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AIGA: It’s Just a Name

~ or ~

A rose by any other name would sound as sweet, unless it was completely ignorant of all the other kinds of design professionals that really aren’t a part of its membership base and didn’t really consider if its actualization would really solve any problems

Guest Editorial by Andrew Twigg

Seems that recently the AIGA changed its official name. I’m an AIGA member, but I hadn’t noticed this until I looked at Design Observer this morning. I was at first a little surprised, and definitely interested in what this name change could be. But when I clicked on the link to the page on the AIGA site announcing the name change, I can’t say I was totally thrilled. Was this for real?

I don’t think a name change is necessarily a bad thing. Certainly a name change is useful when the name of an organization fails to communicate what that organization does. And name changes have been used by countless organizations wanting to reinvent themselves (some even for the wrong reasons… think Altria). But when an organization makes a change, shouldn’t it really help the organization?

I remember finding out about the AIGA while I was a junior in college. I wasn’t in a graphic design program, but I had stumbled upon an issue of Communication Arts over my spring break. As far as I knew then, AIGA was just the name of the organization. I didn’t have any idea what the acronym stood for, and I wanted to pronounce it like one would many other acronyms (think laser): so I began referring to the organization as “eye-gah”.

This may have been lazy ignorance on my part, but that was soon corrected as I took my first design job where my co-workers and art director debated the merits of joining the organization. Saying “eye-gah” was a hard habit to break (after all, I had been doing it for nearly two years). But I finally got my act together and started saying the name letter-by-letter.

It wasn’t until the fall of 2004 that I actually joined the AIGA. And now, around a year later, the AIGA decides it’s no longer the “American Institute of Graphic Arts”, it’s “AIGA, the professional association for design”. I didn’t notice this in my 11/15 Chicago Chapter newsletter (ok, I didn’t read it. I think I was “busy” the day it came.) From the newsletter:

“Our official name has changed from ‘American Institute of Graphic Arts’ to ‘AIGA, the professional association for design’. This change results from continuous recommendations from members over the past decade (and more) in search of a name that reflects the evolution of the profession from its earliest roots in graphic arts. Yet, despite the desire for a name that was more inclusive, there is also a strong interest in retaining the legacy of AIGA. This resolution aims to address both interests. Now it is time for us to move together to give solid equity to the promise of this new identity.”

There’s more silliness to this name change. From the AIGA website announcment:

“Now it is time for us to move together to give solid equity to the promise of this new identity. IBM, AARP, MCI, ESPN, CSPAN and others have discarded their names and moved to using an acronym because as they grew, their businesses encompassed much more than their names indicated…
“We encourage active members to join many of your colleagues in using the initials ‘AIGA’ after your name in email signatures, business cards, etc., to show your support of the profession and your commitment to the standards for professional practice.”

Can someone please tell me how using the initials will help the cause? I mean, sure, it will help get the AIGA name out there, but that doesn’t help anyone understand it. And I love that this decision is justified because IBM, AARP, and others have made the change. Like mom says, if all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?

Maybe I’m missing something. I mean, I certainly think there were problems with the name. If you told a random person what the organization was before, there would most likely be some confusion, particularly if all you said was “AIGA” anyway. To have explained what AIGA stood for may have helped to explain the organization, if that person were familiar with graphic design as a concept. But the new name is long. How likely am I to say “AIGA, the professional association for design” when I mention the organization in conversation? And this name change isn’t even prominent on the AIGA website. It’s just in the page footer!

Additionally, this name seems a bit misleading to me. Is AIGA really trying to be THE professional association for design? What about fashion designers, interior designers, architects, sound designers, set designers, industrial designers, floral designers, software designers, and all those other kinds of designers I can’t even think of? What about all of the other organizations that already exist for those kinds of designers (such as the International Interior Design Association - IIDA)? Don’t we think they’ll get mad when all of their members defect to AIGA?

I have a feeling that this isn’t the intention of AIGA. Or maybe it is, but if so, no one is saying so - at least not at this point. Either way, if this is supposed to solve some kind of identity problem or communication issue, I think this needs a revisit. I don’t claim to be the genius with the solution, but I’m disappointed that this change seems to lack the clarity and vision I’d expect from what’s supposed to be the leading organization for my profession - whatever that profession is. In the meantime, if I mention AIGA, I’ll still have some explaining to do.

Andrew Twigg lives in Chicago where he has a design practice and teaches part time. He has been a member of AIGA, the professional association for design since the fall of 2004. He still has to explain the name and what he does to most random encounters.

For other misadventures in rename, visit Salon’s “The Name Game”

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2498 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON Dec.22.2005 BY Speak Up
WITH 75 COMMENTS
Comments
Rebecca C.’s comment is:

Hmmm. So, I still have to explain what the acronym stands for, and add the new tagline? Pass. I have a difficult enough time explaining what it is I actually do around here without defending the "brand" of a trade association.

On Dec.22.2005 at 02:23 PM
Ravenone’s comment is:

At least the Graphic Artist's Guild acronym is fun, and easily explainable. I can never remember what AIGA stands for; on some level this is most likely why I haven't joined. On another level: So are my not-so-deep pockets.

On Dec.22.2005 at 02:37 PM
Stacy Rausch’s comment is:

I guess I really don't know what was wrong with the American Institute of Graphic Arts... When I have told people that I was a member of AIGA, and they ask what is that. Giving them what the letters "AIGA" actually stood for seemed to be a totally passable answer.

Am I wrong?

On Dec.22.2005 at 02:43 PM
felixxx’s comment is:

Professional Association for Design, or PAD

Listen, I'm all for professionalism- whatever that means (ethical? tidy? a firm handshake?) - but gimme a break. Let us hear the part where Ric Grefe relegates 50k of member dues to support this rebranding effort. Mmmm. Rebrand!

A few years (OK 5) ago I called Gabriel Miransky @ AIGA to find out how long the 365 Show extension was (typically, its 2 weeks right?) I got "We won't have extensions this year"...followed by "you wouldn't be satisfied with your clients being late, so this is an effort us to enstate a more professional behavior". Well, we see where that got the 365 annual. No one bothers, right? It reminds me of the days when I was an art director at the Richards Group (yes, old Texas logic) and we had to wear ties to impress our clients - as if it would support our reason for being and undignified salaries. So I guess it's no suprise the press release compares the AIGA to the AARP.

Damn, we're idiots.

On Dec.22.2005 at 03:17 PM
Roger Wong, AIGA’s comment is:

I also like how they suggest you to "We encourage active members to join many of your colleagues in using the initials “AIGA” after your name in email signatures, business cards, etc., to show your support of the profession and your commitment to the standards for professional practice."

Does that mean I should have "Roger Wong, AIGA" on my business card? Does it have the same weight as ESQ, PHD, MD, DS, or AIA? Seems like initials like those require some sort of certification process, whereas the only certification for joining the AIGA is a $275 credit card charge.

On Dec.22.2005 at 03:19 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> A few years (OK 5) ago I called Gabriel Miransky

Just for the record, it's Gabriela. We don't want someone calling the AIGA and saying "Get that guy... the guy that handles competitions".

> Let us hear the part where Ric Grefe relegates 50k of member dues to support this rebranding effort.

Felix, care to elaborate on that "50k" figure?

