INTERVIEW WITH RUSSELL KENNEDY, VICE-PRESIDENT ICOGRADA

13 November 2006
Encuadre Magazine
Encuadre Magazine

1. In the global era, considering all its potential benefits and inconveniences, what do you think is the future of Design, especially Graphic Design?
Global networking, self-analysis and the renaming of graphic design are emerging as the issues facing the practitioners and educators of our profession. A shrinking world combined with the merging of creative disciplines encourages us to both redefine our industry and internationalise our approach to education.

The borders between graphic design and its associated creative disciplines have been blurring for some time. The discipline is in a state of flux. This is due partly to the computer revolution and the multimedia phenomenon, but also to a changing attitude towards design itself. Design is now referred to holistically. Multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary practice is growing. More and more graphic designers are working in the new media areas of web, video, animation and sound design. Multimedia, however, is not the only influence of change. A growing number of graphic designers are now practising and exhibiting within a visual art context. The role of the graphic designer has extended far beyond the areas of visual identity, typography and design for print. The rapid and continual evolution of 'graphic design' has prompted international discussion regarding the appropriateness of the term itself.

2. What do you think are the new practices or the emerging ways of exercising Graphic Design nowadays?

Icograda recently opened discussion on a name change for the profession. We acknowledged that there seemed to be a move away from the term 'graphic design'. Many educational institutions around the world - including my institution, Monash University - have already made the change to visual communication. The term 'visual communication' or 'communication design' appears to be the preferred replacement to graphic design. The impact of a new name for our profession will be minimal because it is a reaction to a change, which has already occurred. The graphic design industry will continue to adjust and accommodate change as it has always done. Graphic design education will continue to respond to the changing demands of the profession while also challenging its conventions and pushing its boundaries even wider. It is not only the boundaries of the disciplines that are blurring, but also the borders between countries and cultures.

3. How can Graphic Designers successfully deal with their professional tasks while being respectful of environment and cultural diversity?
As designers we must be aware of our environmental and cultural responsibilities. Graphic design has an important role to play in promoting sustainability and responding to the negative impacts of globalisation such as the erosion of cultural diversity. Respecting our differences is just as important as highlighting our similarities. It is important that we focus on diversity and take care not to involuntarily promote the homogenising of international design through the well-intended pursuit of common ground. On the other hand, the value of graphic design will increase as the world moves closer together because communication design is emerging as the new international language.

4. How would you describe the difference between doing Graphic Design in a developed country and doing it in an underdeveloped or developing country?
Like most professions graphic design relies on a healthy economy. Commercial activity is the major stimulus of graphic design in developed countries. This is the primary reason why graphic design suffers in the underdeveloped or developing countries. Poor economies, low pay rates and working conditions and a lack of respect for design are major issues in these countries. Icograda recently compiled a report titled 'The State of Design in Latin America'. Eight countries participated in a supporting survey: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela. The findings highlighted a number of common issues:

- The general public does not recognise the value or definition of design, but there is slow and steady progress in some countries as clients see the need to make themselves stand out in the commercial domain.
- Digital technology is very necessary and widely used in the profession, but has led to underqualified people marketing themselves as 'designers,' undermining the value of professionally trained designers.
- Many Latin American designers struggle to maintain national cultural identity, while absorbing international design trends.
- The design profession needs to be further developed in the cultural and tourism industries.
- Design needs to be promoted as a strategic tool in the economic and social development of Latin America.
- Design schools tend to be technical and basic, and many do not adequately prepare students for the realities of the job market.

5. How does Australia see Latin American and especially Mexican Design?
In the past, Mexican design has had a low profile outside of Latin America but this is changing. The Australian design community has recently become aware of names like Gabriela Rodriguez Valencia and Yolanda Patricia Munoz due to their appearance at Melbourne's AGIdeas design conference in 2003. In Australia, the historical reference point for Mexican design remains the post revolution mural painting and political posters of the 30's, 40's and 50's. My first introduction to contemporary Mexican graphic design was at eight years old when I purchased a 1968 Mexico Olympics stamp for my collection. The op-art and Huichole Indian inspired designs by American graphic designer Lance Wyman in collaboration with Mexican Architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez left a lasting impression on me.

Australia rates Latin American design very highly. In March 2004, I attended the Icograda Design Week in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which included regional meetings with designers and educators from the South American region. The standard of work showcased over the week was excellent. The Brazilian Graphic Design Biennial, in particular, was outstanding, as was the Letras Latinas regional typography exhibition. A memorable Mexican piece from that exhibition was a font inspired by Aztec letterforms.

