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approaching SDG 4
and target 4.7
Ana Elena Builes Vélez
Natalia Builes Escobar
Ana Elena Builes-Vélez
Lina María Suárez-Vásquez
Juan Diego Martínez Marín
Ana María Osorio-Florez
Carlos Ernesto Bustamante
Margarita María Baena Restrepo
María Margarita Baquero Álvarez
Mauricio Velásquez Posado
Lina-María Agudelo Gutiérrez
Dubán Canal Gallego
Mariana Peláez Rojas
Marcela Pérez Ramírez
Alejandro Mesa Betancur
David Vélez Santamaría
SDG 4 and
Ana Elena Builes Vélez
Natalia Builes Escobar
In collaboration with the Colombian
Node of the Learning Network on
© Varios Autores
© Editorial Universidad Ponticia Bolivariana
Education for Sustainability approaching SDG 4 and target 4.7
Primera edición, 2022
Escuela de Arquitectura y diseño
Facultad de Arquitectura
CIDI. Grupo: GAUP. Proyecto: Educación para la sostenibilidad en las disciplinas creativas.
Gran Canciller upb y Arzobispo de Medellín: Mons. Ricardo Tobón Restrepo
Rector General: Pbro. Julio Jairo Ceballos Sepúlveda
Vicerrector Académico: Álvaro Gómez Fernández
Decana de la Escuela de Arquitectura y Diseño: Beatriz Elena Rave
Gestora Editorial: Natalia Builes - Ana Elena Builes Vélez
Coordinadora (e) Editorial: Maricela Gómez Vargas
Coordinación de Producción: Ana Milena Gómez Correa
Diagramación: Transparencia duo
Corrección de Estilo: ProWrittingAid - Ana Elena Builes Vélez
Imagen portada: Ana Elena Builes Vélez
Editorial Universidad Ponticia Bolivariana, 2022
Correo electrónico: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telefax: (57)(4) 354 4565
A.A. 56006 - Medellín - Colombia
Prohibida la reproducción total o parcial, en cualquier medio o para cualquier propósito sin la autorización
escrita de la Editorial Universidad Ponticia Bolivariana.
Builes Vélez, Ana Elena, compilador
Education for Sustainability approaching SDG 4 and target 4.7/ Ana Elena
Builes Vélez y otros veintiocho -- 1 edición– Medellín: UPB, 2022 -- 231
ISBN: 978-628-500-077-5 (versión digital)
1. Sostenibilidad 2. Medellín 3. Diseño de producto
CO-MdUPB / spa / RDA / SCDD 21 /
Prologue ................................................................................. 7
Lucas Rafael Ivorra Peñafort
Introducing a New Design Culture on Sustainability .......11
DIY-Materials approach to design meaningful
materials for the sustainability transition ........................37
SDG Fortune Teller: A Tool to Promote
the Sustainable Development Goals ...............................67
Education for sustainability in creative disciplines
at Universidad Pontiﬁcia Bolivariana, Universidad
de Medellín and Institución Universitaria Pascual
Bravo at Medellín – Colombia ............................................89
Ana Elena Builes-Vélez
Lina María Suárez-Vásquez
Juan Diego Martínez Marín
The Universidad Pontiﬁcia Bolivariana
and its commitment to sustainability education ........... 109
Ana María Osorio – Florez
Carlos Ernesto Bustamante
Ana Elena Builes – Vélez
Teaching sustainability through materials:
bridging circular materials and bio-design
for new design curricula .................................................. 125
Challenges to wearable design education
from a sustainability perspective....................................152
Margarita María Baena Restrepo
María Margarita Baquero Álvarez
Mauricio Velásquez Posada
Crafts, art and product design from agro-waste
of Nopal cultivated in Sonsón, Antioquia ....................... 171
Lina-María Agudelo Gutiérrez
Dubán Canal Gallego
Mariana Peláez Rojas
Marcela Pérez Ramírez
Products Validation in the Design Project
and Scopes in an Online Educational Environment ...... 198
Alejandro Mesa Betancur
David Vélez Santamaría
DIY-Materials approach to design
meaningful materials for the
Design Department, Politecnico di Milano, ITA.
Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, TU Delft, NED.
Design Department, Politecnico di Milano. ITA.
Material and Concept Designer, ITA.
University of Bozen/Bolzano , ITA.
The critical environmental conditions of the planet compel humankind to
rapidly devise solutions able to minimize the impact of human actions on
Earth. Environmental issues are urgent, so researchers and practitioners
in the design field are committed to formalising new visions and pathways,
willing to meet the SDGs of the 2030 agenda.
