Rethinking E-textile design: process, purpose and sustainability

Wickenden, R. ORCID: 0000-0003-2573-349X, 2021. Rethinking E-textile design: process, purpose and sustainability. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

Rachael Wickenden 2021 incl3rdpartycopyright.pdf - Published version

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The desire to integrate electronic technology into the physical fabric of everyday life has driven both design and technical researchers to create amalgamations of electronics and textiles, known today as E‐textiles. The science and engineering community has conducted the bulk of this research prioritising technical goals. E‐textiles have experienced limited commercial success, in part attributable to technological, economic, structural, social and regulatory factors. This investigation focused on the role and strategies that textile designers can adopt in a purpose‐led process by which to design E‐textiles for interior spaces.

Textiles go through multiple layers of design before they are used. Each layer manipulates and transforms the work of the previous. However, textile designers rarely invent the products that textiles become, instead their involvement is limited to producing a material that fits a specification. This research finds that emerging E‐textile technology confounds the conventional textile‐product separation. The disruption to the textile design process that E-textiles present is acute with respect to their environmental impact, prompting the thesis to take a stance critical of E-textiles and ask why their development should be led by technology, instead giving priority to their purpose.

It examines the multidisciplinary process of designing E‐textiles for the interior spaces in which we live, work, and travel, through four action research 'Design Situations'. These were an extended period of professional practice, an academic workshop, a student project and an industry workshop with a design response. The Situations started at the fuzzy front end of the design process, where both the problem and its solution are unclear. They trialled and evaluated techniques from textile, product and interaction design, grappling with the tension between the focus on E‐textiles and a purpose‐led approach.

The endpoint is a series of insights to inform textile design practice. It proposes that considering purpose is a means to critique design outcomes. It invites a shift in thinking from 'E‐textiles' to 'Electronic and Textile Systems', composed of electronic and textile elements but with no requirement for physical unity. Thinking of systems increases the range of possibilities and favours integrating electronics only where it best serves a design’s purpose. To purposefully design E‐textiles requires an expanded textile design practice that engages with different layers of design, encompassing both the constituent elements and considerations of product, people and place.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Wickenden, R.
Date: March 2021
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author, Rachael Wickenden. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Art and Design
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 13 Jan 2022 10:48
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2022 10:49

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