Mediating matters

Authored by: Nick Gant

Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Product Design

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138910171
eBook ISBN: 9781315693309
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores material communication and the use of recycled and waste materials as a means to engineer communicative and therefore valuable products. It explores methods for elevating the value of waste materials through unearthing and highlighting the narratives and histories that are embodied within them. Through this chapter, I explore how the process of designing with recycled materials may exploit these material memories to bring value to products. The term mediating matters also refers to the capacity for materials to mediate stories, and develop new languages pertaining to the branding of more sustainable consumption. This text considers how materials can convey ideas and issues of sustainability through a material vocabulary that helps to broker engagement between consumers and matters in the world. As consumer habits continue to evolve in today’s post-awareness-raising scenario, products also need to evolve to be both reflective of this change and in catalysing further transition in consumer consciousness and behaviour. Materials mediate complex meanings and values (social, personal, political for example) that often go beyond their performance or function. As well as being central to the physical issues of sustainability, materials have agency in the communication of these issues and play a role as actors within the narrative of sustainability – materials have a voice in this social and cultural dialogue. This chapter will explore how methods for more nuanced material articulation can be applied in the creation of highly valued and more sustainable, consumer products. The corollary being that the sustainability of the material is in-turn part of the product’s value and is often also central to the way the product expresses this value. Finally I will argue for greater significance being placed on material literacy and the material language of recycling when designing eloquent, sustainable products.

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