While formulating less affecting processes of making/manufacturing,
a conscious practice of design recognises materials and their
management as a critical point for sustainable production. The material,
formerly considered a step of the design process, now becomes the
focus of the project; unfortunately, there is a lack of dedicated studies
and initiatives to implement material awareness in design education. To
envision an effective ecological transition, material design turns into an
inescapable step when designing for sustainability. It’s fundamental for
design schools to invest in material education by establishing dedicated
courses that boost this realm of knowledge, the material understanding,
and to improve the making skills of new generations of designers.
This chapter focuses on the results of the DIY-Material approach
used in the last few years at the Design School of Politecnico di Milano.
The developed approach allows to teach students transversally how
to design materials starting from a source, going through ingredients,
compositions, recipes, and processes, creating material demonstrators,
and defining the identity of the new material and its narratives. Here, a
series of bio-based, bio fabricated material examples will be illustrated
to describe the development of material pathways pointing towards an
ecological transition through a DIY-Materials approach.
Keywords: DIY-Materials, bio-based, bio fabricated, material education,
In the history of humankind, materials have dictated the shape of human
reality, inﬂuenced the human skills of making and its evolution. The
growing awareness of the impact the misuse and overuse of materials
plays in determining emerging environmental issues is remodulating our
material reality. The design community is therefore committed to foster
a better understanding of materials’ impact (Pollini and Rognoli, 2021),
reasoning about the use of materials on a design level. Craftspeople or
designers have always aspired to transform materials to design more
ﬂawless artefacts, and in the last decade, an original approach to material
design emerged. It was deﬁned as the DIY-Material approach, and it is
based on the designer’s self-production of material agencies. (Rognoli
et al., 2015; Rognoli and Ayala-Garcia, 2021). The DIY practice allows
the designer to be independent from industry, which conventionally
provides industrial material support, and enables them to expand the
set of materials that turn ideas into artefacts. The designer proposes
some material concepts and reasons about how to develop them further
using a transdisciplinary approach. The method empowers designers to
look for alternative and unconventional sources of materials, prioritizing
locally and abundantly available substances and ingredients that, most
times, foster environmental sustainability and social innovations.
In 2015, in the Design Department of the Politecnico di Milano, we
founded the DIY-Materials research group1, and we elaborated the DIY-
Materials Manifesto (Fig.1) to work, teach, investigate, and spread the
DIY-Materials approach: designing materials for achieving alternative
and sustainable solutions to conventional and sometimes problematic
materials. To do so, Material Tinkering is applied as an iterative and
systematic process of manipulating the material creatively for discovery
and experimental purposes (Parisi et al., 2017). Material Tinkering (Parisi
and Rognoli, 2017) is an unconventional approach to material development
that entails creative and playful experimentation which fosters innovation
through serendipity, learning-by-doing, and trials and errors. The process
starts by selecting unconventional materials sources–often addressed
as “hidden” sources–and by using open source “recipes” for materials
making (as the ones for DIY bioplastics which are mostly available online).
Afterwards, designers or students are encouraged to hack the recipes by
altering the formula changing the proportions, adding new ingredients,
1 http://materialsexperiencelab.com/; https://www.diy-materials.com/; #diymaterials; @
and/or applying tools and techniques from other fields, often from
different cultures and traditions. The synergic and unusual combinations
of ingredients, techniques, and competencies foster creativity, potentially
resulting in innovative material samples. This also carries practitioners
on a journey towards unknown destinations, by sparking the reasoning on
materiality itself and nurturing awareness of the designers’ fundamental
role in material making and in catalysing change in industry and society.
In this process, the tinkerer is invited to stretch the sources’
potentialities to enhance their inherit performances and authentic
expressiveness. Because of Material Tinkering activity, it is possible to
produce “material drafts”, underdeveloped material proposals ready for
further development or to be used as a source of inspiration, and “material
demonstrators”, intentionally designed samples aiming to explore and
Fig 1. The DIY-Materials Manifesto
Photo credits: Camilo Ayala-García, 2017
represent processes or quality variants such as colour, thickness, texture
(Rognoli and Parisi, 2021).
We observed that, in most cases, designers choose to start their
material design process from bio-based and biocompatible sources that
may provide a sustainable alternative to the linear paradigm “take-use-
discard” and propose a more circular model of harvesting, consumption
and end-of-life scenarios. In the DIY-Materials research group’s practice,
nature arises to be an inspiration and blueprint to many extents,
encouraging the material designed to use a Bio-Driven approach for
developing emerging materials for the ecological transition.
The Biological Metaphors
to design new materials
The DIY-Materials approach also includes bio-driven experimentation, to
where, both practically and theoretically, reached the definition of two
biological metaphors to be applied in materials for design.
