My Cumulus PLUS+ Story by Aditi Deshpande

Representing Symbiosis Institute of Design, Pune, India.
Participated in the Cumulus conference Diffused Transition & Design Opportunities
October 31 – November 3, 2018 in Wuxi, China hosted by Jiangnan University

Cumulus is not just a conference!

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Cumulus for awarding me the Cumulus Plus+ grant which fulfilled my longing desire to be a part of Cumulus. As my destiny had it, Cumulus Association made it possible for me to be part of this conference at Wuxi, 2018. Having missed two opportunities of presenting my work in Cumulus Hong Kong in 2016 and Cumulus Kolding in 2017, this was my best chance to get into Cumulus community. Although I was not presenting my research work here, it still presented me with the opportunity of knowing what Cumulus is all about.

After a long and tiring travel I reached Wuxi, not having faintest idea of what lied ahead in the next 5 days. On the first day, with a lot of curiosity and anxiety, I reached the School of Design, the venue of the conference. I was quite late but right in time for the working group workshop on the Leadership and Design Policy. I was made feel welcomed by the conductors and I just felt I was always part of the group. This workshop was completely different than what I thought it would be. Travelling to the site for a workshop was exciting. I reckon this is the first time Cumulus working group had arranged for a live case study, and I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop. The experiential format was indeed insightful. The tour around the village, the discussions with the policy makers and investors involved and the ideation exercise all set tone for what I was about to experience in the coming days of the conference.

On the first day of the conference, I was introduced to the crowd as a Cumulus Plusian along with the other grantee from Argentina and student ambassadors. The whole atmosphere was informal and instantly made feel one with the community. Although we all were from different geographies and cultures, it felt we all spoke common language of humanity, empowerment and empathy and Design was the binder that brought us all together. The key note speech took on a thought provoking journey of the future of world and the future of design and our role as facilitators of change. The idea of sustainability and emerging forms of design and their role in shaping up of future communities was central in the key notes. I got the opportunity to moderate a track of paper sessions titled “Evolution and Continuation of Design education.” The presentations addressed various challenges and possibilities of education models. The presentations discussed the necessity to include entrepreneurship education, design research and experimentations in design studios. The new generation of design educators and their presentations gave a positive hope that future design education is in good hands.

The role of policy makers and their relation to designers and end users, the nature of design practice in future and educational challenges, the changing attitude of design students and importance of internationalization were few of the topics of discussion. The arrangements of the conference were such that it made possible for a lot of interactions among participants. I especially liked the exhibition of the works of design students. The visit to Huishan Architecture Heritage site was interesting and was the only glimpse into the historical architecture of the place. The Chinese classical music experience was one of a kind and for me the most memorable part.

To sum up my experience of Cumulus Wuxi Conference: the entire crew of the Cumulus was like a family and they liked to extend the family; the entire environment of the conference was friendly and interactive; the synergy of participants was phenomenal; the Working groups and Think tanks put together amazing work; never in a conference had I got to experience local culture as I did in Cumulus Wuxi. My major takeaways from the conference: the immense possibilities for collaboration and partnership with over 20 design Universities, opportunity to know the finest design practitioners and educators around the world, future pathways for association with Cumulus and being part of working groups and exposure to different processes and practices in design around the world. Cumulus for me was a congregation of beautiful minds, melting pot of different cultures, a place to make great friends, exploration of local culture and architecture, a great soul searching experience… Cumulus is not just a conference!

By
Aditi Deshpande
Associate Professor, Dept. of Industrial Design,
In-Charge of International Cell,
Symbiosis Institute of Design, Pune, India
aditi.deshpande@sid.edu.in

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