Contact The Materials Design Lab The Materials Design Lab MDL , opened in by Chris Lefteri, is part of the National Design Centre in Singapore and aims to stimulate new levels of material-centric innovation by providing a vibrant place where designers and material suppliers can congregate to network, inspire each other and conduct business. Your Material Showcase The Materials Design Lab is an independent and trusted showroom of materials, by exhibiting in the gallery you showcase your material to a receptive audience of specifiers, architects and designers. Our Material Library Our extensive material collection features a range of different material types and brands including polymers, glass, ceramics, natural materials, textiles, metals and smart materials. It has become a go-to materials resource and collaboration platform platform for designers, engineers and manufacturers in architecture, interior design, furniture, industrial, fashion, advertising and packaging design. Exhibitions and Displays We host designers and suppliers looking for a more temporary, short-term display for events such as Singapore Design Week. Seminars and Workshops Thanks to our inspiring workshops you can meet a large number of designers, architects and companies that are willing to experiment with your material.

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But have you ever considered what your stuff is made of and what happens to it after you dispose of it? Thankfully, there are now a lot of industrial designers out there who take this into consideration when they design products. One such person leading the charge is Chris Lefteri, a leading authority on materials and application of materials in design. After studying industrial design at the Royal College of Art in London, his interest in materials kind of turned into an obsession.

He studied and began writing about the materials we use in everyday products and, in essence, turned himself into an expert on the topic. Lefteri is the author of eight books on design and material innovation, most notably the Materials for Design series, which examines different qualities and features of materials. At his studio, Chris Lefteri Design , he designs products and advises clients on the best practices in regards to materials for their offerings so they can make the most informed choices in regards to how their products are made.

The studio works with clients in several industries including automotive, packaging, sports, furniture, consumer electronics, and fashion. How did you become such an expert in materials? When I was as student at the Royal College of Art, I was always interested in the emotive value of products and how you could change the way people reacted to a product through simply changing the materials that make up the product.

I was mainly interested in how this could be achieved through simple forms and gestures, and a user having a relationship with an object in the way that you use it—how this can change the way that you feel about the object. It was only when I left college, that I started to think about how no one had really approached the subject of the role of materials in design. It was curiosity that made me into a materials designer, and it was only through embarking on the process of writing a book that I became, to a small degree, an expert.

What is your favorite material to work with and why? Most materials can offer surprises when you work with them. When I am running a workshop I often ask participants what their favorite material memory from childhood is, and the answers that come up most often are those materials that could be manipulated by hand. The materials that empowered children to craft, or to draw, or to just play.

Things like wood or chalk being used to draw on the pavement or plasticine. One material that I tend to show at all my workshops is one that was developed by designer Sarat Babu , which is not really a material, but is my favorite use of a material. It shows what happens when you take fairly common materials and do something new with them.

You can see a video here. Here are some images of a project that I ran with design students in Singapore based on crafting a simple material. Each student was given the same wooden rice spoon and asked to remove as much material as possible the spoon had to still be strong enough to pick up sticky cooked rice , and then tell a story of what led them to this shape.

Do you tend to specify natural materials over synthetic materials for certain products? For sure the material family that is seeing the biggest explosion in innovation are those materials that are making use of the waste from natural materials used in industry. One of the most fascinating for me is a plastic that is made from chicken feathers—the by-product of the food industry. Six million chickens are killed every single day for food in the USA alone. Another innovation is from designer Alkesh Parmar who used the peel from the production of orange juice to create a new plastic.

On a more technical level Fiorenzo Omenetto is looking at taking the optical properties of silk—which makes it shimmer—and using this as data storage.

Even new bio-based materials that are widely available are hard to come by in a product. Many large corporations are still totally driven by cost and consumer demands. If more consumers demanded more sustainable materials clients would use them. What kind of testing do you do at your studio? We tend to test materials by prodding them, by hitting them, by squeezing them, by holding them up to light or stretching them.

By doing this we can really find out quite a lot about what the potential application might be and the value for a user.

We also test materials by taking innovations in processing and applying those to existing materials. Another rule that we follow for creating new materials is to put existing materials into a totally different application. The biggest challenge for designers in using new materials is to find the right suppliers, and to convince their clients in large corporations to buy into why they should do that bit of extra work to specify the new material.

In the past homes were designed around function. The traditional fireplace was the center-piece and social focus of the room in addition to providing an element essential to survival. Our future homes will be a place where well-being and health monitoring have moved from the wrist to become a product that is as important in the home as the fireplace was to our evolution, from function to emotional well-being.

Are the best materials the most expensive? It depends what you mean by best. But, as a rule absolutely not. Some of the biggest innovations come from the simplest materials that have been developed into a product through being processed in a totally new way.

What, in your opinion, is the worst material on the planet and why? The one that takes the longest to produce and is used in a product with the shortest lifespan before it is discarded.


Chris Lefteri



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