Dr. Nico Reinhardt

The role of material in the design process – from material to consumption

(School of Design)

If you take a closer look at the design practices in product design from the perspective of materials, then it’s possible to see that although materiality is of major significance in product development, materials are post-effectively subordinated to a form. Sometimes design processes are product-oriented, and at the same time diametrically opposed to the growing significance of new and traditional materials and processing methods. So what does it mean for the design process in product design if the material is the trigger of the creative action and has a direct impact on the forms from which ultimately a large number of products can be derived? This question is to be address as part of the PhD project, in order to show how design processes can in principle be initiated from the material itself. The designer’s targeted, intense examination of materials provides the findings, here, for the creation of forms, functions, and utilization. Materials, so goes the thesis, form the motive for the development and design of new products. This claim is also supported by a look back over the history of design within product design, which can be traced from the foundation of the Deutscher Werkbund to the Bauhaus to the HfG Ulm. Here, it becomes clear that there is a lasting impact on the form, function, and aesthetics of products if the design process is characterized by examination of materials such as steel, glass, bent wood, concrete, plastic, and the respective processing methods. Substantive notions such as doing justice to the material, genuine materials, or designs that are appropriate to the manufacturing still bear witness to the material-form-purpose discourse within the creative disciplines of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Once a seal of quality for the highest design performance of industrially manufactured serial products, the terms are now considered to be outgrown. Nevertheless, materials continue to have an unbroken seductive potential on creative commercial actors, as can be seen both in new materials with complex properties and in traditional materials. Such an observation also provides the basis for rethinking a material-oriented design in order to formulate from it approaches to form design. At the interface of material and design, the shaping process can be examined in essence from the perspective of design theory, as well as creative aesthetics, technology, and material sustainability. The aim of the doctoral thesis is to highlight pathways for a sustainable design strategy, whereby the material system used influences the entire design cycle as an inseparable component.



  • Prof. Dr. Bernhard E. Bürdek
  • Prof. Dr. Markus Holzbach