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Thanks AIGA

Regrettably, I did not attend the AIGA Conference in Vancouver but I have heard positive and negative responses to the event. I am in no position to offer my own critique, but I do feel strongly about AIGA and the good it has done (and will continue to do).

I have been a member for over two decades. I have contributed in various ways and will continue to do so because as an organization it truly supports all of us who take this field seriously.

But not everything it does will be embraced by all members. And why should it? Different people with varied interests are involved. This critical mass is what makes it viable as the primary advocate of design and designers.

I was a member when it was limited to around 1000 members, mostly in New York City, so I truly appreciate the extent to which it has grown and become ever more inclusive.

I was a member before there were national conferences, so I can truly admire the way it has taken a national stage and inspired, engaged, and mobilized our peers.

Ric Grefe has done a terrific and often thankless job of building a national agenda, and while not beyond reproach at times, certainly in a way that bonds a community and profession in more or less common cause.

The recent AIGA Conference was designed to expand upon ideas that started at the first conference in Boston, became popularized at the Dangerous Ideas conference in San Antonio, were fine tuned at the Love Money Power conference in Chicago, and have permeated the event ever since. The Conference is the sum of many parts and the hinge on which AIGA programs and philosophies are built, and will continue to build.

So while people are thrashing out the relative merits of the last conference, I want to thank Grefe and the AIGA for being the glue that binds our collective interests as a community.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 1660 FILED UNDER Critique
PUBLISHED ON Nov.17.2003 BY steve heller
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Bradley’s comment is:

I agree, the organization--for all of its perceived faults, and I've certainly been one to attack them--is absolutely critical. Fact is, one wouldn't complain about something if they didn't care, and they wouldn't continue to thrash it if they didn't want to see some sort of change emerge. AIGA fills a void, and that's important; it's a great way to guage what's going on in the world and how it relates to design, and its a good rallying point for people to come together, debate, create, and whatever else.

Still and all, there are a lot of things about it that piss me off.

The only national conference I went to was Voice in D.C. and while I had a blast, I found myself confused as to what the hell was trying to be accomplished. A lot of stuff coming off the heels of FTF, a lot of big talking about big ideas, all of it ridiculously generalized and simplified. It's kinda like those old Holliday Inn commercials where someone sprains an ankle on their bike, and then somebody comes by and tells them how to set it--the point being that staying in Holliday Inn sure makes you feel smarter. Well, being a graphic designer doesn't mean that you all of the sudden understand everything and can do anything.

There's an increasing lack of focus on the part of many designers, and I think that we're in danger of forgetting what we're fundamentally good at--communicating ideas and information. To other human beings. I feel like we talk about "the people" constantly without once getting into "individuals."

But, that's okay. It's all part of a process and I certainly wouldn't expect to arrive at the destination tomorrow and its very clear that AIGA doesn't either. That's cool. For anything that makes you angry, either do something about it or shut up.

Still and all...I do find myself a little more inspired creatively by what's going on in some advertising agencies. Once more of them start embracing design, in addition to groups such as Ogilvy/B.I.G., Goodby, Carmichael, and Temerlin McClain, I think things will get...more interesting. Advertising has discovered that it can't afford to look at people as a giant swaying mass anymore; and I like the fact that they're examining individuals more closely.

On Nov.17.2003 at 09:04 AM
Armin’s comment is:

I think it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to many readers to have an open "thank you" letter for the AIGA (not that there is anything wrong with it). Fact: we have over a dozen discussions regarding the AIGA, most of them with many, many complaints and not very kind words. Of those, most-many-much-a-lot are from me. I can see how this would appear as conflict of interests, contradicting points of view, hypocrisy, what-have-you. Another fact is that a lot of people question why we talk so damn much about the AIGA, some are quick to address it as an obsession, others as an inferiority complex� that's what I have heard, I'm not making stuff up.

Why do I bring this up? I guess to address my own personal love/hate relationship with the AIGA. I can openly thank them for the conference in Vancouver, which I did in my review. I can't thank them for just being there, that would be too easy for me and for them. Instead I like to challenge, question and call them on their bluff (like that Why + 12 step process, that's just bogus and many people think the same) — and that common the AIGA is what you make of it slogan is wearing very thin on me.

Perhaps standing up to the AIGA is a subconscious reason as to why I started Speak Up, although to no extent are we supposed to keep tabs on them.

What I'm trying to say is what Bradley already did: we give them shit because we (or at least I) care. If people at the AIGA see Speak Up as nothing but immature and irresponsible banter (which they have) there is not thanking them much in terms of them listening to designer's voices.

I think I have just opened a huge can of worms here, but I wanted to address my point of view anyway.

On Nov.17.2003 at 10:08 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

so...how 'bout them Packers!?

On Nov.17.2003 at 10:45 AM
timmy’s comment is:

I don't know where my membership fees go. I recieved some out of date books from 1994. It still costs money to see speakers (at least here in Minneapolis).

That's it. I'm not going to complain, who am I to last out at the largest design organization? Plus, I've put my foot in my mouth so many times...go pack!

On Nov.17.2003 at 11:01 AM
pk’s comment is:

bring back the American Center for Des—

oh wait, i said that already. several times.

On Nov.17.2003 at 11:08 AM
surts’s comment is:

The thing that bothers me about the armchair critics of the AIGA and the GDC is this. If you have enough time to complain, perhaps you have enough interest to change things, or at least do something. As far as I know, there aren't very many paid positions and most of the work is done by volunteers that are trying to improve design.

