The design process exposed
Cube design museum shows design that has impact. Design for human needs and ambitions takes up a central position among the temporary exhibitions of (inter)national design and is part of an additional programme featuring workshops and lectures to broaden the subject. Furthermore, the Cube design labs on floor 0 provide insights in the design process.
They provide room for experiments and creativity. It is also the space for a close look at the design process, from initial needs to final realisation. To make an impact on society, however, concepts must get beyond the lab. The ‘Out of the Lab’ exhibition displays the design process and its outcomes.
‘Out of the Lab’ shows 21 projects that resulted from the Cube in-residence programme. This programme offers students an opportunity to work on designs as part of an internship, a minor programme or a graduation project. In the labs, museum visitors are challenged to participate in the thinking and design processes. Co-creation is what de Cube design labs are all about.
The exhibition shows concepts, ideas and prototypes as answers to various social issues, ranging from waste of food to the care for dementia patients. Four beginning entrepreneurs, who have already ‘taken the step outside’ with the help of Brightlands Innovation Factory, also take part in the exhibition. Brightlands Innovation Factory – a partner of Cube – supports start-ups to become successful businesses and thus offers opportunities for a follow-up of the Cube in-residence programme.
Designing for and together with people
Design that has an impact responds to demands made by society (ASK). These demands may be formulated by companies, organisations or by other external stakeholders, but also by visitors to Cube. For example: how can we make people aware of the need to join the Organ Donor Register? Or: how can we make sure that everybody in The Netherlands is ensured of access to a toilet anywhere and at all times? But ASK refers not just to the moment when a demand was formulated. It also represents the stage in the design process when students and visitors discuss the (design) problems, wishes and needs. It is about finding out what prompts the demand.
A process of brainstorming produces a multitude of ideas (IMAGINE) and during a later stage in the process one or more ideas will be realised (CREATE). Each (product) design concept is carefully considered and each stage in the design process is subject of intense debate. This process, which may last up to several months, takes place in the Cube design labs. The user, the human being with his own wishes and needs, takes up a central position during the entire design process. This process is based on the principles of design thinking, human-centred design, social design and co-creation. Therefore the visitors are actively involved in the entire design process.
The Cube design labs are located on floor 0. This space is subdivided into three areas which are named after the stages of the design process: ASK, IMAGINE, CREATE. Here students brainstorm about the problem statement. They exchange experiences, put their ideas down on paper and keep on iterating. But they especially appreciate the visitors’ contributions. ‘I like it when people come in. When visitors ask questions and join in the thinking process. I may get stuck now and again, but chatting to a visitor gets me going again. Maybe into a completely different direction, but this is part and parcel of the process,’ explains an Industrial Design student of the Technical University of Eindhoven.
Initially a visitor to Cube hesitated, but she soon realised how valuable her contribution was: ‘I thought my idea was not good enough. Later I realised that the fear to share ideas disappears and that sharing means that you will be far more creative.’
So, why not drop in, ask questions, join the thinking process, express your doubts, be a source of inspiration. After all, a final product will only be of value when it complies with a need.
The students occasionally organise workshops to demonstrate to people visiting Cube how the design process functions in practice and the significant role they can play in it. It is on these occasions that it becomes clear that the work in the Cube design labs is carried out in multidisciplinary teams and that the various members work together in the visualisation and realisation of a conceivable solution for a problem.
As a young participant, 9, commented at the end of a workshop: ‘The start was relaxed, but at the end there was a lot of energy and lots of ideas, I really liked it!’
But the students, too, find that working in teams has a positive influence on the design process: ‘You can try out your ideas at an early stage of the in-residence programme, not only on the team members at Cube, but also on its visitors and this will eventually lead to a more satisfying end result.’
Creative processes are supervised and realised in the Cube design labs. But how to support a worthwhile concept outside the museum? Designers who are planning to transform a brilliant concept into a successful business model can apply to Brightlands Innovation Factory for assistance. Brightlands Innovation Factory helps start-ups develop into successful businesses. Brightlands Innovation Factory is unique in that it provides assistance to entrepreneurs all the way, from the very first idea to the actual production and sales of the product. It also helps businesses take root in the region.
Like the design process, setting up and developing a business is also a process that evolves in a number of stages. Each stage demands a different type of support: INCUBATE, ACCELERATE, VALIDATE, SCALE. Brightlands Innovation Factory offers structured programmes for the early stages of start-ups and provides made-to-measure support for those that already have come some way. The four Brightlands campuses (Chemicals and materials (Sittard-Geleen), Health (Maastricht), Smart IT-services and Big Data (Heerlen) and Food (Venlo)) offer intensive support and actual workplaces. Furthermore, there is the connection between (design) talent, markets and investors that plays a central part.
Cooperation is obvious in view of the processes that take place in the Cube design labs and Brightlands Innovation Factory. What is achieved in the ASK – IMAGINE – CREATE design processes connects seamlessly with the start-up processes that take place at Brightlands Innovation Factory. High-quality and successful results of student projects at the Cube design labs can be further developed as start-ups at Brightlands Innovation Factory. Apart from this, design students may be of assistance to start-ups with a customer-oriented approach along the lines of ‘for people and with people’. This cooperation reinforces the position of both Cube design museum and Brightlands Innovation Factory in order to further enhance design and innovation in the region.
Cube is the first museum in The Netherlands that is entirely dedicated to design. This makes it the ideal location for design students to do an internship or to work on a minor programme or a graduation project. But it is also ideal for students of other disciplines who want to take up the challenge of lateral thinking – or thinking outside the box. Here they can take up challenges and are encouraged to leave the trodden paths. It is also a place where visitors can observe the design process and take an active part in it.
Theo Ploeg, lecturer at the Maastricht Academy of Media Design and Technology (MAMDT, Zuyd): ‘The minor Intervention Design was inspired by speculative design, a discipline that is becoming more and more important. Students act as artists and as team members they develop solutions for the near future on the basis of scenarios they have explored themselves. Cube design museum provides the ideal location for this type of activity. Not only because the space is optimally organised for collaboration and creative work, but also because its exhibitions inspire students to think outside the box.’
Rob Delsing, also lecturer at MAMDT: ‘Working for an external client will always be a bit of an extra challenge for students. And it is even more special if this means that they can contribute to an exhibition at a design museum of great repute. At the Maastricht Academy of Media Design & Technology we make an effort to connect education and practical work by cooperating with a number of external partners who can inspire and challenge our students and at the same time can provide support. Cube design museum is one of these partners.’