With Grant’s 20th year upon us and the 2016 AIGA Design Conference taking place in Las Vegas this week, we thought it would be a perfect time to reflect on our involvement with the organization. The trajectory of Grant is tied to AIGA. We have each served the organization in some capacity along the way. Our appreciation and admiration loom large.
So we scheduled lunch, sat down at the conference table and looked back, looked forward and looked to each other for inspired insights. Why did we join? Why did we get involved? What has AIGA offered us? The profession? Vice versa? What next?
Kurt Seidle (KS): “So, first question: how did you first learn about AIGA? (pause) Well, then, I’ll go first…
“I really focused in on AIGA in my studies at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Our professors there were involved in the chapter and urged us to go to lectures and paper shows, things of that sort. There were the Pulp, Ink and Hops paper events, Abbott Miller spoke on publication design one evening, many great programs. It was my true introduction to the profession as a living, breathing thing. I remember a few very cool posters and invites, some of which I still have in my files.
“If I go further back, to high school—this would’ve been 1994—hanging out at my sister’s dorm at University of the Arts in Philadelphia and one of her friends saying, ‘So you want to get into graphic design? You should check out AIGA.’ I said ‘What’s that?’ He explained that it was the American Institute of Graphic Arts and wrote down the phone number of the national office, saying he had a contact there that had helped him work through some questions he had. I didn’t get around to calling but, again, I still have that scrap of paper in my files.”
Elizabeth Seidle (ES): “The strongest memory I have is of the Poetry in Motion campaign our senior year at MICA. They hosted an exhibition of all the posters. It was certainly the first nationally oriented program that I saw. That was very cool. People seemed to really engage with it.
“And then I came down here to Atlanta and Grant Design Collaborative was heavily involved. (Former Grant Design Director) Beverly Thompson was actually the programming committee co-chair with Cathy Cannon so I kind of worked with her for a couple of years before she and Cathy rolled off and I took over the position. I think the first thing we did here at Grant that I was involved with was the shadow box. I remember working on that. That was very cool.”
Bill Grant (BG): “That was “Design/Passion”, I believe. Kurt, it’s funny you mention that your first exposure was in high school in 1994 because my first exposure was in 1991 as a professional. I was aware of AIGA a little bit before that. I didn’t go to design school but I had a small firm in Dalton, Georgia. I learned through Communication Arts or another design publication where I saw an ad for the AIGA National Design Conference in Chicago in 1991 called Love, Power, and…”
Matt DeFrain (MD): “…Love, Money, Power…”
BG: “…Love, Money, Power: The Human Equation. I thought it was interesting and so I signed up and went and felt a little bit like a whore in church (laughs) like I have in most of my career (laughs). It was a great conference and I was just totally inspired and met some great people. It’s where I met Michael Bierut. I’ll never forget, I was at the design fair and I was talking to Laura Shore from Mohawk Fine Papers at their booth—I was printing a lot on Superfine at the time and told Laura how much I loved Superfine—and Michael came to the booth and he was talking to Laura and he introduced himself and I introduced myself and he said ‘Laura, you should use this guy! He does great work.’ I was like ‘Whoa, you’ve seen my work?’ And he said, “Yeah, the carpet stuff you do is great.’ That really freaked me out. I was really excited.
“But what really got me into AIGA and really kind of solidified my love for design and really made me feel like a part of the profession was two things. One, at the same conference, or thereafter, Bill Drenttel gave a presentation explaining that he was an English major and kind of said, ‘I don’t have a design degree, but I’m a designer’. He talked about writing and since I started as a copywriter that kind of gave me validity and credibility. And then Milton Glaser closed the conference with this amazingly eloquent speech. I’ll never forget his last comment: ‘Never forget that designers have the ability to change the world. If someone tells you they don’t, don’t believe them.’ Something to that effect/affect. By the end I was in tears and when I came back the first thing I did was join AIGA. I have my original membership card from 1991 somewhere here in this office and I remember I used to carry that around in my wallet and I was so proud of that moment. And that was probably before you were even in high school. But I go back and think of those key people that influenced me that are still influencing me today, those who have played a key role in my career but in my AIGA career as well.”