The first one concerns the classification system used for defining and
describing DIY-Materials. To analyse over 150 examples in the literature,
scholars subdivided self-produced materials, generated from a tinkering
activity, into “kingdoms”. They took inspiration from the first biological
classification defined by Linnaeus in the XVII century by the name of
Systema Naturae (Ayala-Garcia et al., 2017). Similarly, with Linnaeus’
taxonomy, with DIY-Materials kingdoms too, the primary source was
considered: the type of matter involved at the beginning of the tinkering
process affects and drives the material invention process. Five kingdoms
have been proposed (Fig.2), referred to as Vegetabile, Animale, Lapideum,
Recuperavit, and Mutantis, each with its specific characteristics, qualities
and properties (Ayala-García, 2019).
The material tinkering process itself includes phenomena that are
analogue to biological ones. The word “tinkering” has been traditionally
used in the evolutionary field (Jacob, 1977) concerning the learning
process, only apparently casual, yet based on principles of maximal
efficiency, of nature during evolution (Rognoli et al., 2017).
Here is clear the second biological metaphor that defines the leading
practice useful to developing material drafts: variation and natural
selection as two basic concepts of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Every new “generation” of materials produced by the tinkering activity
presents slight variations that are not necessarily positive or negative,
but sometimes can question the “survival” or not of the material.
‘Variation’ is the mechanism for finding the best and preferable
solution. Just as ‘variation’ is the engine of evolution, for the designer,
it means looking for the composition of new material. The difference
between artificial and natural selection lies in its intention. Humans
Fig 2. The DIY Materials Kingdoms and the
reinterpretation of Linnaean taxonomy.
Photo credits: Camilo Ayala-García, 2017.
intentionally select (the characteristics of an animal race or plant
species, as well as the features of a material), while nature seems to act
without intentionality, according to arbitrary principles. Nature directly
implements variations, not because they are useful or useless, but using
them as raw material that will be shaped afterwards by natural selection
based on the individual’s survival success (Rognoli et al., 2017).
Introducing case studies
This chapter illustrates the results of the DIY-Materials approach used
in the last few years, at the School of Design of Politecnico di Milano
(2015-2021). The developed approach allows to teach design students,
despite their course of study, how to design materials starting from a
material source, going through ingredients, compositions, recipes and
processes, to get material drafts and demonstrators, and define their
identity and narratives. In the courses and master thesis, the students
produce materials samples as proposals or concepts of alternative
materials at different stages of development, from DIY to research in Lab.
The methods used to deliver them are the Material Driven Design (MDD)
method (Karana et al., 2015) and the Material Tinkering approach (Parisi
and Rognoli, 2017). These protocols and procedures prioritize the active
engagement of designers in developing the materials, disrupting the
conventional paradigm of STEM-driven materials, where the role of the
designer is limited to material selection and application. The MDD method
considers the material as a starting point for the design process. It is
focused on the notion of Materials Experience, namely the experience that
users have through the materials of artefacts in their sensorial, emotional,
meaning, and performative components. By understanding the complex
experience of a distinct material and designing for enhancing Materials
Experience (Karana et al., 2014; Pedgley et al., 2021), the designer will
develop materials further and identify meaningful applications.
All the case studies described below result from integrating these
approaches into the experimentation and design process of bio-based
and bio-fabricated materials. They were conducted in the DIY Materials
Research Group as research projects of the team or as Graduation
Projects supervised by the group, some of them in collaboration with
companies and design studios.
3.1 Case studies with Mycelium
Mycelium can be informally described as “the roots of fungi.” When
inoculated in a biological substrate, such as straw, vegetal fibres, coffee
ground, and sawdust, it grows on it, multiplying its size and mass in
freeways and resulting in a white and solid mass with the appearance
and properties of Styrofoam. The designer can exploit and orientate
the natural growing process to enable a bio-fabrication process to
make artefacts, different from conventional production and prototyping
techniques (Karana et al., 2018). Growing design is a slow process,
respectful of nature’s rhythm and requirements, that enacts cooperation
between organisms, the designer, and the living matter itself. Mycelium,
and the materials derived from it, represent a sustainable and increasingly
tangible surrogate alternative to the ones from petrochemical origin. As
a renewable, widely available, biological, and biodegradable substance,
mycelium arises as one of the most promising sustainable surrogate
materials to adopt for activating circular economy and cradle-to-cradle
approaches. Introducing living materials in the design space testifies to
the increasing dialogue between Design and Science (Langella, 2019),
which draws inspiration from each other to deliver sustainable bio-based
alternatives and new production models, supporting the development of
a circular bioeconomy (Yadav et al., 2021).
