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AIGA: Listen Up

Our last AIGA discussion yielded little to no results. Sure, we vented some of our emotions and cleaned some dirty laundry in the way. But nothing of substance came out of it. Except some name-calling and lots of testosterone.

I made a “call to arms” comment that went uncommented. It didn’t really bother me. Then. Now I realize how easy, and comfortable, it is to bitch and moan (all of us) about the AIGA, but when the time comes to propose something: silence. How screwed up is that? I guess I’m in a bitchy mood today, and I attribute it to Emigre’s Rant (for which I will have one of my own soon, I just need to finish reading it first) even if I have only read a few pages.

Let’s forget for a moment that the AIGA is who they are, erase those four initials and see it as what it really is: the only association in the US for Graphic Designers that does something. Forget about the membership fees and the Board. Forget about Clement Mok for a second. Forget about all the events, all the conferences and all the publications. What then? Nothing. At least nothing to bitch about, right?

More silence?

I truly hope not.

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PUBLISHED ON May.13.2003 BY Armin
Bob’s comment is:

Pardon my ignorance, but what about the Graphic Arts Guild? Any better/worse than AIGA? If AIGA is the only association that does something, where does that leave GAG?

On May.13.2003 at 09:56 AM
armin’s comment is:

>where does that leave GAG?

Updating the Nth Edition of the "Pricing and Ethical Guidelines" book.

On May.13.2003 at 09:59 AM
armin’s comment is:

>but what about the Graphic Arts Guild?

Also, I think this is the second time in 8 months (or so) that the GAG has come up at all in this site. Just goes to show you how much influence it has.

On May.13.2003 at 10:12 AM
Sam’s comment is:

I'd suggest that what the AIGA is, in actual practice--the purpose it serves for designers at all levels-- is visibility. This is not the same thing as giving a voice to designers. Attending conferences and running awards shows give designers the opportunity for visibility within the profession. Which is as it should be. The role of any profession's association is to bring members of the profession together.

Now, is visibility within the profession important? That probably depends on the temperament of each person. I'm no longer a member of AIGA because I don't feel membership produces the results I need right now, which is mainly getting good clients. I need to get in touch outside the profsession, so I spend the membership dues on subway fare. The AIGA seminars and exhibits I've gone to in the past, including one I volunteered at, were fine, but hardly seem to be the core function of the AIGA. Even at the national conferences, isn't the big party just as important as the keynote (not to mention the free stuff)? I have no real problem with this being the case; I'm just trying to describe my view of the AIGA.

So then, to shift over to Speak Up, here there is the opportunity for both visibility and a voice. Being a Speak Up author has gotten me a quantifiable amount of visibility: I've gotten maybe 6 or 7 e-mails from strangers who saw my site via here. (Which was 6 or 7 more than I'd gotten before, so I was tickled.) But I've gotten to say things that have been heard by other designers (admittedly still a self-selected bunch but who knows what lurkers are out there) more immediately and more widely than any article I could have written and submitted to whatever publication the AIGA was putting out that year, assuming a random designer can even submit articles to them.

I don't want to set a tone of comparing AIGA and Speak Up--the two entites are so entirely different that comparison is absurd.

So Armin, is the question what is Speak Up that AIGA is not? Or is the question, what can AIGA learn from Speak Up? Or is it, what do Speak Uppers want from th AIGA?

On May.13.2003 at 10:15 AM
Sam’s comment is:

For the purposes of this thread, AIGA is the assocation for designers, because it is.

On May.13.2003 at 10:17 AM
Joe VanDerBos’s comment is:

I read the last AIGA discussion with some sadness, amusement and a sense of everlasting deja vu. I've been heavily involved with the Graphic Artists Guild in the past, as Treasurer, and at other positions locally and nationally. Some of the same issues that concern The Guild present themselves in regard to the AIGA. I'm not currently involved with the Guild, but I do understand the 11th edition of the Pricing and Ethical Guildlines will be out in the Fall.

In any professional organization there are a range of involved people, from highly committed, to not-very committed at all. Members come to an organization for a multitude of reasons. They are ALL to be embraced if they fit within the organization's mission, I think.

While the Guild attempts to address issues across a broad range of disciplines, to greater or lesser result, the AIGA is in a position to focus on graphic design issues, and has a much larger, although perhaps less committed membership. I base this last assertion on memberships that may be paid for by the firm, not funded out of an individual member's pocket. (I may have misstated this -sorry if so) The Guild only allows individual memberships, one side effect of the Guild's status as a union.

In any case, the only real impetus for change comes from people who are willing to get out, go to a meeting, start some effort, and sustain it over a long term, engaging and inviting other people to help with the effort.

The most lasting and valuable professional contacts I've made were when I was fully engaged with the Guild, and the AIGA (in the late 1980s in Chicago). Getting really involved pays dividends and can be very fulfilling. Do it!

As I learned over several years in the midst of the stock art debate that raged among illustrators on theispot.com, what goes on online may have little to do with the actual situation on the ground. Noise does not equal popular sentiment. It's incredibly easy to spend time at the computer enumerating the things an organization should do, much more difficult to pick up the phone and make things happen over the long term. My deepest gratitude goes to those who've gone beyond online discussions and made things happen.

So carry on online for entertainment, make things happen offline. That's been my experience.

On May.13.2003 at 10:26 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

I need to get in touch outside the profession

I think this is right on, Sam. I'm not so interested in bumping into Michael Bierut at an AIGA function as I am meeting potential clients and getting exposure in the business world. What I want from AIGA is to use its position as the official spokesperson of Graphic Designers everywhere and illuminate and educate businesses and the government on what it is specifically that we can and cannot do for them.

