Every two years, ICSID holds a congress in collaboration with an industrial design association in a host country. The last congress held in the US was in 1985 in Washington, DC.

During the intervening twenty-two years the San Francisco Bay Area has emerged as an international centre for design, with a thriving community of designers from all over the world. The IDSA hosts a conference every year – so they joined forces.

Connecting’07 focused on design and the environment, universal design, global design activism (to help alleviate suffering and poverty throughout the world), trends in product design, business imperatives that are changing the way designers approach their work, and design research that is improving our understanding of consumers and relationships between products and users.

According to Frank Tyneski, the executive director of the IDSA, Connecting’07 was very successful.

“Connecting’07 lived up to its billing as design event of a lifetime,” he says.

“When I took the podium at the Masonic Center, I looked out on an auditorium that seats more than 3000, filled with inspired faces. The international crowd was universally moved by the speakers, plenary sessions, displays and events. Plus, we had great parties!”

Tyneski thinks that the ‘connecting’ theme was the most important aspect of the congress.

“The World Design Congress, was designed to facilitate the sharing of groundbreaking material,” he says.

“It gets designers connected with what’s happening with industry leaders; helps us compare our own best practices with those of cross-functional industries; allows consultants to connect with potential clients; and helps corporate design leaders benchmark their design prowess. Regardless of your position or industry, the individual or enterprise comes away changed for the better.”

“In my conversations with attendees, I found that individual designers were able to personally connect with and actually speak to industry leaders. Everyone came away with something.

Sir Ken Robinson spoke brilliantly on the main stage about ‘big picture’ creativity, while Dan Hill met the needs of a smaller but equally passionate audience with his talk on the growing role of emotions in every aspect of business.”

The focus on design for sustainability turned up some very progressive and impressive speakers.

“I was personally moved by Hans Rosling and Janine Benyus,” says Tyneski. “They presented scientific data about the environment, nature and economics within a visual context, inspiring us to use our collective design influence to improve the human condition.

"Collectively, the Connecting’07 presenters inspired cross-conversation and vibrant discussion – and even debate – among designers about our role in environmental sustainability. Those conversations are still going on, and the IDSA will continue to highlight sustainability in future events and activities.”

On the subject of real and perceived barriers between designers and their potential clients and partners, Tyneski thinks that IDSA conferences help to facilitate critical exchange between designers and clients, vendors and strategic partners.

“It’s sometimes challenging for designers and their potential clients to find common ground. The needs of industry are constantly changing. In order to survive, designers need to evolve to meet the shifting needs and criteria of a changing global marketplace.”

Despite cultural differences in the global design community, Tyneski detects plenty of agreement and concord.

“We all love beauty, usability and functionality,” he says. “We all want our material possessions to fit into our lives and express who we are. We’re all growing into an awareness that what we consume has a consequence not only for ourselves but for future generations.

"However, the specific expression of these qualities varies according to cultural norms, economic realities and local tastes. The World Design Congress provided deeper awareness of how designers can help create a global community while also meeting specific regional needs.”

For those who missed Connecting’07, the good news is that there will be similar events in future.

“The goal of every product designer is to improve a product each year,” comments Tyneski. “At the IDSA, we do the same with our national and district conferences, which inspire and educate designers at all levels. Keep your eyes peeled for the next national conference, which will be at the Biltmore in Phoenix in September 2008.”  

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