For his master’s graduation project titled “A Matter of Time” (Fig. 3),
Stefano Parisi2, as a pioneer in this field, started an experimental process
from a mycelium-based composite material. He developed it further
by defining a unique and meaningful material experience related to the
passing of time, emphasizing the genuine, spontaneous, and dynamic
features of the materials. For example, he included chia, flax and psyllium
seeds which brought new expressive, technical, and manufacturing
features related to handcrafting and tradition, similar to the process of
clay modelling (Parisi and Rognoli, 2017; Parisi et al., 2016).
As a follow up to this exploration, the following master’s graduation
projects explored Mycelium application in different design sectors, from
interior design to footwear, from toy design to biking accessories.
The project “Carie”3 by Carlotta Borgato4, an experimental study
applied to bio-based fungal materials, focuses on their relationship with
timber wood. The project analyses the relationship between wood and
mycelium, testing through prototypes the level of compatibility and
structural strength for each different wood essence. Then, the research
has suddenly materialized into a concept product (Fig. 4).
The project “Organs - organic runners” (Fig. 5) by Deoshree Ravindra
Bendre5, in collaboration with the company Flocus6 and ACBC7, focuses
on introducing zero impact bio-based material alternatives to the existing
2 Parisi S. (2015). A matter of time. Master Thesis supervised by Valentina Rognoli. School
of Design, Politecnico di Milano, a.a. 2014/2015.
3 This project was carried on in collaboration with the Italian company Mogu (https://mogu.
bio/), which is working on mycelium for interior design application as acoustic panel and
4 Borgato C. (2019). Carie. Master Thesis supervised by Valentina Rognoli and Serena
Camere (co-supervisor). School of Design, Politecnico di Milano, a.a. 2018/2019
5 Ravindra Bendre D. (2021). Organs – the Organic runners. Master Thesis supervised by
Valentina Rognoli and Stefano Parisi (co-supervisor). School of Design, Politecnico di
Milano, a.a. 2020/2021
Fig. 3. A Matter of Time, by Stefano Parisi, 2015
Photo credits: A. Pollio, S. Parisi, 2015
Fig. 4. Carie, by Carlotta Borgato, 2019
Photo credits: C. Borgato, 2019
material applications in the footwear industry. The theme of the thesis
orbit around the notion of “back to nature” by exploring and detecting
natural material possibilities and re-introducing plant-based and organic
materials in the industry, including mycelium and kapok fibres.
The project “MyHelmet” by Alessandra Sisti, focuses on the use of
mycelium as a material substitute in the bicycle industry to exclude
systemic waste (Fig. 6). This research and design process, in collaboration
with the Dutch design studio MOM, led to the design of a bicycle helmet
made of mycelium. The project is supported by shock absorption tests,
material comparisons, FEM analysis, LCA assessment, and analysis of
current safety regulations and standards.
The project “MYO - Mycelium technology for kids” (Fig. 7) - by Michela
Grisa, aims to enhance the sensitivity and appreciation of biomaterials in
society, by proposing a playful and interactive toy for kids that integrates
the use of mycelium and technology, i.e., smartphones and tablets.
Fig. 5. Organs - organic runners by Deoshree Ravindra Bendre, 2021
Photo credits: D. R. Bendre, 2021
Fig. 6. MyHelmet by Alessandra Sisti with the Momo Studio, 2021.
Photo credits: A. Sisti, 2021
Fig. 7. MYO - Mycelium technology for kids by Michela Grisa, 2021
Photo credits: M. Grisa, 2021
Employing mycelium, the project aims also to improve and enrich the
child’s technological and interactive experience by making it more
sensory using mycelium. The result is a prototyped toy that combines
the world of touchscreen devices with biomaterials.
The research project “Living Interaction” by Elena Albergati (Fig. 8)
focused on the interactive response of Mycelium to external stimuli, such
as pressure, touch, and airflow. The result includes a method as a tool for
designers to facilitate and guide the integration of microorganisms such
as algae, fungi, and bacteria in future projects. To validate the method
and the proposed thesis, detailed experimentation with live mycelium
was presented to test its response properties to stimuli and evaluate its
use as a biosensor in the Interaction Design field.
Fig. 8. Living Interaction by Elena Albergati, 2021
Photo credits: A. Albergati, 2021
3.2 Case study with Algae
Algae comprise a large family of organisms from which it is possible to
get fibres, pigments, or powders to be used for producing materials from
renewable, abundant, and biodegradable sources.
The DIY-Materials Research Group/Materials Experience Lab and
Algae Geographies by Algae Platform Atelier Luma8 have organized a
3-days workshop and research space to explore the potential of algae-
based biopolymers. The material used in the workshop is produced by
Atelier Luma and comprises bioplastic and micro-algae with a PLA matrix
as filaments and pellets. The algae is used for aesthetic reasons, providing
colouration, texture, and unique visual effects, and for functional ones,
affecting the environmental and mechanical properties of the materials.