Critique Magazine had said they would mail a copy of their Big Crit design annual to every Fortune 500 corporation. This was a good start. To whom within those companies they sent it to, I don't know. I made the suggestion in the earlier thread that AIGA should put an annual together that awards pieces based on their business value tied to design strength, not just on the quality of their layouts alone. Is this a feasible concept? What about a competition with 6 judges, 3 of them designers and 3 of them CEO's or at least VP's of Marketing? I would be fascinated to see the difference of opinion between the two camps. In the end, I don't care as much if other designers like my work as long as it has the right effect on my client's business.

On May.13.2003 at 10:32 AM
armin’s comment is:

> What is the question?

I'm not sure if there is a question per sé. It is more a reality check. If the AIGA opened up to your requests what would you say? Fuck you? as most people here seem to do. Or would you actually request something that you need.

But like you said Sam, Speak Up is a voice. And it's getting stronger. Believe me, it is. I think we do have an opportunity to make it better [cue rainbow and latest enya hit song] but it won't happen by bitching about it all the time.

Back to some of your questions:

>what is Speak Up that AIGA is not?

I also don't think a comparison is necessary or relevant.

>what can AIGA learn from Speak Up?

Yes, that could be one question. The main thing they could learn is to have the balls to say what they need to say. Whether its' good or bad they always sugar-coat it.

>what do Speak Uppers want from th AIGA?

That too could be helpful for this discussion.

On May.13.2003 at 10:33 AM
john’s comment is:

I have been reading the comments here for a while, and gather that many of you are on the coasts (NY, san fran, etc) Well first let me start by saying I am not in either place... I am in Omaha Nebraska which so removed from much of what you are all doing, in someways its like another world. But, as removed as we are... we do have an aiga chapter, which from what I gather seems to be a lot like your aiga. For what it's worth, they are a decent group, they meet a few times a month, put on shows, put on fun lil' events, help students break into the field, etc. Basically, what it comes down to is, it's a place to hang out with other designers, and not much else. Is that a bad thing? Do you really want it to be "more"?

Hell, I question if designers "really" want it to be more. As you sit at your desk thumbing thru the latest CA, graphis, etc....how many of you are just skimming the articles just long enough so that you can "say" you read it, but really are just longing to get the cool designs in the back? How many books about the "best logos, broc, posters, etc." line your libraries and then how many books are there about design theory/critic??

My point is as a whole, designers are a shallow bunch. Let me use contests as a for example since many people use that as how to measure ones success. When you enter an aiga/ca/graphis contest, how much background is required for your entry? Damn near nothing! No one cares about the idea, the message, the limitations, and the ultimate success of the piece... all we care about is how pretty it is while still somehow finding a way to "fit-in" what the client wants to say. My proposal is if you really want to see a change, we need to change what we "call" good design. Right now everything we award our lil' "at-a-boy" awards to are "designer-centered" (and sometimes "client-centered") when they really should be "viewer-centered". In the end, none of these ideas are new... they float around every few years but we never seem to see a real change, which is why I question if most even want change... (sorry this got so long)

On May.13.2003 at 10:58 AM
griff’s comment is:

I am the problem. I become bored easily and grow tired of large group dynamics and politics of professional organizations (not limited to AIGA).

my personal solution is in online communities like this one. I get so much more from the international, instant, and topical interaction that on-line communites offer. My personal growth has advanced greatly since seeking on-line communities. They are much more focused and tailored to personal interests. In addition, the easy interaction allows me to help shape the direction of the group, thus feeling more involved.

I don't believe real world professional organizations (and conferences for that matter) hold the same appeal as they did before the internet.

So, is a solution (or action) to push communities like AIGA to have a greater on-line presence? Maybe, but probably not. I think it nearly impossible for existing meat space communities to be successful on-line community. Usually there is too much baggage. Interestingly, I have seen on-line born communities make the jump to meat space and also fail.

My perspective may be different than many. I left print design completely in 1990 and have lived in the 72 dpi space for the last 13 years. It was one of the reasons I gave up on some organizations (before the internet, design in the digital world was treated as a bastardization of design).

sheeesh, 7 comments have gone up since I composed this off-line. I have some reading to do.

On May.13.2003 at 11:11 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

If the AIGA opened up to your requests what would you say?

I'd say:

Please understand that graphic designers who work on paper are not the end-all/be-all (did I use that phrase correctly?) of the design world. Either accept the fact that that is the core audience that you want to focus on, or actually begin to focus on the needs of other visual designers.

That's been my only real complaint. The AIGA is fine for what it is. If you like it, join it, and partake in it. If it's not for you, you will tend to find other organizations (formal or informal) that may meet any particular needs you have.

The AIGA really isn't that much different than any professional organization. Some people like to join them, some don't.

On May.13.2003 at 11:16 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Oh...and what Griff said, too. ;o)

On May.13.2003 at 11:17 AM
armin’s comment is:

Just as a sidenote: I am going to write a letter to the AIGA and get some signatures to address some of our concerns and ideas. And that is only the beginning. It is time we stop seating on our asses.

> Basically, what it comes down to is, it's a place to hang out with other designers, and not much else. Is that a bad thing?

It's not a bad thing, but why not just open a designer-exculsive bar or a community center then?

>Do you really want it to be "more"?

I really do.

