Material Mindfulness

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Insights Design

At the end of September we spent a couple of days checking out the latest and greatest in the world of Interior Design at IDSwest here in Vancouver. In addition to finding some of our new favourite things (a post of those coming soon), we also had the opportunity to attend informational and inspiring workshops. A particular workshop by Material ConneXion touched on a topic that we’ve hearing a lot of buzz about lately: creating mindfulness in a space. Evolution in environments and user engagement are challenging the design community to think in new ways about the connection between materials and space, and how they will affect the end user.

Designers play a major role in conducting a well-orchestrated design. This is achieved by overseeing all stages of the user experience. It’s important to develop a roadmap, ensuring that the story reaches every touch point in a space. Selecting the right materials to tell this story is crucial. Even though this may seem like a great undertaking, it’s helpful to start with the basics of what we know about materials.

As we know, the purpose of a material is to communicate or act as the following:

Material mindfulness examples

To the audience these factors then are understood because of encouraged moments of contact, commonly found through:

Material Mindfulness examples - Physical touch, visual stimulation, sound quality, awareness of scent

It’s our multi-sensory impression of a product or space that dictates how we feel about it. The material communicates a message between the space and end user by interacting and creating an overall experience. These feelings aren’t just affected by the aesthetics of an environment, but also the function. Acoustics, slip resistance, durability, flexibility, longevity, sustainability, and brand recognition are just some of the things that should be taken into account when selecting a finish. The more of these criteria we consider early on in the design process, the more tailored and refined the experience can be.

With visual tools like Pinterest, our dream interiors are right at our fingertips. It’s easy to get swept up in the look of a space without considering how it will perform in a particular project. For example, a polished marble floor tile might look lovely in a residential washroom, but it would be a slipping hazard in a commercial application. While a steel reception desk would be very durable and might look pretty awesome, it might not be the right material to choose for a touchpoint where users should be extended a warm welcome.

In the beginning stages of design, product and material relationships should be equally considered by a designer. We must understand how those elements can work in tandem with one another in order to achieve the desired outcome. Oftentimes the material selection comes after the product has already been established. With customization being so prominent in today’s design, this seems to influence the way we work through this process. It’s important to remember that while working through this process your material and product relationship must relate to the creation, design, and eventual intention of the space.

The more mindful we as designers can be about the creation of spaces, the more connected and aware we end up being about materials, their impact, and ultimately how it affects the end users in the experiences we create.


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