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From Design to Designing
Over the past year, AIGA has been reorienting its own mission. One critical revision to AIGA’s course is that it will now be focusing on promoting the value of the designing process, rather than solely individual designers and their artifacts. While we will continue to honor great and effective design, we will also engage with “Designing” as a way of thinking.

This is interesting, the AIGA is shifting from Designer as a Rock Star to Designer as a Problem Solver. At least that’s my take on it. I think this will be beneficial to designers in general if the AIGA manages to change the perception of Graphic Design as a profession based on personalities rather than process + solutions. Read more about it here.

They also created a small brochure, available in PDF format, titled “Why.” It starts out pretty good, with some good reflections on why we do what we do. Then it delves into the design process and, to me, kind of rambles on in some marketing mumojumbo language that designers never use, using words like “victory, maps, prototypes, journey.” In my opinion it could have been a really effective tool to hand to our clients to explain the design process, but it’s too embellished and a little far-fetched too be used as an efficient tool.

Overall, I think this is a change for the better. Let’s see what happens.

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PUBLISHED ON Jan.09.2003 BY Armin
dn’s comment is:

This is an important point to make, and one that I know Clement Mok is taking on personally to make himself.

And we should be developing tools for designers to enable them to explain and detail the value they bring to business through their design process.

Not to pimp my own wares, but I'm writing a 'Designer's Guide to Brand Strategy', for this very reason. Which illustrates the theory and practice behind strategy and brand strategy - so that designers are no longer written off as simply the black polo-neck wearing odd people on the third floor.

Great site Armin - thanks for putting the time in.

On Jan.09.2003 at 09:36 AM
dn’s comment is:

Oh - and the PDF is, unfortunately, way too far fetched to be of any real use to someone - simply because it was no doubt largely crafted by SYP - which makes more sense when you've seen their other work.

But it looks nice. Heh.

On Jan.09.2003 at 09:39 AM
Kyle’s comment is:


The "Why" PDF is the most overwritten, pompus piece o' isht I've read in a while. I can't believe they seriously think publishing something like that will support their mission of "advancing the understanding of the value of design and the process of designing"

I'm not sure I'm a graphic designer after reading that...I think I'll call myself a "strategic visioning engineer".

One more thing; what's wrong with stating something in simple, easy to understand language? i.e. "Step 5.. Seeking insight to inform the prototyping of the solution." Sounds like "Research" to me...

I think they need to activate an alternate solution.

On a positive note, the first half is well-written, informative and concise. More of that please.

On Jan.09.2003 at 02:10 PM
pk’s comment is:

wait, we get first things first distributed through the AIGA and then they do a total 180 and support this piece of garbage?

this is some of the most archaic, self-serving commercial bullshit i've seen in a long time. it's based on an outdated industrial age notion of "progress," which is the very same idea that got the damned planet paved in the first place.

how exactly are the design professions to be perceived as noble or forward-thinking when we have assholes rewriting victorian battle-cries toadying to big business models that are clearly not working very well?

On Jan.09.2003 at 05:32 PM
pk’s comment is:

a bit later, home from the office. i have more time to rant.

they are in no way letting go of the designer-as-rock-star idea. they're simply folding that identity into a teamwork-is-good business ideal. i read it as one of those successories posters where you let everyone believe they're saving the project while you're keeping their asses in line. it's transparent enough to be fairly embarrassing.

the philosophy is weak. the language is better suited for a powerpoint presentation geared towards those with an extremely limited attention span. the business processes are utterly unspecial.

i'll stop now.

On Jan.09.2003 at 07:12 PM
Sam’s comment is:

I am trying to compose myself so I can make a coherent post. I agree with the general slant of the others comments so far.

Let's see, it's Januray again...hm, time for the AIGA to tro again to "reorient its own [sic] mission." Does any other professional organization spend this much time trying to figure out its own purpose? And shouldn't communicating a purpose be exactly what professional communicators are supposed to do for a freaking living?

Okay, I'm all worked up. Must chill! Must chill!

On Jan.09.2003 at 07:48 PM
Matt Wright’s comment is:

Designers are, like the article said, problem solvers. We attempt to solve a problem visually in either 2D or 3D, drawing from our own knowledge of what works (established visual vocabulary) or attempting to create a new vocabulary for that unique project. Its main point, as said before, is collaboration. The notion of designer as "rock star" is rediculous. We are only rock stars among our selves.

What bugs me is that the "design process" as so eloquently described, seems to me, to simply be common sense for any complex situation to be resolved.

What makes designers a unique member of the team?

My guess is that we have a better understanding of vocabulary and techniques relating to visual communication, even tactile communication (for say product designers).

