Robert L. Peters

14 December 2003

VISUALOGUE, a resounding success…


Nagoya, Japan

The final statistics are in, and the kudos keep coming! VISUALOGUE—the 20th Congress of the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda) was the best attended event of its kind on record—truly a special event, in a remarkable city, on an historic occasion. The flood of positive comments since that memorable week supports the statistical evidence—VISUALOGUE was an unqualified success!


VISUALOGUE represented a worldwide gathering of the visual communication profession in Nagoya, Japan from 8-11 October 2003 and was attended by more than 3700 registered delegates from 49 nations. The event’s near-perfect orchestration made possible by the support of 166 companies and by some 1000 volunteers who collaborated in the event’s detailed preparation. Immediately following the Congress, delegates from member associations met for the XX Icograda General Assembly. In addition, design educators and students from across Japan met with their foreign counterparts at the Icograda Design Education Symposium/New Designers Workshop co-organized by Icograda and the International Design Center NAGOYA Inc. By week’s end, over 120,000 people had participated in the concurrent exhibits, forums, and bazaars of Nagoya’s Graphic Design Fair.

During the three-day Congress, 89 speakers gave intriguing, emotional and inspiring lectures on the theme of ‘Quality of Information.’ The speakers spanned a large range of professions including graphic designers, product designers, media designers, information architects, information scientists, historians, art directors, typographers and professors/lecturers. They explored the theme along the routes of Clarity, Creativity and Joy/Humor. Additional topics included identity, sustainability, education and IT VISUALOGUE—for which designers from around the globe contributed idiosyncratic digital narratives.

The event was a time of sensory animation, intellectual stimulation and emotional investment for all who participated. West encountered East, and East met West. 2200 students brought their youthful energy to the venue. Old and young intermixed, and the famous made friends with the soon-to-be famous. Perspectives were shared, new concepts were tested, and ideas were cross-pollinated. Nagoya truly opened its heart and its homes to the world, and in return, it became the destination for intelligent visual communicators from around the globe.

Attendees, speakers and organizers alike had positive comments to make, many on the event’s emotional facets. Erica Saca (El Salvador): “This congress was more emotional and human than technical. I learned so much more this way, because charts, commands and measures are memorized, (and easily forgotten) but real human experiences are remembered… I learned that designers around the world share similar challenges and obstacles. I finally understood that great design is not a matter of geography, it transcends frontiers.” Stefan Sagmeister (USA): ‘“I believe that graphic design that touches hearts will be all that we’ll be asked to do in five to ten years’ time.” Touching on the beauty of ‘being human,’ Neville Brody (United Kingdom): “No matter how much we try to make things come out right, something will be wrong. Nothing is as we plan it. Some of the best ideas come from mistakes.”

This was an important event for the Japanese graphic design community, and also for Icograda. John Shelley (Japan) states: “I really believe this one event has raised the profile and the respect of graphic design in Japan amongst the general public, and hopefully narrowed the gap between the younger generation of graphic designers and the more established designers. Personally the conference was a revelation to me.”

Robert L. Peters (Canada), Icograda’s president noted: “VISUALOGUE was a remarkable design Congress that will long be remembered. But in the end, it all came down to the value of conversation through ‘visual dialogue,’ furthering understanding among people (one of Icograda’s prime objectives), and the power of design to change the world for the better.” Robert spent over three years in planning, liaison and collaboration with VISUALOGUE’s Japanese organizing committee to ensure that this 20th Icograda Congress would meet the needs of the international design community as well as the needs of the graphic design profession in Japan.

The gracious hosts, dedicated organizers, generous sponsors, and tireless promoters of VISUALOGUE can take great satisfaction in their creation—an unforgettable moment in time, and for many attendees, a life-changing opportunity.


Visit the VISUALOGUE website. (A comprehensive book of congress proceedings and presentations [with introductions by Shigeo Fukuda and Robert L. Peters] is now available online).


14 December 2009

Last stop, Tainan.


Tainan, Taipei

Today was the last leg of our three-city 2009 Conference of International Design Competitions lecture tour—with a very enthusiastic audience of nearly 400. It’s been an interesting week, presenting alongside (my new friends) sensei Nakanishi Motoo (one of the great corporate identity masters of our time, responsible for creating and/or managing the image of over one hundred top-500 companies worldwide, among them Bridgestone, Kenwood, Mazda, Asics, Kirin beer, etc., etc.), and Hiroshi Tsunoda, a talented young Tokyo-born product designer with a burgeoning practice in Barcelona, Spain.

A bonus—end of day I had the chance to bend elbows back at the hotel with long-time Manitoba climbing/skiing buddy Richard Tilley (who moved to southern Taiwan nearly a decade ago, and now spends his time scuba-diving along the southern coastline).

A big thanks to event organizer Apex Lin, Pang Soon, the dear design colleagues and professors who showed up for the tri-city events and celebratory dinners, to our excellent(!) professional translator Tracy Wang, and to our lovely, long-suffering, and insightful personal interpreters (you rock, Tree!).