On May.13.2003 at 11:30 AM
brook’s comment is:

i think you all are forgetting a very big responsibility AIGA takes on. proving to the business community that design is relevant and that "good" design is good business and will improve their bottom line. it also proves this to the government and everyone they can get to listen. just think about airport signage, the Dept. of Transportation universal symbols, messed-up florida butterfly ballots.

if there wasn't a respectable organization representing the visual arts, business and government likely wouldn't see the value in design.

On May.13.2003 at 11:44 AM
griff’s comment is:


I agreed with the importance of real world till about two years ago. I wish it was still true, but I believe it not to be.

The last line of your comment,

>So carry on online for entertainment, make things happen offline. That's been my experience.

is somewhat offensive to me. I feel it trivializes online activities as enterainment only. I have professional relationships not bound by geographical boundries and have worked on colaborative projects that never would not have happened with no on-line world. There is no debate that online design has influenced print design. This online activity alone (Speak Up) has connected me with you, that otherwise would have never happened.

I agree there is something about the on-line world that promotes "flaming" types of activities that result in non-productive fodder, but as time passes and it becomes a more accepted medium, more serious movements and valuable conversations happen.

On May.13.2003 at 11:54 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

if there wasn't a respectable organization representing the visual arts, business and government likely wouldn't see the value in design.

I kind of doubt that the AIGA plays into the decision making of most companies hiring out graphic design services.

If your industry is dependant on an organization justifying the existence of your industy, perhaps it doesn't deserve to exist?

(I'm not saying that Graphic Design isn't a valid industry...I just don't think the AIGA really influences most graphic designers' clients' perspectives.)

On May.13.2003 at 11:55 AM
Sam’s comment is:

Damn, that phrase "meat space" freaks me out every time.

I think in all fairness that the AIGA is more than a place to hang out, and I think as an organization it's earnest in its efforts toward education, awareness (outside the profession, though jonsel's points are highly warrnated and would be a great improvement), and data (the salary report, tax info, etc). And no, the hanging out is not a bad thing. The fault I would find, besides being unrelated to my usual immediate business-rustling-up, getting-things-done needs, is there is too damn much navel-gazing about itself, and about what graphic design is. Unfortunately, at times, there's too much of the same here. But the jokes are better here. AIGA got no good funny.

So Armin, please expound a bit: what more do you want the AIGA to be? Alternately, if the AIGA weren't more, what else could there be to satisfy your desire for more?

And finally, Omaha Nebraska in the house!

On May.13.2003 at 11:55 AM
armin’s comment is:

>So Armin, please expound a bit: what more do you want the AIGA to be? Alternately, if the AIGA weren't more, what else could there be to satisfy your desire for more?

I don't know, I just work here.

On May.13.2003 at 12:28 PM
armin’s comment is:

Seriously? Overall, I have no bad feelings towards the AIGA. My main concern with them is how much they encourage individuality by attaching rock star status to good designers. They make them untouchable. In order for the rest of the designers to fell successful in our profession we shouldn't feel like the only way to do it is to be keynote speakers in conferences and have work published in all the annuals possible. Maybe they don't foster this kind of behavior on purpose but that is the feeling I get.

I would like to see more numbers and facts readily available (online preferably) to explain to a client why design is important. And they don't have to be about Nike or Sony, I want to see success stories for the real world (not that Nike is not real, but you know what I mean.)

I want to go to a lecture (in my town, or yours) that is more than a slideshow of the presenter's work. I want an event where there are no paper promotions. I want to walk away from an evening with AIGA people and feel better (this is sooooo subjective it's not even relevant.)

I would like to have a guide that explains the process of design to a client. And not this piece of shit. One where they can understand what is happening once we have that first conversation.

I want them to lower their membership fees. Yes, they give us conferences and publications but only 5% of them are free, the others are ridiculously high-priced. How much is the next AIGA National Conference? $700? C'mon.

I don't know, I think I want a lot of things that perhaps are petty concerns, but most of all I would want to feel good about being a member. At the moment I'm not a member and the main reason is that I don't feel good about spending my money on them right now.

On May.13.2003 at 12:29 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Ok, boys (and ladies) -- time to join the melée.

>I am the problem. I become bored easily and grow tired of large group dynamics and politics of professional organizations (not limited to AIGA).

I appreciate what Griff said. It marks the biggest problem with design professionals -- most of us are apathetic, lack long-term focus, and are impatient.

In AIGA, there are many factions -- those who are business focused, those who are social/community focused, and those who are education-focused. Each group demands attention for their cause. For example from our group here:


"...as I am meeting potential clients and getting exposure in the business world. "


"I'd suggest that what the AIGA is, in actual practice--the purpose it serves for designers at all levels-- is visibility. "


"Basically, what it comes down to is, it's a place to hang out with other designers, and not much else. Is that a bad thing?"

This presents a couple of hard problems for AIGA.

The first problem is that everyone wants action NOW. It's all about immediate gratification and not only having a voice, but having the loudest voice. And whenever AIGA doesn't immediately respond, or there's not enough action -- the member quickly becomes disenchanted and pissed.

There are 2 areas where immediate gratifcation is possible: social events and community welfare events.

Social events: lots of designers want to network -- because they work alone, because they work online, because they're socially inept and ugly, whatever. There's lots of designers out there looking for this, and it's easily solved. That's why there are still lots of social functions and conferences. If you're not socially wanting, then don't go to these events. But that doesn't mean they're worthless and unneccessary.

Community welfare events: lots of designers hate to talk design 24/7, and hate their job, clients, and coworkers. When they're not working, they want to help sick kids, volunteer to plant trees, paint an elderly person's house, do something good that benefits the community rather than creating more trash. For these designers, AIGA can provide immediate, though superficial, gratification. Fine.

