The IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia) program is guided by a wealth of housewares industry and retail expertise: the national gia sponsors are the leading professional housewares trade publications in their own countries and adding credibility to the program, the four expert jurors are internationally recognized experts in visual merchandising, store design and marketing. The gia year 2016-2017 brings with it a change to the composition of the gia expert jury with addition of Anne Kong.
For the past decade, there have been three expert jurors (Martin M. Pegler, Wolfgang Gruschwitz and Scott Kohno) and in 2010, a fourth juror, Henrik Peter Reisby Nielsen joined the panel. After the 2016 gia events in Chicago in March, Martin—who has more than 60 years in the industry and is the author and editor for 80 books—retired from his position as an expert juror, which he’d held since the inception of gia in 2000.
Although this left some big shoes to fill, Martin recommended Anne Kong, who has stepped up to accept the position. Anne is a renowned educator and designer specializing in visual merchandising, exhibitions and special events. She has worked alongside Martin for many years and is co-authoring the 7th edition of his textbook, Visual Merchandising and Display.
The International Housewares Association, as the global sponsor and organizer of the gia program, is pleased to welcome Anne, who is the Associate Professor and former Chairperson of the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design Department at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. She has over 20 years of experience in her field, and designs solutions for retail, brands and promotional events.
Anne is renowned for innovating professional collaborations between retailers and brands to enhance the classroom experience. “Every day presents new challenges, and I see these as opportunities for me to influence how FIT grows,” she says. “The result of this fantastic partnership has enabled me to inspire hundreds of students each year, develop new projects, advance the curriculum, narrow the gap between the industry and the classroom and become an industry leader.”
Anne Kong has many experiences under her belt that will no doubt provide her with endless inspiration that she can apply to her work as a gia expert juror. For example, she has implemented many things during her tenure at FIT that have changed the way that students—future designers—think and work.
“In 2001, I witnessed the changing face of retail and visual merchandising: large format graphics became an integral part of the VM formula, and I knew we needed this technology in our classrooms,” Anne says. “So I reached out to FIT faculty retiree Martin M. Pegler and the Society of Visual Merchandisers for a grant of US$15,000 to start up a department lab and purchase a 42” large format plotter for our studio courses. This equipment enabled students to output ceiling to floor graphic panels and brand messaging to accompany their mannequin displays. This effort also inspired the VPED lab we have today—a facility equipped with over 20 Mac computers, specialized software, vinyl printing and cutting technologies equivalent to those used in retail store VM departments, museums and event companies. The lab is utilized by any student taking VPED courses and has inspired the Packaging Design program to utilize similar technologies.”
It is Anne’s belief that the method in which one learns has everything to do with what one learns. For example, “Developing and exercising sustainability in design is an action, not a trend, and the impact of our design choices (as designers) is key to modelling our students as global citizens,” she says. “As designers, we are collaborators who have tremendous power to educate, inform and influence the public.”
Part of the role of a gia expert juror is to mentor retailers, so Anne will be available to the national gia winners at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago, if they would like to seek her advice and guidance.
Mentoring is something that Anne excels at, and every year gains great insight into the industry from the international student gallery at the PAVE (Planning & Visual Education Partnership) Gala that she helps to organize in New York. The event attracts more than 1,000 industry professionals, with students from all over the world showcasing their work and networking at the prestigious gathering.
“I seize the opportunity to utilize industry professionals and alumni as mentors in course projects,” Anne explains. “I regularly have three to five industry professionals join our class to mentor students individually during a design project. I believe this is exponentially more valuable when a student has access to multiple professional opinions, beyond the faculty of the course, while molding a project rather than simply as a final critique. These mentors offer alternative views on design, perception and provide guidance on progress, production, materials and color.”
Anne Kong is rightfully very proud to have been part of the collaborative interdisciplinary team that worked on the development of the Communication Design Foundation program, through which she wrote the first course responsible for the BFA transition DE216 (Foundation in Display and Exhibit Design). “This immersive course for Communication Design AAS students allows them to experience a full scope of the various industries connected to VPED: retail, museum, event and trade, and allows them to experiment in both design and fabrication techniques,” she says.
Along with teaching within the Associate Degree and the newly launched Bachelors programs, Anne teaches design for retail and visual presentation to students in the Fashion Merchandising Management, Cosmetic and Fragrance Marketing BFA program, and the Packaging Design BFA program. “Often these courses are the first experience a student has to learn about the exciting business of retail design,” she explains. “I strive to bring a new awareness to the challenges and opportunities to successfully impact the retail environment.”
There’s no doubt about it—the insights that Anne’s experience, courses and her work generates will provide invaluable inspiration for future gia winners, and she’ll bring a new skillset and outlook to the expert jury. We warmly welcome Anne Kong to the gia family!