During the 3-day workshop a selected number of design students,
academics and practitioners have manipulated the material provided
by Atelier Luma in cooperation with their designers and researchers,
using the infrastructure and tools of the Prototype Workshop provided
by Politecnico di Milano as enablement of the experimental activity. The
traditional techniques to work with polymers, such as blow-moulding,
thermo-forming and even advanced ones such as 3D printing, have
been mixed and hybridized with unconventional processes coming from
crafting and from the participants’ creativity (Fig. 9).
‘A Matter of Clay’, a master graduation project by Elena Rausse9,
focuses on new possible expressive scenarios of ceramic material.
Starting from a territorial survey of the town of Nove (VI) Italy, famous
since 1400 for its ceramic processing, the research focused on the desire
to renew the ceramic material through hybridization with other natural
elements of the territory. Given a nearby river, the elements identified as
9 Rausse E. (2019). A Matter of Clay. Master thesis supervised by Valentina Rognoli. School
of Design, Politecnico di Milano, 2018/2019.
suitable for hybridization are algae in the immediate vicinity (Rognoli and
Rausse, 2020). Given the algae’s reproduction, speed and renewability
have proved to be an excellent element. They were used both for the
hybridization of the material before firing (on dough) and after firing (as a
finish), opening new visions and expressiveness of the material (Fig. 10,
11). On the dough, the algae act as a thickener, allowing to get very thin
thicknesses and very light objects while keeping them resistant. When
used as a finish, they act as natural-based glazing by pigmenting the
Fig. 9. some results of the workshop at Politecnico di Milano with Algae
Geographies by Algae Platform, Atelier Luma. Broken Nature, Triennale di Milano.
Photo credit: Z. Zhou, 2019
surface of the ceramic with unexpected colours because of the acquisition
of metals during the life of the algae in the water. These new scenarios
allow new uses of ceramics: this new material is re-introduced into the
economic cycle of the town of Nove and can be a starting point for the
renewal of the ceramic culture of the town.
Students from the course “Designing Materials Experiences” (Parisi
et al., 2017), run by the DIY-Materials Research group, used fibres from
algae as a source for their materials experimentation in combination with
DIY biopolymers, resulting in Egacomp material10 (Fig. 12). Egacomp is
derived from “egagropili”, dead algae and marine plants aggregates in
the peculiar form of spheres that are very common on Mediterranean
beaches. Being the material translucent, it creates an effect of a
captivating light. Besides this, the use of such material is a sustainable
10 Egacomp material samples by Luisa Alpeggiani, Mattia Antonetti, Fabrizio Guarrasi,
supervised by Valentina Rognoli, 2015.
Fig. 10, 11. A Matter of Clay.
Photo Credits: E. Rausse, 2019
solution, since egagropili are massively infesting beaches and are difficult
to dispose of because of the high content of salts.
3.3 Case studies with animal-based materials
In the DIY- Materials research group, we also explore the material sources
provided by nature and mainly used by humans for food production. Most
of the time, by-products and waste materials from the food industry are
disposed of without considering them as valuable materials that might be
re-integrated into a production loop. Waste materials can be elevated to
a resource for new sustainable and non-polluting materials. These entail
by-products from animal source food, such as skins, bones, scales, shells,
etc. In the context of the food waste resources deriving from the various
Fig. 12. Egacomp material samples
Photo credits: L. Alpeggiani, M. Antonetti, F. Guarrasi, 2015
phases of the production cycle, the quantities produced are very varied
and can reach up to 50% of the starting material; therefore, companies
and producers are forced to face the problem of disposal of such waste.
Sometimes the residual material is partially used in the production of
food, compost, and biofuels. However, given the abundance and varied
composition of these wastes, in recent years, there has been a growing
interest in them and a search for methodologies to further applications.
The project “Fish Left- (L) over” by Claudia Catalani11 investigates
how by-products from the fish used for food production might be used
as a valuable source for new materials with useful intrinsic values as
biodegradability. More than a quarter of waste from fishing is discarded.
It causes not only a significant environmental impact but also a loss of the
potential value of these products. There’s a growing pressure to reduce
discarded, unwanted by-catches of EU fishing fleets and EU targets for
smart and green growth, so it is necessary to rethink many of the Italian
processes present in the fishing and aquaculture supply chain. In this
thesis, scraps of fishmongers have been examined, and the properties of
fish skin, scales and bones have been studied. For the project, C. Catalani
collaborated with the Italian company Bue Marine Service12, which has
worked on fish leather under the project “Adriatic Skin”13. This project
recovers the fish skin waste and transforms scraps into new material,
on which innovative and significant application scenarios have been
developed. Experimentation has been conducted using a DIY approach
on scales and bones. The goal was to find a useful, functional, and low
environmental impact material that could be a valid alternative to non-
renewable resources (Fig. 13).
