• How is AIGA active in the global design economy?

    AIGA has been active in Icograda, the International Council of Graphic Design Associations, as a means of developing channels of communication among designers in the United States and other countries. AIGA, as the largest professional design association in the world, shares its practices and experiences with other associations and encourages worldwide collaboration on issues important to all designers, such as professional standards and means of communicating the value of design.

    Since my term on the Icograda board ended in late 2007, I have continued to represent AIGA by working on several governance task forces, with two AIGA members currently serving on the international board: Omar Vulpinari of Italy and Greg Serikoff of France.

    In October, Icograda's General Assembly held its biennial meeting in Beijing. Among the issues raised in this gathering of delegates from worldwide member associations were three that are important to AIGA:

    1. The general assembly adopted a resolution acknowledging the responsibility of designers in meeting criteria for sustainability. At AIGA's recommendation, this resolution included the addition of cultural criteria to the frequently cited environmental, economic and social criteria. At the same time, the board and assembly acknowledged The Living Principles for Design, a framework for designers' responsibility toward sustainability developed by the AIGA Center for Sustainable Design, as a means for all association to begin meeting their responsibilities.

    2. Icograda supported a study of how to merge the international associations of the industrial, communication and interior design professions as a step toward a unified voice in support of design and its value. AIGA has long supported the integration of the different voices of design professions so that a stronger message can be conveyed to business, the public and society. This is consistent with AIGA's own interest in the pan-disciplinary practice of design.

    3. AIGA nominated Leimei Julia Chiu of Japan as the president-elect for Icograda, since she represents so well the converging issues of globalism, multiculturalism and cross-disciplinary practice.

    The Icograda World Design Congress, which occurred concurrently in Beijing, is an international design conference organized by Icograda and the Central Academy of Fine Arts. AIGA China played a significant role at the conference, presenting two exhibitions at the museum at the Central Academy: “365: AIGA Annual Design Exhibition and ”50 Books/50 Covers of 2007.“ In addition, AIGA China organized a festive event to launch the Chinese editions of 365: AIGA Year in Design, Design Business and Ethics and David Berman's Do Good Design under the AIGA imprint, and hosted a reception for the leading design educators in China to meet with the attendees from around the world.

    The final event in Icograda's Beijing series was an education conference. Educators from around the world presented peer-reviewed papers. AIGA encouraged educators to participate in the INDEX:|AIGA Aspen Design Challenge for students.

    In each of these activities, AIGA seeks to establish opportunities for its members to participate, reinforce the leadership of our members in the design profession, and engage actively with our colleagues from abroad—so that U.S. designers will become accepted, appreciated and respected participants in the global design community. AIGA's policies and practices become models for others they will become globally accepted, thus validating the standards already upheld by designers and clients in the United States.

    This involvement in the global community is critical to the relevance, leadership and opportunities for the profession over the long term and can be obtained through a minimal investment—just two percent of AIGA's annual budget. While these activities will not always translate into an immediate benefit for each of AIGA's members, over time they will contribute toward making the global design economy more accessible to all members.

    How you can get involved

    When the current economic turmoil settles, there is little doubt that the global economy will consist of a number of highly competitive local economies. At the same time, local markets worldwide are more likely to seek solutions that are responsive to local cultural perspectives. These dynamics require that all designers become more familiar with their global colleagues and other cultures. There are several opportunities for member involvement in the aforementioned initiatives:


    Thumbnail photo of compass byTobias Machhaus (iStockphoto) 

    About the Author: 

    Richard Grefé is the executive director of AIGA, the professional association for design. While guiding all of AIGA’s activities, his most significant contributions are in strategy, formulating new initiatives to enhance the competitive success of designers and advocating the value of design to business, government and the public.

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