Interactive Materiality


  • Type: Elective
  • Goal: Incorporate (i) theory on Interactive Materiality and (ii) observed material qualities in the design of an interactive artefact.
  • Final grade: 8
  • Competencies: CA | TR | DRP

Key learning points

1. Comprehending theory on Interactive Materiality.
2. Conceptualizing theory into a design.
3. Materiality and data visualization.


For this elective each team member collected images with traces of use on their everyday objects. With those images a collective affective analysis was conducted, describing the unique material qualities of each example and what it expressed. Afterwards one abstract notion was chosen for further development, which was in our case ‘heedlessness’. By means of multiple interaction explorations we tried to capture ‘heedlessness’ in a designed object. The last step towards creating an interactive materiality was to integrate our findings into a composite of materials with the fitting properties. The envisioned interaction was to emulate the rotational movement of two magnets and let the center piece of the object react to this, to create ‘heedlessness’. When the object is shaken the DC motor starts to spin in burst to create a centrifugal force. The object will keep on ‘shaking’ for a few burst when the user stops the shaking movement to give unexpected haptic feedback in a playful manner.


The way I see interactive materiality drastically changed throughout the course. The weekly literature was sometimes challenging for me as I was quite inexpert of the topic interactive materiality. However, the papers all together offered me a good foundation in order to create a mindset around the evolution of materials.

The exercise of affective analysis of objects made me realize that aesthetic perception comes at a quite unconscious level and the hard part is to express the actual sensation into words, as you want them to emphasize the load of the experience. Therefore, as a group it took us some time to come to the core of a symbolic notion. For example, the symbolic notion for the door lock, which gradually moved from ‘hurry’ to ‘heedlessness’. The first time we described the notion of the door lock our interpretation of the context played a bigger role: the hasty toilet visit and the quick interaction you have with the hook. Whereas later the expression of the hook as a stand-alone was observed: the thoughtless interaction of opening a lock, the traces it leaves on the door and the careless expression of the material properties and the interaction.

Especially the paper ‘Shape-changing Interfaces: A Review of the Design Space and Open Research Questions’ [1] offered me clear examples of the theory that was described and since then I have used this work multiple times in up following projects, such as LOOP and Econundrum. I realized that my aim to create interactive physical data visualizations is quite in line with the development of interactive materiality. Similar to physicalizations, it is a fusion between the digital or technical and the physical to create greater experiences. I think that interactive materiality can strengthen physicalizations as it offers modularity and different levels of detail. Especially when aiming at visualizing complex data with lots of layers, it can be a hassle to capture all this in physical products. At that point the haptic and textural sensations could provide subtler in-depth information in a non-obtrusive manner. In that way the complex data in- and output evolves into an intuitive physical interaction.

1. Majken K. Rasmussen, Esben W. Pedersen, Marianne G. Petersen, and Kasper Hornbæk. 2012. Shape-changing interfaces: a review of the design space and open research questions. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 735-744. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2207676.2207781