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DRSelects: Tincuta Heinzel on Textiles, Material Experiences, Design and Philosophy and Open Design

DRSelects: Tincuta Heinzel on Textiles, Material Experiences, Design and Philosophy and Open Design

  1. Please introduce yourself, your role in the DRS and your research.

I am Tincuta Heinzel, Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University, (UK) School of Design and Creative Arts, and elected member of the International Advisory Board of the DRS. With a background in visual arts and textiles design, cultural anthropology and ethnography, philosophy of arts and technology, as well as media studies, my research focuses on the way material and digital assemblies are informing designers’ way of working, as well as society’s ways of functioning. I am interested in arts and design epistemologies, and the philosophies of making. This is the reason why theory and practice are playing an equal place in my research. In the latest years my projects focused on electronic and reactive textiles, interactive and tangible interfaces, nanotechnologies and the new materialisms paradigms, as well as the interplay between cybernetics, AI, industry, and economy. I had the chance to work in different contexts (Romania, France, Germany, UK, USA, or Norway) and I have coordinated and curated a series of projects such as “Designano” (2020), “Utopian Cities, Programmed Societies” ( (2019-2020), “Attempts, Failures, Trials and Errors” (2017-2018) and “Repertories of (in)discreetness” (2015-2018).


  1. Could you talk about the initiatives you’re involved with in the DRS and any upcoming events you’d like to share?

Recently, I became the convenor of the Interdisciplinary Textiles Design Research SIG within the DRS. The SIG brings together some of the main voices of contemporary textiles design research. The aim of the SIG is to encourages a systemic perspective that enables to reflect on textiles objects, environments, and contexts, to investigate textiles design processes and practices and the dynamics between them. 

The first event of the SIG is the organization of TEXTILE INTERSECTIONS Conference which will take place between 20-23 of September 2023 at Loughborough University London Campus ( TEXTILE INTERSECTIONS is a four-day conference, doctoral consortium and exhibition explores and celebrates the nature of collaborations in textile design research through six themes: Textiles and Architecture, Textiles and Sports, Biotextiles and Sustainable Textiles, Interactive and Performative Textiles, Advanced Textiles Materials and Processes, Critical Textiles. 


  1. What do you see as the benefits of being involved with the DRS and how can those interested become more involved in the Society?

DRS has proved over the years to be a dynamic platform for the promotion of design research. It creates the premises to connect design practices with design studies and design engineering and to bring together researchers from all over the world. The biannual DRS general conference, the establishment of SIGs, the organization of the Digital Library are just some of activities under the DRS’s umbrella which allow the exchange between peers and the support of young researchers. As a DRS member you will have the chance to discuss the latest issues related to design as profession, to contribute to the discourse related to the place of design in society, and by doing so, to become an active member of a discipline and profession whose actions have a direct impact on the way we live and we will live our lives.


  1. Choose 5 items from the DRS Digital Library

The selection of texts from the DRS Digital Library was driven by several topics that I would like to highlight when it comes to design research. Therefore, there are more than just 5 papers.



The first topic is related to textiles, more precisely to electronic and reactive textiles. In the latest 20 years there have been major changes when it comes to the way we use and interact with textiles, and the electronic and reactive textiles played an important role in the development of interactive and physical computing design practices. E-textiles require a collaborative approach and knowledge in areas such as textiles, materials sciences, electronics, and programming. Moreover, the establishment of the Interdisciplinary Textiles Design Research SIG was driven by the need to bring together the multiple facets of textiles design research. There are many inspiring papers related to textiles in the DRS Digital Library. Here are some of them:

Anne Louise Bang – Fabrics in Function - Emotional Utility Values (2007) ( 

Linnea Nilsson, Anna Vallgarda, Linda Worbin – Designing with Smart Textiles: a New Research Program (2011). (

Ramyah Gowrishankar, Katharina Bredies - The Music Sleeve: Fabric as an Electronic Interface Medium (2011) ( ).

Erin Lewis – Between yarns and Electrons: A Method for Designing Textural Expressions in Electromagnetic Smart Textiles (2021). (  

Alice Buso, Holly McQuillan, Kaspar Jansen, Elvin Karana - The unfolding of textileness in animated textiles: An exploration of woven textile-forms (2022). (



The second topic I searched for in the DRS Digital Library is related to materials experiences perspective. Along with the “materials way of thinking” paradigm that defines the development of materials sciences since 1980s, the “materials experiences” paradigm helped to connect with the users’ perspective when it comes to the materials’ selection. One of the researchers that contributed to the development of this paradigm is Elvin Karana. Here is one of her texts:

Serena Camera, Elvin Karana - Experiential Characterization of Materials: toward a toolkit (2018)(



Design and philosophy are maintaining close tights when it comes to design research in spite of the apparent tensions between theory and practice. As someone who had the chance to study under Pierre-Damien Huyghe at Paris 1 University and read his work on “Art and Industry. Philosophy of Bauhaus” ( ), I came to appreciate the philosophical stances of those involved in the establishment of the institution considered to be the first modern design’s cornerstone. From the DRS’s Digital Library, I selected three papers that discuss the relationship between design and philosophy. The first one is Betti Marenko’s inquiry into what can philosophy do for design? The second paper is Sander Mulder’s one on the place of Gilbert Simondon’s philosophy in defining responsibility in design.

Betti Marenko - Introduction: Design-ing and Creative Philosophies (2016) (

Sander Mulder - Responsibility in design: applying the philosophy of Gilbert Simondon (2016).


Last, but not least I would like to mention the text of one of my colleagues, Avsar Gupinar, -Towards an object-oriented design ontology (2022). ( 



The last area I am discussing here is that of open research and open publication. There is no doubt that we assist to a change in the model of science mediatisation and publication. For the best! Still, this situation doesn’t come without critical points to address. Here is a text that explores the application of open design framework in the development of a more-than-human and citizen science project.

Robert Phillips & Sharon Baurley: Exploring Open Design for the Application of Citizen Science; a Toolkit Methodology (2014)

 September 20, 2023