MD: “1991 was my first conference as well. I was living in Chicago at the time and the city had a very close-knit design community and a lot of that had to do with the legacy of design in the city, Container Corporation of America and typography associations like the American Center for Design. The habit of people back then was to pick up the phone and call your colleagues and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a business question’ or, ‘Do you want to go out and grab a coffee?’ It was just a different time back then. I don’t know what it was, if the proliferation of the digital era just hadn’t set in yet or what. The company I was working for would invite colleagues within the AIGA community over once a month for a lunchtime conversation. A month or so before the conference, our president invited Rick Valicenti and he was particularly inspiring. Listening to him and the emotion that he brought to the table kind of sealed the deal to get involved and become a member. He mentioned the upcoming conference and urged us all to attend. One of my anticipations was seeing him speak at the conference. He got up on stage and he had a large-screen TV with him on which he played Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’ while he presented a monologue about the trials and tribulations of coming up through the design ranks in Chicago. That’s a fond memory that still stays with me from 1991.”
KS: “What was it that led you to then take that next step and get involved with your local chapter?”
BG: “For me, it was the fact that my studio at the time was in Dalton, Georgia—a nearly hour-and-a-half drive north of Atlanta, the closest chapter at that time. It was a matter of connecting. There were great programs. There was one program that had Geof Kern, Lucille Tenazas, and Stephen Doyle, I believe. It was one of the first programs I went to and where I first met Geof Kern. But then connecting to other peers was important because there weren’t many designers in Dalton. I think I was the only AIGA member in Dalton. This was before there was a chapter in Chattanooga. Of course, when I went there and I met other people like Steve Martin who became a great friend and mentor in my career. He was president of the chapter and before long invited me to join the board. So I got involved in the board and activities with the chapter… I got suckered in (laughs). But then you get—those who have been involved—get a big high from feeling like you’re helping to advance the profession, especially in your local community. And I enjoyed that, working with friends and making new friends and going to the AIGA leadership retreats. That’s still my favorite event to this date. Meeting designers from other chapters and hearing the struggles they’re faced with and having that one-on-one time and conversations. Going to the Hilton Head, South Carolina retreat and trying on Massimo Vignelli’s clothes (laughs) is one of many fond memories. The list goes on and on.
“Then becoming the president of the Atlanta chapter. My reason for belonging was connecting to the closest community which then connected to the national community. To connect with like-minded individuals and design thinkers around the country, to me, is still the most compelling reason to be an AIGA member. Matt mentioned earlier of, back in those days, picking up the phone. I still believe you can do that, though now I think we send e-mails to our colleagues. But I know that, to this day, I can pick up the phone and call up Michael Bierut—which I’ve done many times in my career—and get advice or shoot the breeze or whatever. But I think that connection, that networking, that common cause of design and working together in this community and profession to advance it, unselfishly advance it as a whole, and trying to figure out where it is we’re going together is important. Especially in the last 10, 15, 20 years when things have changed so dramatically because of technology. When I started there weren’t Macs and I was driving up to Chattanooga to get type set and paste-ups and a lot has changed but there’s still that need for connection with your peers and colleagues even more so now because technology, if anything, only creates more voids than personal connections and I think AIGA offers the cohesiveness that brings people together.”
ES: “For me it was moving down to Atlanta from Baltimore after graduation, working for Grant at the start of my career and seeing how much fun people were having in AIGA. Our studio was really involved. The great events that were being put on and being immediately connected to the community was just a great way of learning about Atlanta, who was here, and what this whole graphic design thing was in practice. School was great but, you know, practicing design is a lot different from learning design. So I think it really helped me learn those other things you don’t necessarily learn on the job and I made a lot of friendships that I’ve built up over the years just from being involved. You’re all working down there in the trenches together, seeing what you’re all made of when putting on events that take sometimes six months to pull together. It builds great camaraderie. Personally, I was a little bit overwhelmed by just how amazing the organization was because there were all these big events like the chili cook-off that the company was very much involved with and then I went to my first conference that fall (Las Vegas, Cult & Culture, 1999). It was pretty amazing to see the full power of the organization within just the first six months of working here. And then just getting involved with it.”
