My Cumulus PLUS+ Story by Dhafer Ben Khalifa

Representing ISM (Institut Suéprieur de la mode), University of Monastir,Tunisia
Participated in the Cumulus conference To get there: designing together
April 11-13, 2018 in Paris, France Hosted by CESAAP

Coming from a country where Design as discipline is an emerging activity thus open to various interpretations and strategies, attending Cumulus conference was extremely advantageous. I was constantly trying to relate between the conference discussions and my teaching activity as well as the collaborative projects in which I am involved (..)

Initially I was awarded a grant from cumulus association to attend REDO CONFERENCE in Denmark, May 2017, but due to personal impediments, I was not able to honor the invitation. However, Cumulus team were very understanding and kept the grant at my disposal for the following conference which was held in Paris under the heading “TO GET THERE: DESIGNING TOGETHER.”

*After joining the event, I can say I am grateful for the impediments that led to postpone my attendance!

The collaboration with CESAAP; the coalition of 4 design schools in Paris; was one of the major assets of this conference. Moving between partner schools allowed me to gain a thorough insight into these institutions: several exhibitions were set especially for cumulus conference where I was able to examine students’ projects on various fields of design. Studios and workshops where also open to visitors so I could share interesting conversation with colleagues from Parisian Design schools and learn about their pedagogical approaches. Also, I highly appreciated the inclusion of students’ guided visits to present the schools.

Cumulus was offering a space for discussion to share thoughts about design practice and I gladly noticed the diversity of conversation channels from round tables to keynotes speeches, parallel sessions and working groups… These spaces gathered many design scholars and professionals under 4 different themes and it was quite hard to make a choice between all the topics. Nonetheless, I was highly satisfied with the ones I could attend thanks to many inspiring talks challenging the way we teach and practice design. Design approaches and methodologies are becoming increasingly open to new ways of thinking and practicing, to an extent that it might sound be confusing for design educators to figure out how to teach design. By meeting with other academics and questioning our preconceptions and personal perceptions, I came back to my school with a fresh / renewed understanding of design.

In addition to the conference’s rich program, Cumulus showed great hospitality by organizing several cultural tours to discover the endless activities that the City of lights offers: Enjoying a guided tour into Hermes retrospective exhibition, discovering Haute Couture embroidery techniques at Maison Lesage, reveling in art pieces in Pompidou center… So many activities that cumulus generously suggested to conference attendees and that allowed a genuine cultural immersion into Paris.

What I found most interesting about cumulus conference is the unique networking opportunity that represents such event. In addition of being one of the major Design educators meeting with hundreds of attendees from around the world, Cumulus offers multiple spaces to get in touch with other colleagues from design schools and Universities: through new members fair, inauguration cocktail, closing ceremony or even during lunch time and cultural tours, I was able to exchange contact with a great numbers of fellow professionals from academic and related field. Being a Cumulus plus grantee, I was even more fortunate since I was invited to the stage to introduce myself during the opening ceremony, thus many fellow attendees recognized me afterwards and came to introduce themselves which made networking even smoother.

Coming from a country where Design as discipline is an emerging activity thus open to various interpretations and strategies, attending Cumulus conference was extremely advantageous. I was constantly trying to relate between the conference discussions and my teaching activity as well as the collaborative projects in which I am involved through the Design association I funded in Tunisia. I came to the conclusion that Design is an ongoing process of evolution regardless to cultural, economic and historical factors. If there is one constant in design process it should be its inclusive aspect that gathers all the actors (prime contractor, designers, end users…) in a collaborative working approach.

I am extremely thankful to Cumulus for according me the opportunity to be part of Paris conference and believe the three days event will have great and actual impact on my academic and professional activity.

By Dhafer Ben Khalifa
Assistant Lecturer
ISM (Institut Suéprieur de la mode)
University of Monastir
Tunisia
Contact: dhafer.benkhalifa(at)gmail.com

Teacher, designer, and recently founder of ’Collective Creatif’ association aimed at promoting culture through creative industries, I try to contribute to the promotion of Tunisian Design through my coaching activity as a university assistant, but also through my personal work and various collaborations with international funders. My work is based on the renewal of the artisanal activity by creative centered approach and the emancipation of the semantic clichés.

About Cumulus PLUS+ programme

The aim is to create the opportunity for friendship between people and generate partnership and exchange of knowledge between the different institutions. Cumulus mobilizes candidates with a travel grant to come over to the conferences under the Cumulus umbrella. The target group are academics and staff working in colleges and universities in art, design and media in higher education from different parts of the world and countries less familiar to Cumulusians.
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