I found a really interesting book today at the book store. It is called "Stuff Matters -- exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world" and it is written by Mark Miodownik. Miodownik is a professor of materials and society.
Materials make up our designed world. Most everything that humans have designed are manifested through the shaping of materials. This is true even when we talk about service design or other forms of process designs. In order to make services or processes possible there is usually some materials involved (sometimes simple materials as texts on paper).
Miodownik has a fascination and passion about materials. In the book he discusses ten different
materials that have been crucial in the forming of our society, such as steel, paper, glass, etc.
It is exciting to see how most of the materials we are surrounded by has been part of our history and been useful for a long time while we only recently have started to understand why different materials have their unique qualities.
Since design and materials go together in an intimate way, I think this book would be of interest to most designers. The book does not necessarily make design easier or better, but it resonates with the sense of wonder that a lot of designers feel when it comes to materials. The book explain in a simple and sometimes deeper way why certain qualities of materials are extremely complex and has consequences on so many levels (for instance, why stainless steel does not taste and therefore is excellent as silverware). It becomes evident that any choice of materials is a core activity in design that influences everything else.
Miodownik has written a book that is very easy to read, no technical knowledge is needed. He tells stories about materials that are fascinating and informative, and not to forget, it is a fun book to read.