Armin, you've made a great website - you have done something. But for those that are just complaining, maybe turn that energy into something more productive.

On Nov.17.2003 at 11:13 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

But for those that are just complaining, maybe turn that energy into something more productive.

Exactly. I've found that what I've done is to contribute here as much as possible, first off, because its a great venting medium and good place to sound off and what not.

But I've also found that...a lot of what I do to improve my position happens outside of AIGA, because AIGA doesn't take much of an interest in what I do professionally--which is, right now, work for an advertising agency. 4A's and AdClub are pretty good about getting good speakers and improving the relationships between agencies and the corporations who use them. AIGA is too "design-focused" sometimes--now, that might sound stupid, but, hear me out. AdClubs will get all sorts of speakers, ranging from art directors and writers to account planners and account execs. The good ones talk about the work their agency produces, and they talk about the various roles people can play in creating great creative, even if they're media buyers or something like that. Sometimes with AIGA the conversation seems extremely insular and self-absorbed.

On Nov.17.2003 at 11:53 AM
Tan’s comment is:

I wouldn't be where I am today as a designer without the AIGA. And for that, I'm grateful. I joined the org when I was a student, and it has taken me through three states, and more than a decade of professional life.

You know, it never occured to me to think "What is AIGA doing for me?" That's because I always took advantage of the organization whenever I needed to -- or had time to donate. In return, I gained a community of lifelong friends and colleauges that have benefitted both my personal and professional lives. For me, I consider AIGA to be more like my professional family, not just a community of peers.

So like any family -- I cherish sharing the same values, but I don't always agree with every action. There is great value in every effort that AIGA puts forth, whether it's a conference or a published communications. But not every effort is a success. So there are inevitable discourses and fervent criticism sometimes, but to me -- it's better than the alternative, which is apathy and homogeneous thinking. But in these heated discussions lies proof that the AIGA is the centerpoint of the profession. Which is exactly what it's supposed to be.

I'm one of those who will continue to preach "AIGA is what you make of it," regardless of whether or not it wears thin on people like Armin. I do it because of people like Armin, because I believe in supporting words with action, and challenge those who speak up to put up.

I've had a chance to work with Ric, and his commitment to the organization is amazing. He has elevated AIGA to what it is today. It's a tough time for the profession on many levels -- despite the optimism put forth by Vanderbyl at the conference. AIGA is more pivotal to the profession than ever before. I'm thankful for their leadership and continued efforts.

On Nov.17.2003 at 12:00 PM
ps’s comment is:

i think aiga is an extremely valuable organization. i feel that especially in the past few years it has made big strides to improving the value. i know how people feel about aiga differs greatly from chapter to chapter. luckily, the los angeles chapter (check out http://www.aigalosangeles.org ) seems pretty good and of course that shapes my opion. thats not to say there are plenty of events put on that i do not care about. and i agree that many of us are submitting criticism becaus we care. a few years ago i though the aiga was an organization living in the past as it seemed to be directed by outdated voices that did not adapt to a different world of graphic design that we are operating in today. it seems revitalized today, obviously we all have our different opinions about some of the ideas they are presenting, including the 12 step program. but at least it stimulates thinking, we are discussing things, which is quite different than looking at work from some established designers and saying "...ah and oh and isn't that great..." and i did not see that happen a few years ago. but come to think of it.. without this forum, that might still not be the case as much as it should ..as far as membership fees, in our chapter, i feel you'll get more than your money's worth. if you don't i think that would be the time where you'd have to step up and make sure you'll do by actively getting involved.

with all the positive i see happening in the aiga, i still sometimes ponder the question if there should be another version of an aiga. and i wonder if Speak Up is trying to fill that role, and if it could.

On Nov.17.2003 at 12:11 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> I do it because of people like Armin,

You mean Mexicans?

After hearing AIGA is what you make of it over and over it's like they are washing their hands off any responsibility. But I do understand where they are coming from as that is the same message I (we) have given out to people here on Speak Up... so, yeah, there I have it.

On Nov.17.2003 at 12:13 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> and i wonder if Speak Up is trying to fill that role, and if it could.

It probably could, but not exactly as another version of the aiga. If it offered the same things as the AIGA but with more swearing (hey, I'm allowed to make fun of ourselves) then it would be a waste of time and energy. If it offered something different (which right now is the case in this realm of open forums) then that's something worth aspiring to.

Only time will tell.

On Nov.17.2003 at 12:20 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> You mean Mexicans?

Don't play the race card man...it's so typical of your kind...

On Nov.17.2003 at 12:23 PM
Armin’s comment is:

You are just jealous because we have the good desserts.

On Nov.17.2003 at 12:48 PM
trish’s comment is:

I was at the conference too and even though I enjoyed the conference on the whole (I had a problem with some of the speakers' speaking abilities and the conference was once again overun by students.) I paid my yearly dues and I also paid for the conference so I hardly see a need to 'thank' the aiga for it.

I don't see much evidence that the aiga exists outside the world of designers, so they are not exactly making much headway as a design advocate.

Armin, I think that the 12 step 'Why' booklet is bogus too.

That said I do think that the aiga is a powerful networking tool for me. I am the lone designer in my company so meeting other designers through aiga events is important to me.

