||From we are born and until we die, we are surrounded by
textiles that are directly in contact with our skin as clothing,
part of the interior environment in our homes, at work, in
hospitals, in cars and in public transportation, or part of the
outdoor environment as geotextiles. Many of these textiles are
designed from aesthetic and functional requirements; some are
designed for only one of the two kinds of requirements.
Compared to most other (stiff) materials, textiles have unique
properties: they are stretchable and flexible; this partially
explains the versatility of applications where they are used.
Furthermore, their nature is changing, as they are given new
properties and functionalities. Many responsive materials and
textiles have in fact been developed since the 1970s, mainly for
applications such as aerospace and the military.
However, the potentials within these responsive materials and
textiles are unknown to many. That is why the design company
Diffus started the Interactive Sample Book (ISB) project, in
order to explore and communicate some of these possibilities
to designers; companies and institutions that desire to start
working with these materials.
Hence, this thesis investigates (1.) how examples of responsive
textiles, made of a combination of responsive materials,
electronics and sensor technology, can be used as inspirational
tools in a design process. More generally, it addresses the
following research questions:
2. What role does the presentation of physical objects
play in creative work?
3. How can physical objects be introduced and
integrated in a design process to stimulate inspiration?
4. What characterizes physical objects used to stimulate
The project team is interdisciplinary, involving persons with
varied educational and professional backgrounds, as the field
of responsive textiles is interdisciplinary in its very nature. This
has largely influenced the character of the design process,
which was event-driven, and characterized by communication
challenges and a well thought out use of representations.
Concepts for five responsive textiles have been developed; two
prototypes, and several intermediary materials have been
produced. Technical and aesthetic aspects of the used
materials have been investigated. Tests have been made to
investigate the inspirational quality of the produced physical
objects, and to see how they can be part of a design process.
These reveal how physical objects can be used as triggers for
idea generation, or as solution inputs in an already ongoing
design process with defined requirements. They also reveal the
importance of a certain generic character of the inspirational
physical objects, and how the object’s complexity affects its
inspirational qualities. Finally, they show how the influence
created by an inspirational object can take place in different
Keywords: Responsive (Smart) Materials and Textiles,
Material Innovation, Physical Objects, Inspirational Tools
and Textile Design.