On Dec.22.2005 at 03:25 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Most members of the NAACP would rather not be called “colored” and nobody at IBM says that they make business machines. But it would be fairly stupid for them to suddenly change their names. National Association for the Advancement of African Americans? International Business Systems Stuff? Not just because names pronounced like “naaaah” or “abyss” might have negative connotations. Each would lose its considerable equity. (Think about how much better Datsuns sold than Nissans.)

Not only is the term “graphic artist” the bane of many graphic designers but many of us have realized that defining ourselves in mid-20th century terms has serious problems. Is AIGA really trying to be THE professional association for design? Yes. They’re trying harder in some areas than others. The core membership is still graphic designers but the term “graphic designer” is, while not as problematic as “graphic artist,” a real limitation.

So saying that AIGA doesn’t stand for anything anymore isn’t strange. The A&M in Texas A&M University officially stands for A&M. They aren’t agricultural and mechanical anymore. Most people don’t care what IBM stands for anymore and many other acronyms don’t even get capitalized. Who thinks "self contained underwater breathing apparatus” or, uh, what does radar stand for? The argument against just saying AIGA is that people will say “Say what?” They need an explanation like, perhaps, “the professional association for design.”

If a client of yours had a parallel situation, what would you have advised them to do?

On Dec.22.2005 at 03:31 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I would have pulled the trigger, and changed it to "American Institute of Design" or AID.

I don't hate the solution, but I think it's a weak compromise that relies more on equity than the opportunities of an evolutionary change. And while it's flattering to make the comparison, I don't believe that AIGA has nearly the same name recognition and brand equity as the NAACP, IBM, or any of the other acronym'd organizations cited.

And last I heard, the IIDA membership is somewhere around 42,000+ members, far eclipsing AIGA's 18,000 or so members. It's admirable, but not realistic to expect AIGA to instantly become THE design organization — despite the momentous name change.

On Dec.22.2005 at 03:51 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

Gunnar

Many of your points are valid. When it comes down to it, I have two major problems with this "rename". The first is that the suggested use for AIGA doesn't actually lead to clarity. It leads to awareness of AIGA, and that's part of the battle, but awareness alone doesn't do much.

Here's the other:

From AIGA's "about" page:

The disciplines represented in the profession range from book and type design through the traditional communication design disciplines to the newer disciplines of interaction design, experience design and motion graphics. In addition, AIGA supports the interests of those involved in designing from other disciplines, professions and business who share designers’ commitment to advancing understanding of the value of design.

If it's true that we're (I say "we" as a member of AIGA) trying to expand beyond graphic design, I have a few thoughts: can the organzation do that successfully, and aren't other "designers" well represented with professional organzitaions such as the AIA and IIDA? What will graphic designers have as a resource organzation of their own that has the same pull and prominence of AIGA? Or do graphic designers need anything to ourselves, and/or will we be happy to share AIGA with others? Lastly, what is AIGA doing to grow beyond graphic design, if that's the plan?

On Dec.22.2005 at 04:01 PM
David E.’s comment is:

Do any of you consider the term "graphic design" to be anachronistic? I refer to myself as a graphic designer — I don't like the idea of limiting myself by calling myself a "print designer." People get typecast enough in this business as it is.

On Dec.22.2005 at 04:47 PM
Jason L.’s comment is:

Can this even be classified as a name change? Same letters with a tagline? This is the kind of solution most designers would poo poo on sight. I have to say that putting AIGA on business cards as a means of credibility opens up options that are too wonderful pass up. From now on I will have

Jason L., AIGA, YMCA, NRA, PFC (Prince Fan Club)

on all of my business cards.

On Dec.22.2005 at 04:53 PM
pk’s comment is:

andrew, you totally are missing something. lots of folks in design have a passable knowledge of what the organization's about. not many know what the acronym stands for. so the strict meaning should be allowed to slip into history while keeping the name. the original acronym completely denies any of the newer disciplines with its anachronistic nature. and frankly, it's the reason i've never been a member. this makes me consider joining.

"graphic designer" or "graphic arts professional" conjures up images of an old codger with spray-mount on his glasses, a skin condition from all the bestine he's inhaled, and who mumbles prayers to saul bass all day.

i spend most of my time creating online content management systems and writing strategy documents. i don't wanna be professionally associated with that old coot because frankly, it damages both my credibility and income.

On Dec.22.2005 at 05:16 PM
felixxx’s comment is:

)(the term) "graphic designer" or "graphic arts professional"... damages both my credibility and income.

Change your title! I suggest you belong to the billionaire boys club. Also Prince has a nice ring.

Arm, I have no idea what money they are throwing at the renaming effort, but considering the materials they'll apply this to, 50k would be a modest guestimation. No?

I like Tan's AID (American Institute of Design) suggestion. Has a nice economy- which is appears useful.

On Dec.22.2005 at 05:39 PM
Lauren’s comment is:

i spend most of my time creating online content management systems and writing strategy documents

Content managers and strategists have been around long before the internet, but have never, and are certainly not now deserving of the title "Designer." I'm surprised that you're even interested in an organization for people in creative professions. Wouldn't you be more comfortable in group with other computer techs?

On Dec.22.2005 at 07:09 PM
pk’s comment is:

Wouldn't you be more comfortable in group with other computer techs?

no. my degree is in design, and i concentrated in letterform design.

i didn't say i was a content manager, i said i designed content management systems. specifically, i design templating systems for people who publish in movable type and expression engine. a decent example is the site we did for radar online earlier this year.

content management design is no different than book design, visually. the construction, however, is completely different. just because online designers deal specifically in code rather than ink does not make us techs.

On Dec.22.2005 at 07:27 PM
Lauren’s comment is:

Perhaps the idea behind content management "design" is similar to that of book design, but I think you'd need quite a bit more typographic skill to design books (or do any other type of legitimate graphic design) than is exhibited in "radar online"

On Dec.22.2005 at 07:45 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Lauren, perhaps Radar Online does not "exhibit" the typographic skill you allude to but, trust me, if someone around these parts has typographic skills, it is pk. So I'd amicably advice against any other "go find some other support group" comments.

On Dec.22.2005 at 07:59 PM
pk’s comment is:

but I think you'd need quite a bit more typographic skill to design books (or do any other type of legitimate graphic design) than is exhibited in "radar online"

hey, thanks for the pettiness. i can do that too, and have.

the point to my post, which you're ignoring, is that calling someone a graphic artist completely ignores an online designer's role.

On Dec.22.2005 at 08:00 PM
Lauren’s comment is:

i don't wanna be professionally associated with that old coot because frankly, it damages…my credibility

Sorry to be so petty. I'll try to be less petty and more like you from now on.

On Dec.22.2005 at 08:15 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

Alright, no need for things to devolve.

Patrick -

The term "Graphic Arts", "Graphic Artist" & "Graphic Arts Professional" probably holds similar value as they do to you (but I'm ok with the term "Graphic Designer").

I don't care for the AARP/IBM/etc. manner of thought to this change of name. I do think that many of these other organizations/corporations and what they stood for were well known before they came to be known by only an acronym. I don't think AIGA needs to forever be known as "American Institute of Graphic Arts".

I do, however, just plain think that this is a weird name for the organization:

"AIGA, the professional association for design"

If the idea is that the meaning of the old AIGA name is to slip into the past, so be it. I get that there are big legacy issues here too, after all, there is a lot of awareness of AIGA (and as you say, lots of design people have some kind of knowledge of what the organization is about). I'm just not sure this is the right solution.

As for this apparent thing of who does/doesn't belong in the club, anyone's welcome, as far as I'm concerned. I still, however, have my doubts that AIGA will be "THE" professional association for design. But for graphic design and all of its offshoots, it already is.

