Date of Award

Spring 5-31-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Industrial Design


Industrial Design

First Advisor

Beth Mosher

Second Advisor

Mark Pompelia

Third Advisor

Kate Irvin


Material libraries are growing resources that offer an opportunity for artists and designers to discover a variety of materials. These collections are composed in a traditional taxonomy, pairing materials based on composition. Samples are typically commercially made and are displayed independent of context, means of production, cultural significance, and application.

Through making we learn a material’s potential: the transformation it can make, the form it can take, and the new composites we can create. This generative experience lives in the studio and workshop. But how can we introduce this language of process, critical thinking, and making to activate and challenge a material—and a maker’s—potential within the context of the library?

In an effort to gather a response to this consideration for material potential within a material library, I conducted a series of interaction- and experience-based surveys to collect the emotional, associative, and logical qualities of materials.

I have translated this research into a discursive method for navigating the traditional taxonomy Material Potential | Abstract and linear structure of a material library. This tool challenges the visitor to collect, arrange, and annotate their own collection and classification of materials based on a series of prompts that draw attention to materials’ aesthetic, ephemeral, and ontological qualities.

The way we place objects in an arrangement generates a dialogue between materials in terms of their qualities, components, and process that parallels the way we view and discuss works of art and design in the studio, museum, or through user interaction. Introducing this new material rhetoric—juxtaposed against the static structure of the material library—recontextualizes a material’s potential and provides a foundation for the infinite arrangements, associations, and applications.



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