MD: “I first learned about AIGA in college. They had a student chapter at Western Michigan University and they would often travel over to Chicago to attend events. That was my first exposure to AIGA and what it was all about. I danced in and out of being a member until I moved to Miami. Not knowing what I was going to do in Miami—I moved there without a job—I sought out the board there and introduced myself and made a lot of acquaintances right away. Then moving here to Atlanta. It was really mind-blowing to see how committed Grant was to the association. They had the chili cook-offs, they did work for the conferences. It was really eye-opening to see that commitment on the national level. I’d always been involved on the local level but it was really exciting to be a part of it on a national level.”
KS: “I got involved in 2005 when I moved to Atlanta from Baltimore. In Baltimore, I certainly attended events as a member, but I don’t think I had the confidence yet to participate. I got involved a few months after moving here. Basically Elizabeth was the one who got me involved. I didn’t know many people yet and asked her for some advice. She was on the local board at that time and suggested I attend the monthly programming committee meeting. So I went and met some new people and was really impressed with what all they were up to. There wasn’t really any top-secret magic as I had assumed; it was just committed, motivated, engaged people making things happen. It was like the curtain being lifted.
“I had some ideas about hosting a screenprinting workshop, something I was very much into after hours. It turned out AIGA Atlanta hadn’t hosted a hands-on workshop in some time, so there was an obvious fit. Lynn Browder, the committee chair, basically said ‘Get to it, make it happen’. I said, ‘Really? I don’t have to ask for permission?’ She replied, ‘If you want to do it, go do it.’ They offered the proper tools as far as budget, proposal, and promotions go, but really just left me to my own devices. I felt a tremendous boost in confidence. It was empowering and exciting. The event turned out great. We had a great partners, great volunteers, people had a lot of fun.
“Bill, you had mentioned feeling that high, that feeling of being a part of something and perpetuating the profession forward in some way. As small as my committee’s events might have been, I experienced that, too. It felt like I was really contributing something of value to the community.
“And that confidence just grew and grew and grew to ultimately include wanting more responsibilities, wanting to meet new people. It was very exciting.
“And then joining Grant and seeing the level of commitment the entire company put toward AIGA was really impressive. Especially since I was joining the local board at around the same time.”
ES: “That was really key. If we didn’t have the real support of the company, especially when I was doing programming, it would have been a struggle. Because it takes so much time. To have that support and know that when I had to do things beyond after hours, I could carve out some time during business hours to do them. That really made things a lot easier.”
BG: “We knew you’d get your work done (laughs).”
KS: “Elizabeth, you served on the AIGA Atlanta Board for two terms in the early aughts, then came back for another two terms, most recently serving as vice president. What roles have you played and what brought you back?”
ES: “Originally I worked on programming on the programming committee for a couple of years. The co-chairs Beverly and Cathy were rolling off and they said, ‘You should do it, you’ve been around a long time, you’ve managed events.’ I said, ‘Are you sure?’ Because I was still pretty young. But it all worked out. I did that for two years, then moved over to secretary/treasurer. The treasurer part was really a sham (laughs), I was more secretary, but filled in for treasurer because we didn’t have one at the time. More accomplished treasurers took over after me like David Laufer, Scott Walters and, currently, Bill Gillespie. After four years I needed a break and stepped away. In the meantime I stayed in touch with many people still involved, including Kurt (laughs). David came back on to serve as president in 2013. He is an amazing connector and has a way of finding great people who have the right skill sets. He asked me if I would consider rejoining the board. He said, ‘you can really do whatever you want, but maybe heading up volunteer organization would be a good fit.’ I thought that could be interesting because we hadn’t had a volunteer chair in a while. I did that for two years. When my term was up in 2015 they asked what I wanted to do as Vice President Programming Resources. I’ve been able to help organize and focus on things that fall outside of programming which I wanted a break from. It’s been really good.”
