“Icograda is a peak body that represents all of the member organisations in our network, we are not a separate organisation, many people don’t understand this,” said Kennedy.

Icograda, Icsid and IFI are all working in the interests of design worldwide. The International Design Alliance (IDA) is testament to this.

“Icograda, Icsid and IFI have joined forces to form the International Design Alliance (IDA). The IDA speaks holistically as a design voice and has an advocacy role. So when we are talking to governments about design – on behalf of the IDA –  we are representing all design disciplines: industrial design, communication design and interior design.

Kennedy, who has a background in design and filmmaking, studied graphic design and film at Swinburne University and then worked in graphic design and advertising at McCann Erickson in Melbourne in the eighties.

“I then ran my own business in graphic design, branding and film for about fifteen years. We worked for GM Holden, Shell and did the re-branding of the Australian Football League when they first changed from the VFL to the AFL. My film company was operated from the same premises. We made documentaries and mini-series.

“I started guest lecturing at Monash University fifteen years ago, and now, fifteen years later, I’m still here as a Senior Lecture in Visual Communication,” said Kennedy, who is Melbourne based, yet now has an international presence, travelling to all corners of the globe with his role with Icograda.

“My first introduction to Icograda was through an event that Icograda ran at RMIT in Melbourne called Over the Fence in 2001. The conference included

a regional, education seminar, which specifically focused on the need for international exchange in design education. Icograda knew that education was important to the future of the profession. So they were planning to start an education network.”

Kennedy, who was interested in seeing what was happening, went along. He met the Icograda President at the time, Rob Peters, who was chairing the seminar and Kennedy made some comments that sparked some interest. From there, he was asked to present what he was talking about in Brno in the Czech Republic.

“In Brno I presented a hypothetical virtual website on how I thought the network could work. Then about a month later I was asked to join the board and oversee the establishment of the International Education Network (IEN). This was a great honour.”

There is a lot of work involved, explains Kennedy, who is away for about six overseas working trips per year. Icograda runs design weeks and looks at best practice for design worldwide.

“Previously we have been a peak body and a network of designers, sharing knowledge and resources. The next shift we are making is to more of an advocacy role. We work to guide our members on best business practice and ethics in design, and to encourage exchange of design thinking.”

In this capacity, Kennedy explains, they are now helping countries to manage and run design events such as design weeks. Next year they will have three design weeks: one to be hosted in Brisbane, called Optimism, one in Madrid and another in Vancouver.

“Our focus moving forward is an advocacy role – where we are speaking as a voice of design.”

Talking to governments and major decision makers around the world at forums – NGOs, UNESCO, United Nations and the World Economic Forum etc – who are driving major agendas, not only design agendas, Icograda is working to get design on the table at these forums, explains Kennedy.

“The moment is right for a new approach to international collaboration on design, in fact the mind shift has already occurred. For example, the official theme for the 40th World Economic Forum in Davos next year is, ‘Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign and Rebuild’.”

“A growing number of countries around the world now understand that design plays a huge role in the improvement of life. Most governments in Europe are now aware of this. Korea is also a good example in Asia. In fact, Korea and Denmark are great examples of how design is front of mind with government.

“So we are building networks at a government level around the world.” Talking to governments about only one design discipline can be detrimental at a negotiation level, Kennedy explains. Design needs a united design front, so it’s all pulled the same way. The IDA is about pulling it all together. It’s a changing world and it needs to be viewed as a united profession.

“We are working to gain respect for design at a government level to convince them of the value of design globally.”

During his term at Icograda, Kennedy would like to see architecture more involved in the IDA. Another goal is to work more closely with developing regions such as Africa, Latin America and the Indian Subcontinent, which is progressing rapidly.

“We have been working with Indian designers to help establish associations, which will assist them in communicating with government. We will also be assisting Eastern European designers in the same way.”

Additionally, Icograda is working with the DIA and AGDA to advise on methods and models for design advocacy and a potential National Design Policy for Australia, “As Icograda members around the world have had a lot of experience in developing national design policies”.

Icograda will encourage its members to be more effective with their own efforts by leveraging the knowledge in the Icograda network. The benefits of Icograda are best realised through direct dialogue, exchange and knowledge sharing between members.

With this shift in focus, Kennedy’s term with Icograda is set to see some prominent changes. 

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