"Big changes have taken place in terms of how and where textiles are produced and what textiles can be and do. At the same time, the way that product designers work has also changed, for example with an increasing use of digital design tools that can clash with soft, elastic textiles. These changes in materials and practical changes affect both what is designed and our ability to work with textiles in the design process".
Linnéa Nilsson was awarded her PhD at the Swedish School of Textiles at the University of Borås on 27 January 2016. She herself has trained in both product design and textile design and has studied the relationship between textile design and product design in a number of different projects. Some of the questions that Linnéa Nilsson has examined in more detail are: When and how do product designers include textiles in the design process and how does that choice affect what products can be created? What happens to the design process with the introduction of textiles that differ from ordinary fabrics, for example Smart Textiles which may contain electronics as well as textile fibres and which may thus become less flexible to work with? What approach must a textile designer adopt to the future use, whether known or unknown, of the textiles that he or she designs?
"My research shows the importance of reflecting on and developing the relationship between textile design and product design – to enable the best possible advantage to be taken of current and future opportunities involving both new and conventional materials", says Linnéa Nilsson.
A theoretical framework for the design process
In her thesis, she introduces a theoretical framework and detailed descriptions of different types of design processes that can be used or that may be of use in reflections of this kind.
Linnéa Nilsson's research consists of theoretical work, design experiments and observation. She has, for example, observed product design students' very different ways of working with textiles in the design process. This has resulted, among other things, in a theoretical framework that describes what happens to textiles and products in the design process, from both a product designer's and a textile designer's point of view.
In her thesis, she also describes some of the interesting possibilities that new materials such as Smart Textiles and 3D printed textiles can bring to the design process, for example as interactive/changeable sketching tools. One example of this is the Open Structures project, in which Linnéa Nilsson has produced two kinds of 3D printed textiles designed to be able to change both their appearance and their physical properties when another person sketches with the material.
"It is clear that different methods are appropriate for different materials, so there is no single truth", she says. However, the ability to make more advanced products requires consideration of how we work and often also requires more cooperation between the textile designer and the product designer.
Footnote: Images and videos from the Open Structures project