On Dec.22.2005 at 08:36 PM
Su’s comment is:

[Okay, fine, I'll bite.]

I'm always (am|conf)used by people who construct an A = B relationship between work done for a client and work the designer would or could do.

Lauren, you have no idea how many design revisions the Radar site went through, and I'm honestly not entirely sure the contract would allow us to show you; I lost count, though PK could probably tell you the exact number without thinking. There were some gorgeous ones which I greatly preferred.

Three days prior to launch(no, seriously), the current one was essentially handed down, making, among other things, all the headings the same size and color(there was variation prior), in Avant Garde, which we both kind of hate. And that was the quick and easy part of the changes.

But it's what Radar "offline" used, and what they ultimately wanted. To be (as) diplomatic (as I'm capable of), Radar's typography—both image and text-based—is more the result of its writers than of its designer, for reasons too numerous for me to list here, were I to care enough to feel a need to justify my work to you.

On Dec.22.2005 at 08:37 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Yes, thanks Andrew, back on track...

Like any rebranding or repositioning, it doesn't matter what you do on the publicly-visible surface if you can't deliver on the promise. And, even though as a graphic designer I wouldn't consider joining any other "design" organization, I wouldn't be too trigger happy to put the AIGA initials in my e-mails or business cards as the "the" in "the professional association for design" still doesn't hold as much value or heft as the letters its attached to.

The name change feels a little like breast implants, it makes (some) women feel better about themselves and eventually allows them to be more themselves, braver and self-assured. So, if this is what it takes for the AIGA to establish itself as the design organization, so be it. God bless.

On Dec.22.2005 at 08:45 PM
pk’s comment is:

I'm just not sure this is the right solution.

it's totally not. an ideal solution would have been an entirely new name, but i'm pretty sure they were in a predicament. from what's been shown in the past, organizational name changes are difficult to make anyway. this one seems muh harder because the actual profession has changed so much since it was initially named.

at least now they can make a two-pronged change if they're so inclined. now that they've added another part to the name ( the tagline), they can change to "insertnamehere, the professional... etc." and then later just drop the tagline when its served its purpose. i kinda wonder if they were thinking that far down the line.

as from the acronym part of it, yes. it sucks. but i think it's what they're stuck with for the time being. since they have some recognition with it.

the new stab to become the professional design organization is a slick way to grab for power. transparent, sure, but hey. more power to them. if they can make that work, then it's better for everyone involved.

On Dec.22.2005 at 08:47 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> I do, however, just plain think that this is a weird name for the organization:"AIGA, the professional association for design"

Maybe they should pull a YWCA...

On Dec.22.2005 at 08:53 PM
sbrinley’s comment is:

I understand the point of dropping "The American Institute for Graphic Arts". However, the argument about ESPN, IBM, etc. is terrible, IMHO.

In any case, my husband has always called AIGA "eye-gah" (as Andrew did). Now, he will be refering to them as "eye-gah pad". Hmmmm.

On Dec.22.2005 at 09:33 PM
felixxx’s comment is:

PADDED (Professional Association of Designers, Designer Enhancements and/or Dildos)

Armin, I've enhanced your image to "triple D" design. Done! Now, If you put one on your business card, I will show you mine.

AIGA, Padded for your professional protection.

On Dec.22.2005 at 10:06 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Just to put things into perspective here.

I have a couple of clients in the medical equipment field that I design exhibit environments for. Occasionally, I will attend their professional conferences to see the exhibits in action.

The list of organizations at these conferences read like alphabet soup — the AHA, RSNA, ASA, ADHS, and dozens upon dozens of other meaningless acronyms. These organizations respresent cardiologists, radiologists, neurologists, oncologists, dermatologists, pediatric opthalmologists, and dozens of other -ologists from the general to the obscure. Yet, even the most obscure of these medical specialization organizations is larger than AIGA.

For example, one of the smaller national medical conference that I attended this year — ASA in Atlanta (for anesthesiologists) — still had an attendance of 12,000 professionals. In comparison, the largest AIGA national conference to date was Las Vegas — and attendance was just a bit over 3,500 attendees. Members complained incessantly that it was "way too big." Uh-huh.

As a professional organization, AIGA is still very, very small. It could've changed its name completely, and no one beyond our self-important little world would've even noticed.

So what exactly is the purpose or complaint of this discussion again?

On Dec.22.2005 at 11:30 PM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

I'm going to go on record and state that I like the change.

Tan said: As a professional organization, AIGA is still very, very small. It could've changed its name completely, and no one beyond our self-important little world would've even noticed.

I would guess that the name change with no acronym change was done for designers and not those outside of our world. I'm very fond of "AIGA" because it prompts explanation. And then I get to further explain the difference between the titles "artist" and "designer". I don't know if that was intentional, but every little bit helps to educate those on the outside.

Tan also said: I would have pulled the trigger, and changed it to "American Institute of Design" or AID.

(Sorry Tan, not trying to pick on you here... )

For what it's worth, I would much rather belong to an organization than an institute.

On Dec.23.2005 at 01:30 AM
UNENDER’s comment is:

I must confess, I didn't read every post on this page, so someone may have said this already, but to me the worst part about this name change is that AIGA is (was) an acronym, so to say that AIGA no longer stands for the American Institute of Graphic Arts is factually inaccurate. You can downplay that if you want, if you don't like being part of an "institution" or if the concept of "graphic arts" is the "bane" of your existence, but its still what it stands for. Someone could say, what is AIGA and you could just say, "Its a trade organization for graphic design." And if they ask, "What does it stand for?" just tell them, its not that hard.

But now, no, you can't say that, you have to say "I belong to AIGA", "Oh yeah, what does that stand for?" "Well... nothing. It doesn't stand for anything, its arbitrary. But , its the professional association for design." "Okay, but it really doesn't stand for anything?" "Well, kind of."

I mean, one of the most important aspects of graphic design, in my opinion, is purpose. There is a reason why you make a layout look the way it does. There is a reason for everything in design, so for our professional association for design to have a name that is an acronym for nothing is... sad.

I like AIGA, I always have. Sure, some local chapters leave something to be desired, but at a national level its a good thing. But this name change makes me think that nobody is running this thing. Right on the front page of their site there is a quote from Patton that says "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." and it reminds me of all of the other companies with acronym related name changes that AIGA used to justify their ridiculous choice. So who isn't thinking here...

And finally, in my opinion, "the professional association for design" is a tag-line, not a name. They could have accomplished much more by keeping their name, and its historical equity, and adding "the professional association for design" as a tag-line.

PEACE!

On Dec.23.2005 at 03:31 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

I'm not sure WHY they did this identity change. Like Andrew said originally, there seems to be a lack of clarity. AIGA is an acronym regardless of the repositioning. Without it, they could have made a complete change to anything; MSG, AIG, IGA....with no reference to graphic design at all. But would it be helpful to furthering goals?

It's inexplicable to change spots to stripes when the rest of the zoo didn't notice anyway.

If they concentrated on strengthening the credibility of design and the education of designers, they would be not only preparing for the future but fulfilling the legacy of their origin.

Ah well, doesn't matter. Maybe they need a new logo too. A certain blue globe is not being used anymore....

On Dec.23.2005 at 07:18 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I'm not sure WHY they did this identity change. Like Andrew said originally, there seems to be a lack of clarity.