But aside from these two groups, everything else takes more time, and much more concerted effort. There is no immediate gratification.

Education improvements takes time. AIGA can't permeate K-12 classrooms overnight. They can't go to every design school and mandate standardized curriculums and accreditation. It will take sustained efforts by many to alter the perception of a design career with kids and young adults.

Business-focused issues takes the most time and the most effort of all. As many of you have said, it would serve you best if AIGA could provide support to help you find clients, sell to clients, and validate your worth to clients. And you want to "...prov(e) to the business community that design is relevant and that "good" design is good business and will improve their bottom line. (Brook)"... And you want case studies. And you want white papers. etc, etc. ..I am in this camp also and wholeheartedly agree.

But this leads me to AIGA's second big problem -- designers seem to think that their need is the only one important, and that their voice should be the only voice heard. When a designer realizes that this is not the case, they quickly lose interest and refuse to participate.

So many of you complain about how much you hate AIGA because it's just one big social love-fest, and that's why it no longer interests you to join. That's because conferences and social events are the most visible actions, and they take zero effort to produce. But I would urge you to look deeper, and examine the tremendous effort that AIGA is putting forth in other areas of interest. Like the business end, and the online end, and many other worthwhile interests that would surprise you.

I like what Armin's asking for: if you want something from AIGA, then propose to do something about it.

And Armin, take your own pill -- I would like to have a guide that explains the process of design to a client. Volunteer with Ric and pull together SpeakUp resources to write another version of SYP's little piece of shit.

And please stop bitching about the cost of membership. Try to run an AIGA conference, and you'll understand why they cost so damn much. The best way to reduce membership and/or conference costs is to increase attendee/membership volume or to decrease benefits. There's no easy answers to either.

On May.13.2003 at 12:48 PM
Tan’s comment is:

One one more note about GAG.

Our local GAG chapter is primarily composed of illustrators, photographers, reps, and other commercial artists hybrids of illustrator/designers, etc. There's only a tiny percentage who are solely designers by profession. There're many reasons why this is so -- but that's for another day.

So as a result, GAG's relationship to AIGA is more parasitic than symbiotic. GAG's membership depends on AIGA's membership for business, and not the other way around. I rarely attend GAG functions -- but whenever I do, I feel like bloody meat in a shallow pool of sharks.

And one more complaint about GAG's damn pricing guideline. Have you every looked at the range they give in those things? It's usually something like "Logo design ($1 - $50 million corporations) -- range: $5,000 to $80,000" What fucking good is that? How is crap like that supposed to help? That book's a joke.

"...why don't you just tell me the name of the movie you want to see."

On May.13.2003 at 01:16 PM
felix’s comment is:

How much is the next AIGA National Conference? $700? C'mon

Its 450. But good luck getting to Vancouver for cheap. Should we rename it the CIGA? I dont know anyone going... which is too bad- I'd like to see Woody recieve his medal. the speaker line-up this year is terrible.

AIGA's second big problem -- designers seem to think that their need is the only one important... When a designer realizes that this is not the case, they quickly lose interest and refuse to participate.

true. its certainly a big disfunctional family (especially with me) and i know they are hurtin for certain fiscally. why not sell posters and designer ephemera to the public? is that so wrong? i'd buy a signed glaser Dylan poster or a Victore poster to raise funds. wouldnt you? they need to get rid of the Mathew Carter yawnfest currently on fifth ave and put some more excitement in. and sell it to the public.

On May.13.2003 at 01:31 PM
felix’s comment is:

GAG- That book's a joke.

It is and it isnt. Like the AIGA- its all we've got.

When in doubt, read it, add 20% and youre in pretty good shape.

On May.13.2003 at 01:40 PM
Tan’s comment is:

why not sell posters and designer ephemera to the public?

damn fine idea. I'd buy.

How much is the next AIGA National Conference? $700? C'mon

I know it's steep, but don't forget about the Canadian exchange rate. It's currently $1.60 CN/ $1 USD. Vancouver's a big city -- there are dozens of cheaper hotels near the conference hotel. The good exchange rate means cheap accommodations, food, souvenirs, etc. I know that's one of the reasons why national chose Vancouver over Salt Lake City for this year's conference.

A cheaper flight option is to fly into Seattle, and take the bus or train to Vancouver. The cities are only 120 apart, and the trip along the coast is beautiful by train. I think it's about $70 round trip via Amtrak.

On May.13.2003 at 01:44 PM
Emily’s comment is:

I'm not exactly sure what everyone is talking about but I can try and respond based on my experience on the AIGA/NY board:

We really are working hard to bring interesting and critical discussions/work to all our members. We have had, and are having still events that are not about navel gazing (as you call it) at all, but about design as a way to truly convey ideas and emotions to people inside and outside the design community. (this month alone: Design Overload, Reinvention, Fresh Dialogue and Hell No) Please come to any and all events and see for yourselves.

Also, this past year we have tried to have events that are based on ideas and outings off the topic of design (did anyone go on any of the misguided tours? for example: Alex Melamid giving a tour of the architecture of Bayonne was both educational and funny). People think they don't want "rock star" kinds of events but, by far our most well attended (SRO, actually) event was Neville Brody (I know, I know).

So, if we truly are going to listen to our members we have to keep those big events coming (and the CAN be very inspiring), AS WELL AS the non design specific events, because we DO believe that everyone needs to think about and look at other stuff besides graphic design. (We have a humor event in the works for next season, as well as a weird kind of design ephemera/junk sale/auction.)

