Manipulating the Material Code. The Transformation of Material Meaning in Contemporary Japanese Design.

Blaine Brownell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Materiality is known to be a critical dimension in the design of products and environments, yet the influence of material properties on the user experience is not well understood. A collection of examples produced by representatives of the current Japanese design vanguard reveals an astute understanding of audience expectations of material behaviors. By intentionally manipulating the expected material properties in their designs, these practitioners demonstrate the extent to which the act of transforming material characteristics can elevate user consciousness. This chapter highlights five primary strategies of material transformation employed by these designers: sensory manipulation, quasi-mimesis, transliteration, repurposing, and aggregation. Although these methods are presented in the context of Japanese design, the intent is to address universally applicable strategies that are not limited to a single culture or society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMaterials Experience
Subtitle of host publicationFundamentals of Materials and Design
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780080993591
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Design
  • Japan
  • Sensory
  • Transformation
  • User experience


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