The next generation of polymeric materials will need features typically associated with biological systems, such as programmable, self-healing, and self-regenerating properties. While engineering synthetic materials with such capabilities remains a grand challenge, these properties are inherent to biofilm-forming bacteria, which use internal material factories to produce polymeric matrices with highly precise and complex structures and mechanical properties. However, establishing design rules for these materials has proven difficult due to their complex nature. We tackle this challenge by developing characterization and processing methods tailored for quantifying and programing the properties of living polymeric materials. Our work is highly collaborative and multidisciplinary, combining expertise from mechanics, engineering, microbiology, materials science, and polymer physics.