By the way, as I said before, the little footnotes that have been added to the mission statement are meant to enhance it's meaning in both a funny and serious way. They change for each event, but here's a general one for you to read for yourselves:

The mission of the New York chapter of the AIGA(1) is to identify and define issues(2) critical to its membership(3) and the graphic design profession;(4) to explore and clarify these issues(5) for the purpose of helping to elevate the standards of the business(6) of graphic design;(7) and to create a forum for the exchange of information, views, ideas and techniques(8) among those engaged in the profession.

(1) also known as the “what’s it to ya?” chapter

(2) such as camaraderie and productivity

(3) a group of very nice people with very good intentions and a tremendous amount of talent

(4) what you (maybe) went to school for

(5) again, camaraderie, productivity and the general desire to do good

(6) not just what makes money, but what makes sense and what makes it a job worth doing

(7) spirited and delightful expression and self-expression without self indulgence

(8) which should be innovative, socially relevant, kind, funny, and in the best of times, all of these

On May.13.2003 at 02:29 PM
Sam’s comment is:

>>if AIGA could provide support to help you find clients, sell to clients, and validate your worth to clients.

Actually, I disagree with the idea that this should be one of AIGA's functions, or that it really could be. Finding, selling, validating to clients is my #1 concern as an independent designer, but it's emphatically not something I'd turn to the AIGA for. It'd be kind of like asking my mom to help me find a girlfriend (that came out sounding so sad, oops, oh go ahead laugh). I want my work, my ability to be articulate, and my ideas to validate my work and sell my services to clients--there just isn't any overlap with AIGA. I have a lot to learn about this part of the job, but I don't see myself going to seminars or reading pamphlets to learn.

Tan, I think your points are well made and convincing, and should address the concerns of anyone who is a member and is interested in what the organization does. As a non-member, I'm not moved to join, but pitching membership was not your intention, I realize. But I'm going to go to Fresh Dialogue here in NYC this week and put $25 where my mouth is.

Armin, brother, hermano, you got to get over this rock-star thing. It's bullshit. It's such bullshit. I don't think it's even the AIGA that causes these perceptions that Neville Brody (indeed!) or whoever are rock stars. It's all how much you buy in to the fame aspect of design. It's an easy trap because it's a profession that produces public works. You see a poster, eventually it gets around who did it, etc etc. BFD. Next year they're underbidding the same people you're underbidding.

On May.13.2003 at 03:09 PM
armin’s comment is:

>Armin, brother, hermano, you got to get over this rock-star thing. It's bullshit. It's such bullshit.

I guess you are right. It's probably a more personal thing. Still...whatever...

I don't mean to go and on, and this is completely a personal feeling, but there is something about the AIGA that ticks me off the wrong way. And I assure you it's nothing tangible, nothing of what we have discussed here. I don't hate anybody in the AIGA, I have great respect for them and their effort. But there is that little I don't know what (my french sucks) that's missing. Maybe I'm over-analyzing it or something.

Hypothetical situation: somebody tells me I'm in charge of the AIGA, I would shit in my pants and hide under the desk. I wouldn't know what to do, so I'm definitely not challenging their efforts and decisions they have made and I would never say that they are not doing enough. What I am saying is that I don't know what is wrong with the AIGA. One thing is for sure: a lot of people are discontent with the AIGA, for various reasons that we have listed endless times, so there is something that's missing. We [I]are not going crazy here, we are not coming up with this from thin air.

It's just a gut feeling. There is something lacking from the AIGA. And it's not measurable, quantifiable or identifiable.

On May.13.2003 at 03:26 PM
Joe VanDerBos’s comment is:

I'm an illustrator by trade, not a designer, so indulge me, please.

When I've gone to Graphic Artists Guild events, I've met people across the professional spectrum. This is one way of expanding your horizons and getting a perspective on your own field. Believe it or not, some graphic designers also find this satisfying.

I've referred design work to graphic designers I've met at Guild events. I've also received work from designers I've met. Networking works.

I often hear complaints about the ranges reported in the Pricing and Ethical Guildlines (PEGs) book. The ranges are the results of surveys. While frustrating, imagine the outrage if there were only ONE reported figure for any project described. PEGs assumes that the professional in question can make adjustments for his/her own experience level, local demand, client profile, usages, etc. For better or worse, running a design business is not like following a cookbook.

I'd much rather work in a world which has some published Guidelines than none at all. As usual, the solution to dissatisfaction is to get involved.

The Guild and AIGA have worked together on numerous campaigns and mutually beneficial goals in the past, and will continue to do so, I'm sure.

As I said in my previous post, my comments are grounded in my own experience. My hat is off to the people who have done the hard work of getting involved.

On May.13.2003 at 03:32 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

And please stop bitching about the cost of membership. The best way to reduce membership and/or conference costs is to increase attendee/membership volume or to decrease benefits.

What about a sliding scale? Don't make me trot out my story of the letterpress printer who survives on roots and berries and couldn't afford the AIGA annual that depicted his winning entry. It's 100% true! (Okay, he eats grass clippings too.)

Seriously, it might be a good way to increase membership. Does Jennifer Morla pay the same membership fee as I would? If so, there is something seriously wrong with that picture.

On May.13.2003 at 04:00 PM
Tan’s comment is:

pitching membership was not your intention, I realize.

Thanks. I don't want to be the AIGA poster child here. I tend to defend it, because I buy into what they're about and I have visibility into their inner workings. And it's fun picking fights w/ you chumps.

But I want to state for the record that I don't think it's a perfect organization by any means. I do agree with Armin that it tends to focus too much on design rock stars. I also think that its inner circle (the NYC family in particular) is extremely self-centered and often prone to design masturbation.

