Physical and digital spaces enabling openness and collaboration

Image created by Adrienne Yancey for

Image created by Adrienne Yancey for

By bringing most of Central Saint Martins’ courses under one roof, the King’s Cross building is the embodiment of collaboration, openness and sharing. No longer are we unaware of what’s happening in the studio or the workshop next door. The multiple collaborations already born from the openness of the building and the mingling of students from different practices are to be cherished and celebrated. This culture of openness and collaborative making extends beyond the College and into all forms of physical and digital spaces; disciplinary boundaries become porous, as we find ourselves sharing more and more – be it in the virtual world or in the real world, or mixed-realities. In this post, UAL alumna Sarah Kante explores just a few of the ways that our students, and the community of global makers, are participating in collaborative and multi-disciplinary making spaces that explore technology, electronics, design, art and much, much more.

From Maker Faire to open source software – spaces, events and tools enabling openness and collaboration are numerous. Here are some examples…

Maker Faire

maker faire

The Mini Maker Faire that took place at the London College of Communication (LCC) in July, and the Make Day this October, aimed to bring together makers: from tech enthusiasts to crafters, homesteaders to scientists and garage tinkerers. The aim of Maker Faire was to entertain, inform, connect and grow the community. There were over 70 makers sharing their skills with the guests, covering areas such as electronics, coding, hacking, tinkering, 3D printing and crafting.

The original Maker Faire event was held in San Mateo, California, which in 2012 celebrated its seventh annual show with some 800 makers and 110,000 people in attendance. World Maker Faire New York, the other flagship event, has grown in three years to 500+ makers and 55,000 attendees. Detroit, Kansas City, Newcastle (UK), and Tokyo are the homes of “featured” Maker Faires (200+ makers), and community-driven, independently organised Mini Maker Faires – like the LCC’s – are now being organised around the world.

For images of the event, click here.




Hackspaces are places in which people with an interest in computing or technology, science, digital art or electronic art can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.

There is a rich tradition of hackspaces worldwide, in January 2009 The Hackspace Foundation was formed in response to the lack of hackspaces in the UK. Since then, they have helped groups in a number of communities start creating their own spaces in their city.

As of 2012, there are an estimated 700 to 1,100 active hackspaces all over the world and the numbers are growing.

London HackSpace website


4D Studios

4D Studios


The 4D Department at CSM King’s Cross could be considered to be a small Hackspace. It provides a first class learning experience for all students in a community of practice that helps to develop their skills and knowledge through hands-on exploration. The 4D team also work closely with academic colleagues to develop longer-term strategies for including digital investigation into curricula.

For more information, read our post here.


CSM collaboration

Screen shot 2013-11-08 at 15.42.59

The idea of collaboration and networks is included in many courses – as demonstrated by the ‘2013 BAGD Network’ project undertaken by BA Graphic Design first year students. Led by senior lecturer Rebecca Ross (who also helped organise the Maker Faire), students were asked to work as a group to create a single image – with each student assigned a small section of an aggregated larger image. This was completed as a large group (the entire stage 1 cohort) as well as by each of the students on an individual basis. The interest was in the process, as much as in the organisational system that would emerge when 160 students were asked to work together. The collaborative challenge was surmounted through rules and the utilisation of available tools. While students keep in touch primarily through Facebook and What’s App, the lack of readily available, university wide collaboration tools was a barrier the GD students had to overcome. Rebecca also reminded us that not every student is active on Facebook, and that even though they may be in a minority, they still had to be included in the collaborative process of the project. Ultimately, the student group opted to use the social media platform for collaboration, and those who did not use Facebook were contacted through emails.


The problems surrounding network and collaboration can lead to new products being developed. UAL Exchange app has been featured on this blog before (read the post here). The cross-disciplinary app uses existing networks, such as LinkedIn, to enable collaborations and new networks to be created.



As part of the recent Designer Profile series hosted by Ceramics, Product and Industrial programme, Nathan Waterhouse, co-founder of IDEO’s Open Innovation offering OpenIDEO, gave a talk at CSM.

Fascinated by how technology can be used to encourage group collaboration – from professionals employed by the same company to colleagues connected by online social networks – Nathan manages the team and is Head of Service for OI Engine, the software that powers the platform. It is being used to help organisations their employees to solve tough problems, from financial services to airlines.

Screenshot from a Vimeo animated film introducing OpenIDEO

Screenshot from a Vimeo animated film introducing OpenIDEO

OpenIDEO is a digital platform that enables a global community to design human-centered solutions to social and environmental problems. With a small team and a big network, OpenIDEO poses “big questions” to a large number of users and members, and hopes to enable solutions to come to life.

After a challenge is posted at, community members can contribute in a variety of different ways, such as inspirational observations and photos, sketches of ideas, or business models and snippets of code. Participatins can provide feedback every step of the development phase, and IDEO helps shape the journey through framing the challenge, prototyping, and encouraging the conversation. Eventually a selection of concepts are chosen as winners. All concepts generated are shareable, remix-able and reusable by anyone – in a similar way to Creative CommonsThe hope is that some of these concepts will become reality outside of


Tools for collaboration and networking are abundant, but they themselves sometimes come from collaborative effort and “open” backgrounds. From software created by and for a community – eg WordPress or free software like SketchUp – to crowdsourced and crowdfunded projects and Creative Commons licenses, digital technology is breaking down barriers and helping collaboration within a new culture of openness.

Students want to find ways to interact, communicate and collaborate. The collaborative nature of the arts and design practices taught at CSM are supported by many tools and opportunities, physical and virtual spaces of collaboration and peer learning, networks and interconnectivity, within the King’s Cross building and outside. The examples given here are only the tip of what is available, and there are new tools, networks and spaces to be created and shared with a community of practice eager to learn from each other and get together.  Makerversity has just opened at Somerset House….


Interesting References and Links