26 October 2009

Icograda President’s Award



Beijing, China

I was honored today to receive the Icograda President’s Award from outgoing Icograda President Don Ryun Chang of Korea. The presentation took place at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (the ultra-modern opera house also known as “The Egg”) here in Beijing, with an audience of several thousand present for the opening day of the Xin: Icograda World Design Congress 2009. It was a bit bizarre (and somewhat overwhelming) to mount the huge stage while an exhibit of photos compiled by Don played on the massive screen.

Beginning in 1970, the Icograda President’s Award has been presented on a biennial basis by the Icograda President. The award honors an outstanding contribution to the work of Icograda.

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(This just in—Don has provided me with his award presentation transcript):

“Before we start the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, I have the pleasure of announcing the second 2009 Icograda President’s Award and it gives me great pleasure to introduce Rob Peters and to recognize his many contributions—from his distinguished stewardship of our council during his term as President and board member, to his numerous published articles featured in important design publications, but today especially his significant role in nurturing and promoting design in China and Asia.

Raised and schooled in Europe, Robert was educated in Switzerland, Germany, and England. He is a graphic designer, communications strategist, and principal of CIRCLE, an award-winning design consultancy he co-founded in 1976. Robert is active internationally as a design practitioner, advisor, juror and lecturer.

Following the 1991 Icograda World Design Congress in Montreal, Rob was designated as the GDC’s official delegate and liaison, representing Canada to Icograda General Assemblies in Glasgow in 1993, Porto (Portugal) in 1995, Punta del Este (Uruguay) in 1997 (where I first met him), and Sydney in 1999 where he was elected to the Icograda board for a six-year term from 1999 to 2005, serving as President from 2001 to 2003. Significant achievements during Peters’ six years on the Icograda board include: development of our first content-rich portal, rejuvenation of the network ‘Friends of Icograda,’ launch of both the Icograda Design Education Network and the Icograda Design Media Network, co-organization of Icograda congresses in Seoul (‘Oullim’ 2000), Johannesburg, South Africa (‘Continental Shift’ 2001), and as President of our Council in Nagoya, Japan (‘VISUALOGUE’ 2003—with some 3700 delegates from 49 countries in attendance, the world’s largest ever congress of graphic designers). Rob also served as official liaison between Icograda and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from 2001 to 2005.

Peters joined the board of the international humanitarian organization Design for the World (DW) in 2000 and was appointed as a Vice President in 2002; in 2004 he was named an Honorary Member of the Brno Biennale Association; he was also a member of the founding executive of the International Design Alliance (IDA) from 2003 to 2005.

For nearly 30 years, Robert has lived in a low-energy, passive-solar house he designed and built in the woods east of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is an avid climber (rocks, ice, mountains) and he enjoys nature and human-powered outdoor pursuits. His interests include art, architecture, photography, visual language, and travel, and he has written many important articles for prominent design publications such as Communication Arts (like the memorable article that introduced Chinese design to many readers all over the world).

Rob has been a great role model, a friend to me over the years, and he has given me great advice—it is a special honor for me to recognize his achievements here in China today.

It gives me sincere pleasure to present the 2009 Icograda President’s Award to Robert L. Peters.”

20 January 2008

Designing Design | Kenya Hara






Tokyo, Japan

Kenya Hara recently sent me a copy of his latest book, Designing Design, a remarkable new title (in English!) from Lars Müller Publishers (ISBN-13: 978-3-03778-105-0)… elegant, thought-provoking, and contemplative. Read a Core77 book review by Robert Blinn here.

Hara’s been called “Japan’s preeminent art director at the beginning of the 21st century” (John Maeda), and has been described as “precise and rigorous… both the timely delivery-boy of communication and the inventor of exformation, struggling and toying with acquiring knowledge and deleting excess in both disciplines…” (Li Edelkoot). I had the pleasure of working closely with Kenya Hara over the course of several years (re: the development of themes, branding, and marketing of VISUALOGUE, the 2003 Icograda World Congress in Nagoya)—I can certainly attest to his remarkable capacity for deep reflection re: all things design, and I’d highly recommend Designing Design to anyone interested in the essence of Japanese aesthetics and simplicity in modern design.

Photos: book cover; Shigeru Ban’s “re-design” of toilet paper (the squared center tube generates resistance thereby reducing consumption—also helps rolls stack well); light designer Kaoru Mende’s natural-twig “re-design” of the match (he calls them ‘Anniversary Matches,’ for special occasions); and Hara’s own clever design of “floating watches” for the new Nicolas G. Hayek Center building, the Swatch Group’s branch office on Ginza Street in Tokyo (a myriad of watch images projected from the ceiling above tell time accurately and come into focus at the exact height of the passersby [on the rough stone floor the projections appear only as dim red spots of light]).

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