KS: “Matt, you were involved with the Miami chapter. What was your role there and how did that come about?”
MD: “It was different. I don’t know about the structure of chapters other than what I experienced in Miami but it really was like the wild west down there. It was a flat hierarchy and everybody was involved in doing everything and there weren’t that many people doing it at the time. There was always a handful of 6 to 8 people that were heavily invested and they covered each other really well. The role of the board members were loose. One week you’d find yourself doing clerical work, the next week you’d be involved in programming.
“One of the chapter requirements was that each board member was to put on two events each year. My first event was bringing Nike and their store experience designer down from Oregon. We held the event at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale and I designed the promotion, did all of the leg work. In the afternoon of the day of the event there were tornado warning sirens going off and we weren’t sure if we would even proceed with the experience. But the weather cleared up minutes before the scheduled start, thankfully, and the show went on.
“I worked with the Hall of Fame to have members of the Olympic diving team do high-diving demonstrations before the lecture. It was well attended. We had great rsvps and great sponsorship. That was really my inauguration into programming and understanding the amount of effort and synchronicity that needs to go into hosting events. It was an eye-opener and from that point forward, like Bill had mentioned with the leadership and board retreats, I found there to be a great respect and camaraderie for your fellow designers and an appreciation for the blood, sweat and tears that these people put into their local communities on a grassroots level. It was really a broadening experience.”
KS: “I agree. I attended the Omaha leadership retreat in 2008 and it was awesome. For all the same reasons that you’ve mentioned. Meeting people that were not only members but the ones actually making it happen for their chapters. You felt like you were a part of something larger because everyone was committed to the cause. Everyone there was driven and had very diverse initiatives that they were focused on. It was exciting to learn some of those things that were new to me or not my area of expertise.
“It felt very communal and close-knit. I wonder if it had to do with being in a smaller city, but it just felt like there was a different kind of vibe. Facebook was still somewhat new and everyone joined a FB group to communicate after the retreat had ended. To this day I feel like I can reach out to anyone in that group because of our shared connection to AIGA.”
KS: “Matt, with all that diving going on, I now see a thread of theatricality running through your work. Would you say that your work for AIGA informed your professional work or practice, or vice versa?”
MD: “As a representative of AIGA you’re accountable for whatever you do for AIGA. What you produce out to those people has to be produced at a high level because it’s going to be viewed and scrutinized and critiqued at, potentially, that national level from people at that highest level of design. My work for AIGA Miami helped in my transition to working for Grant—to understand that your latest project needs to be the best work you’ve done and that your work needs to hold up against the talent of the people involved.”
KS: “Bill, you made the transition from local involvement to national commitment. Why did you make that decision and how did that come about?”
BG: “I’m still not quite sure (laughs). I think it was for a number of reasons. Personally, selfishly it kind of goes back to that sense of belonging and coming to design through the back door, initially. I felt there was always this drive to prove myself, that I belonged, that I was good enough and that my work stood up. My typical overachieving desire was to pour myself into something and demonstrate that I had something to contribute. So, initially, that was part of it. Then becoming president of the Atlanta chapter and going to leadership retreats and meeting all of these amazing people. And then the national conference and meeting Michael Bierut and Bill Drenttel and all of those amazing people. I learned very quickly that it was a very generous community, very approachable, very humble. I really never had a fear of approaching those people. They were always very kind to me. They never said ‘no’ when I asked them to do things. So with the Atlanta chapter I wanted as many people to experience that as possible. I had a great board that worked incredibly hard. We grew the chapter to the sixth largest at that time. Then we brought in some great programs with Michael Vanderbyl, Michael Bierut, Chip Kidd and others. We went from 20 people attending events to hosting programs in the High Museum of Art auditorium. We started the Big Night vendor fair, brought corporate sponsors back in. It was a true team effort. And we got the design community motivated again and brought people together and, for me, in the course of that, it moved from being a personal desire to then seeing this great design community of very talented designers right here in the South.
