the materials generation

The emerging experience of DIY-Materials

The Research plan is divided into three main phases of fourth trimesters each.

First Phase: this initial part began with the understanding of the DIY-Materials Phenomenon [1] through literature review and the definition of three macro areas of research. Two questions were defined to direct the study: What causes the phenomenon? And why they do it?. Subsequently, a theoretical framework that ended with the definition of the different conditions that allow a person to create a self-produced materials was established. Five conditions with all the possible variables inside each condition were considered to perform the first study of the research (Conditions are named: Material Source, Driving Source, Inspirational Source, Technology Source and Craft Source) [2]. The first study consisted of an evaluation and classification of 150 different cases of DIY-Materials collected during the first year. I evaluated each case following the conditions framework where each variable highlighted similar characteristics among cases. Once assessed and analyzed, all cases were categorized into five kingdoms (namely Vegetabile, Animale, Lapideum, Recuperavit and Mutantis) as each case inside these kingdoms shared similar elements[3] [4].  The first study showed a gap, as almost all the cases with some few exceptions demonstrated that the craft source was barely mentioned, probably by the assumption that the implicit knowledge of the last condition (Craft source) is necessary to self-produce a material. This gap leads me to the formulation of the following research question: Can somebody with any knowledge on crafts generate a material?.


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Second Phase: With the research question of the PhD. in place, the second iteration of the literature review with focused topics (the material culture, spreading social practices through cultures and the new craftsmanship) was performed. I proposed to my supervisor to conduct a second study through an elective course at the master level of Politecnico di Milano. Within this course we can evaluate the proposed framework, evaluate the possibilities that a structured experimentation of DIY-Materials can provide, compared with traditional STEM materials (namely Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and to find possible hypotheses for a final study outside the design domain. The course was launched under the name "Designing Materials Experiences" based on the field of expertise of both supervisor and co-supervisor which orbits around the concept of the materials experience [5]. The course expected 30 participants to perform the study. However, a total of 97 participants coming from 32 different nations arrived giving me the possibility to test the framework and the kingdoms with a broader audience. The outputs of the course and the second study were a series of DIY-Materials samples, their corresponding data sheets, videos of the experimentation processes and questionaries to evaluate the course and methodology. Currently, I am analyzing, organizing and evaluating the results and findings of the second study to validate the previous hypotheses.

Third Phase: For the next and last year of the Ph.D., we have agreed with my supervisor to conduct a third study outside the design community and address it to a crafts community (also known as the creative communities) [6] [7] for a more accurate validation of the hypotheses. This validation may allow my Ph.D. research to propose an original contribution to the field. The third study consists of an analysis of three topics introduced to some MSc. Students from Politecnico di Milano who responded to the call for the studies for their graduation thesis and a contribution inside the Polisocial project called "Tambali Fii" (2017-2018). A project that is taking place between Italy and Senegal [8] for the development of strategies to tackle the migration processes from that country towards Europe by providing tools to local fisherman's communities to develop their economies. The DIY-Materials theory is proposed as one of the strategies for this project.  


[1] Rognoli, V., Bianchini, M., Maffei, S., Karana, E., (2015). DIY Materials. Special Issue on Emerging Materials Experience. In: Virtual Special Issue on Emerging Materials Experience, Materials and Design, vol. 86, pp. 692–702.

[2] For Reference: see presentation submitted for the first half of second-year evaluation of the XXXII Cycle of Ph.D. in Design of Politecnico di Milano, date 24/05/2017.

[3] Ayala-Garcia, C., Rognoli V., Karana, E. (2017). Five Kingdoms of DIY-Materials for Design. In: Proceedings of EKSIG 17 - Alive. Active. Adaptive - Experiential Knowledge and Emerging Materials, The Netherlands. pp. 222–234.

[4] Ayala-Garcia, C., Rognoli, V. (2017) The New Aesthetic of DIY-Materials, The Design Journal, 20:sup1, S375-S389.

[5] Karana, E., Pedgley, O., Rognoli, V., (2014). Materials Experience: Fundamentals of Materials and Design. Elsevier.

[6] Manzini, E., Jégou, F., Penin, L. (2008). Creative Communities for Sustainable Lifestyles. In: Sustainable Consumption and Production: Framework for Action. 2nd Conference of the Sustainable Consumption Research Exchange (SCORE!) Network, Brussels. 259-276.

[7] Rognoli, V., Ayala-Garcia, C., Bengo, I. (2017) DIY-Materials as enabling agents of innovative social practices and future social business in: Proceedings of International Congress of Design FORMA 2017, Cuba. (On Press).

[8] Tambali Fii-Creation of a technological and social innovation cluster for the growth in Senegal of the boating and seafood chain as a reversal strategy of migration from the African continent. Research funded by Polisocial (The social responsibility programme), Politecnico di Milano 2017/2018.


  1. Ayala-Garcia, C., Rognoli, V. (2017) The New Aesthetic of DIY-Materials,The Design Journal, 20:sup1, S375-S389.

  2. Rognoli, V., Ayala-Garcia, C. (2017) Material Activism. New hybrid scenarios between design and technology. Cuadernos 70 Journal, Universidad de Palermo, N 70-2018 pp. 105-115 ISSN 1668-0227.

  3. Ayala-Garcia, C., Rognol, V., Karana, E. (2017). Five Kingdoms of DIY Materials for Design. In Alive. Active. Adaptive: Proceedings of International Conference on Experiential Knowledge and Emerging Materials (EKSIG 2017), June 19-20, Delft, the Netherlands, pp. 222-234.

  4. Rognoli, V., Bianchini, M., Maffei, S., & Karana, E. (2015). DIY Materials. Special Issue on Emerging Materials Experience. Materials and Design, vol. 86, pp. 692–702; DOI 10.1016/j.matdes.2015.07.020

  5. Parisi S., Rognoli V., Ayala C. (2016). Designing Materials Experiences through Passing of Time, Material Driven Design Method applied to Mycelium based Composites. In: Proceedings of 10th International Conference on Design & Emotion, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, September 2016 pp.239-255

  6. Rognoli V., Ayala C., Parisi S., (2016). The emotional value of Do-it-yourself materials. In: Proceedings of 10th International Conference on Design & Emotion, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, September 2016. Pp. 233-241.

Funded By

Colombian Government

Los Andes University-Colombia