On Nov.17.2003 at 01:13 PM
Adam Waugh’s comment is:

> and the conference was once again overun by students

Yeah, damn those students-- always so ambitious and eager to learn.

On Nov.17.2003 at 01:29 PM
trish’s comment is:

At the risk of putting my foot in my mouth:

> Yeah, damn those students-- always so ambitious and eager to learn.

I have nothing against students (was one once), but for a true dialogue to take place there has to be a balance of people at different stages of their profession. If a conference has an imbalance then the value of the conversation is diminished.

On Nov.17.2003 at 01:39 PM
felix’s comment is:

Bradley: The only national conference I went to was Voice in D.C. and while I had a blast, I (was) confused as to what the hell was trying to be accomplished.

ditto... but you must've attended the light fare, eh? i was at Heller's, Blechman's, and Glaser's, etc... and they were definately clarifying (er, "accomplishing") objectives.

...didnt attend the Vancouver conference because I didnt like the "lineup". I knew it be bad. And now, seeing how everyone wants a refund (sans Armin) well, I'm glad I didnt go!

btw- this week in NYC they're hitting us with Werner and C&G. Its always an on and off relationship but this time I may have to chalk up some more dues. Nice work by Oberman, Wass, Blechman and crew.

On Nov.17.2003 at 01:54 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Felix--

Yeah, Glaser was awesome. So was James Nachtwey and numerous others; overall I really dug the speakers. Sometimes I just feel, and really, maybe I'm looney, that there's this giant elephant in the room known as human beings, or as Helfand calls it "the innocent public" that we're somewhat conscious of but ultimately, we're ignoring it. Or just underestimating people in general.

See, admidst all the talk of ________ saving the world, be it graphic design, rock and roll, or backyard orgies, I'm not sure how many people out there, right now, are looking to be "saved." As far as "improvement" goes, how many people want someone ELSE determining what improvement is, and then carrying it through? People want to improve their lives? They gotta do it themselves.

Blah blah blah, blah bla blah blaaah.

On Nov.17.2003 at 02:37 PM
Zoelle’s comment is:

I've read allot on this site about the AIGA, but I have not read anything related to the Graphic Artists Guild.

Does anyone have any opinions of this organization?

On Nov.17.2003 at 02:53 PM
julia’s comment is:

Right on, Tan, and good of Armin to admit it: AIGA is what you make of it. Yes, that sounds lame, but it is true. They can't do everything for eveybody, they are volunteers, at least they are doing something. It can't all be bogus, obviously, somebody does the 12 step or it wouldn't be put out there.

> and the conference was once again overun by students

what a ridiculous comment! as a designer, you are in fact always learning, so in a way you are always a student. Why begrudge someone for wanting to be good at what they do? If you still aren't learning, you're not a very good designer, or you are lying!

On Nov.17.2003 at 02:56 PM
Brian Warren’s comment is:

I'm glad I went to the conference. I don't want a refund. But it certainly didn't measure up to what I hoped it would be. I think the gripes about it (most of them at least) are valid. I think if I heard the word "sustanability" one more time, I would have puked.

For me it was kind of a wake-up call about what's going on in design and a bit of a peek into what things will be like for the next few years. And maybe some of the backlash from the AIGA conference will also show what things will be like.

So why am I a designer? I like making things beautiful, using skills to improve communication, and I love sitting down with either my mac or a pen and paper and creating. It's where I fit. A good mix of geekiness and creativity.

On Nov.17.2003 at 03:25 PM
trish’s comment is:

Julia

Of course you are always learning. That's not my point. If your conversation isn't balanced, as it isn't if you have too many people who are at the beginning of their career then how can someone who is two years, 5 years or even 10 years into their career hope to get value from a conference like this.

As I said earlier I don't hate students coming to these events, but I feel that conferences like these tend to have a lot of students. In some respects I feel the sheer number of students keeps people with more experience away because they don't see value in attending a conference where the vast amount of attendees are students.

I certainly don't begrudge students coming to conferences, but I would prefer to see more of a balance. I don't know how the aiga could achieve that. I know that they heard this comment a lot after the washdc conference and limited the amount of student fees. Even with this I thought the converstaion was unbalanced.

It's just my opinion.

On Nov.17.2003 at 03:27 PM
Brian Warren’s comment is:

I know the GAG produces that book every year that is pretty awesome - the Pricing and Ethical Guidelines book. I don't hear much about it otherwise.

On Nov.17.2003 at 03:31 PM
trish’s comment is:

I agree with Brian's comments whole-heartedly.

--Trish

On Nov.17.2003 at 03:34 PM
Zoelle’s comment is:

Does anyone here use the GAG's Pricing and Ethical Guidelines book?

I apologize if I'm taking this thread off topic.

On Nov.17.2003 at 03:45 PM
vibranium’s comment is:

>>btw- this week in NYC they're hitting us with Werner and C&G. Its always an on and off relationship but this time I may have to chalk up some more dues. Nice work by Oberman, Wass, Blechman and crew.

On Nov.17.2003 at 04:08 PM
ps’s comment is:

Does anyone here use the GAG's Pricing and Ethical Guidelines book?

i bought one years ago and thought it was worthless.

ps

On Nov.17.2003 at 04:08 PM
Zoelle’s comment is:

>i bought one years ago and thought it was worthless.

Really? I still use the legal information on the back of my invoices. As far as the actual guidelines go, I think some clients can not be handled with the advice of a book.

