences through bringing attention not only the role of material qualities but also the role of novel narrative forms in shaping our experiences with materials in order to facilitate a holistic understanding of living material experiences. In this project, we will first explore the role of different physical and digital storytelling mediums in communicating the temporal qualities of living materials in experiential characterisation studies. We will also explore the ways in which a living material can change, as well as novel narrative forms that can be used to introduce the overall materials experience. Living materials require a variety of actions that relate to the function and wellbeing of the organism; we will explore the influence of these relations and interdependencies between people and the living material. 

Ongoing project, started June 2019. 

Principle investigator
Hazal Ertürkan

Other researchers involved
Sarah Lugthart

Elvin Karana

TU Delft
Avans University of Applied Sciences 

Material Incubator Lab (Avans)
Materials Experience Lab (IDE/ TU Delft)
Avans minor programme Visual Storytelling 

TU Delft
Avans University of Applied Sciences 



‘I am eager to explore how unique qualities of ‘living materials’ can transform the way we think, feel and act.’

Hazal Ertürkan is a researcher within the Caradt research group Biobased Art and Design. She also works as a design researcher and material designer at Delft University of Technology. Her current PhD project is collaboration between TU Delft and Avans Caradt.

Hazal Ertürkan arrow


Barati, B., Giaccardi, E., & Karana, E. (2018). The making of performativity in designing [with] smart material composites. In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI18) (pp.5:15:11). ACM. 

Research Group: Biobased Art and Design

The research group Biobased Art and Design capitalises on the role of artistic practice in unlocking the unique potentials of living organisms for everyday materials and communicating these to a broader public. In doing so, the group aims to instigate and accelerate our widespread understanding, further development and usage of such materials. The group’s research approach encourages tangible interactions with the living organisms, such as algae, fungi, plants and bacteria, to explore and understand their unique qualities and constraints through diverse technical and creative methods taking artists, designers and scientists as equal and active partners in the material creation.

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