Ageing (dis)gracefully: Enabling designers to understand material change

From the moment of purchase, pristine objects are subjected to an array of stimuli including wear, impact, heat, light, water and air which alter their tactile and aesthetic properties. Material change is often regarded as ‘damage’ or ‘degradation’ and contributes to premature obsolescence but has potential to be used as a tool to engender emotional engagement with an object and extend product lifetimes. However, materials resources for designers rarely provide information about how materials will change in use. In this paper we draw on a combination of literature and user studies to elucidate the complex web of factors which contribute to changes in material surfaces, which we present in a ‘framework for understanding material change’. We go on to explore the role that changes to product material surfaces, and the design of objects to change in particular ways with use, could have on the transition to circular modes of consumption. A range of resources which aim to increase designers’ understanding of material change are presented, and the challenges of creating, utilising and developing these resources are discussed.