Mapping Report

Cumulus Conference, mapping the cumulus design lab by mapit

Used kit: Map your lab space

Organisation: (Mapping session at the Cumulus Conference, Z33 - house of contemporary art, Hasselt - B)
Moderator: Liesbeth Huybrechts, Jon Stam, Thomas Laureyssens
Date: 29/05/2010

The University of Art and Design in Helsinki (TAIK) and the Royal College of Art in London, in co-operation with Danmarks Designskole, Gerrit Rietvelt Academy, Universität Gesamthochschule Essen and Hochschule für Angewandte Kunst in Wien initiated the Cumulus Network in 1990. They all had a common desire to enhance the quality of education through co-operation, student and teacher exchange within the European Union Erasmus programme. The Network was transferred to Cumulus Association in 2001. The Cumulus conference took place in and around Genk (B) from 26th to 29th of May 2010 and tried to explore and experience the various facets of borderlines and of how limits and limitations are overcome. For more information, see:

The mapping session at the Cumulus Conference lasted almost two hours and consisted of three rounds. There were two groups and each group was lead by a moderator. There was also a more general moderator present who kept track of time and made sure that the most interesting parts of the mapping session were taped. In the first round of the session, after a presenter was appointed, each participant had to choose individually which key values the lab would represent. Next, they talked about this as a group and put the most important values in the compass on the map. Then the group had to decide on the key values and key people they wanted to include in their laboratory. The first round ended by the group locking three things they found the most important on their map. In the second round, the map and the presenter switched places with the map and the presenter of the other group. This next group had to bomb three elements of the map that they didn’t like or didn’t agree with (except for the items the previous group had just locked). Meanwhile they had to think of possible opportunities, chances or alternatives for the elements they had just bombed. They had to lock several elements that appealed to them on the map of the other group. After a second presenter and map-switch, the participants had to point out three things they really liked about the map of the other group and again had to bomb some of the elements that they didn’t like. Finally, the groups joined each other and each presenter presented the two maps to the whole group.

The first group teamed up the value “creative” with two other values: in the middle of their compass they put “creative collaboration” and “creative experimentation” as the two, most important key values. Amongst the key-people this group placed in their designer lab were mathematicians, writers, gardeners, scientists, cultural practitioners, students, designers, dancers, musicians, technology experts, sociologists and the public. A key space in their lab was a post-it wall for ideas and feedback. The group included several key tools in their lab, such as research tools, computers and brainstorming. An interesting aspect of this mapping was that the group created a space with actors, dancers, musicians, writers and other creative people which was bombed and counterbombed. The second group thought this space wasn’t needed and bombed it. However, the first group counterbombed it arguing that this space full of creative people was important since it would trigger senses other than the visual. Next, the group argued that artistic processes are essential for creative experimentation. Therefore, the hub of their lab consisted out of artists, food, drink, low-tech prototyping, role-playing and brainstorming, etc. They considered foods and drinks to be important in social activities and stated that brainstorming is – in a way – food for the brain. Further, this group experienced some difficulties with deciding where “the money” (the funding) would come from. During the mapping, they placed their “money”-symbol outside of their lab. However, they other group disagreed and bombed it, claiming that the flow of money should be more central. A lock was placed on the inspirational thinkers and the philosophers the group placed on their map. They situated them at the entrance of the lab to signify a flow from the outside to the inside, into the building. This way, ideas and conceptual thinking, coming from outside, is able to into the lab, to the creative inside. A space which was locked by the first group and which was particularly liked by the other team was a “technology-space” the group included in their lab: a private, reflective space containing shared documents/wiki, e-mail, websearch and technology such as e-mail and computers.

The map of the second group revolved around the relation between the design lab and the public. This group clustered several key values around the compass in three groups:  “collaboration” (1), “hybridity” and “transparant” (2), “international”, “interdisciplinary”, “research”, “creativity”, “culture”, “open” (3). The other group commented that they felt that the value “collaboration” should be more part of the rest of the clusters of words. Amongst the key spaces this group ascribed to their lab were moving walls and a library. Their key persons involved a cook, a communicator and several post docs. The key tools this group placed in their lab inclucded a fablab, a phone(/skype) and high tech prototyping. Inside of the laboratory, this group put the emphasis on social interaction. Therefore, they placed key things in their lab such as a couch, a table and food and drinks. The other group bombed one of the entrance-areas: they stated that this group needed more influence from outside. Bombing the space will lead to more influence coming “in”, they thought. Later, this idea was liked by the first group. The other group also bombed another outer-wall in order to “let the public in”. The other group also put a bomb on the “disconnection” between workspace and social spaces, which they found too architectonial. The other group could not think of an other way to establish a better connection and commented: who is going to pay for this?

The mapping session showed two interesting views on how a Cumulus design lab should look like. Social interaction within the lab appeared to be important for both the groups, as well as influence from the outside world and the public. Collaboration was a buzz-word this afternoon. The mappings on the Cumulus conference made it possible to get a better understanding of how a Cumulus design lab might be shaped and realized.