Clive Roux, CEO
IDSA is not just about business and profit.
Yes, the board's focus and the staff's focus for the past 18 months has definitely been very strongly on the bottom line, like countless other businesses during this difficult period.
Yes, we acknowledge that the message you may have received was money, money, money. It was and still is important to fix IDSA's finances and sustainability. We are, however, now once again stable and growing strongly. IDSA is in a healthy position today, but fixing our finances and returning to growth are certainly not all that we have been working on over the past 18 months as a Society. I would like to provide an update on some of the multitude of activities that IDSA has also being doing to continue our support and development of our social responsibility to the profession as well as society.
Industrial design today is so broad it is mind boggling. As you know, as designers we want to be involved in everything that challenges us as a professional society. We get spread very thin, very quickly. The only way around this is broader participation by professionals like you.
IDSA represents the interests of the whole profession and therefore we do cover areas such as business, the value of design in creating profit for business, America's global competitiveness, especially in relation to China, style and problem solving in design as well as the very important topics such as sustainability, ecodesign, design thinking, medical design, design for the majority and many other topics.
Many years ago IDSA infamously kicked Victor Papanek out! I don't see that happening today. The Society is deeply committed to social responsibility.
IDSA is actively continuing to develop its social responsibility components along with many others, such as a strong commitment to grow in China and support the growth of our member's businesses there, the creation and support of ecodesign tools to help us improve sustainability, the integration of design into the corporate structure of global companies and development of a value matrix to explain the value of design to business and society. Also, the development of strong virtual communities and support systems for industrial designers and ensuring that the Society itself is a sustainable business that continues to create better value for its members.
Here is what we are presently doing about social responsibility:
1. Social Impact – A Design Dialogue Conference (one of five topics this year for the profession to ponder over) held this weekend in San Jose.
2. A Special Interest Section dedicated to Design for the Majority.
3. Many threads and discussions on social responsibility on the IDSA LinkedIn group forums. Please read this thread and then choose “Discussions” on the top menu bar once you have either joined the group (free) or if you are a member, have read the above link.
4. We belief that as China ramps up its design industry and they are doing this at an unbelievable pace right now, the US and the West are going to have to look for new opportunities. Clean energy and environmental impact reduction in general are going to be key drivers, not just for the good of the planet and mankind, but also for the economic competitiveness of the US. The more we can control and reduce the cost of our national cost of living (e.g. running our buildings and transportation options), the more we can bring the US economy into a competitive position to manufacture again versus China and India as their populations gain wealth and ramp up their costs of living. This is already happening there. This is a view that we openly discuss in IDSA and on our forums even though we are not yet at a point to make it an agreed direction or policy to support. The conversation is going on, and I feel a very big social responsibility to talk to the government to help them understand this economic threat as well as to inform and raise the awareness of our professionals to GET ENGAGED with the Chinese faster so that they can take their place as strong and competent competitors in China rather than getting sidelined watching work slip away back home. These are big social issues that all of us are dealing with.
5. I lived in Africa for 25 years and found industrial design through IDSA. As a designer I feel I have a responsibility to help contribute to ways to solve the issues of poverty in the world. I believe that the West is not seeing the huge opportunities for personal satisfaction as well as economic gain that designing truly relevant solutions to the third world's problems could bring them. I am personally in this job because I believe in the Society and it's unbelievable power to influence people around the globe in a positive way. I see it in action every time we are invited to China to talk and interact with them. I believe in it, because of the social impact of IDSA that I have personally experienced in my life. I believe that we can extend that effect and make IDSA even more valuable to the world. My first action make this a reality more than a thought is to have the Patrons Program communicate industrial design to the K-12 kids. I want every kid who graduates from school in 10 to 15 years in America to know what industrial design is, how it works and how they can use it as a highly effective tool to solve the problems of the world. I want them to consider becoming a designer and if they can’t, I want them to want a designer as a team mate in their work environment! We've been working this year to revise our “What is Design?” article on the website to create a version that is focused on kids. Doris Wells-Papanek, IDSA (you may recognize that name) and Scott Stropkay, IDSA of Essential are working with me on this project at the moment. We are actively engaged in linking the design high schools that are popping up around the country together in order to get them to learn from each other and improve the curriculums and ways of working much faster than they can do on their own so that we can then use the results as a template to get other design courses in the K-12 system started because of the already proven track record of success.
6. Does IDSA represent design as problem solving? The pure idea of design as problem solving as practiced by the Eames, certainly does not in any way represent the breadth of practice of the profession today. However, one of the reasons we are so strong on clean tech and sustainability is that we believe that these issues will lead the design community to greater and more significant problem solving (our true calling) than the constant chasing of smaller and smaller incremental improvements in the hundreds of mature markets that our companies find themselves in today. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of value that can and is added to many corporations in that way and there is nothing wrong with it as an activity, but we believe that we are behind in developing the notion of design as problem solving. Our Section VP, Warren Ginn, IDSA is working to get a Design Thinking Section started because we believe that IDSA has been particularly silent on the topic of design as a general methodology and thought process to solve problems that are far broader than just individual product solutions. To start, three days ago we began an IDSA Design Thinking LinkedIn Group. We've reached 20 members. But we need the support of 20 IDSA members to turn this into an official IDSA Section so we still have a little ways to go. Chris Lovin, IDSA of Mixer Designer Group has agreed to step up as the group leader. If you are interested, please join the LinkedIn group and let Chris know that as an IDSA member you support the group's formation.
7. Other IDSA activities that I would point to that represent the Society's activities with respect to social responsibility are the Design History Section, the Woman in Design Section, the EcoDesign Section and our commitment to the third printing of the OKALA Guide due out in the 4th quarter this year. It is a tool developed by three IDSA members to help designers do lifecycle assessments for their projects in a much simpler way. We are committed to send a copy of the guide to every member this year, including the more than 1,200 student members we have gained. I would also point to the Sage Section. Our attempt to try to bring the knowledge of the older members of the industrial design profession as mentors to the youth.
8. Finally, this year’s IDSA International conference theme is community. It will be held in New Orleans, and we are actively looking for projects and community activities to help the New Orleans' community. All issues revolving around social responsibility and impact.
IDSA is deeply concerned about social responsibility. Can you find all of this activity and was it clear to you given the strong messages that both the Board and I have been giving out about the need to return to financial health and the return of the Society to a stable financial position? Probably not. I can certainly understand how the profession could have gotten the message that we are only about money. But we are quite simply not that single focused!
We need people who have a social conscience. More importantly, we need poeple who are prepared to take action to further the cause. Please, if this is you, please get involved in the many activities above. If you still feel we are not representing social responsibility in the way that you would expect, would you please do me the favor of joining our online discussion forum on the topic on the IDSA LinkedIn group, and tell us what you feel we should be doing so that I can think how to take action on those requests.