By: Don Loepp
September 18, 2013
This year's K show in Germany will include a new event that will offer industrial designers and material companies the opportunity to showcase their use of plastics in innovative design.
The two-day conference, DesignChain@K, will be held Oct. 21-22. Our colleagues at European Plastics News are working with the K 2013 organizer on the event, which is being chaired by well-known industrial designer Chris Lefteri.
To get everyone in the right frame of mind (or should I say "right-brained state of mind"?), here's an interview with Lefteri that was prepared by the K organizers that touches on issues related to design and plastic materials:
Q: What is your approach to design? Where do you start?
Lefteri: I take a reverse approach to the conventional design process whereby the material becomes the innovation driver and starting point of the concept. I refer to this as a materials-centric approach. My studio is renowned for having best materials focused designers in the world and we draw inspiration and outcomes by analysing the properties, capabilities and limitations of a material in order to develop and brainstorm new ideas for our clients who are major consumer brands like Samsung, LG, Logitech, Philips, Hyundai and material suppliers.
We also use design-thinking, a methodology for solving problems, in all our projects and we teach it to material suppliers too. We help them to think of new ways of opening new markets and fine tune their marketing mix. Our clients feel that design is the key to revealing new markets, and we help them to converse with designers more effectively.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
Lefteri: I find it hugely inspiring that some of the worlds most ancient materials such as wood and ceramic that civilisation has been using for centuries are still being reinvented to this very day, constantly evolving and changing simply through finding new and different ways of treating, processing or combining them with other and new materials. For instance, scientists have recently created a bone-like material from rattan wood which by it's porous nature allows blood to travel through it and also fuses with real bone over time so that it actually becomes part of the body. It's this way of looking at and using old materials and applying them in new ways that I find truly incredible.
Q: What is the 3rd wave of materials?
Lefteri: I believe the 3rd wave of materials is defined by it's invisibility. By this I am referring to the nanoscale at which new materials are being developed - we are no longer able to detect them with the naked eye but they perform and react intuitively, without input from the user. Anti-microbial, self-cleaning and water repellant coatings will enhance the surfaces surrounding us but we won't necessarily be aware of them, they will simply and inconspicuously perform their duty intrinsically.
Q: How can designers make the most of the information abundance at K 2013?
Lefteri: Before attending the K show I look at the list of exhibitors beforehand so that I can get a idea in advance of the companies I would be interested in seeing. We often take our design clients on research trips to K to introduce them to new innovations that they can tap into. Once I arrive it generally becomes an instinct, I am drawn towards a stand with a clear message and by something purely visual that I find intriguing.
I would recommend to keep your eyes and mind open, it's not only the larger exhibitors who have exciting and innovative new materials and technologies on show, it is often at some of the smaller and lesser known companies stands where I find great new discoveries and inspiration. Always ask the exhibitors 'whats in the draw?' i.e the special stuff that is not quite ready to be show, but almost.
Recognized throughout the world as a leading authority on materials and their application in design, Chris Lefteri is one of the most instrumental materials experts working in his field. For over a decade his studio work and publications have been pivotal in the way designers and the materials industry consider materials. In 2001 he published the first of eight books on materials and the application in design, which have been translated into six languages. These books have led the change in the way designers view and use materials. Subsequently his studio, Chris Lefteri Design, has worked with Fortune 500 companies and major design studios across Europe, the U.S. and Asia implementing a broad range of strategies for effective materials integration in the design process. The studio’s distinctive cross-industry expertise in automotive, packaging, sports, furniture, consumer electronics and fashion leads to fresh approaches and bleeding-edge outcomes.