"Black Textures" is a research through design project completed during my first year of Industrial Design master at the TU/e. The project was conducted within the "Crafting Everyday Soft Things" squad - a group where students and researchers all collaborate around a single theme, that is, smart wearables and materials.
Rei Kawakubo, Mark Jacobs, Alexander Wang. Fashion designers have created all black collections to make a statement for a very long time. There is something about the color black that elicits a certain response in the wearers and the spectators. But what about while using it? Materiality can have a strong impact on how computational artefacts are perceived and used. This study looks into the use of black aesthetics in tangible user interfaces (TUIs) by recreating the archetypal Swiss railway clock using 3 pairs of textiles with 6 contrasting material properties.
The results of this study steer towards a new discussion to be led in the field of TUI design: how can we quantify the amount of blackness in a design? Can we describe this color with more terms rather than just ‘'black'’? If so, what physical properties do we take into consideration in terms of the used material?
"Black Textures" was the first research through design project that I carried out alone and the first time I had written a research paper with no help or editing from a professor.
finding a topic worthy of researching, designing the research method, doing background research, analyzing quantitative data, performing thematic analysis on qualitative data, writing research paper
conducting plenty of explorations and iterations to identify a good way to use "black" and the right design to use it in in order to elicit reactions from people, designing and crafting the final research artifact
One of the challenges to overcome in this project was choosing a subject. I decided to try and come up with an idea that would tackle aesthetics and creativity since I wanted to improve my craftsmanship and aesthetic design skills. It was not easy at all, especially because the subject I first chose (effect of black clothing on the wearer and audience) did not offer much background knowledge that I could get inspired from. However, with the help of feedback I got from my coach and some of the professors, I switched onto the topic the project focused on, black aesthetics in tangible interfaces. Again, not much background work on this (almost none), however, it offered an opportunity for making an exploration! I have always been fascinated by the papers which were focusing on exploring the possibilities of interfaces and pushed the boundaries of human technology interaction. Therefore, I was excited to write one myself.
creative & aesthetic
I will be honest, I have doubted myself very often along the process because of the unusual subject and the reserved reactions from the general public. However, seeing how well my explorations and my prototypes have turned out, I regained my confidence. I got to improve my craft, which was what I set out for in the beginning, and I got to learn and practice how to use all the machinery inside the wearables lab: the sewing machines, the embroidery machine (which I learned during the Obi Uke project) and the vinyl cutter. Moreover, I learned how to design files for the laser cutter and finally got to practice laser cutting on fabric. Now I know how different textiles react to the laser, what works with small details and what not.
Another important point to make is that I used different methods during my design process in order to see what reactions are elicited within the users. Not only did I use different crafting techniques with the help of the available machines (see above), but I also made wooden structure by using the Oogway library and the tessellation programming I learned while crafting "Eden" and hand-painted it, and dressed for a week in all black to observe people's reactions.