It seems to be a response to decades of discussions about the faults of the “Graphic Arts” part of the old name combined with more recent but increasing dissatisfaction with the “American” part, all meeting a newer vision of the organization. The newer vision is of a group that can help lead graphic designers into the future of the business. The announcement of the experience design group six years ago at the Las Vegas conference was one attempt at making this move. Ric showed a 3D graph of the world related to graphic design and communication with the traditional AIGA members being just one corner.

AIGA is an acronym regardless of the repositioning. Without it, they could have made a complete change to anything; MSG, AIG, IGA....with no reference to graphic design at all.

All sorts of signifiers started out with specific meanings that shift or get lost. Changing from AIGA would cause a lot of confusion. Shifting the understanding of what AIGA means might increase understanding in a couple of ways. One of them is that we are having this conversation because of the change.

If they concentrated on strengthening the credibility of design and the education of designers, they would be not only preparing for the future but fulfilling the legacy of their origin.

Of course they should do that. They are doing that. A revision of the organization’s name doesn’t slow that down. The fuller and broader understanding of design that the name change is part of is, in fact, part of that effort.

On Dec.23.2005 at 09:39 AM
szkat’s comment is:

**gunner! beat me to the punch.

there has been parallel discussions about the AIGA name for several years now between AIGA chapter directors, ICOGRADA members, and smaller schmoes like myself. i've been feeling the outcry for some time, but the dissent was usually about the title "American (there ARE other Americas, you know)" or "Graphpic Arts (this lets people think i'm a painter when i'm not)."

i am less surprised at the change and more surprised that it's presented like it's not a big deal... it doesn't look like much more than an afterthought. i don't hit the AIGA site every day - and had i not, i would not have even known about the change. i happened upon it the day before this post went up. i haven't heard anything or gotten any mail that pointed out this change, and that's grossly disappointing. maybe there was something and i missed it, but if there wasn't... i like knowing the name of something i enjoy standing by and being involved in and paying dues to (don't enjoy that last one as much).

i bet there was something said and i bet my foot is in my mouth right. now.

anyway... point is, any movement forward is good, though this seems undercooked. i love the AIGA and what I do within in it (can i still say that? i love the AIGA? or do i have to say i love AIGA, the pro...blah.). but i seriously feel this change does not represent or misrepresent anything more than the old title did.

On Dec.23.2005 at 09:53 AM
Frank’s comment is:

This entire discussion makes me wonder: it's not AIGA that is having an identity crisis, but graphic design itself. And I can tell from what folks are saying that graphic design is having as much difficulty these days clarifying professional boundaries (or lack there of) as its parent organization.

Here's my two cents on the way forward for AIGA:

1. Less is actually less and more: Don't try to swallow the entire design sphere as a professional organization. I don't think you can fit it in your mouth, and I don't think your membership even wants it. Focus on less, rather than more design disciplines.

2. Strengthen the credibility of graphic design in the community at large. Drew Davies of the Nebraska AIGA chapter recently produced a mighty fine booklet "Good Design is Good Business." I'd give one of these to every client/potential client if it wasn't region specific. Why can't AIGA do more of this at a national level? Other industries have branding campaigns (think milk, beef, etc.). Shouldn't graphic design?

3. Choose substance over form. The AIGA "name change" has little substance. It's more form without meaning. I laugh at how $275 can buy you "credibility" as a graphic designer by putting it after your name. What does this say about AIGA's credibility? Does anyone take it seriously? Why not put some teeth into AIGA and require some standards for membership? A certification? Maybe then AIGA after you name will mean something.

I'm sure all these issues have been discussed a million times over at AIGA, but it might be the time to act on them. There is a "sea change" (as Bill Gates calls it) occurring in the graphic design world, and AIGA still does not get it.

On Dec.23.2005 at 10:03 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

I was a bit incomplete in my thoughts, sorry. Gunnar has said something that may be truer than my initial negative observations: if this name change leads to something good, let's see what comes of it.

And Frank's point of a "citizen designer" makes sense when you believe in something....something more than just just a job repackaging visuals. I'd like to know more about that. (If I remember correctly, Frank, Bill Gates also said, "Let's face it, the average computer user has the attention span of a spider monkey.") That's a confidence building quote for you...

On Dec.23.2005 at 11:10 AM
matt crest’s comment is:

** szkat and any others who wished for some sort of notification from AIGA about the name change but "didn't receive one"

In the 12/12/05 issue of Communiqué (the e-newsletter for members) the name change was announced and explained.

Just an fyi.

On Dec.23.2005 at 11:19 AM
Frank’s comment is:

Pesky,

I sure hope graphic designers can do more than repackage visuals. But, as the AIGA "name change" and subsequent website announcement aptly illustrates, I fear we do little more. There are quite a few articles on "doing more", but I'll just suggest a few:

+ Mispercetptions of Citizen Design by Brad Dicharry

+ Form Without Meaning by Frank McClung

+ If I Only Had A Heart by Paul Rustand

+ Making a Difference by Andy Rutledge

There are many more, but that should send you on your journey with a few helpful provisions.

On Dec.23.2005 at 12:08 PM
szkat’s comment is:

thank you matt!!

like i said. foot in mouth.

i was sure there was something i missed, but i do wish there was more to it on the website. i still feel like this is all more presentation than content. in my head i'm comparing it to a ten year old girl who comes down the stairs one morning announcing that from now on, she wants to be known as Elizabeth as opposed to Lizzy because it's more adult and sophisticated. does that make sense?

On Dec.23.2005 at 12:17 PM
David E.’s comment is:

Nobody's really answered the question of whether or not the AIGA actually wants to include people from other design disiplines in their membership (I mean product designers, etc.). My guess would be no — they're just trying to accomodate web designers who are uncomfortable with the term "graphic design."

It seems to me that the problem isn't the name of the organization, but the name of our profession. If "graphic design" is an outdated term, then how do we define ourselves? Are print designers and web designers really in two different professions, in the way that print designers and automotive designers are? I wouldn't think so. However, it sounds pretty weak to say that you're a member of the "design profession." It sounds arrogant to me as well — as though other design disiplines aren't real design.

Maybe designers should be like the mafia and refer to it as "this thing of ours."

On Dec.23.2005 at 12:30 PM
BlueStreak’s comment is:

Tan suggested AID for American Institute of Design. Great idea, but they also wanted to get away from the American moniker. So what about going global? And instead of saying the group is an institute, let's use the term organization. We'll drop the term graphic, and it'll make the group sound more inclusive of all that design can do. Yes that's it. That's good. The ultimate brand...

Global

Organization of

Design

On Dec.23.2005 at 02:47 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I actually like the word "Institute" — according to Webster, an institute is an organization founded to promote a cause, or to educate.

That suggests that we're not only an organization, but an organization with a purpose. "Institute" means more.

And as inaccurate as the moniker "American" is, it's the one word that carries all of the heritage and history for AIGA. ICOGRADA already exists to serve as the international design organization — AIGA has many other ways of growing.

On Dec.23.2005 at 03:18 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Clearly nobody sane thinks that 2006 will see the AIGA become the organization for all designers. If you think the “What is a graphic designer?” discussions at Speak Up are tedious, spend some time on the PhD-Design email list with the “What does ‘design’ mean?” arguments. Clearly the AIGA is not ever going to be of interest to engineering designers, fashion designers, software designers. . .

