Materials Library – Tools for a New Approach

Ravensbourne University Materials Library – UK

The Importance of Material Usage

Material application can be an underestimated part of the design process. Material usage can increase a product’s impact greatly when administered in the right way. As Benchmarc’s team traveled to NeoCon 2018 in downtown Chicago this month we came across the importance of material application illuminated by exhibitors largely in comparison to years past at the show.

Not only were showrooms draped with powerful, eye catching elements and beautifully executed products, but the showcasing of the product line’s materials were predominately displayed as well. When examining the product lines on display at NeoCon we came to realize that their materials libraries were nearly just as evident as the physical product on display.

Steelcase, NeoCon 2018


Steelcase, NeoCon 2018

Purpose behind Materials Libraries

First of all, what is a materials library? Architectural, interior and varying other design industry firms as well as creative educational organizations are most commonly where you will find materials libraries. A collection of material swatches used in physical design projects can include elements from plastics, glass, woods, acrylic, to fabrics, vinyl, paint, and many others.

Within the design space, the process of material application can be underestimated. These material libraries are an effective resource used in design spaces for a variety of reasons.


An Educational Tool

Accumulating and updating a materials library can allow for an organization to stay up to date on materials from changes in colors to new and unique elements gaining popularity in manufacturing that can be utilized in designs.



















Presentation to the Client

Once a design’s form has been decided upon, material libraries that showcase varying options to use on the design can be used as an aide to guide client’s in the right direction of what to apply to their product for the final deliverable and eventual manufacturing.





Company Internal Use

As an internal design team, it can be very effective to utilize the materials library as a tool when approaching the material application stage of the design process. Referring to swatches in the library can provide the team with an opportunity to rethink traditional materials and purposes in order to potentially present a stronger final deliverable.








Showcasing Your Library

Sunbrella, NeoCon 2018

Regardless of the industry that the materials library finds its home in, the showcasing of the library can be utilized in a way to really strengthen a space. Not only does showcasing the library lead to more effective usage of it’s resources, but it can also add a great deal to the aesthetic of a studio space. The library being displayed well can also in turn lead to better usage by both employees and clientele. We saw this implemented around just about every corner at NeoCon 2018.


Effective Presentations

Check out these examples of how varying exhibitors at NeoCon 2018 and design studios around the world display their materials libraries to bring an exciting element to their space.



Niels Diffrient, NeoCon 2018
PolyU MRC Material Resource Centre – Hong Kong


New York, New York


KSU Department of Architecture “MAT_Lab”



Tokyo, Japan





Check out Material ConneXion’s site below to see how they’ve done an awesome job at showcasing their vast and unique materials library!











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