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International 2011 Materials Education Symposium

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Materials in Industrial Design: Learning, Research and Enterprise

Dr Hengfeng Zuo | Tsinghua University

Materials in Industrial Design: Learning, Research and Enterprise

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With the rapid global changes in social, economic and technological contexts such as the experiential economy, cultural branding, and sustainable consumption, people's lifestyles are continually adapting. This places more pressure on the requirements for good design with such factors as ethical and social responsibility, reliability, aesthetic appeal, personalisation and emotional attachment with products, becoming ever more important. The factors that influence the selection of materials in design have thus evolved to ensure a manufactured product not only fulfils its function and delivers its aesthetic appeal, but also evokes emotional feelings and associates with a positive user-experience, including cultural belongings and perception of value. This forms the challenge of teaching materials in industrial design education, as well as in design practice. Starting with structuring a system for knowledge dissemination of materials to design students and design professionals, the authors have developed an integrative methodology for materials selection in industrial design practice. This includes exploratory and experimental engagement with materials via multi-sensory channels, integrating various resources such as the CES software and the material aesthetics database. The latter embeds the authors' research results into a database containing information on material sensory perception with a focus on material textures, including the texture perception map. The material resource and research platforms at Tsinghua University and Southampton Solent University, together with examples of student design projects, have been introduced to showcase the bi-beneficial relationship between learning and research, and to propose an effective way of delivering teaching materials to industrial design students. A typical procedure would include the following steps: 1. According to the customer's requirements, make a design brief with the concept of product image: including functional attributes, technological level, manufacturing constraints, aesthetic target, and cultural features. 2. Use CES to initially select the material candidates at the early stage of the design process to match the functional, technological and manufacturing requirements. 3. Use qualitative methods to pinpoint the most suitable candidate to match the perceived values required of the product, as identified by the customer requirements. 4. Use the material-aesthetics database to find the best sensory properties (surface finish and texture combination). 5. Go back to CES to re-check other details such as the compatibility with sustainable requirements. In addition to working with design students the research teams have been collaborating with a number of industry partners to contextualise their findings within a commercial environment.