Humankind has a lot of specific abilities that set us apart from other species, helping us to develop and grow as the years pass by. One of our skills is the ability to take raw materials and turn them into products that we use in our everyday lives. We took a look at some of the key moments in the past to help understand product design in the present and the potential for the future – find out more now!

Design Materials From the Past

Looking at the key moments from the past helps us to understand the evolution of products that we use today:

The Stone Age – during this time, materials such as wood, bones and flint were commonplace and used to create tools and earthenware.

The Bronze Age – as copper and bronze were discovered, the tools that were in use were given an upgrade and new discoveries such as wheels and levers made engineering feats possible. Some of the most commonly used materials in these times were metal, glass and paper.

The Iron Age – iron ore created new possibilities and smelting became a widely used method to create weapons as well as new implements that were designed to make life easier. It was the Iron Age that resulted in lots of new growth, helping to create the start of the world that we know today.

The Plastic Age – the amount of growth that has occurred during the past century has enabled creators to come up with brand new materials that are not found in the natural world. One of the most popular is plastic. However, as the rise of plastic offers greater convenience, it has also led to climate concerns and the growth in demand for sustainable solutions.

Design Materials Today

With so many different materials on offer, we are now in a period where we are looking for long-term solutions that will promote the growth of mankind’s capabilities while considering the impact on Mother Nature, through sustainable product design. Some of the key materials being used right now include:

Wood – this material remains highly popular across the globe and is used for a variety of purposes including furniture, tools and transport. However, there are concerns around the continued use of wood and achieving a sustainable future, making producers look for wood materials that have been responsibly sourced.

Metal – iron, copper, steel and more make up the demand for metal solutions in modern times. From recyclable solutions such as steel to high-performance solutions such as lithium and titanium, metal is one of the most used resources we have right now.

Carbon – this material is not just lightweight, but it is high performance and can be modelled using technology. It’s an expensive solution but offers strength, flexibility and more, depending on your design needs.

Plastic – it may be one of the most controversial materials in use today, but plastic has earned its place as one of the most popular materials made in the last century. The mass production and use of plastic have left the globe with a massive climate problem, mainly because we have misused it. The lesson we’ve learned is that materials need to be assessed properly before being mass produced. But products can still be made sustainably using plastic, let’s not forget that point!

Design Materials of the Future

To be able to successfully consider the future of materials, it is vital that we look to the present and the past to learn the lessons of our ancestors. However, we don’t yet know what new materials will be discovered and what new production methods will be. What we can be certain of is that there will be increasing pressure on manufacturers to recycle and reuse materials as well as finding new ways to balance the use of new and natural materials.

Ultimately, humans have a unique ability to find solutions and adapt to situations, no matter how demanding. This means that we can be confident that new ideas are sure to present themselves, helping us to solve the crisis that we face as a race.