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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.
Lynda Weinman: After Sean's inspiring tour, I was really excited to attend the AIGA Design Legends Gala to get a chance to meet and interact with fellow AIGA members. This event is held every year and brings members from all the local chapters together for one night, to honor inspiring designers with the coveted AIGA Medal. This year's honorees included typographic master Doyle Young, book and record cover designer Carin Goldberg and legendary film title designer Pablo Ferro. Pablo Ferro: Because I tried to use that letttering before and always got turned down.
After Stanley loved it, then everybody loved it. Lynda: It was such a treat to be able to meet with so many interesting people and honor these distinguished medalists. The sense of community was astounding. The broad spectrum of people I met made me realize even more that the heart of this organization is based around people and providing an environment where they can develop and thrive in all aspects of their creative and professional lives. It makes me very proud to be part of such a wonderful organization at such an interesting time in design evolution.
Debbie Millman: My hope and vision for the future will be that no one will ever question what type of design is appropriate for members of AIGA. Every type of design will be respected, and every discipline of design will be welcomed. The other thing about AIGA that I love is that there are so many amazing designers working today that are part of AIGA, and you kind of get inside access to a lot of them.
You're suddenly in an environment where you're surrounded by other designers, some of which are less experienced than you, some of which are more experienced than you. No matter where you're coming to the organization, you're going to have that. So it gives you the opportunity to see the world from 360 degrees of all different types of designers, at all different places in their careers, and you can learn from everybody, not just people that are older. You learn a lot from the people that are younger. So the older I get, the more important it is for me to be able to really listen to people that are just coming into the organization, because I'm learning from them every day.
Richard Grefe: The new mandate for AIGA is really based on taking a look at the role that design could play in the future. We are approaching our centennial. It seems appropriate at this point to make sure that we have an institution that responds to the younger generation rather than the older generation. There is so much change going on in society. What is this world as they see it and how can we empower them, because they're the ones who will own the institution and the profession going into the future? So clearly we have to deal with the issues of change in terms of the perception of authority. Associations in the past who were an authoritative voice, whether it's on issues of design or issues of professional practice.
Clearly, there has been a dispersion of authority in a sense that every voice counts in the newer generations. I think that the association has to turn itself on its head and realize that the voice has to percolate up in the membership. The association needs to finds a way to simply channel what it hears and channel where it authority lies. There are no models out there. What you do is you continue to try to find those people who are looking at how behavior is changing and how organizations are changing.
And nobody has the answer, but they certainly have a sense of what the dynamics are. So that's actually the exciting part. I mean, I actually look forward to the change rather than find it daunting. Sean Adams: I think that the population is so much more design savvy than they were ten years ago. Lynda: Ever have been. Sean: Even have been, and ten years from now it will be even more so, because of course, anyone who has a kid now, someone under ten, knows that you can ask your child what Helvetica is, and they know.
And that certainly wasn't the case when I was ten. So I think a whole generation is being raised designing things, using type and image. So it's ingrained into their sense of communication. I think to challenge then is how do we maintain a community? So, how do we keep all these different mediums from splitting apart, and becoming a million tiny tribes? When we should be focusing and allowing for differences, but at the same time finding the values that tie us together, and that bind us.
I actually think that's the way we think as designers. I think we think in a very unique way, and regardless of whether you're working online, or you're working in print, or you're working in motion, we all have the same sort of wacky thought process to solve problems and get there.
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