On Nov.17.2003 at 04:29 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> I certainly don't begrudge students coming to conferences, but I would prefer to see more of a balance.

trish -- for the first time, AIGA did set a limit for the number of student registration slots at the Vancouver conference. This was primarily financial-driven, but it also helped to achieve a higher professionals/student ratio than in past conferences. Student registration sold out by mid June. I know b/c I teach a class, and many of my students didn't make the cutoff. But some still paid full membership prices to go. You have to admire that kind of commitment.

> GAG Pricing Guideline

I agree w/ ps, the thing's just useless

On Nov.17.2003 at 04:43 PM
marian’s comment is:

And now, seeing how everyone wants a refund

I'm just curious, where did you get this information?

On Nov.17.2003 at 04:55 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Tan mentioned "challenging those who speak up to put up" but I would rather see those that speak up put out. I know there are some sexy beasts out there! Felix?

And as for Mexican desserts, Armin you have to be kidding. Flan is great, but what have you done for me lately?

Enough with that, see next comment for my earnest question.

On Nov.17.2003 at 06:20 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Steve, I wonder if you would speak to what prompted you to start this topic? It reads, as Armin said, as an open letter to the AIGA, but what were you hoping to prompt in the way of discussion here? As you may or may not be aware, we've covered this ground plenty and my own conversational soles are worn through on this particular topic, so what is the topic of discussion this time around, exactly? I ask earnestly, not accusatively, as I would very much like to hear something new.

On Nov.17.2003 at 06:25 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Accusatively. Cripes. "Accusationally" is correct.

On Nov.17.2003 at 06:27 PM
Brian Warren’s comment is:

To be honest the GAG book is pretty nice - lots of good info. But I haven't put much of it to use.

I didn't feel that the AIGA conference was overrun by students. Most of the people I met there were professionals, or at least students masquerading as professionals.

Hopefully AIGA will have learned to balance their content more next year. We can't say that AIGA is lousy because of one conference that wasn't quite as nice.

Shall I judge any of you based on one instance of you? Or you me?

On Nov.17.2003 at 06:38 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

You know what my biggest problem with AIGA and designers is?

It's just a helluva lot of talk about design, design, design. Whenever the conversation steers towards how to make design relevant to something else, like business or whatever, I still feel that we're talking about typefaces and styles more than anything else. And in the instances when we get away from that and start talking about design & __________, its so fucking general and theoretical.

I try to talk about the messages sent and who we send the messages to, but I've never seen that discussed. For an organization dedicated to communications design, I see very little discussion of communicating. So...I suppose that's something I'd like to chat about a bit more.

On Nov.17.2003 at 07:01 PM
trish’s comment is:

A lot of people talked about how NY centric the national office of aiga is, esp after the washdc conference when there was all this talk about how 911 affected NY, but it seemed to be forgotten that DC was attacked too. Being a DC resident this was very stark to me. I think its because the national office is in NYC and that's what they see and often all they see.

That said I just came back from a terrific event held by the DC chapter called 'Fold.' Talking about how to spec paper folds. The geek in me really enjoyed the talk and I really appreciated the lively discussion afterwards. So I would say that the aiga is what you make of it, but I've only seen this work on a local level.

> Most of the people I met there were professionals, or at least students masquerading as professionals.

Maybe a lot of the professionals were masquerading as students? I know that I often would rather be back at school.

Tan - I do admire that kind of commitment.

On Nov.17.2003 at 09:27 PM
trish’s comment is:

Oh and my favorite part of the Conference was the David Burne powerpoint presentation. *kidding*

On Nov.17.2003 at 09:37 PM
timmy’s comment is:

> If you have enough time to complain, perhaps you have enough interest to change things, or at least do something

Maybe a more blue collar expression would be "shit or get off the pot." :)

On Nov.17.2003 at 09:47 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Seriously, what are these delectable Mexican desserts I've been missing out on?

On Nov.17.2003 at 09:59 PM
Tom Dolan’s comment is:

I think Armin meant Mexican deserts. ;)

On Nov.17.2003 at 11:22 PM
Tan’s comment is:

The dessert thing is a long story folks. Let's just say that Armin won't be trying Chinese desserts anytime soon again. He was a little traumatized at a lunch in Vancouver.

Hey, I thought it tasted great.

> It's just a helluva lot of talk about design, design, design.

Bradley -- I talk business and non-design stuff all day at work. I watch the same news and trash tv that the rest of America watches, and most of my family and non-design friends could care less when I talk design. I fucking live in the everyday relevance you're yearning for. We all do.

We all talk design, design, design here on Speak Up because it's the one place where we all get our therapeutic fix. It's the same with AIGA. I wouldn't necessarily call that a problem.

But I understand what you're trying to say here. I just wouldn't dis people for not "communicating" on a deeper level.

On Nov.18.2003 at 12:29 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

But I understand what you're trying to say here. I just wouldn't dis people for not "communicating" on a deeper level.

I don't mean to disrespect anyone. I guess the real problem is that I'm not communicating clearly enough myself, and that's partially because I probably don't know exactly what I'm after.

When you say the trash of everyday life, I suppose that's part of what I'm getting at--as in, why does it need to be trash. I remember that Sam once commented he'd prefer not to live in a world designed by the IDEOs, Apples, Frogs, and Phaidons of the world, and I totally agree. But still...there's a part of me that wants to see the crap elevated. Everything's relative, so there will always be crap, but how crappy need it be?

