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As a long-time member of AIGA and newly elected member of its national board of directors, lynda.com founder Lynda Weinman was invited to attend the organization's annual design awards gala in New York City last fall. A few days before the event, she spent some time getting to know some of the AIGA’s key members and touring the organization's offices and archives.
Lynda's journey introduces us to the professional association for design, through the eyes of some of the most talented and influential designers of our time. Lynda visits AIGA's National Design Center on Fifth Avenue, home to the breathtaking design archives (dating back to the 1920's) as well as this year's premiere of 365: AIGA's Annual Design Exhibition. She also touches down at New York's School of Visual Arts and at Sterling Brands, the largest brand consultancy in the country, located in the Empire State building. Those interviewed include executive director Ric Grefé, national AIGA president Debbie Millman, former president Sean Adams, and editor Steven Heller from Voice: AIGA’s Journal of Design.
Sean Adams: So for example I love this. It's an Andy Warhol. Lynda Weinman: No way! Sean: Is that incredible? I mean back, pre sort of Andy Warhol superstar. When he really was an illustrator, and asked to do these -- Lynda: Children's book. Sean: Pieces and so he'd done this piece for AIGA for about the children's books. Lynda: Wow! Sean: I have always loved this. It's such a simple little piece by Henry Wolf for the Paperbacks show. Lynda: Wow! Sean: Which is perfect. It's paper. It's a back.
Lynda: And it's someone's back, and it's torn, wow! Sean: Yeah, just such a smart combination of things. Lynda: Yeah. Sean: This one was designed by Ellen Raskin in 1961 who is a remarkable women designer, at a time when there really weren't that many women in the industry. Sean: And just beautiful work, and I mean AIGA was the place where everyone was given an opportunity, and everyone was asked to be part of this community and do the best work they could, and promote excellence. We go back to 1931.
This is the ninth annual exhibition for the 50 Books show, which I don't know if you know, but every year when we do the 50 Books/50 Covers show, that's almost a 100-years-old as an exhibition. Sean: So it truly is basically the history of publishing in the United States. Lynda: 1931. Sean: Something I think actually I think we designed this early on in our careers in 1994 or something for sort of the next iteration of this which was about CDs and video.
Lynda: Well, what's so extraordinary about this is it's all AIGA-focused. And so in terms of the rights, clearlu AIGA owns the rights to this material, and that becomes so complicated in the digital age. Sean: Right, exactly. Oh, right. Lynda: And it's so simple here, and this is such an incredible archive-- Sean: Right. It was done by AIGA, which is one of the wonderful things about the idea of if we do this book. How easy? I've got the rights already here ready to go. Lynda: Yeah, yeah. So talk a little bit about the book project.
Sean: Well, the book, Steven Heller did a wonderful history of AIGA about 15-20 years ago. And it's a great little document, and I've used it for years when I've either gone out and spoken to chapters about the history or talked to students of mine about the history. And I just realized we have all this ephemera, all this material, and such an interesting history, and beyond simply Henry Wolf designed this beautiful thing, there is wonderful anecdotes throughout the years -- Lynda: Yeah.
Sean: -- of things that happened, and who did what, and how the profession was sort of moved forward a long way. And so I think this idea of doing a book that's not only about the beauty of the materials created, but cataloging at the same time what was happening societally. Why did culture change and was AIGA ahead of the curve, or behind the curve? Lynda: Probably ahead. Sean: Yeah, usually ahead. I think we actually are usually ahead which is pretty nice, but there is -- Lynda: Like here I see computer. Is this April Greiman? Sean: I am not sure that -- Lynda: But you know it looks like her work, but anyway sort of the computer influence of just on design even in the 1980s.
Sean: Right, yeah. Lynda: This is a very new concept, to show the pixels. Sean: Yeah, exactly. Like reveal the artifact and let it allow it to be what it is. And at the same time this piece designed with just woodcut, and sort of retracing back. I mean a sort of Luddite concept at the time. Sean: I especially always loved this. I always loved this for such a sign of the times, the love piece and graphic communication piece from 1970. If you ever have a chance to spend time down here and just pull through things.
I mean just print ephemera, it's all organized, very carefully and beautifully, and it's easy to go through. I mean, Design Legends Gala, which we're doing tonight of course. Sean: Back to the first one which was in 2004. Lynda: Wow! Sean: And just keeping track of these things, the original letter by Frederic Goudy for when the organization was incorporated in 1914. Lynda: Unbelievable. Sean: There is great stuff in here. Lynda: Ah! Well, I can't wait to read your book and have this material unearthed for everyone.
Sean: Well, it will be great. Don't wait too long. It will take me awhile to write. Lynda: Okay, don't hold my breath. Sean: Yeah, it's a complicated long story. Lynda: Oh, no kidding! Sean: But we are going to get there, and it's going to be -- I am so excited by that. Lynda: Yeah, great project.
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