“It was a very work-intensive and interesting time filled with many challenges,” says Zec, looking back on his eight years with the Icsid executive board.

Zec speaks with pride about his role in the securing of the Council’s financial situation. “Icsid had been in a rather shaky financial position in recent years. We have now managed – due to the relocation of the Icsid secretariat to Montreal and support from the city of Montreal, and also to more professional management – to enforce a stricter budget policy.”

He is also proud of the work he did to strengthen the network in the Arab world. “Thanks to an Icsid board meeting and several contacts in the Arab business world, we were a knowledge partner at the first International Design Forum in Dubai, thus creating a completely new relationship which will certainly bear a lot of fruit in future.”

The development of the Asian economy is also of keen interest to Zec, who sees design becoming more and more the centre of interest in Asia. He thinks Icsid offers orientation and is a fruitful contact partner, an organisation that conveys authority and competence and acts as a facilitator. He cites the Gwangju Design Biennale as a recent example: “I had the honour of

meeting the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and former president of South Korea, Kim Dae-Jung. He read a memorandum on the topic ‘Peace and Design’, thus sacrificing half a day of his time to raise public awareness of design on Korean television – the whole event took place in cooperation with Icsid.”

Among the biggest challenges was the development of the International Design Alliance (IDA), the project-oriented venture between Icsid and Icograda, Icsid’s corollary from the communication design sector.

“All of us, industrial as well as graphic designers, had to learn how to deal with one another,” he notes. “The opportunity for learning how to do that was given to us by the projects we developed together, such as the World Design Report, implemented by Icograda, and the World Design Capital project.

"With Turin as pilot city, we found an excellent partner to give the project a real boost and to ensure that World Design Capital will venture into its next round.”

The collaboration with Icograda has had its up and downs but seems to be sticking. “It is probably thanks to the good relationship between the president of Icograda, Jacques Lange, and I that we managed to overcome what at first appeared to be insurmountable obstacles and reach a consensus,” comments Zec.

“This has shown that it is possible to spur a joint alliance but also how important it is to keep the separate identities of the institutions. Therefore, I am still against the idea of turning the IDA into a single, higher-level association, under which all other associations can be subsumed.

"My credo has been and still is to ‘sing the joint song together with more voices’. I believe in this development and hope that one day we will manage to perform a design opera.”

The World Design Project, also initiated by Zec, kicks off with Turin in 2008. While this largely involves parties, congresses and exhibitions – and a large PR campaign – Zec also sees a deeper structural role for design in urban centres undergoing renewal.

“Many cities are the result of industrialisation, and industry’s decline in some parts of the world will obviously change the structure of cities,” he says.

“This in turn means that cities need to give themselves a new profile, a new future, in order to retain existing creative potential. Furthermore, they need to attract people who may not have lived there previously. In the creation of attractive living environments, design obviously plays a major role.”

Zec has been elected, by the Icsid executive board, for a six-year term as head of the World Design Capital, thereby ensuring his continuing participation in this project.

Zec says he looks forward to being able to devote more time to red dot and the Design Zentrum Nord-rhein Westfalen. According to Zec, red dot is facing numerous new challenges. “New locations are being set up and the association wants to become active in new sectors and go beyond organising the competition as such,” he says. “These tasks will surely keep me busy.” 

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