One example -- the 99 AIGA conference in Vegas, chaired by Chee Pearlman. I swear, the speaker list was 90% New Yorkers, comprised of all the 212 numbers from Chee's personal address book. It was like the two degree of separation from Paula Sher. Heller, Chwast, Oberman, Giraldi, Sagmeister, Kidd, etc -- it was like watching a giant dinner party at Steven Heller's house. It was like watching a bad, demented episode of Friends or something.

And to top it off, the headliner -- David Byrne -- was the most asinine, imcomprehensible, insulting speaker I've ever seen at any design function, let alone the national conference. There was absolutely no excuse for Byrne -- the conference committee fucked up, pure and simple.

I wanted to demand my money back after Vegas. In fact, I was so disappointed that if I wasn't on the chapter board at the time, I would've quit the org out of disgust.

But I guess it's like any family -- there are drunk uncles, trashy aunts, and snotty cousins somewhere. And you tend to forgive its faults and love it unconditionally...sort of.

On May.13.2003 at 04:02 PM
Tan’s comment is:

What about a sliding scale?

There is, sort of. Students start at $65. One to 3-years associate designers pay $145. Then it's a full-fledge $285 for 4+ year professionals. For design educators, who tend to get paid less, there's a reduced membership rate of $185.

But I do see your point. It's kind of like a flat tax -- it punishes the working class, and honors the elites. Rates based on job titles or salaries would be ideal for many. But it probably would be incredibly complicated to administer.

But I'm very intrigued by the idea. Talk further. How would you like for it to be structured? What would you consider to be fair?

Just out of sincere curiosity -- Armin, anyone -- how much is acceptable to you for membership? $100/yr? $150/yr? $200/yr? And by what comparative measurement do you determine/guage what's affordable?

On May.13.2003 at 04:14 PM
Sam’s comment is:

the letterpress printer who survives on roots and berries

I never met a letterpress printer who wasn't a hippie freak...

On May.13.2003 at 04:22 PM
armin’s comment is:

>Just out of sincere curiosity -- Armin, anyone -- how much is acceptable to you for membership?

They should pay me.

$150-$200 sounds right to me. Especially when you have to pay for every event. Yeah, yeah, you get discounted price, I know.

>Don't make me trot out my story of the letterpress printer

We should all gather around a campfire and listen to it aaaaaall night.

On May.13.2003 at 04:24 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

I never met a letterpress printer who wasn't a hippie freak...

I want to be a letterpress printer, but I ain't no hippie freak. Maybe that's why I'm just a graphic designer with boxes of type in the closet.

On May.13.2003 at 04:26 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I never met a letterpress printer who wasn't a hippie freak...

..and they're named Moonstar or Eowyn or some elfish name from Tolkein. And I bet that rebecca's friend has been known to grow other types of plants in his pea patch...exactly what type of grass is he eating again?

On May.13.2003 at 04:31 PM
Tan’s comment is:

...now "jonsel". Wasn't that a hobbit?

On May.13.2003 at 04:33 PM
Sam’s comment is:

They should pay me.

Spoken like a rock star! Amen Armin! Your posse's got your back, by jickity.

And jon, maybe not yet, but once you pony up for one of these babies, it's roots and berries time.

Unless rebecca meant "roots and berries" as some kind of porno metaphor...?

On May.13.2003 at 04:54 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

Sam, whatever you like to do with roots and berries is totally cool. No one's going to judge you. We're all friends here.

Anyway, I should disclose from the outset that devising fair and efficient ways of doing things is not my strong suit. My strength is more in complaning. With that caveat, I think job titles might not be a good measure because they are non-standard. Seems like a nightmare to untangle what those titles might mean.

Salary seems like the only fair measure, but is it legal/feasible to expect people to honestly disclose their income to a private organization for membership purposes? Maybe it is; I'm bad at this, remember.

Also, will charging wealthy/famous designers more for membership drive them out of the organization? They need it less than we do, after all. If so, what would that do to the culture of AIGA? I suppose it could be a positive thing.

And my letterpress friend is named Dave. Dave Moonbeam.

On May.13.2003 at 05:07 PM
Damien’s comment is:

I hear a lot of noise - but not a lot of sense. Perhaps there is some in all this, but it isn't coming out loud and clear.

I notice on the AIGA's home page, there is a link to a new site about the process of designing. It launches a mini-site, and on that site it includes a project I touched - wasn't completely involved in, but gave the slightest amount of input.

I mention this - because whatever the problem with the AIGA is, or whatever you agree the problem might be, I think it is trying to improve the role of graphic design inside business. Particularly big business, which in turn should help raise the perceived value of graphic designers everywhere.

This site is just a small example of the tools and examples they can publish, which will help designers better articulate what value they bring to their clients. The Why site pulls on different projects to highlight different strengths in the process. Its a good thing. If you want to improve that site - then join and say something about it.

In pursuit of trying to improve the role of design in business today, you can either do it yourself (which I try to do in my own way) or join a large national institution that is doing it, which is populated by both 'rock stars' and students, and all in between.

In not being a member - I greatly appreciate the AIGA being 'there' as it often proves what I am doing is worth the effort, or at the very least produces events and discussion that I can chose to be part of when and how often I like.

And as an outsider I can go off and produce my own materials with the help of others.

I don't think there are a lot of people discontent with the AIGA - I think there are just a bunch of you. For the others like myself - I simply don't join. But simply sitting there and dogging the group doesn't help anyone but yourself perhaps.

If they've pissed you off - like Tan's Vegas experience - tell them. If you don't like the subscription fees. Write to them. Or don't pay them.