11 Catalani C. (2019). Fish-Left-(L)overs. A new life to fish waste. Master thesis supervised
by Valentina Rognoli. School of Design, Politecnico di Milano, 2018/2019.
In the project “Development and scenario of DIY-Materials based on
mussel shells” Chiara Stopponi14 concentrated on the self-production
of different materials, got using as a base the shells of mussels
discarded in the various stages of food production and consumption in
combination with natural binders such as casein, glycerol and polylactic
acid (PLA) (Fig. 14, 15). The aim is to produce biodegradable and easily
self-producing materials. The most promising result of the experiment
is a filament to be used for 3d printing. The scenario envisaged for the
use of these materials is that of a future circular restaurant, in which,
according to the principles of the circular economy, the output, or
waste, will be reintegrated in the loop as an input, a resource, for the
restaurant itself. The reuse of food waste, besides giving an expressive
and functional value to the material that derives from it, also aims
14 Stopponi C. (2018). Sviluppo e scenario di DIY-Materials a base di gusci di mitili. Thesis
supervised by Valentina Rognoli and Stefano Parisi (co-supervisor). School of Design,
Politecnico di Milano, 2017/2018.
Fig 13. Fish Left (L) overs.
Photo Credits: C. Catalani, 2019
to raise awareness of the problem of disposable plastics and their
immediate disposal after use.
Similarly, the project “Pig-it Yourself“ by Gabriela Machado da
Silva Lima15 experiments on pig skin derived from food production as a
component for producing animal-based biopolymers (Fig. 16). Pork is
the most consumed animal protein in the world, responsible for around
38% of the world’s meat production, and generating residue and waste,
from blood to skin, bones, to fat. These can be turned into a wide variety
of products, including food, animal feed, fertilisers, and fuel. Despite
all these by-products having the potential to be reused in some form,
as mentioned, many times the market cannot cover the production.
This portion not absorbed by the market generates serious problems
related to waste and debris management, whose treatment incurs higher
expenses to industries, especially in the countries lacking a recycling
department for animal residue. The research can attest to the age-old
15 Machado da Silva Lima G. (2019). Pig it yourself. Developing a new material based on
pig skin. Master thesis supervised by Valentina Rognoli. School of Design, Politecnico di
Fig. 14, 15. Development and scenario of DIY-Materials based on mussel shells.
Photo Credits: C. Stopponi, 2018.
adage that states: “From the pig, nothing ever goes to waste: everything
but its oink”. Virtually every single part of the pig can be transformed
into new products or resources. There is, however, an open question
related to how to do better to use of by-products such as pigskin. The
issue to unravel is: “how to aggregate value to pigskin?” Even though
there are known uses, Gabriela believes that “Pig It Yourself” can become
an alternative in aggregating value to this by-product, especially the
smaller, non-consumable fragments, not large enough to be turned into
leather products. It would be a better, less wasteful form of utilisation
of the scraps and better exploitation of its untapped economic potential.
3.4 Case studies with plant-based materials
Plants gave life to the atmosphere, the crucial point of the planet’s life.
The vegetal world has always been considered a source of food and
Fig 16. Pig it yourself
Photo credits: G. Machado da Silva Lima, 2019
medicines, but we rarely take inspiration from them for improving our
quality of life.
In the project “Cornstalk do-it-yourself materials for social innovation”
by Karen Estefanía Rodríguez Daza16, the idea of using corn stalk-based
DIY-Materials to foster social innovation among Colombian small farmers
is explored. This, to foster a rural development that respects the farmer’s
traditional practices and beliefs oriented toward collective progress
and nature preservation. Hence, the theoretical review regarding social
innovation, circular economy, DIY practices and materials is put to test by
proving that corn stalks can be used as a raw material to make materials
with no scientific knowledge, complex technology, and polluting elements
(Fig. 17). In a second step, the theory and hypothesis were verified by
interviewing Colombian farmers with whom the idea of using agricultural
leftovers to produce DIY-Materials was shared and discussed during
several workshops. This strengthens the vision that DIY-Materials have
the potential of contributing to the creation of a more fair society where
the farmers’ identity and traditions are valued and their role redefined as
entrepreneurs and innovators.
The project “Poli. Frutta” (Fig. 18) by Ilaria Giani17 focuses on the use
of fruit leftovers for the making of plant-based leather-like material.