The organization would do very well to try to include a range of people in fields related to the graphic design core. Product designers? Maybe the ones thinking of products primarily from experience, informational, behavioral, and marketing standpoints. Probably not those thinking of products primarily from the formal or engineering standpoints. (There isn’t a whole lot more agreement on what industrial design/product design is or should be called than there is about graphic/communication/etc. design.)

On Dec.23.2005 at 05:55 PM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

Tan said: I actually like the word "Institute" — according to Webster, an institute is an organization founded to promote a cause, or to educate.

That suggests that we're not only an organization, but an organization with a purpose. "Institute" means more.

The word "organization" has a similar definition. According to the Oxford American Disctionaries included with Tiger (see No. 2):

organization noun

1 the action of organizing something : the organization of conferences and seminars.

• the structure or arrangement of related or connected items : the spatial organization of the cells.

• an efficient and orderly approach to tasks : apparent disorder and lack of organization.

2 an organized body of people with a particular purpose, esp. a business, society, association, etc. : a research organization.

The word "institute," to me anyways, has the connotation of an organization that has tunnel-vision. Designers have good peripheral vision, figuratively speaking of course.

Now while I love the change in the name and I'm so used to the AIGA acronym that I've grown attached to it, and I'm very keen on the idea of explaining the transition, it seems this recent change is a bit of an oxymoron because the acronym and name don't match up anymore, which prompts a bit of confusion, and which is the antithesis of visual communication.

But this is the beginning of a new direction and hopefully "AIGA" will become more of a symbol rather than an acronym, and the loss of the literal definition will be told in the circles of campfires (or water coolers and email social circles) along with other retellings of myths and legends, and will permeate through our culture.

On Dec.23.2005 at 07:01 PM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

Of course it would help if I focused on the word "association" rather than "organization" since, you know, that is the new name.

It's the end of the week, the eve of Christmas Eve, I'm pretty brain dead.

On Dec.23.2005 at 07:05 PM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

it's not AIGA that is having an identity crisis, but graphic design itself.

That is true. We have these same discussions up here in Canada over the use of the term "Graphic Designers" in the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (the acronym for which is GDC ... hunh? where's the "S"? it confuses everyone). And this leads into endless discussions about what it is that "we" do, and web/electronic/interface design and planning and strategy and "communication professionals" and all that shit ... it's endless, and it's tedious, and imho, it's stupid.

I've always thought it was incredibly quaint that the AIGA stands for American Institute of Graphic Artists. It shows history. It's so antiquated that the embracing of new forms, technologies and tasks is implied. And I used to say "See? the Americans aren't all twisted up about the name of their organization. They have confidence, see, so it's not a big deal."

Ah well, welcome to Insecure Organizations Anonymous (IOA). My name is GDC, what's yours?

On Dec.23.2005 at 07:07 PM
Feldhouse’s comment is:

There are many things that this new AIGA name opens up. Many have been touched upon by the recent posts, but I would like to add my two cents as well.

First: A tagline is virtually by definition going to change constantly when the next generation of higher-ups decide it's time to change. As far as I can remember in my short life there has not been one tagline to ever stick. McDonalds: Smile, I'm loving it... goes on from there. (Just to point out an obvious one... yes, I know it's not related to any design field). Lots of others to cite, but I think you get the point. (And yes, I know there may be a few taglines that have stuck, but I cannot think of any).

Second: I am sick of people thinking that what we do as a designer is not "graphic design." I don't think you hear fashion designers say "well, we are really fabric generators." We ARE graphic designers... so get over it. You can be proffecient in typography, animation, illustration, etc... however one thing is common: you are a graphic designer. You can then sub-categorize yourself for your personal well-being. We have stereotypes for reasons because they are true. It's not like we need to change our title. I am proud to be a graphic designer.

Third: AIGA will not increase its membership by a name change if that is what they are hoping. What they need to do is offer a more wholesome value for what they offer, instead of trying to fool us with a bonafide name addition. As well, $275 is a nice chunk of change to cough up with little in return. I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Perhaps the name change should come with a values change as well. What more can the AIGA offer us?

This brings me to what I think is the key to the AIGA's name change. The AIGA can only offer us the security of having something in our field to say we are a part of to make our egos feel better. We always need to feed our ego's and perhaps this is just one of the reasons why we join. Does anyone ever get a life changing experience by joining the AIGA? If so, they are definitly a made person already and those working to gain that status might not ever make it in our day and age.

It is frustrating to see the AIGA want to become like the rest of corporate America. Why? This name change is nothing more than a false attempt at gaining more members in all design related fields. Keep the American Institute of Graphic Design and everyone's happy... at least happier than AIGA: change this tagline yearly.

On Dec.24.2005 at 01:01 AM
Feldhouse’s comment is:

AIGA, American Institute of Graphic Arts* on the last post at the end. Sorry for the typo, late night thinking and typing.

On Dec.24.2005 at 01:37 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Does anyone ever get a life changing experience by joining the AIGA?

This is going to be the cliché that you’ll hate but: Not by joining but by joining and participating. If I hadn’t joined AIGA it would be unlikely that I would have counted Tibor Kalman, Saul Bass and Josef Müller-Brockmann (as well as a host of living great designers/wonderful people) as friends. (Not come by the house, have a glass of something, and hang out and watch tv friends but friends, nonetheless.) Yes; life-changing experiences (my life.) If I hadn’t joined AIGA it would be unlikely that I would be involved in improving the voting system in the state of North Carolina. Yes; life-changing experiences (other people’s lives.)

On Dec.24.2005 at 10:05 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Does anyone ever get a life changing experience by joining the AIGA?

hell, yeah. if i hadn't joined the AIGA, i would never have gotten involved with Speak Up. At which point I would never have met Armin, Bryony, Marian, M. Kingsley, Tan, Jason, Graham, pk & su, Gunnar and Weinberger: people I consider very dear to my heart. And of course, I wouldn't have met Feluxe, which in and of itself was a breathtaking moment.

Any organization is what you make it. I know many people whose lives have been changed by the AIGA, but those same people have all worked to make those changes for themselves, as opposed to expecting the AIGA it happen for them.

On Dec.24.2005 at 05:24 PM
Feldhouse’s comment is:

If I hadn’t joined AIGA it would be unlikely that I would have counted Tibor Kalman, Saul Bass and Josef Müller-Brockmann...

hell, yeah. if i hadn't joined the AIGA, i would never have gotten involved with Speak Up.

So that's my point exactly. The AIGA has this prestige about it and should not change its name. That's pretty much what I am saying.

Merry Christmas!

On Dec.24.2005 at 05:51 PM
Chris Gee’s comment is:

Well I'm going to come out and say that I think it's a good move. I agree with Tan that perhaps it didn't go as far as it could have but someone else also hit the nail on the head when they said part of the problem is a lack of definition in our industry. That makes it tough for any industry organization to properly name itself.

I've certainly been critical of the AIGA for their lack of action at certain times in the past, so I can't in good faith, criticize them for actually doing something simply because the solution perhaps didn't go far enough. It is a start.

I'm also pretty happy to see that we're now (a) admitting on an industry level that we have a serious communication issue related to how we describe ourselves and (b) that the largest industry organization has taken steps to improve that.

Redefining our industry is perpaps the journey of a thousand miles and this may indeed be the first step in that journey.

On Dec.24.2005 at 06:54 PM
Josh’s comment is:

I hope these thoughts are quick.

1. The name change has changed nothing. At least so far. Though as we well know a change in appearance is hardly enough to turn five bucks into a five billion.

