July – October 2010 Hothouse – Mapping the projects, ideas and people within the Glasgow School of Art.

As part of the extended family of the Glasgow School of Art, Snook is involved with ‘creating cultures of innovation’ within the school and its various partners. One such culture is Hothouse, an ongoing project to collect, collate and broadcast the wide variety of exciting, innovative and thought-provoking projects, relationships, collaborations and conversations taking place within the realms of the Art School in order to make the most of the resources we are producing, the contacts we are making and the conversations that are taking place.

The Innovation Hub, a group representing the different schools and additional departments of GSA met to begin to pull together these on-goings; projects they had heard of, were involved in, people they had spoken to, or wanted to get involved in discussions. This list was presented to Snook to work into a visual, growing system of adding projects as well as negotiating the resources generated by previous projects.

We started by playing with the idea of connections, how different types of projects (for example one involving outside partners and one pulling from the extensive school archives) could and indeed should be brought together, perhaps quite unexpectedly.

As a team, working with the Innovation Hub, we liked the idea of keeping the friction of bumping into someone on campus and having a brief chat about current projects – the way information is passed quickly and organically from department to department through chance encounters. We also liked the familiarity of exchanging business cards, having something to hold on to and later look up when you want to make contact with someone who’s’ work interests you, but you don’t know them particularly well.

We started prototyping these projects, conversations and relationships into domino cards, picking up on the language of colours used to navigate around and between the different schools and departments. The idea of playing with these relationships as a game of chance related to the types of interactions and general feeling of unknowing that exists within GSA. New cards could be issued in gathering places (the library, the ref and sent out to department heads) and they could be used in a random, mixed up way, or separated by department or interaction type.

What GSA really needed was a way to bring together all of these interactions, people, and projects onto one piece of paper. Making a printed version is not the most sustainable outcome (the hothouse needs to grown with time to incorporate new projects, new people) but having an outcome where all members of the Innovation Hub could see all of the found interactions at once was needed to pull the group’s thinking back together.

Snook created the Hothouse map, using the visual language of the school (and adding some new colours to the old corporate identity). Projects, people, and relationships were mapped by department, and labelled with the type of interaction they were, the people involved and a contact detail.

This was presented back to the group on large format, and immediately it became a first draft as the Innovation Hub started to see the missing pieces – within 10 minutes we had doubled the number of contacts, projects and people who should be included!

The hothouse map continues to circulate amongst the Innovation Hub as an interactive pdf, with members adding labels with the important information and Snook incorporating these into the graphics.

This is an ongoing project, we shall update it as we work with GSA to develop ways of sharing this information, and of making it both online and offline.