“In 1998 I chaired the Communication Graphics 20 show. I selected the jury, looking for southern designers or designers doing great work in other places other than New York City and San Francisco. That’s when I was first introduced to Ann Willoughby and Willoughby Design. I met her and invited her to be on the jury. Really, it was love at first sight and she’s one of my dearest friends now 20 years later.
“Geof Kern had this great quote when I was still in Dalton. I asked him, ‘What the hell are you doing in Dallas, Texas?’ He countered, ‘What the hell are you doing in Dalton, Georgia?’. Geof’s response was, ‘Talent has no zip code.’ I still use that quote today. And it’s true.
“So then it was like, ‘Okay, southern design can be great design.’ The only thing that gets me motivated more than my own lack of confidence in my own skills and abilities is when someone underestimates me or my kind. At one leadership retreat I had a designer from a large city tell me ‘You guys in Atlanta are so lucky because you can go to your design meetings barefoot and you don’t even have to wear shoes.’ That really motivated me to start speaking up at retreats and other places that AIGA needed to be more inclusive to different voices.
“They were making an attempt at that time and it was right at the time they started the battle cry to shift ‘from a club to a hub.’ From this ‘old white guys meeting in this dusty room in New York City’ thing to designers of all walks and types. That became a mission. And, as a part of that, lo and behold, I was asked to join the national board in regard to board outreach and inclusivity.
“At my very first board meeting, being so naive, I spoke up and asked if I could get a copy of the code of ethics and discovered that there wasn’t one. Of course Ric Grefe said, in all his wisdom and glory, ‘Let’s start a committee and you’ll be in charge of it.’ I wound up writing the first version and then producing it.
“Then, when I finished that term, I got a call from Michael Bierut asking if I’d be interested in serving another term. I said, ‘That’s a little unusual’. And he replied, ‘Well, not if you come back as president.’ And that really blew my mind. It took me right back to my first meeting back in 1991. The thought of being the first president outside of New York or San Francisco was kind of wild. And I thought, ‘Well, I have to do this. This is not about me. This is about southern design.’
“That kind of rolled into one of my biggest things, one of my goals as president: diversity initiatives. And again going back to a comment that was made to me at a leadership retreat by an AIGA medalist, when I mentioned that diversity was one of my platforms as president. The medalist commented, ‘Why would you want to take your presidency back to the 1960s?’ Which, of course, motivated me to work even harder at that. And it’s great to see some results of that at conferences and to see tangible evidence of that.
“For me, it’s continued motivation. When you talk about advancing the profession, it was kind of losing myself in the profession and making that selfish transition from self to service. It was a natural progression and, hopefully, a little bit of maturity along the way. There were also key moments that provided motivation—some positive and some negative—that reminded me that there was a reason to serve. It is service. It is a sacrifice. When I was national president, I was out of the office more than I was in the office. Luckily, I have a great team to carry on and do great work. I visited 32 chapters in two years plus retreats and conferences, so it was a sacrifice. But in the end it was an amazing experience to see what’s going on around the country in design. It was certainly a learning experience, it was part of my education. My design education is still going on on a daily basis. I’m still in design school. I welcomed the opportunity. AIGA has been my institution (laughs).”
MD: “Which do think was harder, being national president for a design association or being a politician as a city councilman of Canton, Georgia?”
BG: “Certainly, AIGA has helped me be a city councilman because you have the same types of issues, leadership issues and crazy things that happen during your tenure. During my tenure as president, Katrina hit New Orleans. We did fundraising for those designers that were devastated, who lost everything during that disaster. I went down there as soon as I could. I’ll never forget that. There was one hotel open and there was still water everywhere, even in the hotel lobby. And then going to see the devastation and speaking to the chapter—those who could get there—was kind of crazy. So in a lot of respects, I think AIGA may have been more difficult. But I’m sure that that will probably change as there are things that happen with the city on a daily basis. There are so many similarities between city council and AIGA and I tell people all the time that it’s all design. Whether we’re writing strategy—a road map—for one of our clients or working on a new master plan for downtown Canton, it’s really the same thing, the same approach, the same design thinking. We’re working on a new brand for the city and directing others, it’s so much the same thing. My design profession experience has equipped me to be a better councilman and, I hope, vice versa. Experience is everything. Let’s hope it works out that way (laughs).”