I dunno...I'll figure it. At some point.

On Nov.18.2003 at 12:58 AM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

I dunno...I'll figure it. At some point.

And then, the world will fold in on itself.

On Nov.18.2003 at 01:23 AM
Steven Heller’s comment is:

Sam. A good question deserves an answer. Frankly, I am annoyed by AIGA bashing and the curious and sometimes vicarious joy it brings to those who engage in it. So, yes, this is an "open letter" that in my feeble way was purely a paean to the organization. What kind of discussion was I hoping to start. Dunno really. Perhaps a more vigorous appraisal of AIGA that might lead to my understanding of why there is bashing in the first place.

I've read some interesting and what I consider ridiculous general critiques, but I still don't understand (even under the "we care" rubric) what AIGA has not fulfilled. I'd like to because improvement can only be accomplished by constructive and pro-active energies.

The canard that "AIGA is what you make it" is not a fallacy. When I started with AIGA I proposed exhibits, panels, publications, many of which were produced, that helped introduce criticism to a self-congratulatory field, and outside perspectives to a navel-gazing community. Without the AIGA that would not have been possible.

So at the risk of being maudlin (a word I taught Armin), I wrote the post simply to acknowledge the value of AIGA and in my heart of hearts hear the huddled masses rise in a chorus of cheers and yahoos.

Perhaps I should have called for a "discussion" by asking (in a loaded polling sort of way): What was the most significant thing AIGA has contributed to you as a designer?

For me, it was a chance to speak out not only about professional design concerns but how our field fits into art, culture, history, politics, and other things consequential.

.

On Nov.18.2003 at 04:09 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Perhaps a more vigorous appraisal of AIGA that might lead to my understanding of why there is bashing in the first place.

We have had this discussion several times, as I noted. And we always end up in the same closed-end alley — some people just don't see why they should spend money on the AIGA membership. Why? Everybody has their own reasons, which apparently are very hard to put into a concise thought. But the fact that there is bashing must mean something right? Even if it lacks fully-formed reasons. So it's not bashing for the joy of bashing, there is something that people don't like or are not fulfilled or are somehow displeased. Case in point, Steve's (VIbranium) comment about AIGA being more passive outside of NY, is it his fault that his Orlando chapter (is there even a chapter there?) isn't more active? Or should AIGA in NY do something about it? And this is where the AIGA is what you make of it comment usually comes in, passing the ball (read blame) onto the Orlando people. I'm sure there is support for each chapter from headquarters in NY, but maybe not enough? I don't know, I could very well be talking out of my ass.

> I still don't understand (even under the "we care" rubric) what AIGA has not fulfilled.

I am still trying to figure out what AIGA is fulfilling for me personally or what I want it to fulfill. I now know for sure that it fills, very well, the need for a big conference. It fulfills the need to gather with designers every now and then and listen to other designers talk. That's cool and all. I enjoy the informative e-mails we get every now and then. I also complained about the membership cost a few months ago, I don't think it's ridiculous anymore. It's very reasonable.

> The canard that "AIGA is what you make it" is not a fallacy

I am not saying it is a fallacy, it is very true, I have experienced it firsthand with this site. But sometimes (not always) it feels like a cop-out.

> So at the risk of being maudlin (a word I taught Armin),

Yes, great word. Thanks.

> I wrote the post simply to acknowledge the value of AIGA and in my heart of hearts hear the huddled masses rise in a chorus of cheers and yahoos.

I think we all acknowledge the value of the AIGA, some more than others and some much less than others. This is not a personal question to you Steve, but why is everybody so up in arms about a little criticism of the AIGA? Have they never been criticized or scrutinized?

Oh, and chorus of cheers and yahoos? On Speak Up? Rarely happens. Maybe in the AIGA forums�

On Nov.18.2003 at 10:46 AM
felix’s comment is:

improvement can only be accomplished by constructive and pro-active energies.

true, but is there no room here for dissent?

what i really admired about emily oberman (the nyc president) was her open-mindedness toward my "AIGA: sold out" blog. True, that was me lashing out, but for good reason. If everyone agreed, there'd be no debate- no change. And no fun.

I attend more AIGA events than anyone I know not because I beat my chest to their drum but because I love the AIGA the same way I understand design.. AIGA bashing muss'nt be construed as AIGA hating.

On Nov.18.2003 at 11:01 AM
Sam’s comment is:

Thanks for the frank reply, Steve.

I don't know if others feel like we've gone around in circles over this AIGA issue, but it seems that way to me. Whether it's called bashing or critiquing or dissent is not, exactly, the issue. As Armin says, the hue and cry must means that something's wrong, right? I'm not sure I agree with that (it might just mean people like to gripe at the powers that be, which is all natural and good), but let's apply the same principle to the hue and cry itself: the fact that it goes in circles must mean something's wrong, right? When I feel like I'm not breaking out of some lame solution to a design problem, it usually indicates that I've approached the problem from the wrong point of view. Maybe that's what's happened with this yer-long AIGA discussion. (Though I hasten to say that a lot of good points have been made.)

Now about redesigning the Book Review, can I send over a proposal?

On Nov.18.2003 at 11:44 AM
felix’s comment is:

Heh. Nice one Sam.

But, first you'll have serve on the AIGA board.

ps- and get a haircut, y'loser.

