Made in

Bioplastic 80 Circular 224 Plant-based 177 Textile 96 Vegan 95 Glycerine 38 Kelp 4 Seaweed 15


Photos: Jing-cai Liu

Seaweed Matters

This design project includes characteristics of speculative design, critical design, and design fiction. The created designs and visualisations for this project are physical objects and digital visualisations that explores the future of the Netherlands.

The visualisations tell an imagined story based on the knowledge and perceptions of these experts. Experts from different fields were asked to speculate together on how this world will look like, especially around the topic of seaweed. The visualisations of the Netherlands in a hundred years’ time are speculations that start from a trustworthy perspective, a serious societal challenge. It emphasises the current debate about the depletion of natural resources, climate change, and sustainability. However, the main goal of this project is not to make designs that could solve these societal problems. The elaboration of the visualisations consists of contradictory meanings that should evoke a dialogue with individuals and increase their awareness of nature and sustainability. Somehow, it criticised human beings as an enemy of nature. The envisioned future raises questions to people from society such as designers, researchers, entrepreneurs, engineers, innovators and green activists.

In this project, seaweed is explored to be a possible future material that could replace current materials that are not sustainable such as plastic and leather. Seaweed is an organic material that is of vegetable origin and it will decay quicker than plastic or animal leather.

In the first phase, a variety of material explorations were explored to make bioplastics from seaweeds. After explorations, a material of seaweed was created that is comparable to leather. The seaweed leather material is made by soaking the seaweed in materials that are used for making bioplastics such as vinegar, glycerine, etc. After combining different materials in the soaking processes, a good piece of seaweed leather is created that is soft, strong and smooth.

In the second phase, three designs are made with this seaweed material. These are possible products that could emerge in a nature-based future. The products include the following wearables: A pair of shoes, a bag and a cardholder. A frequently mentioned comment is why these products are chosen to represent future products. The idea is that this seaweed leather could replace animal leather in the future. In some way, it could be used now for making products that require less sturdy materials. Another aspect of making these daily products is that these products are recognised by today’s individuals, which makes it easier to reflect and compare the future with the current situation.

In the last phase, workshops, and interviews with seaweed experts were conducted to collect insights into this topic. Additionally, a video was created for provocation and to raise debates about using seaweed material in the future.

Making process

The seaweed leather material is made by soaking the seaweed in materials that are used for making bioplastics such as vinegar and glycerine. Although the final version of the seaweed leather is made by only using diluted glycerine, the steps of using different components are more significant for creating a good piece of seaweed leather that is soft, strong, and smooth.

Text submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank. For information about reproducing (a part of) this text, please contact the maker.


Kelp seaweed, glycerine, distilled water


Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University and Research, Rijkswaterstaat

Physical samples

  • 158

Accessible to participants at the Jan van Eyck Academie and during Open Studios.