2. Instead of wasting our eyesight, breath, neurons on discussing the name change why not actually spend that time supporting any professional or not organization that promotes or educates about design? It seems to me alot more people want to spend mass amounts of time bringing down the AIGA when they may or may not be contributing time to AIGA itself, the community or younger generations of designers.

3. To the AIGA itself. You have so many chapters with so many dedicated members, but for some reasons you are completely ignoring the fact that your "base" is losing faith in your ability to promote and support the profession and its members. Anomalistic success stories are not the norm and should not be given as strong evidence or used as a pitch for membership. Maybe it should start with stronger services with proven results.

Action, not bureaucracy.

On Dec.26.2005 at 03:22 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

your "base" is losing faith in your ability to promote and support the profession and its members.

Is there any evidence that this base had faith to lose?

Anomalistic success stories are not the norm and should not be given as strong evidence or used as a pitch for membership. Maybe it should start with stronger services with proven results.

I’m curious what sort of services you would propose.

Action, not bureaucracy.

“Bureaucracy” is a fairly specific charge. Can you give examples of how the AIGA is bureaucratic or is any large group a bureaucracy in your mind?

On Dec.26.2005 at 10:04 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

What I find has bugged a lot of non-print designers about the AIGA is that they always thought of themselves as this all encompassing design organization, but they really were, and always will be, a print design organization. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that except that they can't seem to accept that themselves.

So, they're now the Professional Association for Design? They own the word design now? What about IDSA? IDA? AIA? IPA? ASID?

On Dec.27.2005 at 10:20 AM
Christopher Gee’s comment is:

What I find has bugged a lot of non-print designers about the AIGA is that they always thought of themselves as this all encompassing design organization, but they really were, and always will be, a print design organization. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that except that they can't seem to accept that themselves.

I'm not sure that AIGA sees themselves that way today and perhaps the complete removal of all references to "Graphic Artist" will help -- over time -- to not give that perception.

I think it's more so that we graphic designers seem to find change very difficult and that is certain to be reflected in organizations consisting of graphic designers in the graphic design field.

I don't see any reason why AIGA can't represent interactive AND print designers but I think first it's important for all of us to understand, on an industry and business level, what it is that we do from the neck up rather than defining ourselves by what deliverables we create from the wrists down.

.chris{}

On Dec.27.2005 at 10:44 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

I'm not sure that AIGA sees themselves that way today and perhaps the complete removal of all references to "Graphic Artist" will help -- over time -- to not give that perception.

The issue is that that is all they need to be. The AIGA has always been a fine print design organization. There are other organizations out there for all the other design disciplines.

I don't see any reason why AIGA can't represent interactive AND print designers

The problem is that few interactive designers have any interest in the AIGA. Yes, that makes for a bit of a catch-22.

what it is that we do from the neck up rather than defining ourselves by what deliverables we create from the wrists down.

I don't disagree with that, but, again, why is the AIGA the chosen one to represent all design?

On Dec.27.2005 at 11:04 AM
Christopher Gee’s comment is:

The issue is that that is all they need to be. The AIGA has always been a fine print design organization. There are other organizations out there for all the other design disciplines.

Well I don't think AIGA is crazy enough as to try and represent industrial designers, architects, interior designers, et al. I didn't get that from reading their statement about their name change and don't think they would be more effective than the existing organizations representing those designers.

I also don't agree that interactive designers largely eschew the AIGA. To be sure, with only 16,000 members in a field estimated to have well over 200,000 practitioners, it could be argued that most print designers eschew the AIGA as well.

Having said that, I think that perhaps back when the web was largely ignored by the design community and most interactive designers were programmers rather than designers, your point would perhaps be more accurate. But today, especially among young graphic design school grads, we're far more likely to see young designers who are entirely comfortable doing print AND interactive. I think as more and more young, internet-savvy designers begin to populate our ranks, the whole notion of a "separation of church and state" between interaction and print design will die a much needed death.

I don't disagree with that, but, again, why is the AIGA the chosen one to represent all design?

I don't think they have been chosen to represent all design. Chosen by whom? LOL! To be honest, I think the tagline is born not out of a decision to represent all design but out of acknowledgement of the fact that the graphic design industry is in a state of identity crisis and has NO IDEA what to call itself.

.chris{}

On Dec.27.2005 at 11:56 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Well I don't think AIGA is crazy enough as to try and represent industrial designers, architects, interior designers, et al.

Then why the blanket ownership of 'Design'.

Had they used GRAPHIC Design, I guess I would have gotten a different vibe from it.

I also don't agree that interactive designers largely eschew the AIGA. To be sure, with only 16,000 members in a field estimated to have well over 200,000 practitioners, it could be argued that most print designers eschew the AIGA as well.

Ha! True. Around here, at least, several organizations have popped up that are better at attracting the non-print graphic designer. Also, at least with interactive designers, the web accomodates a large part of the need for a community.

the graphic design industry is in a state of identity crisis and has NO IDEA what to call itself.

That is quite plausible. ;o)

On Dec.27.2005 at 12:39 PM
Christopher Gee’s comment is:

Then why the blanket ownership of 'Design'.

Well I can't say for sure but I think one reason is because we really don't have a name that accurately describes ourselves and our underlying ethos. Beyond Graphic's Errol Saldanha and I kicked this around in a recent podcast conversation.

While it may have come off that way, I doubt very seriously that AIGA intended it that way. But they had to be confronted with the challenge "why take out all references to 'graphic artist' and then describe yourself as a 'graphic design' organization?"

"Graphic designer" is only 10-15 years obsolete as opposed to "graphic artist" which is perhaps 30 years obsolete. Neither term is suitable to describe what we do or the value we generate going into the 21st century.

Also, and I'm NOT saying that this had anything to do with it as I'm not privy to any of AIGA's underlying motivations, there is quite a bit of interest in the business community in "design" and less than ZERO interest in the business community in "grapic design".

Typically, when we see the words "DESIGN" emblazened on the cover of a non-design business publication, they are referring to product design, architecture or interior design. Never graphic design. Even interactive design, which enjoyed wide busniess awareness and appreciation in the 90's during the dot-com boom, has seemingly fallen back into second-class design obscurity along with its cousin print design.

Perhaps labeling AIGA "the professional organization for design" is a way to get us involved in the conversation at the grownups table rather than keeping us banished to the makeshift card table in the hallway that seats all the kids?

.chris{}

On Dec.27.2005 at 02:01 PM
Rick Landers’s comment is:

I find this whole thing to be quite ridiculous. I support AIGA and it's efforts, however this is not something that I agree with or really even understand.

Why was such an effort put into the renaming of the organization when there are so many other issues that they should be trying to tackle and take on? In the 90+ years that AIGA has been around, it still has not defined what graphic design is well enough for the average Joe to understand it. But, now they are going to define themselves as "the design organization." They have dug themselves an even deeper hole. Instead of defining a small segment of design really well they are going to skip ahead and attempt to define the all-encompasing world of design?

To illustrate this point take a look at the site that AIGA has for potential students. It is supposed to help educate highschool kids on what design is and what designers do. I would venture to say that even after exploring this site a potential student still would have no idea what a graphic designer is and does.

What in the World is Design

AIGA has not clearly communicated its roll to this point and now they are taking on an even bigger challenge. They went to step 5 before they even completed steps 1 through 4. It doesn't seem to be something that they are ready to take on, if they were, I think that we should have seen more then a three paragrah blurb backing up such a move and it certainly shouldn't have been buried in the site.

