Connecting the Dots: What Does Intelligent Matter Mean for Designers?

As we have just seen, many of these developments between biology, manufacturing, and computing lead toward a new era and new definition of what it could mean to be a designer of “physical things.” Just as societies have progressed through ages based on mastery of materials — the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and more recently, the Plastic Age — perhaps we are seeing even more evidence that we stand at the dawn of a new age. Instead of being defined and constrained by a material, in the decades to come we stand to define the materials that will be all around us. Could this be the dawn of the Intelligent Materials Age? If this is so, where does the designer fit into this new age, especially the designer of physical artifacts? Let’s consider some possible scenarios about how the designer might approach their field.

Designing Material Behaviors

Imagine buildings with dynamic structures and programmable, functional material properties such as the aformentioned Lotusan or SLIPS being applied throughout the structure’s environment at every scale. Let’s examine a couple of potential applications.

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