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Growing Design

One of the challenges of this century is to transform our current economy into an eco-friendly and self-sustaining system. An innovative approach is the use of materials that are grown from living organisms, such as fungi, bacteria and algae. Several designers are now ‘growing’ their own materials, exploring their potential for product design, such as their higher sustainability and their interesting novel aesthetics. This emerging material practice, that we define as ‘Growing Design’, is transforming designers’ workspace into biological laboratories, where designers mix their creative attitude with a scientific mindset. This calls for a new skillset, to enable the understanding of Nature’s ways of production and the interaction with the living organisms employed for the material fabrication.

Hence, this project aims to investigate: How do we design with living systems as collaborators of design process? What principles, methods and tools can mobilize the creative thinking and still provide scientific solidity? What are the motivations and the ethical implications of working with such materials? How do people receive and appreciate this newly designed Nature?

Alongside these issues, we research the potential of growing materials from a technological perspective, exploring the opportunities coming from several manufacturing techniques (additive & conventional manufacturing), as well as the materials’ technical and experiential qualities. In the STW-funded project, we take Mycelium-based materials as a case study, to develop a palette of samples with different physical properties ranging from elastic to rigid, water-absorbing to water-repellent, and porous to compact. Furthermore, we will explore how mycelium based materials are experienced in products. The results of these characterization studies will be then used to stimulate the further development of the material.



  1. Camere, S., and Karana, E. (in review, available upon request). Growing Materials for Product Design. To appear in Proceedings of International Conference on Experiential Knowledge – EKSIG2017, June 19-20, Delft, the Netherlands.                                                                                                
  2. Karana, E., Blauwhoff, D., Hultink, E. J., Camere, S. (in preparation, available upon request), When The Material Grows: A Case Of Material Driven Design

Funded By

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

Technology Division (STW) No. 14572

Research Through Design (RtD) Program


Dr. Serena Camere


Dr. Elvin Karana


Prof. Dr. H.AB. Wösten

Utrecht University


M. Montalti, MSc. 

Design Academy Eindhoven

Involved Graduation Students

Davine Blauwhoff

Floor Van De Leur

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