KS: “That’s an important idea: that everything is designed. Planning, creating, editing is all part of the design process. It might not manifest itself in a visual way, in what we might consider to be graphic design, but the process is a part of it and design is always there.”
BG: “AIGA’s role in pushing that dialogue from ‘design is print’ to ‘design thinking’ was something that occurred right in the middle of my presidency. There was a yin and yang, a push and pull—very much like some city council meetings I’ve been in. There was the gnashing of teeth. It can be messy. But I always tell people that if it’s not messy, then you’re not doing your job. AIGA has had a great role in stewarding that transition and thank god we’ve had that organization to hold the community together through it all. Even though, at times, factions have threatened to break off over certain issues, they all kind of hang in there. You have to let them have their say and have their tantrums and come back into the fold and get on with what’s next—to celebrate our successes and debate our issues.”
KS: “What was the hang up with the concept of ‘design thinking’ at that time?”
BG: “That debate was about design strategy versus design artifacts and, again, personally, I had never really separated those into different categories. But some people do. There’s nothing wrong with that, they’re just different approaches.
“The evolution from the design competition, annual book, digital archives and how people access information was just one element of that conversation. You know, I still have all of my printed annuals. But the younger kids, they don’t want those books (laughs). I cherish mine and am glad I have them but it’s not like I go and look at them everyday. It’s interesting, though, that several years ago that that was such a huge issue. Now, no one even mentions it. Then, at times—like when we bought the building on Fifth Avenue and we were helping to raise money for that—there were so many people that didn’t think we needed a building and asked why we were putting money into that. Then people thought, ‘Finally we have a building on Fifth Avenue with a gallery and people can see what we do.’ Then they sell the building—creating a great endowment for the profession—which I believe is a great testament to the tenure of Ric Grefe. To get that amount of money to endow the profession is pretty incredible. And still others asked, ‘How could you think to sell the building?’
“There have been so many issues and there will continue to be. Hopefully, because if we’re not learning and changing and growing, we’ll become obsolete.
“I like those conversations because it fosters discussion and debate and wakes people up and gets people talking across the country and, at times, around the world.”
KS: “Bill, you mention the annuals going away and how that seemed like such a crisis at the time but now we don’t really worry about it. There’s so much available digitally, instantly now. And we have AIGA’s Eye on Design which fills that gap in a way…”
ES: “It’s an evolution. There are so many more chapters now and the national organization has a large staff. What is that dynamic between the local and the national? National is not as all-powerful as it once was. It just can’t be because the base of chapters keeps growing every year. Julie Anixter, AIGA’s executive director, has done a great job of speaking to the chapters and trying to recruit us for national initiatives but also taking our ideas back to national. There’s a really good symbiosis going on. Bill, you mentioned the large endowment that they now have. Chapters are invited to propose programs that would be funded by national which, I think, is the best way to take ideas from local chapters: fund them and share that knowledge with the national audience.
“Another initiative Julie has initiated is the ambassador program and trying to keep the older generation of designers involved and that legacy and knowledge in the community. I’m excited to see that grow. We have these great AIGA Fellows, like yourself, in our communities across the country and how can we keep those individuals connected to the organization? You have so much experience and have seen where the organization has been. You’ve seen the wheel, as it were, of AIGA boards cycle through.
“It’s exciting to see what will happen next.”
BG: I’ve had a few conversations with Julie about the ambassador program and perhaps there could be an international speakers bureau. The line between national and the local chapters is not so distinct anymore. But we’re looking at expanding our reach. This global reach seems like a natural because it’s no longer ‘American Institute of Graphic Arts’ but rather ‘The Professional Association for Design.’ I don’t think we can be so nationalistic anymore. The idea of global reach and influence is quite appealing to me.
