Join one of the world’s top designers, Gianfranco Zaccai ’70 H’09, on July 1 for a chat on innovation and social impact

man in front of continuum sign

Join us this week for an incredible opportunity to meet Gianfranco Zaccai, arguably among the top design innovators in the world, who will be joining us from Italy on Wednesday, July 1 at 3 p.m. at this Zoom link: The chat is part of an ongoing series in partnership with The Republic of Tea.

Gianfranco will be talking about design thinking and the creative process.  He is the co-founder of one of the top innovation design firms in the world, Continuum (now EPAM Continuum), a global innovation by design consultancy with offices in Boston, Milan, Seoul and Shanghai.  Under his leadership, Continuum created market changing innovations in product and service design across every imaginable sector. The company was recently acquired and Gianfranco has now launched a series of new ventures in the social impact realm.

Born in Trieste, Italy, he grew up in the U.S. His ties to both countries have always been strong. After graduating from Syracuse University one of his first jobs as a designer was for a company in Milan that made clinical diagnostic devices.  “The fusion of the two cultures, American and Italian, was a great learning experience for me because the approaches are so different yet synergistic,” he recalled in an interview for Herman Miller. “Back then, in the U.S., design was all about form following function, while in Italy, other sensibilities also came into play: emotion, tradition, and culture.”

This hands-on approach to researching problems became the framework for Continuum when it was established in 1983. The group, which became recognized as one of the most renowned design and innovation firms around the world, remains grounded in the principles of discovery. Much of what we know about design thinking grew from Continuuum.

Zaccai and Continuum’s work with Herman Miller, Samsung, Procter & Gamble, United Healthcare, BMW, Southwest Airlines and many other product, technology and service companies have launched innovations that have changed lives.  Zaccai and his team invented many highly successful category-defining products, including the Reebok Pump, P&G’s Swiffer and the Omnipod Insulin Delivery System.

Zaccai champions holistic and interdisciplinary innovation research, design and development. His new venture is Intelligence ++, the Zaccai Foundation for Augmented Intelligence, which seeks to develop, stimulate and leverage technological, educational and organizational innovation to enable and empower individuals with intellectual disability, their families and their communities to improve quality of life, enhance independence and productivity, and benefit society.  He is now entirely focused on bringing design innovation approaches that he created through Continuum to the social impact realm – using an interdisciplinary approach to imagination and problem solving. 

He is now working with the LaunchPad, VPA and InclusiveU to develop a new program at Syracuse University in inclusive entrepreneurship called Intelligence ++ — and he will also be discussing opportunities to become engaged with this exciting new initiative. Read more about that here.

Gianfranco is former chair of the Design Management Institute and past president of the Aspen Design Conference. He holds degrees in industrial design from Syracuse University and architecture from the Boston Architectural College. He received an honorary doctorate from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.

A charismatic speaker and big thinker, Gianfranco knows how to challenge us all to think better, bigger, and build solutions that solve problems in our lives and around the world.  He also has the unique ability to see and sense what is ahead on the horizon – and the big trends and opportunities, from artificial intelligence (AI), robotics as emotional support, physiological sensors, to new tools to sense, interpret and communication. He’ll be discussing these and other profound trends related to the concept of Intelligence ++ that can change the way we engage with the world. 

Joining him as panelists will be:

  • Don Carr, VPA Professor of Design, Coordinator of the School of Design’s M.F.A. in Design and Coordinator of VPA’s Industrial and Interaction Design Program;
  • Dr. Louise Manfredi, Assistant VPA Professor of Industrial and Interaction Design, Syracuse Center of Excellence Faculty Fellow and Director, Invent@SU;
  • Quinn King ’20, co-founder of MedUX

Moderating the audience Q&A will be Dr. Beth Myers, Assistant Professor of Inclusive Education, School of Education, and Executive Director of The Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education.