On Dec.27.2005 at 05:53 PM
Josh’s comment is:

Is there any evidence that this base had faith to lose?

Assuming you're speaking whole-heartedly, who could exactly quantify it? I know that on a one-to-one basis with friends to award-winning designers, I have rarely heard "Man, AIGA has come so far and does so many great things". Some people actually shy away when asked to volunteer or donate time. If it was an organization with tentacles so long and sticky, there would be a stronger membership base and a rapport that would really disappoint designers if they couldn't volunteer. Your answer maybe not as much as they would like to think they have.

I’m curious what sort of services you would propose.

Prefacing a bit...There are no proven methods that could just slide into place, but where does one start? I also meant to place events in with services as well. Most of my ideas have students in mind.

How about concepting methods by which to integrate the best of our resources, our people and our thoughts to forming the basis of a community to inspire and educate prospective students and current students interested in graphic design. Some of this is as simple as reintroducing mentorships, but with a structural background by which to connect(since no one likes taking calls anymore, though if you're gigantic and famous it's understandable).

Developing a volunteer-based, one-on-one portfolio review sessions between local students and professionals. The option of a once a year portfolio review(if that) doesn't sound productive to a student's education. I think many students whether active or not, have limited options in finding well-spoken, knowledgable people that can give them productive feedback with full attention.

Having a middleman work cooperatively between the professional community and area schools to setup workshops, presentations or lectures to alleviate the stress in planning the event. Okay, so it's just event planning, but where is it?

“Bureaucracy” is a fairly specific charge. Can you give examples of how the AIGA is bureaucratic or is any large group a bureaucracy in your mind?

I used the word bureaucracy more for an allusionary effect, but there are parts that resemble as such. Often the proverbial red tape ends up being the volunteers that make the chapter function or not function. I'm not largely impressed with my local chapter at this point in growing beyond our yearly traditions and really adding more events and presumably more opportunities to see the value of membership.

I'm tired of the excuses, the attitudes and to be honest the general lack of interest in a design community. I may have to learn the terminology "design community" again when it is revealed in the next avant garde magazine of some century.

On Dec.27.2005 at 08:03 PM
Tony Spaeth’s comment is:

The AIGA name decision is a stunningly inane act, that fails to resolve an issue that has festered pointlessly for more than a decade.

In 1993, Alina Wheeler led an “AIGA Name Change” task force. The cover story of the AIGA’s Journal of Graphic Design (vol. 11, #1) was titled “The Name Game: Does the term ‘Graphic Arts’ truly represent the AIGA membership?” Everybody piled on. Ivan said “The sooner we change it the better,” and proposed “The American Graphic Design Institute.” Massimo preferred “American Institute of Graphic Designers.” Richard Saul Wurman was said to propose “American Society of Information Architects (ASIA)” Alina’s view was simply that “This organization will be better positioned to promote graphic design if it’s in our name.”

Alina Wheeler was right. But nothing came of it save mindless nitpicking.

The correct decision then, and now, was the simple change of Arts to Design. To the public, which includes the business audience we all seek, the broadly accepted and well understood name for what you all do is “graphic design.” Accept it and deal with it. Gunnar, only to insiders does it conjure images of old codgers with spray-mount on their glasses.

In terms of “legacy,” or recognition, conversion from AIGA to AIGD is a non-event.

I am sympathetic to Wurman’s “Information Design” and Saldanha’s better “Communication Design” alternatives, but either or both will need to undergo a long process of parallel exposure before they can earn the necessary identity value. “Graphic” has it, and I believe “graphic” already comfortably encompasses electronic media.

As UNENDER and others have noted, “the professional association for design” is a tagline, more precisely an identity tag, and is not a name or name component. In overreaching it is breathtakingly presumptuous, but its larger problem is its failure to identify. People need something more specific, something concrete that truthfully distinguishes an entity’s turf. That’s what “Graphic” does for AIGA.

And to deny AIGA’s nature and meaning as an acronym is simply delusional. ESPN, MCI, DHL and HSBC are not great names, and they are functional only by virtue of billions of cost-free exposures. AIGA does not have that luxury (buildings, trucks, commercials to sign). The move to initials is almost never a move to strength, and I believe companies like Computer Associates are poorly served by consultants who encourage them in their belief that “everyone already calls us CA anyway.” I am especially dismayed to see professional communicators fall into this classic insider-nearsightedness error.

Incidentally, sbrinley, I think it was either Massimo or Milton Glaser who (in an acceptance speech) established an official pronunciation of AIGA. It was “eye-eee-gah,” not “eye-gah.”

On Dec.29.2005 at 12:37 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Tony: Wonderful and eloquent post.

On Dec.29.2005 at 02:11 PM
nova’s comment is:

I think they should have kept AIGA, and just used the new name as a tagline, since that's really what it is. This whole name change is just complicating things, and it has a weird, tacky, corporate feel to it. I'm going to be a rebel and keep saying AIGA... We all know what this means, and I think it should stand as part of our history.

AIGA member since 2004

On Dec.30.2005 at 12:26 AM
cchs’s comment is:

For those who are interested (which may indeed be limited to those who have posted here) and who have not yet done so (which again, may be true of those who have posted here) a quick read of the AIGA website, might be in order.

There has not, in fact, been a name change. The name/acronym AIGA remains, as does its coefficient, "The American Institute of Graphic Arts." What has changed is the addition of the tagline, "The professional association for design." This is not a name change, but a repositioning.

I am frequently asked by clients, family, friends and others outside the profession what "AIGA" stands for. There are, as always, many ways to respond. I can list what words the letters stand for, but does such declarative literalism really explain what the organization stands for? I can recite our mission statement (what we really stand for, but does it really resonate with anyone outside the profession? A third option, the one AIGA has chosen to adopt, is to answer in memorable shorthand, "AIGA is the professional association for design." To me, this represents a prudent, thoughtful and appropriate step toward clarity, despite so many arguments to the contrary.

On Dec.31.2005 at 10:12 AM
zharrison’s comment is:

wow. my head's swimming with all these voices clamouring in it! At the risk of repeating all of the above, allow me to say I'm right there with you Frank:

1."Strengthen the credibility of graphic design in the community at large...Why can't AIGA do more of this at a national level?"

2. "Choose substance over form. The AIGA "name change" has little substance.."

Yes, this is beginning to feel like an exercise in semantics.

Right on, Debbie M: an organisation is indeed what you make it...if you're bothering to join it, at least make it worth your money...

Here's our reality: AIGA does have some level of recognition and brand equity to anyone (including clients) that cares about quality in graphic design; it is also worthwhile spelling out what it means to clients & interested parties. I intially thought of "the professional association of design" as merely a tagline (for the "lay people"). No crime in that...with this in mind, let's be more creative about taglines...I'm entertaining the developing the notion of "visual communications", it seems to be the one descriptive that distinguishes us from other forms of design (architecture, interior, fashion etc) and yet covers other forms such as pk's online design, environmental design, motion graphics, packaging, etc.

On Jan.02.2006 at 05:44 AM
Bo Parker’s comment is:

I am mostly a lurker and not much of one who posts but this discussion has hit very close to home for me. I don't know everyone's involvement in AIGA but I am in my second year on a local board in Dallas/Fort Worth. I am actually located in Fort Worth (which is not viewed as any kind of design center whatsoever). I can say that being involved in the AIGA has been a lifechanging experience from the standpoint of meeting designers nationwide, distributing and exchanging ideas and providing opportunities for thinking writing and business exposure I could never have had otherwise.

