Matter with the ability to be broken down into non-harmful substances through natural processes. The time frame taken for materials with this capacity varies dependent on the perishability of the material itself.
Plastics which fall into this definition exist on a spectrum ranging from fossil-fuel and biologically based plastics that are biodegradable to biologically based plastics that are not biodegradable.
Circular Economy
The circular economy, following the model outlined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, is based on three principles. These are: to design out waste and pollution; to keep products and materials in use; and to regenerate natural systems. By following these principles the aim is to design waste out of the system.
Sometimes considered to be the same as biodegradability, compostable materials require specific conditions in order to decompose back to their natural elements, and typically do so in a shorter time frame.
DIY Materials
A DIY Material is to be understood to be any material created through individual or collective processes of invention, play, failure and fixing, often by techniques of the designers own invention.
Ecological Matter
Matter which has a symbiotic relationship between the organisms it is composed of and the environment that sustains it either during the process of making or continually throughout its life.
A series of stages that characterise the course of existence of a material, individual or culture. When thinking about the lifecycle of a material we can witness its progression from raw state to product and back again if it has the ability to biodegrade, be recycled or repurposed. See also - Material Flows
Maker Culture
An inclusive community of makers built upon the idea of using making as the basis of knowledge production and sharing. This creator society is largely based upon an agreed model and belief in open-source making. Due to making being understood as a process, maker culture in its definition is understood to develop as such too.
Material Designer
Material Designers are agents of change. They can design, redesign, reform, reuse and redefine materials giving them an entirely new purpose. Increasing the potential of materials they can go on to research, advise, educate and communicate what materials are and can be in the immediate, near and far future. These actions have the ability to implement positive social, economical, political and environmental change across all sectors, towards a more responsibly designed future.
Material Flows
Material flows trace the life of materials and how they change over time from an initial state as raw material, through various state changes during processing, into separate components and onwards into things. During this journey of flux and flow matter changes form, place and meaning over time.
Material Narratives
The stories emergent from the cultural, ecological and technological system of relations surrounding the material, its making, and the purpose it now holds.
An act and process of preventing damage or decay, dependent on size, material composition and perishability, usually due to value or survival.
Instead of letting a material go to waste, recoverable materials are restored to usefulness, regaining their former condition or being designed into another functional state.
Previously used or surplus materials are processed and treated in order to regain materials suitable for further use.
To repurpose is to give new purpose or use. In material making this can take different forms. It can apply to the use of the tools during making, the matter being given a new purpose from that we are currently used to, or the matter being processed in a way that alters the state we know it in.
Speculative Design
A critical frame of design thinking which considers possible futures through a series of fictional objects and systems. This form of material interrogation is used to stimulate debate, imagination and critical thinking with publics.
Something that produces in excess of what is required. Within materials thinking and making there is a resurgence in considering use for overlooked material resources, resulting in new applications for otherwise unused leftovers and waste.
In terms of materials, sustainability is a method of using a resource in moderation in order to enable continual reuse and refrain from damaging surrounding ecological and social landscapes. With regards to systems, to be sustainable is a measure of whether an action or process can indefinitely keep going.
Systems Thinking
A holistic approach to analysis of systems that understands emergent behaviour from component interactions. This analysis views everything as intimately interconnected and considers how systems work over time, the interrelation of the parts which make up the overall system, the processes that connect these constituent parts and the larger systems that they make up.
Virgin Materials
Matter in its raw state, before cultivation, modification, processing or use in any manner. To use a virgin material, is to use a material for the first time.

MaDe, a project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of The European Union, aims at boosting talents towards circular economies across Europe partnering with design and cultural institutions, Elisava, Ma-tt-er and Politecnico di Milano.

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