AIGA recently resigned its membership in the International
Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda), effective
January 1, 2010. Although we still respect and support Icograda's
activities, we can no longer justify the investment of membership
In an effort to explain our decision and maintain transparency,
I've outlined the background on the relationship and our decision.
Your comments and questions, as always, are welcome.
AIGA joined Icograda in 2005, already firmly committed to the
concept that creativity and design transcend national boundaries,
both in their inspiration and their impact on society. We were
encouraged to join in order to vote on launching the International
Design Alliance (IDA) in 2005, the first step in transforming
Icograda into a pan-disciplinary organization that welcomes all
designers, regardless of specific disciplines.
AIGA has been an active, constructive and supportive member
of Icograda over the past four years. We have advocated a role
for Icograda that would support the future of design, which will
require designers be prepared for a design economy that is global,
with a sensitivity toward other cultures, an understanding of the
principles and practices of sustainable design, and an appreciation
for the designer's contribution to problem solving through
integrative thinking and problem solving using all available
After four years of negotiations with the associations
representing industrial designers and interior designers—our
partners in the idea of the IDA—the Icograda board voted in October
2009 to create yet another task force to study the issue. This
means that the multidisciplinary vision for design representation
could not begin until after the 2011 General Assembly, and even
then may take several more years—a timeframe we consider neither
certain enough nor rapid enough to justify our continued
AIGA will continue to work actively with existing international
partners such as INDEX: and Cumulus; we will also
maintain our strong ties with individual design associations in
Europe, Asia and Africa.
AIGA members are experiencing reduced services, and many worry
for their own jobs. Every one of AIGA's initiatives and expenses is
being carefully examined. The current economy has impacted this
decision, if only because it forces us all to be efficient in our
use of resources. And the term “resources” does not only refer to
money. Our investment in Icograda's success has always involved our
participation in its activities and governance as well, which takes
even more precious resources: time and energy.
Similarly, we have decided that AIGA must focus its limited
money, time and energy on advancing the interests of its members in
achieving a relevant role in this future. We are accountable to our
members and we must commit our resources where we believe they will
have the greatest impact in preparing designers (whether AIGA
members or not) for a meaningful role in the future economy.
The future of design hinges upon the ability of designers to
gain inspiration from each other and communicate effectively with
local markets. The more AIGA can help its members create
connections with designers in other countries, the stronger our
membership will be—so AIGA must be part of the global design
community. This is accomplished in ways both direct, such as our
efforts to bridge designers through AIGA China, and indirect, such
as our involvement in international organizations that benefit our
We believe the current course of Icograda is not one that
positions it effectively for relevance and leadership in the 21st
century quickly enough. Some will disagree with the decision AIGA
has made, which was intended to accelerate a process that we
believe is in Icograda's—and the design profession's—best interest.
Some will say we are too impatient; we would argue we are being
prudent in committing resources and priorities in a world that is
changing at warp speed.
AIGA continues to hold Icograda in high regard, and as Icograda
adapts to the current and future dynamics of the design economy we
will be there to support it as best we can.
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.
AIGA’s chapters allow our members to form powerful social and
professional bonds through conferences, competitions, lectures and
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