MOME in the spotlight of international design

Date: 2024.06.03
As Lorenzo Imbesi, the Italian president of the Cumulus Association comprising numerous iconic universities and knowledge centres in 66 countries, put it following the 2024 Spring Cumulus Conference, he couldn't give better advice to his own students than to come and study at MOME. Entitled P/References of Design, the conference drew over 550 participants from more than 50 countries, ranging from the United States to Finland, Mexico to China, and Italy to Singapore, and created an engaging intellectual space with representatives from a great many disciplines and cultures coming together to reflect on the challenges and questions related to 21st-century design and art education.

A globally outstanding professional event, the Cumulus Conference, held on 15-17 May on the MOME campus explored various aspects of strategic planning, systems thinking, community design, and human and machine creativity, engaging hundreds of academicians and university professors in the fields of design and art education. Over the course of the three days of the conference, 140 presentations took place simultaneously in five rooms, supplemented by nearly 40 workshops, numerous working group meetings, as well as cultural, culinary, and community-building events. The areas of expertise and research of the more than 200 speakers provided significant inspiration for the attendees, including the students of today who will go on to shape tomorrow. The reach of the conference extended far beyond the Zugliget campus, with many across all continents following the stream online.  


The topics discussed ranged across various aspects of design and everyday life, from ecological and geopolitical crises to the relationship between humans and technology, mental and physical health, the interplay of tradition and innovation, the challenges of coexistence, and the ways design can provide resilient responses to these issues. The design p/references discussed offered ample common ground for thought, while the different perspectives and critical insights contributed to more complex and inclusive solutions.


President of the Cumulus Association Lorenzo Imbesi described the over 30-year-old organisation as an international space of knowledge, and design culture as a means of achieving peace. In his welcome address, he stated that while the association might not be able to dismantle physical borders, the goal is to create thriving contact zones like this event, where a diverse community can make space for various dimensions of knowledge sharing. He identified sharing knowledge and developing educational systems and programmes that are inclusive and interconnected as the main challenges in future education. He praised MOME as a perfect venue that he would gladly recommend to his own students for an Erasmus destination.


The conference also provided an opportunity for MOME to introduce itself to the international community. Head of Strategic Design at the MOME Innovation Center Attila Bujdosó noted that P/References of Design was a significant milestone in the university's journey to achieving its international vision, as well as an auspicious occasion to celebrate the new campus blending the ethos of Moholy-Nagy and the spirit of Bauhaus with 21st-century innovation. As President of the MOME Foundation Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy put it, one of the university’s greatest strengths lies in combining two types of design education – reaching into the past for traditional craftsmanship while standing prepared to meet future challenges.


The first keynote speaker of the conference, game designer and game theory researcher Eric Zimmerman from the USA set the tone by perfectly demonstrating that this was not a conventional event but rather a creative conference in the best sense of the word. True to himself, he used games in his compelling presentation to energise the audience and spark interactions beyond the typical networking motions. According to Zimmerman, games are one of the most ancient aspects of humanity, while design is the process of adopting a critical stance and learning to solve problems. The intersection of the two areas offers an intriguing perspective for re-examining our systems both within and outside the realm of games.


Other keynote speakers, such as Vladan Joler, who describes himself as a detective using design tools, highlighted a similar critical attitude, though from a different angle. His research and data visualisation maps aim to uncover the workings of “black boxes” like artificial intelligence and social media.    


Communication researcher Dr. Petra Aczél shared her thoughts on designing educational systems in the age of AI, suggesting that we should seek wisdom rather than mere knowledge.  A crucial step in this process is acknowledging when we don’t know something.


Co-founder of Prezi Adam Somlai-Fischer gave a talk on non-conventional thinking and how to design around it, while also sharing his unconventional career path from architecture to Prezi development and music.


Renowned scholar of modern architecture and design Robin Schuldenfrei discussed how forced migration of 20th-century artists led to new contexts and groundbreaking ideas, with a focus on Hungarian-born Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy, who both achieved lasting impact in their new environments. She also introduced her new book, Objects in Exile: Modern Art and Design across Borders, 1930–1960 at the networking event on Day 0 of the conference.


On the last day, Vice Rector of Strategy and Research Dr. Dániel Barcza presented MOME’s University of the Future concept, which integrates all the knowledge and attitudes the university wants to foster for the design and art education of future generations. Already in its implementation phase, the flexible educational structure focuses on the organic coexistence of past, present, and future.


After three days filled with experiences and insights, MOME passed the baton to the organisers of the upcoming conferences: Monterrey, Mexico, in the autumn, and Nantes, France, next spring, will host the next Cumulus Association meetings. 

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