What is AIGA's role in Icograda?

For the past two years I have served on the board of Icograda, the International Council of Graphic Design Associations. The opportunity has been extremely valuable toward reinforcing our members' interest in being part of a global community of designers, particularly as the global economy becomes the design arena of the future.

Most recently, I traveled to Cuba to participate in the World Design Congress, held in Havana on October 19–26. This weeklong experience included an education conference, an international design conference, a general assembly of member associations and an Icograda board meeting—the last one I would be attending.

Joining me at these conferences were a number of American designers, educators and social scientists, as well as others from around the world. The activities surrounding the conferences included the “Shared Dreams” exhibition of posters from U.S. and Cuban designers—which had also exhibited at “Next: AIGA Design Conference” in Denver—and other exhibitions that included AIGA members' work alongside the work of designers from around the world.

The general assembly included AIGA delegates David Gibson and Kenna Kay, former and current AIGA board members, respectively. At the general assembly, SEGD, GAG and the University and College Designers Association (UCDA) were admitted to the organization, joining AIGA in representing U.S. designers. AIGA's involvement is still a very strong presence, as the largest and oldest of the member associations worldwide. The value of our membership is that it allows us to build bridges to designers in other countries, develop links to our designers rather than just their work and share what we have learned with other associations so that they, too, can advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force.

The entire experience helps to strengthen the leadership perception of AIGA abroad, which, in turn, strengthens the credibility of our voice and standards in the United States. The benefits to our members are not easily measured; however, our participation in Icograda offers AIGA a chance to advance issues important to its members in other international venues, as well as opens up the potential for collaborative projects between AIGA designers and designers from other countries.

There are few certainties amongst the challenges to design's relevance in the future, yet one is clear. Designers will be working in a global design economy where clients, collaborators and competition are all more likely to come from outside the United States. It is important for AIGA and its members to be seen as a progressive, supportive part of this future if we are to have open access, respect for our unique capabilities and increased opportunities. Although my term on the 10-member Icograda board has ended, current AIGA members from Qatar, Italy and Denmark remain involved and will continue to promote our principles.

The next world design congress will occur in Beijing in 2009; we anticipate that AIGA China will have a role in its program. Look for a forthcoming Insight column that will expand on the activities of AIGA China and why our involvement there matters to all of our members here.

About the Author: Richard Grefé is the director emeritus of AIGA, the professional association for design, the oldest and largest professional association of designers in the United States representing the interests of 27,000 designers working in a variety of communication media and dimensions, ranging from type and book designers to new media and experience designers. AIGA, o ver twenty years under Ric’s aegis, has become a leading advocate for the value of designing, as a way of thinking and as a means of creating strategic value for business, the civic realm and social change. Currently he is teaching “Human-centered designn for social change” at Wesleyan University. Ric earned a BA from Dartmouth College in economics, worked in intelligence in Asia, reported from the Bronx County Courthouse for AP, wrote for Time magazine on business and the economy and then earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Following an early career in urban design and public policy consulting, Ric managed the association responsible for strategic planning and legislative advocacy for public television and led a think tank on the future of public television and radio in Washington.