This project aimed to tackle the divide between HCI researchers and Interior Designers when exploring, evaluating and ultimately instilling interactive materials into interior spaces. Organic User Interfaces (OUIs), including smart materials such as shape-changing alloys (SMAs), colour-changing paints (thermochromic pigments) and conductive materials (fabrics, paints, metal powders), can be used to embed actuating and sensing capabilities into our everyday objects and surfaces. However they are often considered initially in terms of operational performance at a technical level via a problem-solving approach, with less emphasis on the aesthetic qualities that might result from their use. As part of the investigation to bring the two fields together, workshops with students from architecture and interior design were conducted, facilitated by HCI researchers. Through a process of 1) material exploration, 2) ideation through concept generation and finally 3) a design challenge, the outcomes showed an intricate consideration of how designers learnt through a hands-on approach to embed a new understanding of smart materials to communicate their design ideas through colour change, explore materiality through tactile sensations, and shift focus within an interior through shape-change.
The project supports the clear need for a multi-disciplinary approach to the use of smart materials in interior design and architecture beyond the traditional researcher-participant relationship to one of co-designer and co-author with everyone involved in the process of exploration and design. Such effective collaboration bridges the gap between the disciplines to ensure that the designer fully understands the potential opportunities afforded by smart materials, leading to a revolution in interior design through the development of interactive and actuated surfaces, furnishings and decorative artefacts.