On Nov.18.2003 at 03:52 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Steve, I honestly don't know how AIGA or any other organization can fulfill much of anything--it provides a solid foundation to work with for networking, dialogue, the conferences, whatever else, but seriously, individuals have to fulfill themselves. AIGA isn't the reason design dialogue exists, it just amplifies the volume on it. Maybe one step beyond, it provides a common room for people to do it, and thus get more folks into the mix. This I greatly value, and from my perspective, I'll cheer about that.

As to your not fully understanding the "we care" rationale for dissent, its not that I (I don't want to speak for others) give a shit about AIGA per se, I just care about design. AIGA is the central organization for most designers, and rage and anger always need a target and AIGA just happens to be the primary one for some people. Whatever.

I wrote the post simply to acknowledge the value of AIGA and in my heart of hearts hear the huddled masses rise in a chorus of cheers and yahoos.

I assume you're kidding about the huddled masses part.

But to echo Armin (gee, that never happens...), cheering doesn't really happen here; that doesn't mean contributors don't celebrate beauty, but they aren't likely to automatically get excited about an organization.

You say you introduced more criticism into a self-congratulatory profession. Well, what goes on here is an opportunity for people to voice their criticism towards a design organization. It's not like AIGA is going to fold because of it.

I can understand that you've found some of the critiques ridiculous--perhaps mine, perhaps not--but I sense that you're being...somewhat dismissive of the non-ridiculous but still harsh ones. Like any other form of evolution, its a process and I don't have a problem with people playing hardball at first and then easing into a more constructive manner. I think that first, you have to listen to the caustic comments before advancing the discussion--and honestly, I'm not sure that you're doing that.

So maybe, those who bitch harder about it might feel like they're not being heard, and thus they continue to do it. Hell, I would. Even if the response is "Okay, I hear you, but shut up. Look at it this way..." Personally, part of what helped me to see the value in the organization came in a conversation about it with Tan, who allowed me to yell for a bit, then explained his point of view.

On Nov.18.2003 at 04:27 PM
Emily’s comment is:

"Okay, I hear you, but shut up. Look at it this way..."

just kidding. sort of.

I do think that out of bitching can come improvement. and I DO listen to a lot of what gets said here on Speak Up. We on the AIGA/NY Board take your comments to heart and they make us work harder. We try to please a lot of the people a lot of the time, but really you just can't (which is one of the great things about the whole world - if everyone agreed all the time it would just be boring). So it comes down to us putting together what we believe is the best program of events that we as a board feel strongly about. Sometimes the events succeed, sometimes they don't but they always spark interesting discussions, often between people who don't know each other and that makes the design community a stronger force and a great thing to be a part of.

It's really hard to do that on a local level (whether you are a big chapter or a small one) and it's even harder to do it on a national one.

I am proud to be involved in AIGA *AND* Speak Up. It's a wonderful fucked up symbiotic relationship.

So thanks AIGA and thanks Speak Up.

On Nov.19.2003 at 09:01 PM
Brady’s comment is:

Armin -

In order to post a complete response, I'd like to know your thoughts - and anyone else's thoughts - on what you think is bogus about the AIGA Designing initiative.

Thanks.

On Nov.20.2003 at 07:57 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Emily, it is indeed a fucked up symbiotic relationship — couldn't have said so better myself. Thanks for the acknowledgment.

Brady, I have ranted on this a few times, by now I thought I would have gotten over it, but no. I also have to say that I was very surprised at how many prominent designers I talked to at the conference thought it was lame.

My first concern is the fact that it is based on "steps." Yes, a process needs steps, but the design process needs room to flex, change and mutate into a solution, you can not force it through 12 steps... and really 12 steps? Nobody stopped for a moment to think about how screwed up that is?

Then, it's the language, envision victory, inciting support, activating a solution? Seriously? I would never talk to a client like that, if we were in high school and we talked like that we would get the shit kicked out of us by the bullies. The language, along with the steps, are kind of unrealistic and just make the design process seem more bizarre than it already is.

Now, before you say "propose something" I have to say that I am not ready to propose something, and I'll be the first to admit it, but I know enough where I can certainly, and assertively, point out something that is flawed.

On Nov.20.2003 at 08:40 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

We try to please a lot of the people a lot of the time, but really you just can't (which is one of the great things about the whole world - if everyone agreed all the time it would just be boring).

Hahahaha...awesome. That's really all you can do, and its quite a bit. Until another organization with the same amount of mass and influence as AIGA, it will likely continue to be the first target of some designer's righteous outrage.

And who's to say AIGA is the "whole" problem? Sometimes its designers themselves.

On Nov.20.2003 at 09:29 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

Now, before you say "propose something" I have to say that I am not ready to propose something, and I'll be the first to admit it, but I know enough where I can certainly, and assertively, point out something that is flawed.

Here, I've got a proposal: "Get Shit Done." If you think that 12-Step Program for Designing is bad, take a look at the book published by the firm that created it. Yikes. You'd think that in the post-Internet boom era no one would talk like that (not that there was ever reason to) but you would be surprised. The amount of breath and ink wasted on yammering about nothing could have been used to actually "Get Shit Done."

On Nov.20.2003 at 11:00 AM
griff’s comment is:

Once upon a time I was a daily reader/commentor of SU. Then a 4 month project and commuting to Atlanta stole SU away from me.

