Growing materials for product design

Serena Camere, Elvin Karana

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The possibility to fabricate materials from living organisms offers appealing advantages for product design, such as higher sustainability and an interesting novel aesthetics. Several designers are now ‘growing’ their own materials. Despite the large interest shown, this emerging material practice is still scarcely understood in design literature. The aim of this paper is to shed light on what it means to design with growing organisms as collaborators, identifying the defining traits of this novel, designerly way of
‘doing materials’. To do so, we first compare this specific approach to the approaches of others working in the intersections of biology and design. In this way, we outline the boundaries of Growing Design, defining its unique characteristics. We then provide detailed descriptions of three classes of Growing Materials: fungal, bacterial and algal materials. For each class, we bring two examples of designers utilizing these materials for industrial design purposes. This helps to further explain what truly
distinguishes Growing Materials from other conventional materials and to understand the challenges in working with them. Finally, this discussion enables us to set out a research agenda for Growing Design, supporting the development of these materials for industrial production.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAlive Active Adaptive
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Conference on Experiential Knowledge and Emerging Materials EKSIG 2017
EditorsE. Karana, E. Giaccardi, N. Nimkulrat, K. Niedderer, S. Camere
Place of PublicationDelft
PublisherTU Delft Open
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)978-87-90775-90-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventEKSIG 2017 Alive Active Adaptive: International Conference on Experiential Knowledge and Emerging Materials - Rotterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 19 Jun 201720 Jun 2017


ConferenceEKSIG 2017 Alive Active Adaptive


  • Alive materials
  • Mycelium
  • Bacterial cellulose
  • Algae
  • Materials Experience


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