AIGA is working hard to ensure that we
are as supportive as possible to the aspirations of the profession. As
the profession keeps growing, in interests and in scale, we are seeking
to find ways in which we can adapt to all of our stakeholders’ passions
and needs—no easy task.
In seeking to balance AIGA’s celebration of design in all its
dimensions, we recently merged the historic AIGA competition for books
and covers—which since 1996 has been framed as “50 Books/50 Covers” but
has transformed many times in its 87-year history—into the broader
competition, “365: Design Effectiveness,”
which includes interactive, cross-media and print design. Book
designers, publishers and admirers reacted strongly to this news with a public petition to “Save 50/50,” gaining more than a thousand signatures in mere days.
We have listened to these passionate voices in the design community, and we have reinstated “50 Books/50 Covers” as a distinct competition.
Our intention was not to reduce our support for book designers, but to
present AIGA as representative of—and respectful toward—all design disciplines equally.
We apologize to those who construed the original decision as a
reduction in AIGA’s commitment to the importance of book and cover
design; that was not the intention, although it was clearly the
impression. We also apologize for tinkering with something that is held
so dear by so many; and we were remiss in how we vetted and communicated
This year “50 Books/50 Covers” will look much like it did last year,
although we are working to adapt the system to include e-books. Moving
forward, we will continue to strive to balance proving design’s
effectiveness with celebrating the craft and tradition of design in all
its forms. We look forward to a continuing discussion on recognizing
design excellence through competitions, both with those who expressed an
opinion through this process and with our members and chapter leaders.
The revised process and schedule for the 2011 competitions—which will
also extend the deadline for all three of AIGA’s national competitions
to March 31—will be published Wednesday on this site.
The exchange in the past week has provided a couple of important lessons.
First, we understand the passions around this fundamental and central demonstration of the art and craft of communication design,
regardless of the area in which many designers work each day. We will
be talking with the originators of the petition, Christopher Sergio and
Catherine Casalino, about the format and character of “50 Books/50
Covers,” to achieve our respective goals—which are congruent in terms of
celebrating great book design. For us, part of the challenge is how we
can best demonstrate that we respect other dimensions of communication
design to the same extent that we love and respect books.
Second, it revealed the depth of feelings and expectations for the role of AIGA, coming from both members and nonmembers, who look toward AIGA to play a role that supports their practice of design.
Third, it reinforces our interest in seeking broad input on what is expected of AIGA.
Already in the works is an opportunity for global input on the forces
facing designers and what they need from their own community. On April
13, “One Day for Design,” we will seed questions among a number of
communities beyond our own membership, and aggregate the responses on a
single website where we can all review the opinions, comments and
suggestions. (We will notify all AIGA members about participating, and
announce it through Twitter and Facebook, but let us know if you would like to receive an email
when “One Day for Design” is live.) A team at VSA Partners in Chicago,
led by AIGA board member Jamie Koval, will help us sort through the
responses in order to identify key issues. We hope to have a summary of
the findings available by June, although we do not underestimate either
the scale of the undertaking nor the fact that everyone will read the
panoply of opinions through different lenses.
By June, we will also have launched a new website, with the intention
of giving much greater voice to members in all areas of AIGA’s
activities. The new AIGA.org will provide examples of extraordinary
design identified and critiqued by design’s leading practitioners as
well as allow members to bring attention to great design that they
discover and why they think it is exemplary. There will be more channels
for comments from members and conversation.
AIGA is intent in finding ways to serve the passions of designers in
this moment while also anticipating the needs of the community moving
forward. This is an ambitious agenda, driven by the aspirations of
members. The power of AIGA is in tapping the full measure of ideas and
energy of 22,000 members, not in the limitations of a small staff and
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.
Richard Grefé is the executive director of AIGA, the professional association for design. While guiding all of AIGA’s activities, his most significant contributions are in strategy, formulating new initiatives to enhance the competitive success of designers
and advocating the value of design to business, government and the public.
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