Similarly, Sofia Soledad Poblete Duarte focused on her Master’s
graduation project, “The Locked-down Material Lab. Crafting materials
during Covid-19”18 on the use of pectin derived from fruits and banana
16 Rodriguez Daza K. (2017). Cornstalk do-it-yourself materials for social innovation. Master
thesis supervised by Valentina Rognoli and Camilo Ayala-García (co-supervisor). School
of Design, Politecnico di Milano, 2016/2017.
17 Giani I. (2017). Polifrutta. Master Thesis supervised by Valentina Rognoli and Camilo
Ayala-Garcia and Stefano Parisi (co-supervisor). School of Design, Politecnico di Milano,
18 Duarte Poblete S. (2021). The Locked-down Material Lab. Master Thesis supervised by
Valentina Rognoli and Patrizia Bolzan (co-supervisor). School of Design, Politecnico di
Fig. 17. Cornstalk do-it-yourself materials for social innovation.
Photo Credits: K. Estefanía Rodríguez Daza, 2017
fibres for the making of biopolymers in a home-lab installed in domestic
isolation and resource limitations within the recent COVID-19 Pandemic
Barbara Cerlesi19 carried out a Master’s graduation project based
on the question of the language and communication skills of plants:
could colour produced by plants be taken as an interface for people and
designers? From the latest scientific news, we know plants developed
thousands of languages, exploiting all their senses. To deeply understand
one of them–colour–Barbara focused her research on grass, one of the
most available vegetal organisms. In the project, she questions the
possibility of plants reacting to environmental inputs by producing
pigments we could archive, study, understand and then integrate as a
design and inspiration tool for creative industries. By taking the role of
19 Cerlesi B. (2019). Nature commands color. A research-based project on the intelligence
of plants, questions the role of designers today. Master Thesis supervised by Valentina
Rognoli and Stefano Parisi, Manuela Bonaiti (co-supervisors). School of Design, Politecnico
di Milano, 2018/2019.
designer as the one f a translator, Barbara set a method to extract and
analyse pigments through an altered version of Chromatography (Fig. 17,
18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23), to archive them in a database–the Grass Map20–and
to explore all the design opportunities that this research opened up. From
this research, Nature Commands Colour (NCC) emerged. NCC is a colour
palette software for designers derived from the database of grass-derived
colours built by Barbara. Also, it helps in designing patterns inspired by
the ones identified in nature. NCC introduces designers to accepting the
temporality, seasonality, and location-based nature of the grass-derived
palette. The concept of using the plant for natural dyes is explored on
different scales, proposing a range of design opportunities developed as
Fig. 18. The Locked-down Material Lab. Crafting materials during Covid-19 Photo
Credits: Soﬁa Duarte Poblete, 2020.
future scenarios or maquettes, from using the actual dye for biopolymers
and natural fibers’ pigmentation especially for sustainable fashion,
to using the digital colour derived from NCC for bio-oriented brands’
communication, to social design where the palette can inform citizens
about the health of grass, atmosphere and soils.
Students from the course “Designing Materials Experiences” (Parisi
et al., 2017) run by the DIY-Materials Research group used plant-based
fibres combined with different techniques and natural compounds to
develop a diversity of materials from paper to pH-sensitive inks, from
biopolymers to textile. Students developed Greenet, by extracting fibres
from waste celery, spinning them into threads, and weaving them into
textiles (Fig. 20). The thread results to be resistant and quite elastic.
Fig. 19. Nature commands colour.
Photo Credits: B. Cerlesi, 2019
Expanding on the use of plants in the design space, the project
“ReGrowth” (Fig. 21) by Nicla Guarino21 (2022) focuses on the use of bio-
based materials and living plants in garments design. An expedient to
propose renewable and compostable resources for a more sustainable
fashion industry, to introduce a new aesthetic and new customer
experiences based on a new fashion temporality, determined by the
growth and degradability of plants and on new relations of caring with
Designers are increasingly hungry for experimental practices that
involve the material side of the project. This curiosity denotes a growing
awareness and a steady ethical posture towards the environmental
problems that certain materials can trigger within the practice of design,
21 Guarino N. (2022). ReGrowth. Master Thesis supervised by Valentina Rognoli and Stefano
Parisi (co-supervisor). School of Design, Politecnico di Milano, 2021/2022
Fig. 20. Greenet material sample.
Photo credits: H. Aversa, S. Bettoni, A. Ertin, M. Wang, 2017
towards the repercussions on the products’ life cycle and the materials’
environmental role. Reflecting on the ‘end of life’ and committing
to shift their practices toward circular and regenerative models,
designers experiment mainly with sources of organic origin, sometimes
leveraging waste streams, sometimes programming a cross-species
design collaboration with living organisms such as fungi and algae. This
research, by illustrating a series of relevant case studies in DIY-Materials
design, aims to show the effectiveness of the MDD Method, combined
with a DIY-Materials approach and the activity of tinkering to facilitate the
development of alternative, sustainable and circular materials capable
of enhancing, through narrative and storytelling, the final Material
Experience. It results clear how bio-driven materialities appear to be
relevant, not only in fostering a material ecological transition towards
more eco-compatible productive futures, but these material agencies,
and the narratives that motivate their existence, trigger a radical shift
Fig. 21. ReGrowth application in clothing.
