Making Futures 2021

Life cycles of Material Worlds

The seventh edition of our Making Futures biennial international research conference will be held on 16th September 2021.

Monica Hartvigsen

PhD-fellow, Lab for Design and Sustainability, Design School Kolding, Denmark| MA Textile Design, Royal Danish Academy|

This contribution discusses the emerging field of bio-design through Monica's research into natural pigment-producing bacteria as an alternative colouring agent, as a consequence of socio-environmental issues.

The pigment producing bacteria that will be discussed in this session have been isolated from the Danish soil and cultivated in different growth media to produce a pigment. The method of developing pigment is not something designers traditionally have been working with. This approach traces how the pigments are formed by the microorganisms which produce them, bringing non-humans and humans closer together in the process of discovery. Through time-lapse documentations, the pigment production is made visual thus reflecting the bacterial species different personalities. Working with microorganisms requires the designer to utilise new design sensibilities - an informed eye and scientific mind - since it uses a different form of making and creates an alternative material ecology.

The pigments are applied by Monica using different approaches. She colours different textile fibre types and tests lightfastness and wash fastness, revealing the nature of these pigments and in doing so bringing into question the quality of change as a design parameter. Monica will make the argument that humans are ready to adapt their behaviour and are challenged to accept changes of mindset and approach in the treatment of materials as something beautiful and valuable.

The experiments which will be drawn upon in the session have been carried out in DIY biolab at a Danish Design School, situating the practice in a local environment and democratizing the science by involving other designers and their projects.


Monica Hartvigsen holds an MA in textile Design from the Royal Danish Academy. She is currently a PhD-fellow at Design School Kolding in Denmark researching bacterial colouring for textile fibre application using new material ecologies. In addition, she has previously studied molecular biology for two years, combining past and present knowledge in her PhD project.