Gianfranco Zaccai, BArch '78, is president and Chief Design Officer of Continuum LLC, an international multidisciplinary design consultancy, which he founded in 1983 as the first fully integrated design and development firm in the world. In 1986, Continuum Italia was founded in Milan, Italy and in 2000 Continuum Korea was launched in Seoul, Korea. In 2009 Continuum expanded its operations to Shanghai, China and Venice, California, Currently Continuum employs a multidisciplinary staff of approximately 150 people worldwide.
Zaccai is known for championing a holistic and highly integrated approach to innovation research, design, and development. This vision has resulted in the design and development of many highly successful products that have gone on to define their category, from the Reebok "Pump," to Procter & Gamble's breakthrough SwifferTM waterless cleaning system. With development of the "Pump," Zaccai set the stage for a new "experiential" movement in design, now becoming widely embraced, to move the designer out of the loft and into the world of the consumer, even before product development begins. Since 1988, Zaccai has been involved with the Herman Miller Company in strategic engagements focused on developing innovations in health care. His holistic design research and development process has resulted in the revolutionary CompassTM System for patient and exam rooms as well as the NalaTM Patient Chair. The MetaformTM Trans-Generational Personal Hygiene System developed in1990, though never produced, set a new vision for systems to facilitate independence for people with disabilities and their extended families. The Metaform System has been featured in exhibitions at the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York and on HGTV.
Zaccai's holistic philosophy of design is reflected in the fact that he holds degrees both in industrial design from Syracuse University and in architecture from the Boston Architectural College (BAC). In 2007, Zaccai was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts from North Carolina State University. In 2009, Zaccai was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University.
Zaccai is committed to lifelong learning and teaching. He is a past member of the faculty at SDA Bocconi School of Management, in Milan, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and the BAC in Boston, Massachusetts. He has conducted workshops for Samsung at the company's Innovative Design Lab in Seoul, Korea and delivered a series of lectures for the Korea Institute of Industrial Design Promotion. He has also lectured at the Design Management Institute, the Corporate Design Foundation, the Danish Design Council, MIT's Product Design Class in its School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management, Cornell University's Johnson School of Management, Harvard Business School, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Syracuse University, The University of the Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, Tufts University, the University of North Carolina, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the University of Louisiana, the Politecnico di Milano, the University of Padova, and the University of Pescara in Italy, the Nanyang Technological University and the Tamasek Polytechnic in Singapore, and the Australian Academy of Design . He has spoken at international conferences and workshops in Finland, Sweden, South Africa, Uruguay, Brazil, Denmark, Italy, India, Ireland, Japan, China, Korea, Mexico, Columbia, Chile, and the UK.
Zaccai has been published in leading professional journals, including Design Management Journal; Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA)'s publication Innovation; World Class Design to Manufacturer, published in the UK; and the Danish Design Council. His designs have been showcased in numerous publications and exhibitions including "Design in Plastics," "Product Design 1" and "Product Design 3," the Product Design Exhibition at Katonah Gallery, and the Trans-Generational Design exhibition by the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. In addition, his work has been featured in such books as New American Design by Hugh Aldersey Williams and New & Notable Product Design II by Robert Blaich. Zaccai has been a contributor to BusinessWeek Online, writing a column on innovation. Zaccai and his firm's work have been acclaimed by many national and international organizations. He has won Awards for Design Excellence from ID: Industrial Design Magazine and the Industrial Designers Society of America, including a special "Design of The Decade" award for long-term success in the market. In addition, he received the Compasso d'Oro from Associazione del Disegno Industriale; the iF Seal of Excellence from the iF Industrie Forum Design in Hannover, Germany; the Premio SMAU Industrial Design Award from SMAU, Milan, Italy; the Special Theme Prize of the 1994 Nagaoka Shinanogawa Technopolis International Design Competition in Japan; the Apex (American Product Excellence) Award; and a Presidential Award for Design Excellence from President Clinton for the Egis Explosives Detection System. In 2011, Continuum received the National Design Award for Product Design by the Cooper Hewitt Museum of the Smithsonian and First Lady Michelle Obama.
For many years, Zaccai has been an active member of the IDSA, having been elected a fellow of the society in 2006. In addition to serving as northeast Ddstrict vice president, he was chairman of the IDSA "IDEA 90" Design Awards jury. Zaccai has also been juror for Business Week's IDEA Awards and served as a consumer products juror for ID Magazine's 1998 Annual Design Review. He also served on the jury of the Korean Industrial Design Awards and Japan Industrial Design Prize. Most recently, Zaccai served as juror of the 2005 Braun Prize. He is past president of the International Design Conference in Aspen and co-produced the organization's conference "Bare Bones-Doing More With Less." He served on the board of directors of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) from 1993 to 1995 and as treasurer of ICSID from 2003 to 2005. He was a group leader in the ICSID Interdesign Workshop, Cuernavaca 1996 and the ICSID Interdesign Workshop on Water held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1999. In August of 2001, Zaccai organized and chaired the IDSA National Conference "Designing Your Life." For many years, he was a key part of the Global Design Advisory Board for Samsung Electronics Corporation in Seoul, South Korea, and helped to transform the Samsung Design and Innovation process. Zaccai has served on the board and was past chair of the Design Management Institute.
Born in Trieste, Italy, Zaccai and his family immigrated to the US at the height of the Cold War and settled in upstate New York. There, Zaccai went to high school and later to Syracuse University. Upon graduation, he turned down the opportunity to work in Detroit as an automotive stylist in order to focus his career on user-focused industrial design for medical products. Prior to founding Continuum, Zaccai was director of corporate design for Instrumentation Laboratory SpA in Milan, Italy and Instrumentation Laboratory Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts, a leading manufacturer of medical and diagnostic instrumentation. In 2009, Zaccai was inducted as a Commander of the Order Merit of the Italian Republic (Commendatore, Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana") by the President of Italy.