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The Meaning of the Material: A Survey on the Role of Material in User's Evaluation of a Design Object

Elvin Karana

Materials, the stuff of design process, have been tools for creating 'value', or otherwise, of what a designer attributes to his final product, since the first ages of man. Obviously, the ranges of 'material' usage in design process have been improved simultaneously with technology and industrial design. However, after a time, they were used for a different aim; which was neither about the function nor about the ease of production. The material of a design became a tool for associating the product with various status; which brought up the issue of the 'meaning' of a material constructed emotionally by the users, by means of both its functional and spiritually created value.

This study focuses on the form and material relationship and emotionally created associations with them by different user groups. Seeing an object produced with a material that is not common can attract attention, but how many people can venture to buy it?

This study examines whether the factors ‘gender’, ‘age’ and the ‘educational level’ make differences on the perception of the material of a design object. The task was applied to 60 people by using groups of objects with different materials: cloth, wood, metal, plastic, ceramic and glass. This study also evaluates the ‘approach’ of a ‘culture’ to the ‘material’ through the exploration of Turkish consumer society.


material; industrial design; perception; association