Today I return to find the exact same AIGA discussions as when I disappeared.

You people are insane.

I am sure several of the 50+ comments above make my same point, but it is too painfull to read them all. Instead I am logging off now to shove red hot knitting needles deep into my eye sockets.

On Nov.20.2003 at 04:23 PM
Rob Dewey’s comment is:

Having worked as ACD director of communications for almost nine years and having worked with AIGA for many years [serving on the board of AIGA/Minnesota, chairing that chapter's Design Camp conference, being published in the AIGA Journal], I believe I have a unique perspective on this question.

While the national AIGA staff clearly means well and is doing the best they can under difficult circumstances, the institution is inherently committed to perpetuating the status quo. And if we haven't figured it out yet, let me state the obvious: graphic design as currently defined and practiced is marginal at best, whether one considers the economy, politics, or culture.

Our existing institutions, including the glossy magazines, hipper-than-thou design schools, and the AIGA, will not lead the way to the necessary and inevitable future; they are in fact holding us back from seeing and achieving it. Petty worship of famous designers and the self-serving notion of "design for design's sake" has helped AIGA fail to meet its own goal of creating a business and cultural climate that values graphic design. No wonder no one cares about what we do.

Several years ago, after being repeatedly rebuffed in my efforts to promote change from within AIGA, I decided to drop my membership and focus my efforts on human- and community-scaled activities that place the audience/user/customer at the center of the design process and promote true, open dialogue. I still believe in the power and necessity of a strong voice that represents and challenges us; I just don't believe AIGA can be that voice. It is not democratic, but ruled by a self-perpetuating elite. It is not human or accessible, but overly structured and uninterested in the messy work it now faces.

Many institutions have struggled to deal with a new age of communications that is less centralized and more diverse. The irony of our inability as communicators to adapt is obvious to all but ourselves. Indeed, we may have to let graphic design as we know it die in order to save it, to help it be revived in a new, relevant form. Which begs a few questions: If there were no AIGA, what kind of organization would we create? What would it do? How? If we were creating our discipline today, what would we call it? What kind of value do we create? How? What is our purpose?

My guess is that what will emerge after all is said and done will be something unrecognizable from our current perspective. Isn't it about time?

On Nov.21.2003 at 12:08 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Rob, thank you for your point of view.

If there were no AIGA, what kind of organization would we create? What would it do? How? If we were creating our discipline today, what would we call it? What kind of value do we create? How? What is our purpose?

Those are some scary questions in a scary proposition. I think the AIGA (the NY staff as well as chapter presidents) should ask themselves these same questions.

> It is not human or accessible

That seems a bit of a stretch though, the AIGA is not a soulless entity, without the people there would be no organization. In the past year I have met a lot of people from the AIGA (some of them have changed my perceptions of the organization, others have reinforced my original point fo view) and they are very much human. Many of them even smell nice.

On Nov.21.2003 at 05:09 PM
Brady’s comment is:

Armin,

Apologies for the delayed response, but here you go...

Your explanation of why the "12-Steps" are bogus proves there is a miscommunication - if no communication at all - in their significance.

First, "12-Steps" is not, nor ever was the intended moniker for AIGA's process for designing. They are actually referred to as the 12 organizing principles for the process of designing. "12-Steps" just became an unfortunate joke for what is a powerful tool for speaking to your clients about your particular design process.

Which leads me to the second point, the "Designing Process" was never intended as a cast-iron mold that every project must be shoehorned into and forced through all 12 points of the process. I have never seen any documentation that says other wise. In truth, the process model is flexible can be applied to design problems in numerous ways.

To quote Bill Grant (former AIGA board member): "While the AIGA principals are not intended to provide a universal prescription for designing, they do provide a context for designers to ask better questions, collaborate more effectively and to compare and contrast trends, patterns, processes, criteria and execution."

What it all boils down to is this; AIGA as an organization, with the majority of the national board being designers, understands that as designers we are problem-solvers and we approach solving those problems in our own personal ways. I say ways, because we cannot even apply our personal process verbatim to every problem that comes across our desks.

Many of our clients and potential clients don't fully understand what we do and, by default, think that designers "make things pretty".

To quote Clement Mok (former AIGA president): "...designers are currently a divided, fractious lot, whose professional esteem is considerably lower than it should be. Unlike other skilled professionals, designers are viewed as outsiders of uncertain prestige, and are frequently excluded from participation in business enterprises except in a narrowly circumscribed, post hoc context. A consideration of principles would suggest that a skilled designer should be present throughout a development project, to facilitate cohesion and effectiveness of planning and execution."

The overarching problem is not being fully understood that as problem solvers, we can provide value beyond a shiny new trademark or packaging and deliver solutions that deeply affect their business.

What the "AIGA Process of Designing Solutions" does is provides a general overview in order for us to speak to our clients in a way that is clear and understandable; that gives them a framework for problem solving. Whether you use steps 1 and 10, steps 4, 6 and 9 or all 12 of them, depends on you the problem to be solved. It is up to you as the designer to guide the client along a chosen path. I encourage you to view the case studies. Members can also contribute their own case studies.

Moving on... I once had a beef with AIGA, but then I realized my beef was more closely related to the Chapter with which I was affiliated. At the time it was inefficient, irrelevant and did not reflect what I viewed AIGA to be. So, along with 20 other individuals - from designers to print sales reps, paper reps and even a design manager - we formed the Charlotte chapter of the AIGA of which I currently serve as president.