If you don't like their arrogant and elitist attitude (if they have one) then either join and don't be like that or don't join and don't be like that on the outside.

Whatever happens - like Speak Up is becoming, the AIGA is a resource for people specifically in the field of Graphic Design to help them in business and their work. Where the AIGA sort of has a more tangible voice, Speak Up's position is made up of those who 'speak up' here.

Unfortunately Graphic Design is only part of the design world and the AIGA's work doesn't help all designers.

Whatever happens - Speak Up and AIGA are 'doing it' and either here or there, you have a chance to contribute should you have anything you feel worth saying. But 'moaning', I can hear if I turn on the TV and watch a soap opera.

Perhaps we need reminding of this.

On May.13.2003 at 05:20 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

...now "jonsel". Wasn't that a hobbit?

I'm too busy pickin' berries and shaving my feet to be offended by this.

Unless rebecca meant "roots and berries" as some kind of porno metaphor...?

Letterpress is a tactile endeavor.

On May.13.2003 at 05:35 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Also, will charging wealthy/famous designers more for membership drive them out of the organization?

Actually, I don't think they would care. AIGA already taps a lot of famous designers for funding help. It's significant tapping, as in 5- and 6-figures.

I know that one of the stipulations of being on the national board is that you are personally responsible for procuring at least $10K of funding for the org when you join. It might even be a higher figure. If you take into account the time and resources that a local or national board member donates to AIGA -- the cost is significant.

Even on a smaller, local scale, it's significant. For example, when I was burning full steam as a chapter president, taking into account my time, my office employees' time, our expenditures, etc. -- we conservatively estimated that we "donated" well over $100K to AIGA that year in resources. I know many similar offices across the country that donate that kind of time and money. I can't imagine what Clement Mok, Dana Arnett, or Jennifer Morla is giving to the org. You'd be shocked.

So in relative comparison, I don't think they'd care if they had to pay an extra grand for membership. It's trivial in comparison. Trust me, they already donate an amount that's proportional to their stature and salary.

And you guys are whining about $285.

Value is a relative thing. I was just thinking the other day about what I deem expensive, vs. what I deem cheap. I think music CDs are outrageous at $18 a piece, but I would call an $18 DVD movie as a bargain. Why? I'm not sure.

That's why I asked Armin and co. what they thought was a reasonable membership figure would be, and why? The truth is, I think it's just an arbitrary number that will always be a little less than the actual amount. For example, if AIGA cost $2000/year, lowering it to $1,200 would seem like a sweet deal to many. But conversely, if AIGA lowered the cost to $175/year -- someone would bitch about it in no time and demand that it was $120. I'd put money on that.

On May.13.2003 at 06:23 PM
pk’s comment is:

i don't understand why the AIGA is hanging its hat on this "why" thing. it sounds like one of those Process™ documents every company seemed to grow around 1998 (and which did nothing but inhibit the occurrance of any work). but that's neither here nor there.

i don't belong to the AIGA because i find their definition too limiting. i am not simply a print or website designer. i am also a typographer, illustrator, video designer, environmental designer, author, and strategist. by announcing that i belong to the AIGA, i would be putting a hard stop on my commercial usefulness—i would be considered a "graphic artist," which is not an adequate description of my skills by any means. it's also commercial suicide. unfortunately, i come at my activities from the visual side of things, so the AIGA is the only organization which acknowledges that.

i want the AIGA to broaden their scope and acknowledge the changes that have undergone the commercial playing fields of design over the past twenty years. a job description of graphic artist simply does not fit much of what goes on anymore. and i see nobody addresssing issues of tactile design versus user experience (or "why you're making a bad bowl"), nobody inside the industry giving serious documentation to learning about information architecture during the dot-com boom, nobody addressing social stereotypes in visual marketing, nobody thinking about the concept of demographics and what that means or if it even really has any credence.

in short...i see the AIGA as being incredibly shortsighted. i see no challenges there.

and i really miss the american center for design. they were some smart cookies while they lasted.

On May.13.2003 at 09:45 PM
pk’s comment is:

now that i've shot my mouth off, i just checked the national conference schedule. they're apparently trying to step up their content. brenda laurel's speaking and she fucking rocks my tiny world. now i kinda wanna go—they're addressing broader themes than they have in the past.

On May.13.2003 at 09:51 PM
Michael S’s comment is:

I've got a bit of a rant, and I don't have a snappy moral at the end b/c only time will dictate the outcome...

I'm an outsider on this conversation about the AIGA since I live in Canada. But imagine for a moment living in a region that has essentially blackmailed you into joining the org. They have legislation that forces all graphic design work to be sent to a "registered" graphic designer. To legally do any of this work you have to be accepted by a group of self appointed executives that made the executive decision to break off from the national organization. Sound like fiction? Could this only be happening in a grid obsessed region? No it is happening right now in Ontario. From my perspective it' pretty pathetic. This battle has been brewing for a very long time between a few people in Ontario and a National board around Canada. Unfortunately the only people in Canada that are going to loose out are those that want to make the industry better. Very sad, so when you complain about the AIGA, think of what it would be like living in an area that is claiming papal legitimacy and you didn't even elect them!

Michael Surtees

On May.13.2003 at 10:57 PM
Sam’s comment is:

By the way, there's this earlier, more rant-y thread: From Design to Designing (a propos of my earlier navel-gazing comment)

I said in that thread that this is what I would like from the AIGA or a similar design association: "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."

I feel less antagonistic today, but the point still stands. It's hard to find the basics, let alone trade secrets like specing process colors in mathematical relationships or baseline sink in conjunction with baseline grids.

