A number of tools and resources that encourage product and industrial designers to rethink the ways in which they use materials have been launched following a successful social impact research project led by Loughborough University.
The Design School partnered with Aston University last year for ‘Thinking Materials’ - a project that aims to increase employment opportunities and reduce poverty in lower income countries around the world.
The project team identified regional materials - some of which were initially unfamiliar to the designers involved - to create innovative products that target export markets to maximise commercial success.
Thinking Materials has resulted in the creation of more than 39 innovative, regionally-sourced products including desk speakers made from gourds, sugar cane pulp coffee cups and bark cloth lighting.
Now, to increase the potential for global reach, a multi-platform Thinking Materials design tool has been launched. It aims to:
- Inform – by identifying seven categories of materials and three approaches for product manufacturing
- Inspire – by providing almost 40 products for expert markets
- And disseminate – by delivering information through cards, a website, PDF download and video.
The low-cost Thinking Material cards, which outline the product concepts, have already been distributed to more than 146 countries identified as needing economic assistance.
Academics from Uganda, Kenya, Indonesia and Turkey also worked on Thinking Minds and principal investigator Dr Mark Evans, from Loughborough University’s Design School, and co-investigator Dr Timothy Whitehead, of Aston University, delivered presentations, workshops and exhibitions in the four countries.
Dr Mark Evans commented: “Through first-hand experience, this project has demonstrated a capacity, desire and passion for academics in lower-income countries to see sustainable, design-driven solutions to social challenges.
“As an industrial designer, I have worked with a wide variety of high volume manufacturing materials throughout my career, but having been exposed to unexpected alternatives, I was amazed at the product opportunities afforded by the likes of Nile perch leather, bark cloth and the humble gourd.”
The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council Global Challenges Research Fund.
For more information, visit the Thinking Materials website.