Jorge Frascara was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1939. The son of a journalist and a poet/painter, he studied Fine Arts and Art Education in Buenos Aires and began his professional career as an illustrator and film animator in the early ‘60s. Broad interests in culture, art, design, education, psychology and communication, led him in different directions of enquiry during his 20s and early 30s. After almost a year of work in Guatemala in 1973, he spent the academic year 1973/74 in London—with a small grant from The British Council—doing research on graphic design education. Amongst the many people he met, two meetings were of fundamental importance: one with Herbert Spencer, that prompted Frascara to adapt Spencer’s methods for field research in legibility to other areas of communication design; and another with Patrick Burke (then editor of Icographic magazine) and Marijke Singer (then Secretary General of Icograda), that led to a long relation with the International Council of Graphic Design Associations.
Upon his return to Buenos Aires, Frascara organized a meeting with other colleagues and founded the first Society of Graphic Designers of Argentina. In 1974 he coordinated the public information symbols test station in Buenos Aires at the invitation of the ISO, and began to do field research in communication design. Notable was a study on children’s preferences for illustration styles, presented at the Edugraphic conference in Edmonton in July 1975, which was subsequently published in Icographic (#13, 1979, pp. 2–5) and in Reading Improvement (C.J. Ladan and J. Frascara, “Three Variables Influencing the Picture Preferences of South and North American Boys and Girls,” (Reading Improvement, 14/2, 1977, pp. 120–28).
In 1976 he moved to Canada, accepting a one year contract with the University of Alberta, where in 1977 he became continuing academic staff. He was elected member of the National Council of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (1979–81), and was member of the Advisory Committee on Graphic Symbols for the Canadian Standards Council from 1979 to 1990. From 1981 to 1986 he was Chairman of the Department of Art and Design. Around the same time (1979–1983) he was convener of an ISO Working Group on Graphic Symbols for Public Information (ISO TC 145 SC1 WG2). In that capacity he led the development of the ISO Technical Report 7239, “Visual Design Criteria for Public Information Symbols,” that for the first time established frames of reference for the sizing and placing of graphic symbols for public information in public spaces. He also served as Vice President of Icograda from 1979 to 1981, and became President Elect in Dublin, in 1983, serving as President between 1985 and 1987, and serving on the Board until 1989. He was Associate Editor of Icographic Magazine (1981–84) and fostered the development of the discourse on design education as Icograda Chairman in the area, culminating his mandate two years after chairing a meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay, at the Icograda 1997 Congress.
As conference organizer his first credit is shared with Peter Kneebone and Amrik Kalsi for the Icograda/Unesco conference Design for Development, held in Nairobi, Kenya in 1987. Due to his involvement in communications for traffic safety, he then went on to be co-organizer of the Novice Driver Education Working Conference (Edmonton, 1993), and of Traffic Safety in Alberta (Edmonton, 1998). He was also Co-Chairman of Edmonton ‘95, Charting the Future of Graphic Design Education (Edmonton, 1995, for the Graphic Design Education Association); Chairman of Design and the Social Sciences: Making Connections (Edmonton, 1999), and Chairman of Creating Communicational Spaces a conference to be held in Edmonton in May 2003.
He is a member of the Editorial Boards of Design Issues (Carnegie Mellon University/MIT), Information Design Journal (John Benjamins), and Tipográfica (Buenos Aires, Argentina); he is International Fellow of the Society for the Science of Design (Japan). He has also organized several international design education projects, has been advisor and reviewer of several design education programs and has lectured and made presentations in twenty five countries.
He has published several monographs and articles on design and art and design education—fundamentally in Design Issues, the Information Design Journal, and Visible Language—and is the author of several books in English and Spanish: Diseño Gráfico y Comunicación (Infinito, Argentina, 1988), Diseño Gráfico para la Gente: Comunicaciones Masivas y Cambio Social, (Infinito, Argentina, 1997), and User Centred Graphic Design, Mass Communication and Social Change (Taylor & Francis, London and Washington, 1997). He is the editor for Graphic Design, World Views, 25 years of Icograda (Kodansha, Japan, 1990), and of Design and the Social Sciences, Making Connections (Taylor & Francis, in press). He has also produced three major research reports as principal investigator: Research and Development of Safety Symbols (for the Standards Council of Canada, 1986),Traffic Safety in Alberta (for the Alberta Solicitor General and the Alberta Motor Association, 1992), and Profiling the Alberta Driver (Traffic Safety Summit/ Mission Possible, 1998).
He has juried many design exhibitions and competitions and has conducted research with the support of various Canadian organizations. His professional experience includes illustration, film animation, advertising and graphic design, and now concentrates on research and development of visual communications for safety and other social concerns.