I am not going to expound upon, simply reinforce the points that our industry, "design" has an identity problem and if you turn to HGTV or A&E, it is readily apparent that the interior or decorating/architecture profession is winning the war on use of the term "design".

I have issue with us as designers, talking about the equity the term graphic design has. I recently did an informal poll at a local university and in the downtown area of Fort Worth and asked people two questions, what is design and what is graphic design. The first question yielded an answer that was related to interior design, the second was a nebulus answer about "something to do with computers." Development of logos and corporate identities was more closely associated with advertising. (I'll come back to this in a moment). I'm not convinced that the term "graphic design" has that much equity except to graphic design students, graphic designers and large companies that have utilized a graphic designer.

The second point about all the things that AIGA should do to make it a bigger value organization is not a national issue. Many of the ideas concerning students and events, enriching programming, etc. fall to the chapter level. The role of AIGA national is to support the local chapters (a different topic altogether). If your community feels stagnant or is not providing value added programming, go to the local chapter and discuss some solutions or get involved in providing solutions. It can be frustrating and cant take time to work through the local power structure but effect change. If the local chapters begin to move toward change, this pushes national toward a new agenda.

Back to my previous point. At the National Leadership Retreat this past year in Pittsburg, I counted no less than five chapters that have created a business outreach position, who's sole purpose was to procure remnant ad space, speak to business organizations and educate about what Graphid Design is and does. I have talked directly to Ric Grefe about a national advertising campaign to support awareness of Graphic Design. This is a specific area the national can address that the local chapters cannot. Ric has met with with other organizations like the AIA, about their national advertising efforts and has put a budget together. The problem is that the cost to implement this campaign could cripple the organization due to cost. The solution seems to be the membership drive that is underway to generate enough capital to make the campaign effective.

My point of this whole post is that the AIGA is a big target and I have had and do have my differences with the outlook, the name change is the least of these issues. I would like to see designers spend their time claiming their profession, actualizing and putting on a unified front (I'm not aware of another organization through which do this except AIGA) to promote change. AIGA national will support if the wave begins to move. It's not the AIGA's fault people have low awareness of our profession. It is our responsibility to promulgate that message. If we show that a topic is an overriding concern, they will support. This is about driving focus, not speaking to everyone. For that reason and the confusion about design, I'm not a huge fan of the tagline but national recognizes our industry is changing and is making an effort to position themselves for that change. If we speak, they will listen.

On Jan.02.2006 at 10:17 AM
Aaron S.’s comment is:

What's in a name? Shakespeare wrote that right? I never really cared what the acronym AIGA meant as much as what it stands for, or had the potential to stand for with my support. I've been a member since '99 and I still don't care. I don't care what UPS means either. Or ESPN or any other acronym. It's the definition and purpose that matters.

Now, instead of relying the AIGA to define our profession, maybe we should worry more how we define ourselves as professionals individually. In that case, I think the "name change" gives us more freedom to do just that. Self own ya'll. I am a _________ Designer.

One more note, design is a service-based industry. True, some serve themselves and their peers more than clients. But ask yourself, when is the last time you impressed a client by telling them you were a member of the AIGA or have had work published in Communication Arts or the Type Directors Club? Exactly. My point? Professional design organizations, publications, etc, exist to provide opportunities for teaching, communicating and inspiring each other. They're not status symbols or certificates of authenticity in the design coolness society. Anyone who's been to an annual conference knows what I'm talking about. Young designers and students thinking about joining the AIGA - heed this warning.

On Jan.02.2006 at 04:26 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

"AIGA is the professional association for design." To me, this represents a prudent, thoughtful and appropriate step toward clarity

Except that the generic term 'design' is clear as mud.

On Jan.04.2006 at 11:45 AM
Tom Dolan’s comment is:

I play a little game. When I'm out at a social gathering with friends and colleagues of my wife (who is not a creative professional, but an academic) and people ask me what I do I say, "I'm a designer," just to gauge reactions and learn what regular people think that means. It's painful but interesting.

Results: No one, literally not a single person in doing this game for maybe two years, says, "Oh a graphic designer? You design logos and packaging and brand materials?" Rather it's pretty much an even split between "a clothing designer?" and/or "an interior designer?" I politely always say, "No ... graphic and interactive work, mostly for entertainment and technology clients," and the good news is people get that pretty quickly.

Argue about the importance or relevance of this, but the facts are that most Americans do not associate the word design with our field first, second, third ... maybe a distant eighth, ninth, tenth. I'm imagining Family Fued with the question, "Name something that's designed" on the board and Clothes, Cars, Furniture, Buildings, Interiors, Roads, Websites, Videogames, Toasters, iPods, and Shoes all likely coming in as more popular responses than Logos, Books, Posters, Brochures or Annual Reports — maybe Logos would get in there, but I'm not convinced.

Would be fascinating to see if the AIGA-TPAfD actually did any man-in-the-street research during this effort — the results strongly suggest the answer is no. I wish I could say the whole effort didn't smack of the tail trying to wag the dog or of the AIGA trying to jump on the bandwagon of Design's (the word, if not the practice) moment in the sun, without any deeper strategy that stands up to the reality of how the public already understands "design" in 2006.

On Jan.06.2006 at 09:55 AM
CCHS’s comment is:

Well put, Tom. I do the same thing (with the same results). It's more than just painful and interesting though — it is potentially very damaging. People interact with graphic design with far more regularity than almost any other form of design, and yet as a profession we're sinking lower and lower on the radar. We need to ask ourselves what the implications of this trend are in terms of how clients, individuals and policy makers understand the value of what we do, how we attract future talent to the field, etc.

I think it's a stretch to say that AIGA is jumping on the design bandwagon (after 92 years) but perhaps it's time we took the reigns a little more firmly in hand...

On Jan.06.2006 at 12:55 PM
CCHS’s comment is:

Well put, Tom. I do the same thing (with the same results). It's more than just painful and interesting though — it is potentially very damaging. People interact with graphic design with far more regularity than almost any other form of design, and yet as a profession we're sinking lower and lower on the radar. We need to ask ourselves what the implications of this trend are in terms of how clients, individuals and policy makers understand the value of what we do, how we attract future talent to the field, etc.

I think it's a stretch to say that AIGA is jumping on the design bandwagon (after 92 years) but perhaps it's time we took the reigns a little more firmly in hand...

On Jan.06.2006 at 12:56 PM
CCHS’s comment is:

sorry for the double post (server error)

On Jan.06.2006 at 12:58 PM
felixxx’s comment is:

People interact with graphic design with far more regularity than almost any other form of design, and yet as a profession we're sinking lower and lower on the radar.

Actually, graphic design (in most of its forms) has been swallowed by market and advertising and risen higher on the radar. Ths new verbal postioning will surely save our collectives asses.

On Jan.06.2006 at 10:38 PM
felixxx’s comment is:

People interact with graphic design with far more regularity than almost any other form of design, and yet as a profession we're sinking lower and lower on the radar.

Actually, graphic design (in most of its forms) has been swallowed by market and advertising and risen higher on the radar. Ths new verbal postioning will surely save our collective asses.

On Jan.06.2006 at 10:38 PM
Tom Dolan’s comment is:

Just for clarification -- I only meant "jumping on the bandwagon" as a reference to the current trendy and popular status of the word 'design' as opposed to the evidently on the outs 'graphics.'

On Jan.06.2006 at 10:55 PM