On May.13.2003 at 11:14 PM
Briar’s comment is:

A few things I would like to see:

1. I wish that an AIGA publication came out more often. I know there is Trace, but it seems too proud of itself. I wish it came out every other month or quarterly. I wish that it was only printed in black and white, save the glossy photos for someplace else. It should focus on looking at designs that succeeded / failed and why. It should look at international design. It should highlight forgotten designers. There should be an issue that is nothing but essays. People besides Steve Heller should write (I love him, but other people have to step up to bat).

2. Membership should be sweetened with potential discounts. Sure right now you can save on shipping and phone calls. Why not computers? Why not a discount from printers and / or paper companies? What about discounts on clothing, music, subscriptions, office equipment?

3. I wish there was more guidance, focus on pro-bono work. I worry that there is a visual divide starting to happen between rich and the poor, that good design is becoming one of those things that you have only if you can afford it. I wish that the AIGA (or anyone) could come up with a system that could provide decent design options to non-profits and minorities while still compensating the designer for their work in some manner.

On May.13.2003 at 11:21 PM
Jesse’s comment is:

delineating the tough choices

When I first came across Speak Up, I was excited by the format and the discussion subjects. Like John, I'm not located on either coast nor in a metropolitan area. I work for a branch of a state university which is facing its fourth year of budget cuts. There isn't much money available for professional development or membership in large organizations, and contest entry fees are out of the question. I don't make enough money to join professional organizations on my own (and the AIGA's stratified entry fees work against me, as I'm in education, but I'm not an educator, I'm considered a professional). Before Speak Up, I relied on the trade magazines and a few local design peers for graphic design discussion.

I feel that I've gotten a lot out of Speak Up, which I appreciate. However, the recurring focus on fame and the Designer as Rock Star is grating on me. If a person is more concerned with image and being famous than about creating smart design solutions, then he should join a rock band, where macho posturings and attitude might find a more suitable audience.

Graphic design is about solving problems based on a client's needs. At least that's what it's been about in my experience. Ego should be left out of the design process as much as possible (but not necessarily personality).

Jonsel and John's comments about competitions make sense to me. Contests should probably require more background information about how well the project met the client's needs, how it was accepted by the intended audience, what kind of limitations were involved in the process (I know this information would be valuable to me). I like the idea of including non-designers (CEOs, VPs of marketing, for example) in the judging process. Design annuals are great to look at, but isn't the intelligence of the solution more important than how good it looks?

Regarding the main issue, if you're a member of AIGA and you're dissatisfied with the organization, then as Tan said, propose to do something about it. Don't just react, act. Armin, your idea of writing a letter outlining specific concerns and collecting signatures sounds like a good start.

On May.14.2003 at 11:53 AM
Michael S’s comment is:

A couple posts above I mentioned some things about the design org in Ontario. Apparently I was passing misinformation. Below is a response from an email I got. If what below is true I'm sorry for passing misinformation above.

Here are the facts:

- No-one in Ontario is being blackmailed to join the Association.

Anyone is free to practise graphic design in Ontario at any time

without restriction.

- The legislation that created RGD Ontario does not force graphic

design work to go to Registered Graphic Designers (please read the

Act posted on our web site).

- The Board of Directors of RGD Ontario is not self-appointed (please

read our bylaws posted on our web site with respect to nominations

and elections).

On May.14.2003 at 12:00 PM
armin’s comment is:

>Apparently I was passing misinformation. Below is a response from an email I got.

Big Brother is watching yo.

On May.14.2003 at 12:02 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I'd like to respond to what Joe VanDerBos said about GAG's Pricing and Ethics Guideline:

> I often hear complaints about the ranges reported in the Pricing and Ethical Guildlines (PEGs) book. The ranges are the results of surveys. PEGs assumes that the professional in question can make adjustments for his/her own experience level, local demand, client profile, usages, etc.

Well stated. I agree (w/ Felix too) that it's better than nothing.

And yes, those of us who run our own businesses know that the art of pricing is a hard-earned skill. There are a variety of factors involved -- including all that you've mentioned.

But since the PEG is a guideline, there needs to be some reasonable amount of guidance for those who are depending on the book for their living. The validity of the PEG is only as strong as its weakest component -- which in my humble opinion, is the pricing ranges that it publishes. To say that it's simply a result of surveys is a weak excuse, and acknowledges the shortcomings. If that's the case, then why put it out in the first place?

But I do understand the value that GAG brings to many in the creative industry. It was an errant slam on the org on my part. But in my experience with AIGA, the GAG relationship has been strained, and not equally reciprocal. It's the case in many metropolitan cities/chapters across the country -- not just in mine. Why? That's a topic for another discussion...

On May.14.2003 at 01:22 PM
Ric Grefe’s comment is:

This discussion is terrific and precisely what we need to hear about the concerns designers have. AIGA does listen up and has actually reinvented itself repeatedly over the past several years to address the issues members have raised.

We encourage all of you to join, become active, develop your ideas on what the design profession needs to increase its effectiveness or impact (or even to increase the support for design within the economy) and share your ideas with us. All AIGA initiatives emerge from the motivation and energy of members who decide to take them on; if you have an approach in mind that works better for you than what your colleagues have conceived, develop it and lets see if we can use AIGA to give it greater reach within the profession and beyond.

On May.21.2003 at 11:02 AM
felix’s comment is:

"...and share your ideas with us."

We have been... and do.Most of us, dare I say, are AIGA members speaking here on Speak Up. thanks for listening... and givin us hell (march 28).

On May.21.2003 at 02:31 PM