“I traveled to China last year and saw the need for design and design thinking applied to similar problems at a different scale. It’s an opportunity. And for American designers, especially, it’s a great opportunity. As globalization continues and companies seek to grow brands and products in the US and vice versa, those lines kind of go away. That companies around the world want to tap US designers—that’s a great thing.
“And the idea that you have to go to New York to find a good design firm has gone away since the time that I joined. That preconception seems to be obsolete anymore. It’s almost flip-flopped now as clients sometimes seem scared to go to New York because they think it will cost too much (laughs). There’s, of course, great work being done in New York but people don’t think they must go there to get it.”
ES: “I think you’re right. There’s the idea taking hold of pride of place and what makes your design community unique. For us, it’s Atlanta, it’s Canton and why should people come to us. It’s exploring what makes design special wherever you are and tapping into that. That’s good because people used to measure themselves by what was happening in New York or San Francisco and perhaps feeling that they’re coming up short. Now people embrace what they can bring to the table wherever they might be.”
KS: “There was fear a number of years ago that the transition to a more mobile, more digital culture would erode the importance of AIGA. I tend to think that this has strengthened AIGA. Not only has technology offered instant access to people and information so too has it encouraged people to reconnect on a more personal level. The impersonal nature of tech should encourage people to get out to events and maybe even pick up the phone.”
BG: “Technology has increased the need to maintain those human connections, the network, and all of the different facets of design because it changes so rapidly. Not only what we do for our clients and what they ask us to do, but this shift toward experience design. Brands have to be agile and responsive. It’s all design thinking, but it’s different formats and different manifestations.”
KS: “That concept of design less as a product and artifact and more of a conversation or catalyst was a reason that I got involved in the Atlanta chapter’s mentorship program, Rise Up. It was the feeling that now I have some years under my belt and I have something to offer the generation of designers now coming up. Plus, a want or need to reconnect on a human level.”
BG: “You have a lot to offer them and they have a lot to offer you.”
KS: “Oh, totally. It was definitely a two-way street. Learning how this younger generation is communicating is just amazing.”
MD: “It’s more than technology. Design is everywhere. Kids are designing in the first grade…”
BG: “There are 3-D printers in elementary schools…”
MD: “I would assume AIGA would be excited about that. Now you’re not looking only at a selective audience, but it’s anyone and everyone. When you no longer need to have a degree or be trained as a specialist to contribute to design, to a design organization, it seems like the possibilities and opportunities can only expand.”
BG: “I think it does broaden the opportunities. I go back to the idea of inclusivity and that design is everywhere and the number of people that embrace design now. I look back at my career and the labels applied to designers over the years—‘we’re going to be information architects or communication designers or graphic designers’—and to come back and just say ‘I’m a designer’ and that that’s enough is a good place to be. To just be able to get to work.
“While design is everywhere now and that kind of commoditizes it somewhat, commodity creates a higher market for products and services. That’s an opportunity. You have to decide where you want to play in the game. And that’s where AIGA comes into the mix.
“You have designers that are AIGA members and designers who choose not to be members, who are not aware or who are not professional designers. And there’s a distinction there that I think can be a profound distinction. There are designers that operate with different rules than we do when it comes to spec work or software or fonts, etc. It just enhances the value of being a part of AIGA and it’s nice to see it continue to grow and expand and maintain its relevance—which is not easy to do. Now, well over 100 years old, it’s pretty incredible.”
ES: “For me being a part of AIGA means that you have a deeper interest in the design profession as a whole and you want to be a part of that community. I think it’s a way of articulating to the world that you care about your profession and where it’s going.”
BG: “A part of it is subscribing to the code of ethics and making that distinction that ‘I’m a professional designer’ and I adhere to certain professional practices and standards. I think that that’s important in a business world where clients have choices and they can decide what value they put on design. To me, it’s a personal decision but also a professional business decision. ‘Good design is good business’ still holds true.”