Read: CUSP: The Sausage Factory
Date: November 4, 2011
Author: Ross Colebatch
I’m not a designer. I’m not amazingly design savvy — that’s not my background. And neither are exhibitions and galleries. Yet here I find myself working on CUSP: Design for the Next Decade, which Danielle introduced to the world last week here. As Danielle mentioned, CUSP has actually been in development for a long while, for over a year in fact. A lot of work has already been done, and here I am jumping in somewhere in the middle.
Luckily, there’s a great group of people working on this project, notably Danielle, but also our Director Steven Pozel, Head of Creative Programs Kathryn Hunyor and Adjunct Curator Kate Rhodes. On Tuesday just gone, the five of us all got together in a room and spent a day talking through what CUSP is — no small feat. At this point, the project exists as an initial funding application, a number of audio recordings, some complex mindmaps, timelines, sketches and manila folders. It also includes a long list of potential exhibitors, thinkers and creators from Australia and around the world — we’ve spoken to about 40, with a list of 100 more (and rising) on the go.
The day started getting Kathryn and Kate up to date — Kathryn has been on maternity leave and Kate is based in Melbourne, where we are in Sydney — which lead straight into conversations about the structure of the project. What is it? What are we trying to do? Who is our audience? How are we going to engage them?
As it stands, the project is currently a big edifice that will need to be brought down a little. As much as we love blue-sky dreaming, we will need to address the realities of budgets, staff, time, venues… the details. We’re currently seeing a physical exhibition, a lot of public programs, a couple of partners (including the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS)), a lot of digital and online activity, both in gallery and out, touring activity, some sort of publication… I could go on.
Having the opportunity to sit around a table for a day and discuss this helped us to define what the project is about, which should in turn allow us to start to piece together both structurally what the final product will be, but also begin to imagine who the participants are going to be. And this is where the concept of the sausage factory emerged.
Why are people going to want to engage with this exhibition? And how do we take it away from merely appealing to the design literate or those with an existing interest in design? Well, let’s be honest. We all like pretty things. Pretty, shiny things that look nice and are interesting. Or that at least have that ‘wow’ factor when you behold them, that make you want to know what’s going on. So, we take these ‘things’, whether physical or digital, fashion or architecture, objects or systems, and then, when we have your attention, we tell you what’s going on.
It’s the ‘what’s going on’ that’s really important here, in our minds at least. That’s what’s going to make CUSP more than just some interesting things in a nicely lit room. We’re interested in how these designers are getting to this dynamic and interesting end product/system/process/whatever, what inspires their process, what directs their experiences. That’s what the future of design is really all about — sure, these processes are going to result in some very interesting, truly revolutionary design systems, objects, and products, but their stories are what is driving that, and how these stories are evolving or shifting in the face of a changing world is where the innovation is stemming from.
From these processes and stories, we’re hoping that some ‘lessons’ will emerge, for want of a better term. These lessons, or stories, or whatever you want to call them, will hopefully translate into real examples that people can take home with them. In a broader sense, the hope is that CUSP will begin to trigger within people the understanding that the processes of design can be applied to their own lives on micro or macro levels to affect real change in unexpected ways. A little grandiose, perhaps, but that’s the hope.
So that’s the sausage factory. Object/product/system/thing goes in, through a pathway to discover the process, and through the next path to come out with the lesson, the takeaway information that people can engage with more broadly at home, work, neighbourhoods, wherever. Hopefully people can take this away, but if they aren’t so interested in such an active engagement, we think the exposure will happen and leave a mark anyway.
After hours of talking and drawing, we feel we have a better handle on how we’re going to achieve the grand aim of presenting design for the next decade in an engaging and achievable format. We have another, bigger meeting in December, involving some UTS people and a greater internal group, where we will hopefully begin to iron out some of the practicalities and resolve the ‘structural’ issues of the program, if you will — and it is a program, rather than simply an exhibition.
Until then, we will keep you posted as developments and ideas emerge. And any day now we’ll be able to start picking up projects and people and pushing them through the sausage factory to find out what will work for CUSP: Design for the Next Decade.
This post originally appeared here on Object Eye.