In 2003, Monash University embarked on a design exchange project with three design schools from different countries: Australia, New Zealand and El Salvador. It was called The Connect Project. The outcomes were fascinating. The aesthetic of the work from Monash University, Australia, and Wanganui School of Design, New Zealand, was quite similar but the work from Escuela de Comunicacion, El Salvador, was very different. The work was hand crafted, raw, passionate and powerful. It was refreshing to see such a rich expression of cultural diversity from the Latin Americans. The Connect Project website is:

http://www.artdes.monash.edu.au/ConnectProject/home.htm

Monash University Lecturer, Sarah Jones conceived and initiated The Connect Project; the participants were approached through the Icograda Education Network (IEN). The Connect Project is the type of educational exchanges we are trying to encourage. Sarah is currently a Moderator for the IEN Discussion List. The IEN will be announcing some similar projects shortly. One of these upcoming projects is titled Creative Waves. Check the Icograda web site for details:

6. Are there important differences between what and how Design schools are teaching and what the professional practices actually need? Do you perceive the need of new education paradigms?
The design industry needs intelligent designers with strong conceptual ability. They also required graduates to have proficient technical and production knowledge and skills. Graduates are expected to demonstrate skills and knowledge in the areas of pre-press and design management. Universities are now placing increased emphasis on teaching design history, theory and research methods. The demand for postgraduate study is increasing and cross-disciplinary activity is encouraged. The future of graphic design is fluid, and it is moving into areas that are outside the traditional vocational paths. In my opinion, education should support the requirements of industry but we should also encourage the evolutionary growth and redefinition of this dynamic discipline.

7. Do you think there is a natural right of all the people around the World to design their own spaces, objects, messages, social interactions, etc, to have them designed or to take profit of a Design respectful of their needs and tastes? How would you assess, deny or justify the importance of Design if this right was to be included in laws and constitutions?
In an ideal world, people should have the right to design their own environment but we also must also be aware that most of us live in communities. We must consider our individual design needs but also respect the needs of others around us. Regarding the question about including design into laws and constitutions...hmm, that's a tough one; I guess as long as we live in a country that promotes freedom of speech we will have that right to express ourselves through design. Perhaps the term needs to change from freedom of speech to freedom of communication. This would then embrace verbal, written and visual communication. Just a thought!

8. Technological change has had as a bottom line the quest to make easier for the users to produce their own images and designs. What do you think is the real impact of technology in professional Design exercise and education?
Information technology will continue to have an impact on the evolution of our discipline. The worldwide web along with trends in international trade and marketing will accelerate issues relating to the shrinking world and its impact on cultural diversity. Globalisation is poised to be the next defining issue for graphic design. Design education itself is on the edge of an international information revolution. It is an exciting time for graphic design but as custodians we must all approach this new era responsibly.

9. What do you think about UNESCO having classified Design as a subordinate of engineering?
It is disappointing to hear either profession described as subordinate to the other. I suspect the UNESCO classification refers mainly to the 3D areas of design, architecture, interior and industrial design. The concept of form following function may still be valid but truly great design is often achieved when engineers are asked to respond to the designer's challenge to create unconventional structural forms. The works of Eero Sarinen, Oscar Niemeyer and Jorn Utzon come to mind. Structural design should be described as a collaborative process involving mutual respect between designers and engineers at a conceptual level.

10. Please tell our readers a little about the main goals and plans of Icograda.
The International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda) is the professional world body for graphic design and visual communication. Founded in London in 1963, it is a voluntary coming together of associations concerned with graphic design, design management, design promotion, and design education. Icograda promotes graphic designers' vital role in society and commerce. Icograda unifies the voice of graphic designers and visual communication designers worldwide.

Icograda has developed the following networks, which have become important forums for cultural and professional exchange.
Friends of Icograda, a community of individual and corporate supporters.
Icograda Education Network, a network of design schools worldwide.
Icograda Design Media Network, a network of design publications worldwide.

It is advisable to regularly check the Icograda website to stay up to date with Icograda events and international design news. There are some exiting events and initiatives planned over the next two years...stay tuned.




About this article
Interview questions prepared by: Gerardo Kloss, Antonio Rivera and Alejandro Tapia.
The Publishing Committee of Encuadre graphic design education magazine interviews Russell Kennedy - Senior Lecturer at Monash University, Australia, and Vice President of Icograda - for his perspectives on the design profession, design education and the future of design. The interview was originally published in Spanish in Encuadre Volume 2, Number 5, October 2004 (p. 50-55). The interview was conducted and translated into Spanish by Gerardo Kloss.

About Russell Kennedy
Russell Kennedy is a Senior Lecturer & Course Coordinator of Visual Communication at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and Vice President Icograda 2003-2005. Russell is an academic and practitioner of both graphic design and filmmaking. Before joining Monash in 1994, he was the principle of Russell Kennedy Design, a corporate identity consultancy and Co-Director of Onset Productions, a motion picture and documentary company. Russell is a member of the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) and actively promotes a network interface between design education and industry. Russell is often invited to assist educational institutions within the Oceania/Asian region.

About Encuadre Magazine
Encuadre graphic design education magazine is published in Mexico City by Encuadre, the Mexican Association of Graphic Design Schools. The October issue of the magazine was featured in the 15th National Meeting of Graphic Design Schools, held on 6-9 October 2004 at Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes, City and State of Aguascalientes, Mexico.