Open Design for E-very-thing: Cumulus Conference Hong Kong

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Mariana Amatullo December 2, 2016

This past November, and on the heels of our Cumulus board meeting in Taipei, I had the opportunity to participate with my colleague Stella Hernandez (faculty, Environmental design) and two of our students, Alvin Oei (Environmental Design) and Leonardo Santamaria (Illustration) in the Cumulus Conference held at the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI).

With the theme “Open Design for E-very-thing,” the play of words in the conference title provoked the 300 plus attendees to reflect on the opening up of the design discipline to the dynamic open terrain for new and emerging roles designers are playing in our democratic societies. Paper submissions, workshops and presentations were organized in six tracks that signified areas of relevant inquiry. No coincidence here that all tracks were focused on “E” words: empathy; ethnography; experiment; experiment; environment; education and engagement. Engaging keynote presentations varied in design discipline and scope, including that of Hong Kong architect Steve Leung, Hong Kong based Oscar winner and costume designer Tim Yip, Chinese professor Wang Min (CAFA), Japanese designer Hideshi Hamaguchi, Swedish theorist Clemens Thornquist and the inspiring American designer and gerontologist Pattie Moore.


In this context, our team had the opportunity to showcase the Safe Niños project –our ongoing collaboration with COANIQUEM. We shared copies, hot off the press, of the studio’s publication designed by Santamaria in a special exhibition designed by Oei, with the support of Designmatters Associate Director, Susannah Ramshaw and curated by Dr. Yanki Lee, who is the Director for the DESIS Lab for Social Design Research at HKDI. Stella presented the Safe Niños project as a case study from our Designmatters Department, which is also a DESIS Lab, in the DESIS Lab international forum that took place the first day of the conference. That session along with a little one on one time with mentor and DESIS Founder, Professor Ezio Manzini, were certainly one of the highlights for me, only rivaled by the chance to see how engaged our students were with the topics and participants of the conference and how special it was for them to experience first-hand the impact of their work. In this sense, the international platform of Cumulus  continues to provide our community a terrific jumping point to engage in a far-reaching dialogue with inspiring colleagues and institutions around the globe.

Mariana Amatullo, PhD

CoFounder and Vice President, Designmatters