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Design Products (MA)

Zixiang Zhang

Zixiang Zhang is a multi-disciplinary designer with background in material design and biology. The practice in material design enables her to explore innovative materials, textures, and manufacturing techniques, while her understanding of biology brings a more diverse perspective. 

Meanwhile, she has a passion for speculative design. She considers the material design in the future can be divided into two aspects. One is to define and forecast the future by observing and analyzing our current living environment, living state, and existing issues. At the same time, the combination of social, scientific, environmental, ecological, and economic aspects of the investigation can expand our views on the future and provide rich information for future materials, products, and urban design.

The other aspect of the future material is the definition of materials. By breaking the boundaries of art, design, science, technology, and other disciplines, material futures can break through the limitations of materials that we observe and feel, endow existing materials with potential value, and explore new materials that can be used in the future, to solve the problem of sustainable development.

Zixiang Zhang

Enabling collaboration between design and nature

As climate change, resource shortage, and garbage flooding have become the concerns of all circles of society, learning from nature allows me to see the new solution direction of "autonomy". Sustainable design is not only to solve pollution but also to create self-regulating products and manufacturing systems to reform the environment more comprehensively.

To be a research-based designer

Treat the design process as a science experiment. Data analysis is significant.

Any concept is unlimited

Do not hold yourself back by worrying that the method necessary to execute your ideas may not exist.

Keep the design simple

Trying to please everyone is a recipe for stress, misery, lost resources, and frustration. So don’t be afraid to lose people, be afraid to lose vision.

Sea level map


Due to the increasingly concerning impacts of climate change, one of the significant challenges we face is the rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities. Meanwhile, due to this imminent threat, the cities could be divided into multiple parts in the future. It is not only the land but also the water that connects the buildings. Therefore, people will have to commute between water and land every day.


Based on mentioned trends, this project aims to create an adaptive material which could be made into garments to enable people to walk freely between water and land.

Design Process:

1. Floating material

Research the characteristics and adaptations of marine animals and aquatic plants that enable them to float or stay buoyant in water. Understand their structures, surface textures, and overall buoyancy mechanisms. Mimics the key features and properties of marine animals and aquatic plants to design a lightweight floating material.

2. Self-morphing material

Explore shape-shifting or responsive materials that change their properties when exposed to water. These materials can expand or change their structure, increasing buoyancy and assisting in flotation.

Future commute scenario
Future commute scenario
Lightweight Floatation Material
Mimics the key features of aquatic plants, for example, surface properties. Experiment with different materials, structures, and configurations to achieve the desired buoyancy and floating capabilities.
Performance TestTest the prototypes in water to evaluate their performance of flotation and weight capacity
Performance TestMimics the surface structure of the Amazon royal water lily leaf
Performance TestMimics the hairy surface structure of aquatic fern Salvinia Molesta
Self-morphing Material
Self-morphing materials that are knitted with cellulose yarn can change their properties when exposed to water. These materials can change their structure, increasing buoyancy and assisting in flotation
material introduce
Experiment process