What makes designers successful?

Its definitely not "their" vaguely descripted map of "THE (note the capitals) Design Process" but, what I think, rather their prevailing ideologies and unique perspectives that lead them to the worthiest solutions that you find in prominent field specific publications.

What I sometimes think that AIGA is attempting to do is make a field which is so subjective on the inside, object on the outside. There are very few things that are aboslute concerning visual communication, designers are always trying to re-invent, to do better, to improve, to progress. So let the AIGA revise themselves each year. Unfortunately I think they only knicked the edge of the nail.

Matt Wright

Senior Graphic Design

Rochester Institute of Technology

On Jan.09.2003 at 09:21 PM
Sam’s comment is:

So many potshots, so little time!

I'm going to try to be constructive. This is what I would like from the AIGA or its successor:

where to find a good engraver in the northeast; where to find custom-made envelopes; how to get scratch-and-sniff made. Maybe even a Zagat-style directory of design services. Something, in other words, to serve the trade rather than blather about it, something like this but not so crappy and annoying and hit-or-miss.

The Salary Guide they publish every year (or at least in 2001, which is the only copy I have) is an excellent thing because it is actually relevant to the profession of graphic design, which is to say, the graphic design business.

I do not need to tell my clients I am a "catalyst in the process of designing" (page 10, sweet jeebus in heaven!) in order for "entirely new opportunities open up." In fact, I would never say such a thing to a client because they speak English, not warmed-over New Economy pabulum that pissed everyone off when it was new in 1998.

Oh dear, now I'm upset...

On Jan.09.2003 at 10:30 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>how exactly are the design professions to be perceived as noble or forward-thinking when we have assholes rewriting victorian battle-cries toadying to big business models that are clearly not working very well?

PK, I couldn't have put it better myself.

>This is what I would like from the AIGA:

I would like them to try to come up with "tangible" facts that support what we do. Clients don't care a bout looking good, and if they care they don't have the proper information regarding the design profession and how valuable it can be for their business. I want numbers, case studies, charts, pie charts, graph charts or any chart they can come up with that can back up our services.

But that's just me.

>The notion of designer as "rock star" is rediculous. We are only rock stars among our selves.

So it's not that ridiculous then. The idea exists, just not to the rest of the business world.

On Jan.10.2003 at 01:01 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

I'm paraphrasing, but someone once told me "the reason professional organizations are so political, is because they have so little to loose."

I always felt that fit the AIGA perfectly. There very much is a Rock-Star vibe with most AIGA undertakings...lots of egos, lots of good-ol-boy schmoozing. It's great for networking, of course, but I have found very little in the way of compelling reasons to renew my membership these past several years.

This news is just way too little way too late to be of any interest to me.

And for generic pot-shots...WTF were they thinking designing a PDF of miniscule white text on a flame-orange background?! Argh. Like I'm going to waste $40 worth of ink jet ink to read their fluff. Sigh.

On Jan.10.2003 at 03:15 PM
Matt Wright’s comment is:

> So it's not that ridiculous then. The idea exists, just not to the rest of the business world.

True, maybe I misconceived the the context. My thinking was that people outside the profession dont see good designers and rock stars of the profession...let alone know who is good and for what reasons. Some clients understand and know who to work with, but in general I think we're looked at more of as tools rather than something that can potentially add value to an idea.

On Jan.10.2003 at 03:40 PM
feluxe’s comment is:

i havent seen the pdf you guys are pokin fun at but i do now have hope that the aiga has dropped the "professional" language from the mantra.

last year i called to find out how long the aiga: 365 "extension" was. i got a long winded e mail about "professionalism" and "you wouldnt expect that from your clients, why do it to your club" i got steamed- took a cleveland steamer right in this here chair. everyone has a 2 week extension, right? urgh.

fight the power. -f

On Jan.13.2003 at 03:26 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>last year i called to find out how long the aiga: 365 "extension" was

You mean for the365 awards?

I got an email from somedy high above the food chain at AIGA when I said, and I quote: "Who do we turn to to establish the one hundred best examples of Graphic Design? The AIGA? I wouldn't trust them to come up with an unbiased list." It seems they don't take criticism very well, and I did get the same type of big-winded response.

On Jan.13.2003 at 03:32 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

The AIGA is an incredibly defensive bunch...or at least those that make noise are.

I used to be on the AIGA experience design list and part of a local group that was making some effort to embrace other-than-print designers. I then got into more than one arrogant debate with the vice president at the time who basically refused to entertain any debate on whether or not the AIGA was doing the right thing.

Needless to say, it lessened my interest in the organization to the point where I just drifted away.

On Jan.14.2003 at 04:50 PM