I point this out to emphasize the fact that many of us wanted more out of our AIGA. So we did something about it. Over our three-year history, we have made a point to not just be a source for networking while drinking - or drinking while networking. Our 'Talk-About' lecture series - among other events - is one based on education and not portfolio drivel for self-stroking egotists. For example, this month, Tim Hale of Fossil presented "In-House Design: Reality and Relevance"; a lecture in which we specifically asked him to detail how the internal structure at Fossil has evolved and how their design strategy and process can be applied our own practices. He showed no work. We also coordinated an exclusive presentation by Tim with the corporate communications department for one of the country's largest banks.

In order for us to do these things, we need members that affiliate themselves with our chapter; the more members we have, the more development funds we can acquire from our business partners; the more funds we have, we can provide better programming, educational, and business initiatives at the local level. Yet, I make it a point not to sell memberships. I promote the organization and the benefits beyond the free design annual, and FedEx discounts. It is when people realize that they love their profession and want to ensure its viability when they join the only professional organization that is working for them at not only a local level, but a national level as well. How many localized communication arts groups are petitioning the US Department of Labor and lobbying the Federal Election Commission?

Why do I explain all this? While people do not like to hear it, AIGA is truly what you make of it. Yes, AIGA is a national organization and the volunteers and salaried professionals of that organization are working at that level to ensure that society, business, government better understand the value of our profession. But, it is the chapters that make the AIGA relevant and viable to its members on a daily basis. Ironically, there is an overwhelming WE/THEY mentality that stands to be perpetuated when people do not get involved. Our chapter had an open call for nominations to the board this past summer. We had a total of five nominations to fill four total seats - three nominations came from the existing board, of which two were appointed. Back in August we created new board positions to better address the national strategy as well as ours. We still have two open positions.

Since apathy breeds contempt, we are doing something about it. On January 13, 2004, the Charlotte Chapter is hosting an evening of conversation with AIGA's executive director, Ric Grefé, to address concerns and ideas about the profession and the organization; explore national's observations with local designers to see if they feel true to local conditions; and to explain why the organization does and does not do certain things. This promises to be interesting - on many levels - and we will be posting a transcript.

I don't have all the answers. I can only offer my experience. I don't agree with everything national does. How could that ever be possible? But, I have issues that are important to me and I look forward to one day serving on the national board where I can continue working to improve the experience for others. Likewise, it is up to our colleagues to get involved if they wish the AIGA to better reflect their needs.

- -

AIGA welcomes your thoughts and comments on the overall strategies for AIGA and encourages you to volunteer to be involved in advancing members' goals for the organization. To volunteer, send an e-mail to [email protected].

On Nov.25.2003 at 09:38 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Brady, now I am late in responding.

> What the "AIGA Process of Designing Solutions" does is provides a general overview in order for us to speak to our clients in a way that is clear and understandable; that gives them a framework for problem solving.

Before this you emphasized how sometimes clients don't fully understand what we do, the Process of Designing (see? I'm refraining from calling it the 12-step program) does a disservice just because of the language. It makes the "process" seem more florid and estranged than it already is. I understand the thinking behind it and the intention is all well and good but the final delivery is just pompously unshareable. I digress. I see that there was a big effort put forth to this and I have expressed my dislike for it since it came out, so in conclusion (at least for me) this was a missed opportunity to create a helpful tool. The foundation of it is strong it just needs fixing not justifying.

As far as your other overall take on AIGA, I appreciate the honesty and openness and it's nice to see people in smaller "design markets" take matters into their own hands and make the AIGA you want.

On Dec.04.2003 at 09:03 PM
Brady’s comment is:

> Before this you emphasized how sometimes clients don't fully understand what we do, the Process of Designing (see? I'm refraining from calling it the 12-step program) does a disservice just because of the language. It makes the "process" seem more florid and estranged than it already is.

> Then, it's the language, envision victory, inciting support, activating a solution? Seriously? I would never talk to a client like that,...

Armin,

You will be happy to know that there is a new version of the Process of Designing brochure.

While the Why? brochure was meant for a Designer/Client audience, it was more of a framework for designers.

The new What Every Business Needs. booklet is purely meant for our clients. Gone is the language of "ENVISIONING THE DESIRED END STATE" and "INCITING SUPPORT AND THEN ACTION". In the new version, more approachable phrases like "SET CLEAR OBJECTIVES AND DEFINE SUCCESS" and "ELICIT BUY-IN AND SUPPORT" are used.

Download the PDF here.

AIGA members can request printed copies.

On Mar.12.2004 at 09:45 AM
Sam’s comment is:

>>Process of Designing brochure

Rotis Sans. Let's start with defining the problem right there.

On Mar.12.2004 at 11:04 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Rotis *shivers*

Brady, I did get my three copies (as promised by an e-mail) of the new little brochure. It is definitely much better. I was glad that they had the visuals to explain it in the first pages. Although, for a Graphic Arts organization I was disappointed that only 2 (of 6) of the examples had to do with them Graphic Arts — but I'm just being overly critical. People will get it and that's what's important. But I can't let it go completely, it is the same problem everytime, when talking about "design" (as in graphic design) we ultimately end up pointing to Apple or OXO for examples.

In any regard, I would probably hand this to a client, as opposed to the original brochure.

On Mar.12.2004 at 04:14 PM