ziyu zhou

Ph.D. Candidate – Politecnico di Milano, Department of Design, Italy

Visiting PhD student – Offenbach University of Art and Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main), Institute for Materialdesign, Germany

[email protected]


Prof. Valentina Rognoli

Prof. Manuela Celi

Ziyu Zhou is a Ph.D. candidate in Politecnico di Milano, Department of Design. Through analyzing the teaching and learning process on materials in design, she is devoting her research on exploring what materials and material education can bring to design students, and, most importantly, how do they work. She is committed to clarifying the explanation on relationships mainly between materials experience and the design teaching and learning activities.

Prior to this, in 2015, Ziyu obtained her Bachelor degree in Industrial design in Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China. In the same year, she starts her Master study in Product Service System Design in Politecnico di Milano, Department of Design, Italy. During her study, she gained lots of experience and skills on product design and design thinking through a series of national projects / international design competitions. Also, she has proficient communication abilities as a designer through learning under differentiated cultures. In 2016, she attended the course “Designing Materials Experience” by Valentina Rognoli and started her story on materials and design fortunately. After one year in 2017, she got her Master degree through the graduation project: DIY bioplastic Club. With the integration of her knowledge in DIY materials, product design, service system design and interactive design, through designing a toolkit on enabling people to make their personalized DIY bioplastics, she started her research on how people view and use the materials experience to enrich their ideas and design.  

The main topics of Ziyu’s research and practice are situated in the intersection between: [1]The generic process, methodologies and spaces in educating design students on materials and through materials; [2] Emerging activities applying material experience into design education; [3] Development and creative practices in material-driven design; [4] Multisensory design with materials; [5] self-production, DIY, trans-disciplinary practices for materials generation.

Current Project


The relationship between materials and design is already being clarified by many scholars. With the perspective-changes on material and design in the past and the present, material potentially influences on our views on design. Nowadays, the education of materials for design is not restrained in listing the knowledge about materials and their technical attributes which can fit design, but emphasized on guiding students to learn how to provoke experience to users, with different choices of materials or even create new materials. Sensorial-expressive characterization of materials is getting more attention from design educators and students in the start of material investigations. Starts from these viewpoints towards materials in design and design education in recent years, this research will take our sight onto how could material drive innovation and facilitate the higher design education, through inspiring students’ design thinking and gaining design their design abilities comprehensively.


  1. Zhou, Z. (2020). Engaging Material Education in Design. The Design Journal, 24(1), 149-159. DOI: 10.1080/14606925.2020.1830549

  2. Zhou, Z., Rognoli, V., & Celi, M. (2020). Features of material exploration projects emerged in design schools. In Conference Proceedings EDUNOVATIC 2020 (pp. 704-709). Redine.

  3. Zhou Z., Rognoli, V. (2020). Designing Materials and Material Designers: Research by DIY-Materials Research Group. ZHUANGSHI Journal, 2020 (01. Total No. 321):17-23

  4. Zhou Z., Rognoli, V. (2020). Material Education: New Training, New Skills. Chapter in MaterialDesigners Book.

  5. Zhou, Z., & Rognoli, V. (2019). Material Education in Design: From Literature Review to Rethinking. In Fifth International Conference for Design Education Researchers (pp. 111-119). METU Department of Industrial Design.

  6. Zhou. Z.; Rognoli. V.; Ayala-Garcia. C. (2018), Educating designers through Materials Club, 4th International Conference on Higher Education Advances (HEAd’18), http://dx.doi.org/10.4995/HEAd18.2018.8206

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