Designer Inspiration – Amazing materials in product and design


I wanted to share with you all some amazing and inspiring developments in new and not so new materials for product and design.

Some very clever cookies have been hard at work developing and designing materials that could lend to a number of applications, 1/ making our lives easier, 2/ reducing environmental damage, or 3/ just for epic wow-look-how-clever-we-are factor….

I did a post some time back on new and exciting materials in eco design that focused on professional design groups recycling, upcycling, using materials in different interesting ways and discovering new materials and technology at the time and in 2013 the materials and design were revolutionary and futuristic. That was in 2013.

So, lets have a catch up.

Oldies but still goodies – Amazing  Materials

I did originally title this segment new-ish materials, but in reality most of them may actually not be all that new at all. However they get a mention as their application is not widespread, or widely known as say Stephanie Kwolek’s ‘Kevlar’.

In Building and Technology:


Translucent Concrete? Yes please. Imagine the possibilities! This material could brighten up city developments, public toilets won’t seem so terrifyingly dark and gross. If your a fan of the industrial look but not so keen on a solid concrete box to live in – this could be your answer.

This is not a new material as it was first introduced in 1935, but true to form not a widely used, and certainly not a household name product. The composition of this product is made up of concrete mixed with light emitting materials, in this case optic fibers. The optic fibers can be arranged in patterns to create images in the concrete panels, or scattered through to create an interesting visual texture to any wall.


or, what about….


Novacem’s Carbon Negative Cement

Concrete production is on the list of nasties where C02 emissions is concerned. One website quotes it as “1 out of 20 units of carbon released by human activity into the atmosphere comes directly from concrete – this does not even take into account other construction-related activities, such as on-site vehicles or other building materials.”

This product is not your ordinary cement, it is touted as a cement that actually absorbs C02 emissions. How unbelievable is that? You better believe it, because it is 100% true! Novacem with all it’s science created this product about 5 years or so back, so once again not new. But still astounding and by rights it has already been on many awards lists for it’s incredible properties. “Novacem is a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for 2011 and features on MIT Technology Review’s list of the ten most important emerging technologies for 2010. It is also on the Global Cleantech 100, is a Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation winner and a Bloomberg New Energy Pioneer for 2010.”



Graphene Aerogel

Graphene aerogel also known as frozen smoke was first invented by Samuel Stephens Kistler in 1931. Yes, another oldie….

I thought WOW when I saw this for the first time, but I struggled to envision a useful application for it. But I was WRONG – This product actually has a list of potential applications longer than my arm. A few of which (no prizes for guessing) are with NASA. In the more down to earth scenario this product has been cited as potential replacement for some forms of insulation.

A thickening agent in paints and a construction material in sports equipment to eliminate weight without compromising strength. This product is alleged to be 7 times lighter than air – but strong enough to carry items atop it’s smokey mass. Graphene is also conductive (albeit low) so can be used to make flexible and stretchable transparent electrodes in the future – speechless….. The list is endless.




Bio-luminescent bacteria and algaes

‘Our swelling cities consume enormous amounts of energy and generate over 80% of global carbon emissions. We need to make them more self-sufficient, but how?’ – BBC

The cities of Paris may soon be awash in a strange glow helping the cities inhabitants at see night.

Glowee, a Parisian start-up, plans to use bacteria found in squid to illuminate shop fronts, public spaces, and installations, with the hope of lighting up whole streets with these microbial lamps.’ – iflscience

Wow, so futuristic looking, but in reality this company is harnessing what nature has provided since the dawn of time. From the guts of squids to illuminated shop fronts and parks. Something is so magical and romantic about this look, of course that’s if you don’t think to hard about where it comes from. The best thing about these little bacteria is that they don’t need power, fossil fuels or anything else to run their dazzling little show. Just a little sugar and oxygen and they are very happy little glow bugs. Brilliant… although don’t tell the teenagers as we might end up with images of genitalia and swearwords splashed all over our streets in a phosphorus green glow lighting our midnight strolls. Charming though that would not be.


In Homewares and Product Design:


“Demode is a genius material developed by Bernardita Marambio of Pecas Design Studio, comprised of left over scraps from textile factories of Santiago, Chile.” – is the official blurb if you google Demode.

This material as mentioned above is comprised of waste salvaged from the textile industry and is processed into a sturdy hard-wearing material good enough to build furniture. This is another step forward for eco friendly design, by using sustainable resources and ultimately reducing the impact on the environment by saving the landfills of textile waste. It also looks good, green and gives the owner a feel good factor.


Structural Skin Collection

Similar to the above in make up, off-cuts of leather are mixed with a resin to form this product which like the above is then made into furniture, in this instance the collection of furniture (concept design) is titled structural skin.

This is another beautiful example of a green eco material. The Leather industry is largely inefficient in production due to the sourcing and many processes used, and subsequent waste to produce market ready leather.

Created by Spanish designer Jorge Penadés.




Graduates Jonas Edvard and Nikolaj Steenfatt have created a material (2014) that is comprised of seaweed and paper waste. It is an eye catching and visually curious material that is durable. I realy like the chair they have made as it mixes the new material with a classic streamlined scandi shape. How could they go wrong? They can’t! If you click on Jonas Edvard you can be redirected to his website work gallery page. These guys are designer dynamos experimenting with all sorts of different materials and forms. They are worth a look.


Droog Design

An oldie but a goodie is Droog Design, they came into being in the 90’s. The Droog rag chair is maybe their most recognizable finished product and to sum it up – it is visually crude to look at, but to me serves as a stark reminder of what excessive consumerism and fast fashion is doing to our world…… and I bet it’s super satisfying to sit in. I hadn’t heard of them until recently when I stumbled upon an image of the rag chair and found it ugly but intriguing. I would own one…. I imagine it would feel like owning the furniture version of a Prius. If I’m totally honest at more than 3,000 pounds a chair, I would probably be a smug self righteous A-hole about it too.

More interesting designs from Droog can be seen via their website


Doshi Levien

This design studio pumps out modern and quirky designs. They are a London based duo by the names of Nipa Doshi and Johnathan Levien. They fuse their different experiences and style into each piece which results in these objects which are a testament to their unique collaboration. Some of their pieces are slightly reminiscent of a bygone era but with infusion of modern materials and interesting shapes. These pieces are conversation starters for sure.


In need of a new skin?

That sounds a little silence of the lambs, doesn’t it? Sorry.

Haha, sorry this brings me to the trusty old material used in a new way – introducing WOOD SKINS… Still a little confused. Look at the photos.

The first group of photos show laser cut wood. the cuts and grooves allow the wood to become flexible and ‘wrap’ around corners and objects with ease. A brilliant use of modern laser cuttings and CNC machines produces unimaginable material like wood.

The next group of pictures are showing geometric woods skins which are not only aesthetically beautiful, but also fully functional as a new type of textile. The most common application I’ve seen with this type of wood skin has been in floor rugs and wrapped furniture…. bean bags and the like. I’d love a bean bag, or a rug for that matter.






Let me know what you think?

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