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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 my informative chat with Ric, I caught a cab across town and headed to the Empire State Building to meet with Debbie Milman, the current president of the National Board of AIGA. She is a dynamic force in brand design, and also hosts a fantastic podcast on all things design-related, called Design Matters. I wanted to talk with Debbie about her personal experiences, and how she got involved with the organization, and what she thought the value a professional association could provide to its members.
Also, as a fellow board member, I was curious to hear her ideas and goals for her term as AIGA's national board president. What drew you to AIGA and what keeps you so involved? Debbie Millman: I am a very social person, and I love being connected to other people, and I felt that AIGA was the best organization of like-minded people that I could learn from and be inspired by. And so I always, throughout my entire career, had the aspirations to be part of the organization. But very early on in my career I didn't feel worthy, or that I could contribute anything, and didn't really know what I was doing, and not that that much has changed now, but I think with age comes a certain amount of courage.
And so because I'm so aware of that feeling and because I'm so aware of that need to be able to help others, I'm very involved in trying to give other people that boost up that they feel that they might need. And so for the last five years or so I've been very involved with all the local chapters. So I visit the local chapters, and I talk to anybody that'll listen about AIGA and the value that the organization brings to inspire community and to inspire connectedness.
Lynda: As President of the Board, what are your goals for your tenure? Debbie: I have three big goals. The first is what I call the Connectivity Initiative. So that comes directly out of what I just talked about, in terms of really being able to connect what the local chapters are doing to the entire organization. Over the course of the last five years, and all of the visits that I made to the local chapters, I was constantly amazed by the level of energy, by the level of programming, by the level of output, by the level of creativity; it was just incredible! And I felt, as I went from chapter to chapter, it was sort of one best-kept secret after another, where there was no way to announce all of the extraordinary efforts that were being made to all the other chapters and all the other members, that there should be a way for us to be able to capitalize on all of this collective inspiration.
And so part of what I'm trying to do now is provide a way for all of the local chapters to feel that they are really part of one big movement. And so that's part of the AIGA Connect Initiative on Twitter and on Facebook, and its social media is so wonderful for this type of sharing. So the Connectivity Initiative is the first. The second is what I'm calling the Inclusivity Initiative, because part of what I first experienced, and it might have just been my own lack of self-esteem, but part of what I experienced when I first joined was a real fear that I wasn't good enough or smart enough, and I felt, probably of my own making, excluded from things.
But because I think that that's something pretty universal, and people feel just in general about things, and it has nothing to do with AIGA, but just really human nature, I want people to feel very, very welcome. I want them to feel very accepted. I want to encourage people from all different disciplines. This is not just a print design organization. This is about every type of design: design, cultural anthropology, behavioral psychology and every discipline under the sun of design, whether it's online, offline, books, print; everything can be accepted and admired and respected it within our organization.
So that's the Inclusivity Initiative. And then the third is to really provide a strong support of our Mandate, the AIGA Mandate, which is about getting more information out to members, providing better membership benefits, providing ways to communicate and include all areas of what we're doing for everyone; so those three things: Connectivity, Inclusivity, and the Mandate.
Lynda: I am glad that I am on the board with you being the president, because those are fantastic initiatives. Lynda: They are really exciting. Debbie: Thank you! Debbie: Well, they are big and they are lofty, but I also think they are grounded in reality, and I think they are also grounded in what people are really asking for now, and what they expect and demand of an organization. We're 20,000 members. We should be able to feel that it's small enough and yet big enough to do really big things.
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