At KISD teaching and research are characterized by a special approach to the analysis of subjects. Designers and researchers from different disciplines – with their specific knowledge in theory and practice – collaborate in research-oriented projects, and share their know-how for the analysis of multifaceted topics. The project “Material as Actor – From the Life of Substances“, under the direction of Prof. Dr. Carolin Höfler (Design Theory and Design Research) and Prof. Andreas Muxel (Interface Design), serves as an example for a co-operation of this kind.

The idea behind this project was the correlation between abstract algorithms, digital codes, and the material world. Today, facing an increasing existence of algorithmic artefacts, many stress that the traditional world of physical material has come to an end. But by analyzing these digital processes and products, it is not the question of dissolution of the physical world, but rather the idea of refreshing and updating an outdated concept of material.

The latter has recently had its comeback in many studies. Here, material is not anymore just a passive element in the process of implementing creation-oriented and designrelated strategies. It has by itself developed and shaped complex structures of reciprocity in action and interaction between potential user and environment. Given this background, traditional patterns of distinction – between synthetic and organic, man-made and naturegiven – begin to blur and become obsolete. Through individual experiences, experiments, and monitoring, students enlarged their knowledge and directly applied it. Students thoroughly examined material in motion that ranges from flexible and volatile substances to digital codes as formed or formable matter.

Participants also took a closer look at the nature of analog and digital material processes, and analyzed their manifestations and repercussions. Students also developed a wide range of machines, devices, and other equipment directly related to their research. For example: A unit which transforms digital binary codes into smoke signals, a loud speaker system which turns frequencies of sound into patterns of iron powder, a sugar lamp which disintegrates during exercise, moist kept sheet of rice papers which fold, during the process of drying, into more solid material, and self-cultivated mushrooms of kombucha from which substances for skin-similar fabric can be extracted.