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Lynda Weinman: Beyond providing an association for designers, AIGA plays an important role in stimulating excellence in the field of design. I went to the School of Visual Arts to meet with Steven Heller, a longtime editor of AIGA's Journal of Graphic Design and the current editor of AIGA Voice, a blog focusing on design. I wanted to talk to him about the role AIGA plays in fostering dialog among its designers, through publications, events, and competitions.
AIGA has, over the years, put out a lot of different publications. Which ones have you been involved with, and can you tell us a little bit about that? Steven Heller: Well, I have been involved with the Annual, when it was Graphic Design U.S.A. What I was interested in was having an annual that wasn't just a record of the year's so-called best work. I wanted it to have an editorial entity. So in some of those issues you will find there are feature stories, but at the same time, the content has expanded, on one hand, to, at times, be more critical, more broad, because, more than anything else, design is broadening its scope.
It's not just graphic design anymore, or it's at least not our grandmother's graphic design anymore. Lynda: So what do you think the role of competitions and extolling certain design excellence is within AIGA? Steven: Graphic design follows stylistic trends. Sometimes there are form givers who actually lead those trends along. AIGA is there not to ignite them, not to trigger them, but to be a container in which we can view them.
Sometimes it's a matter of just showing other people's work to impressionable, or even non-impressionable people and letting them draw their own conclusions. What AIGA has done through its exhibitions, and particularly through 360, is kind of define what is excellent, from their perspective. I think it serves an interesting role, as all those competitions do, because they are so subjective. It's really based on who is there at the time and who is submitting.
But it also sets up a touchstone against which people can rebel. And I think it's important to have that rebellion, so that each generation has its own voice. I know when I was starting out, I looked at the Art Directors Club Annuals - there were no AIGA Annuals at that time - and I would copy some of the work that I saw, typographically and conceptually, and then I would break the rules. Now, I didn't necessarily break them very well, but that's what I used it for, and I think that AIGA has to serve the purpose of putting some things on a pedestal and then seeing them knocked down.
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