B. Del Curto1, S. Lucibello2, L. Trebbi2

1Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
2Sapienza University of Rome (ITALY)
The Paper illustrates a specific “joined teaching” experience - addressed to students with a miscellaneous background of the Master of Science in Product Design at Sapienza University of Rome - lead by a Materials Science and Engineering Professor from Politecnico di Milano and a Design Professor from Sapienza University of Rome. This “joined teaching” experience has been built on a strong interaction and hybridization between the methodologies of material science (deductive-logical-analytical) an design (inductive-experiential-synthetical). Such methodologies, as different in the research phase as in the educational one, have been hybridized resulting in a virtuous cycle albe to connect the scientific research with the design of applications, and to create innovation in the field of product design such as in the field of materials science.

In the last decades, the role of material science in the design field has gone through a significant transformation, since materials went from being given entities upstream of the project, to be themselves something to design. Therefore, product innovation can arise from the quality of the idea as much as from the intrinsic quality of the material itself, leading to a convergence between materials and design. Employing the project-based learning (PBL) method, provides a significant opportunity for teaching design students a direct knowledge about concepts and principles of material science through the project, involving them in problem-solving, decision making and investigative activities, which culminate in the development of a realistic design concept.

The topic addressed by the Product design studio V course - Master of Science in Product Design - Sapienza University of Rome, is “Translucency for living in the future”, investigating the theme of translucency and its relation with light, both studied as physical-technical features and aesthetic-perceptual feature, able to determine design innovation. The topic is analyzed considering and identifying the four categories of Stratification, Brightness, Porosity and Thinness, sometimes interrelated, through which explore features and properties of translucent materials. The aim is to provide useful tools to know and understand innovation, interpret and imagine the qualities of materials in accordance with the project, merging lectures and a one-week immersion educational experience. The course has been organized in three phases: a preliminary activity consisting in lectures about analysis and tools, and culminating in the realization of a moodboard; a full-immersion workshop, during which conceiving and developing the design concept; and reviews on the final work development. The core of the whole course is the workshop, based on the PBL method that fosters collaborative work and enhances design thinking, shifting a huge portion of teaching activity from teacher-directed to “intentional learning” model. The workshop experience promotes cooperative learning, with the professors facilitation but not direction, taking great account of the important role of social interaction in learning. When working together in a situated activity, learners are able to develop a shared understanding of principles and ideas through back-and-forth sharing and debating of ideas, creating a “community of learners”.