Design Challenge: Formal & Informal Materials

Can you select the more appropriate material for a given space?

This concept is inspired from the contents of an upcoming online workshop– Material Selection for Spatial Experiences

Thu Jul 22, 2021

Humans & Their Environment

Our minds subconsciously analyze the space we are in to better understand the appropriate way to behave in it.

Have you ever noticed how your behavior instantly tweaks a little when you enter the lobby of a starred hotel/corporate office?  Without us even noticing, the brain automatically activates the appropriate ways of behaving in any space we enter (home, college, office, or restaurant). 

In fact, it is well known to researchers that our brains are constantly analysing the environment around us to understand what the appropriate way of behaving in it would be.

Perfection tends to be more "Formal"

We can relate more with things that wear their imperfections with ease.

As humans we are well aware of our imperfections. As such, we find it difficult to relate with spaces/materials/furniture that lean more towards perfection, and hence consider them more "formal" . Whereas, things that wear their imperfections with ease feel more relatable, and less formal.  

Consider how the perfectly symmetrical office space on the left tends to feel more "formal" as compared to the more bohemian office space on the right.

Materials tend to be formal/informal too

The same concept can also be extended to materials. Consider the two wallpaper patterns below. All other aspects being the same, which one do you think would be more appropriate for a lawyer's office?

Most viewers would vote that the pattern in illustration A appears more formal than the pattern in illustration B and hence more appropriate for a lawyer's office (all other factors being equal).

We can take this concept even further and try to classify various types of natural materials in terms of formality/informality. 

Consider the two types of wood in the figure below. The texture on the left is a nice smooth one with clean grains. The texture on the right features a more dynamic grain. All other factors being equal, which pattern according to you would be considered more "formal"?

The difference between the two may be subtle, but in all probabilities, you may have voted for Wood Texture A to be more "formal" when compared to Wood Texture B (all other factors being equal).

Today's Design Challenge

Can you identify the more formal materials?

Now that you've grasped the concept of formal vs informal materials, can you apply the same to today's design challenge below?




Learn how to select & combine materials to create experiences like– comfort, awe, inspiration, connectedness, safety & accessibility.
  Partners at MATERIALDRIVEN  
  Alumnus of University of Pennsylvania and University of Arts London   


 Identify emotions and experiences associated with key building types

 Analyze the design parameters contributing to spatial experiences

 Understand the role of materials in creating spatial experiences

 Discover innovative materials.

 Learn how to apply of economical & experimental products

 Gain insights into material  trends & their impact