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Armin Azar on the Digital & Networked Future of Material Sampling


Maintaining a material library remains a formidable challenge for architects and interior designers across the globe. AarHuss Global co-founder Armin Azar writes about how embracing digital tools, networked platforms, and community initiatives could empower design professionals to effectively navigate the complex world of material selection.

By Armin Azar

19 March 2024

Material samples are powerful tools that provide a visual and tactile experience | Image Courtesy of Pexels

In the intricate world of architecture and interior design, the choice of materials plays a pivotal role in shaping the character, functionality, and aesthetics of spaces. Practitioners have long recognized the necessity of material samples in their design and conceptualization processes. Material samples are not merely aesthetic tokens; they are powerful tools that provide a visual and tactile experience. Whether it's the warmth of natural wood, the sleekness of polished metal, or the coziness of plush fabric, this irreplaceable sensory engagement with textures, colors, and finishes allows architects and interior designers to effectively test and validate their ideas.

Material sampling serves another very important function: enhancing communication between creative professionals and their clients, bridging the gap between conceptualization and realization. Visualizing and describing design concepts can often be a challenging task, especially when relying solely on verbal or written communication. Material samples serve as a more hands-on point of reference, fostering meaningful discussion and engagement between designers and clients. They provide project owners a tangible glimpse into envisioned spaces, empowering them to better understand and appreciate proposed designs, thus aiding in informed decision-making and aligning aspirations with outcomes.

The process of acquiring and maintaining a comprehensive material library, however, remains a formidable challenge for everyone from small interior design studios to large, well-established architectural firms.  

Conventional Material Sampling: A Time & Resource Intensive Endeavor 

In the conventional approach to sampling, architects and designers often find themselves engrossed in a very laborious process of collecting, organizing, and maintaining material samples. This demands a significant investment of time, a precious commodity in the fast-paced world of design. This process also means that practitioners must juggle relationships with multiple suppliers, each with its unique set of procedures, lead times, and communication channels. Coordinating these diverse elements becomes a logistical challenge, leading to delays in project timelines, potential miscommunications and compromises in the quality of the final design, as well as stress for design professionals.

The conventional material sampling process is time- and resource-intensive | Image Courtesy of Pexels

With sustainability being an increasingly central concern today, the environmental impact of such a process also assumes significance. Building and sustaining a robust material library necessitates substantial resources — from securing adequate storage space to managing related administrative tasks. Procurement of physical samples is also a carbon-intensive activity, not to mention the huge volume of unused samples that often go to waste.

Streamlining Material Sampling for Efficiency & Innovation

Promisingly, a paradigm shift is underway within the design industry in response to these challenges. Forward-thinking design communities and material hubs are redefining how architects and interior designers approach the critical phase of material selection. The digital era has ushered in a new wave of possibilities. Virtual tools and online platforms today enable architects and designers to explore and interact with a vast array of materials without the need for physical samples. This not only saves time but is a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach too.

The digital era is redefining how architects and interior designers approach material selection | Image Courtesy of Pexels

A host of collaborative platforms and networks are also bringing together material suppliers and design professionals, facilitating seamless communication. This allows architects and interior designers to explore options, request samples, and make informed decisions efficiently. Such design communities, whether local or online, offer a collaborative environment where professionals can share insights and experiences as well. By pooling resources and knowledge in this way, designers can learn from each other and collectively overcome challenges. This could not only streamline the material sampling process but will also foster a culture of innovation and collaboration within the design community.

As the design industry continues to evolve, the process of material sampling is undoubtedly undergoing a transformative shift as well. Embracing digital tools, networked platforms, and community-based initiatives is already empowering architects and interior designers to navigate the complex world of material selection with greater efficiency and creativity. The future promises a seamless integration of technology, community, and sustainable practices, which will ensure that material sampling becomes a harmonious and integral part of the design journey.