As the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) turns 50 later this month, we touched base with the newly elected Chair of the Board of Directors, John Barratt, to find out more about the planned celebrations and what’s in store for the next 50 years.

Q: IDSA is celebrating its golden anniversary this year. Looking back, what would you say are the main trends in the evolution of American industrial design over the last 50 years?

During the 1950’s and 60’s, design truly came of age. Industrial design pioneers like Raymond Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss and Walter Dorwin Teague were working their way into big business. By 1965, when IDSA was founded, design had emerged into the public consciousness in a new and different way—that was a real turning point for our industry.

Design is ultimately a reflection of our society and what’s happening in the world—looking back we can see that manifest, whether that be through a new sense of minimalism brought on by the oil crisis in the 70’s, the introduction of new tools motivated by the digital age in the 80’s, and more recently the maker movement, as well as our renewed interest in social responsibility in the face of globalisation and environmental change.

Q: What celebrations are planned for the 50th anniversary?

It’s been an exciting year for IDSA! March 5—the day that marked the founding of IDSA in 1965—was declared National Industrial Design Day this year in the US Congress. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly commended IDSA “for being an instrumental force in the growth and expansion” of industrial design. That was a proud moment for the Society.

The 50th anniversary will also be celebrated at the IDSA International Conference—set for Seattle from August 19 to 22 and culminating with the prestigious International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) Ceremony and the Samsung-sponsored IDEA Gala. The competition is marking its 35th year. The summer issue of IDSA’s flagship publication, INNOVATION, asked current authors to review their past commentaries on design. This revealed how much things certainly have changed in design. The upcoming winter issue profiles 50 influential designers, 50 moments in IDSA history, and 35 years of IDEA. Online, the new features designRewind—highlighting significant events in design history.

Q: The IDSA International Conference is titled “Future of the Future”. What does looking to the future mean for IDSA?

Looking to the future for IDSA means building upon our legacy to help shape a meaningful and relevant Society that may be very different than what it has been in the past. It means continuing to embrace and expand on working with related design disciplines to use the power of design to improve the common good. I believe IDSA’s mission will be accomplished when the business community and the general public truly understand and appreciate the huge contributions made by industrial designers to our economy and to our quality of life.

Q: IDSA also holds five District Design Conferences every year. How important are these to the American design community and how do they differ from the annual International Conference?

IDSA’s District Design Conferences, also known as the DDCs, are held each year in the West, Midwest, South, Central and Northeast regions. They’re largely student-centric, focusing on the future of the profession. The DDCs provide an excellent opportunity for the next generation of design—or those transitioning into the field—to meet and work with professionals. Attendees tell us that the conferences are invaluable for emerging talent to be mentored and to network; attend portfolio reviews; gain insight into the latest trends; and develop career connections.

Q: IDSA recently elected a new Board. Based on member feedback, what are the most important areas of focus for the coming year?

There are three key areas of focus moving ahead with our newly elected Board:

  • IDSA will continue to strengthen and grow IDEA, which already is considered one of the most rigorous and thoughtful design competitions in the world, bringing to the public’s attention the latest design innovations—sometimes even before they hit the market.
  • We will ensure IDSA has an experienced and effective leadership team and Board of Directors that collaborates to make our strategic vision a reality for our members and for the industry.
  • IDSA will continue to lead industrial design; inspire design quality; elevate the business of design; and strengthen our International Conference—to further establish IDSA as the leading voice and advocate for the industry.

About John Barratt
John Barratt took office as Chair of the IDSA Board of Directors in May 2015. He is president and CEO ofTEAGUE, a design consultancy founded in 1926 by Walter Dorwin Teague. Barratt has dedicated his time at TEAGUE to strengthening the consultancy’s partnerships with brands such as The Boeing Company, Microsoft, Samsung and Intel, and pushing TEAGUE’s longstanding mission “to build a new and better world” into the 21st century. He has previously worked at Exatiss Concept (France), and Philips Design (Netherlands), where in his role as Strategic Design Manager, he established and implemented a coherent brand language across Philips’ ranges of telecommunication products; and initiated, mentored, and implemented a future-focused ideation process for the burgeoning mobile phone market. Barratt holds a master’s degree in Industrial Design from Leicester Polytechnic (UK) and a bachelor’s degree in Three Dimensional Design from Teesside Polytechnic (UK).

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