Design the Sensory: How Technologies and Materials Affect Sensations

By Caterina Passaro, Eleonora Fiorani, MariaPia Pedeferri and Barbara Del Curto.

Published by The International Journal of Designed Objects

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The study of the interaction between users and products is now of great interest due to a renewed consideration of the communicative aspects of products. The perceptions that products cause in users have been identified as the basis systems for evaluating a product, and input of behavioural responses and therefore purchase. Indeed, users go beyond function and technology of objects but pretend to live an experience during their interaction with the product. The materials, being the main substance of the products, are the central theme of these studies and of this research. It is in fact possible to analyze the semantic and expressive meaning of object through the sensory analysis of the materials and technologies used in the project. The properties that describe the interaction between materials and users through our five senses are defined as expressive and sensory properties of materials, also called soft qualities. Thus, this research focuses on materials used in the project and how technology can affect their sensory qualities. A design tool was then created for the visualisation of technologies’ impact on materials’ sensory properties: the project cards. The project cards reorganize materials and technologies according to the sensory and expressive features to be attributed to the surface with the purpose to link technologies to the effect obtainable with materials. The objective of this research is to generate a link between material selection, processing technologies, and the expressive and sensory characterisation of materials. The aim of this study is to develop a guide that can help to project soft qualities in an appropriate way.

Keywords: Design, Materials, Technologies, Surfaces, Sensations

The International Journal of Designed Objects, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.63-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 6.220MB).

Caterina Passaro

Research Fellow, Dipartimento di Chimica, Materiali e Ingegneria Chimica, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy

Caterina Passaro graduated in Design and Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano (2009) with a thesis on the importance of materials used in the design projects and on how technology can affect their sensory qualities. The thesis gave rise to the publication of the book, “La pelle del design. Progettare la sensorialità (2010) Del Curto, Fiorani, Passaro, Lupetti Editore”. Researcher in the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta” of the Politecnico di Milano since 2009, she collaborated on a project on the sensory re-evaluation of titanium, and on the use of this material in jewellery. Her work led to the creation of titanium earrings TiLuce, displayed during the exhibition Precious Titanium, between technology and ornament (Triennale di Milano, June-August 2010).

Eleonora Fiorani

Professor of Cultural Anthropology, The Department of Industrial Design, Arts, Communication and Fashion, Politecnico di Milano, Italy

Eleonora Fiorani, graduated in philosophy with Ludovico Geymonat, has published essays on philosophy of science, anthropology and communication sciences. She has taught in the nineties Semiotics and Aesthetics at the European Institute of Design and currently teaches Visual Communications and Semiotics, as professor of Cultural Anthropology at the Politecnico di Milano since 1999. She has held training courses for teachers, courses in anthropology, a master of industrial design and fashion design, and master of urban design at the Politecnico di Milano and anthropology seminar materials at TAM (Artistic Treatment of metals). She was a member of the Institute of Directors Ludovico Geymonat. She cooperates with magazines, organises cultural events and art exhibitions and directs the magazine “Tutto da capo”. Eleonora Fiorani is an epistemology and essayist, is in charge of the new sciences of complexity and those of anthropology and communication has investigated the objects, materials, territoriality, imaginations of the post-modern society. She deals with the Radical Cognitivism and investigates on new forms of territoriality of postmodern society, on new objects and materials of art and design. In her researches on communication technologies, she has highlighted the anthropological changes that affect the work places and living.

Prof. MariaPia Pedeferri

Associate Professor, Dipartimento di Chimica, Materiali e Ingegneria Chimica, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy

MariaPia Pedeferri graduated cum laude in Chemical Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano (Italy) in 1995 and she finished the Ph.D in Chemical Engineering three years later, almost entirely spent at the ETH in Zurich. In 1998 MP. Pedeferri joined the group of Prof. A. Cigada, becoming in 2001 Assistant Professor and in 2006 Associate Professor of Materials Science and Technology at the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta” of Politecnico di Milano, where she currently carries out her research and teaching activities. Her scientific activity concerns the study of the degradation and protection of metallic materials and surface treatments of titanium with an emphasis on functional and aesthetic properties of this metal. She is author of 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters, three Italian Patent and she has more than 100 oral/poster communications at International and National Congresses. From 2008 she is member of Scientific Committee of NanoSurfaces, a Politecnico di Milano spin-off. She is/was involved in several projects for innovative materials development and technological transfer.

Prof. Barbara Del Curto

Associate Professor, Dipartimento di Chimica, Materiali e Ingegneria Chimica, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy

Barbara Del Curto graduated in Industrial Design at Politecnico di Milano (Italy) in March 2000 and she got her Ph.D. cum laude in Materials Engineering at Politecnico di Milano (Italy) in May 2004. She worked as post-doctoral researcher at Dipartimento di Chimica, Materiali e Ingegneria Chimica “Giulio Natta”-Politecnico di Milano (Italy) from April 2004 to December 2004. Since January 2005 she is Assistant Professor at Politecnico di Milano and from November 2010 Associate Professor. The scientific activity of Barbara Del Curto has been devoted to many themes concerning traditional, functional and smart materials for design and their expressive-sensorial dimension. Some of these topics are included in research projects funded by both private and public organizations. She has been involved as active scientific member, but also in the management, or as responsible of several national research projects, funded by both private and public organizations. Her teaching activity is related to Industrial Design. She started her teaching activity in 2001 at Politecnico di Milano where, since 2005, she has been tenured of an academic course concerning properties of materials in Design Degree course. From march 2000 she is coordinating Materiali & Design, a didactical laboratory at Design School of Politecnico di Milano. She is author of international journal publications and communications to national and international conferences.