Photo credits: N. Guarino, 2022
towards more tolerant, transversal, collaborative, integrated ecological
practices of life.
Ayala-García, C., Rognoli, V., and Karana, E. (2017). Five Kingdoms of
DIY Materials for Design. Proceedings of EKSIG 17 - Alive. Active.
Adaptive - Experiential Knowledge and Emerging Materials, 19-20
June, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Ayala-García, C. (2019). The materials generation. The emerging
experience of DIY-Materials. Unpublished PhD Thesis, supervised by
Valentina Rognoli and Elvin Karana (co-supervisor), PhD in Design,
Politecnico di Milano - defended in February 2019.
Karana, E, Barati, B., Rognoli, V., and Zeeuw van der Laan, A. (2015).
Material driven design (MDD): A method to design for material
experiences. International Journal of Design, 9 (2), pp.35-54.
Karana, E., Pedgley, O., and Rognoli, V. (Eds.) (2014). Materials Experience:
Fundamentals of Materials and Design. Butterworth-Heinemann:
Elsevier, UK. ISBN: 9780080993591.
Jacob, F. (1977). Evolution and Tinkering. Science, (196) 4295, 1161-1166
Langella, C. (2019). Design & scienza. ListLab.
Karana, E., Blauwhoff, D., Hultink, E. J., & Camere, S. (2018). When the
material grows: A case study on designing (with) mycelium-based
materials. International Journal of Design, 12 (2), 119-136.
Parisi, S., Rognoli, V., Ayala-García, C. (2016). Designing Materials
Experiences through the passing of time. Material Driven Design
Method applied to mycelium-based composites. Proceedings of 10th
International Conference on Design & Emotion, September 2016,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, pp.239-255.
Parisi, S., Rognoli, V. (2017). Tinkering with Mycelium. A case study.
Proceedings of EKSIG 17 - Alive. Active. Adaptive - Experiential
Knowledge and Emerging Materials, 19-20 June, Rotterdam, The
Parisi, S., Rognoli, V., and Sonneveld, M. (2017). Material Tinkering. An
inspirational approach for experiential learning and envisioning in
product design education. The Design Journal, 20, S1167-S1184.
Pedgley, O., Rognoli, V., and Karana E. (Eds.) (2021). Materials Experience
2: Expanding Territories of Materials and Design. Butterworth-
Heinemann: Elsevier, UK. ISBN: 9780128192443.
Pollini, B., and Rognoli, V. (2021). Early-stage material selection based
on life cycle approach: Tools, obstacles and opportunities for design.
Sustainable Production and Consumption, 28, 1130–1139. https://doi.
Rognoli, V., Rausse, E. (2020). Emotional Engagement with Materials:
Observation on Material Dialogue Between Potter and Clay. Diseña,
17, 160-181. Santiago: Escuela de Diseño. Pontificia Universidad
Católica de Chile.
Rognoli, V., Pollini, B., and Santulli, C. (2017). La progettazione dei DIY-
Materials come processo di invenzione. DIID, Disegno industriale
Industrial Design, Actually Design, n 62/63
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Esta obra se publicó en archivo digital
en el mes de diciembre de 2022.
The Universidad Pontiﬁcia Bolivariana (UPB), through its
School of Architecture and Design, with the collaboration
of the Colombian Node of the Learning Network on
Sustainability (LeNS), joined forces to address the
relevance of incorporating sustainability more in the
training of new architects and designers. Theydid it in this
book to contribute to improving our society according to
SDG4 and its target 4.7. Throughout the book, various
approaches to understanding and proposing solutions
to sustainability challenges are interwoven. You will ﬁnd
a framework to understand the need for a new culture
of design and sustainability in chapter 1, which will be
articulated with technical and social approaches in the
learning processes in architecture and design. For example,
technically speaking, you will see academic exercises for
developing new and more sustainable materials in chapters
2 and 6. From the social side, you will ﬁnd an analysis of
wearables from the perspective of lifestyles in chapter
7 and the study of the value of traditional and ancestral
knowledge in chapter 8. You will also ﬁnd studies about
different educational strategies, such as the development
of a new educational tool in chapter 3, case studies about
how UPB embeds sustainability in their pedagogical
strategy in chapters 4 and 5 and the presentation of an
educational experience in the framework of the new virtual
pedagogical dynamics in chapter 9.