What does AIGA do with what it hears? And how does it respond?

Filed Under: About AIGA , AIGA Insight

Nearly a year ago, we compiled a list of members' most pressing concerns, as expressed to us from our 2007 biennial member survey, and committed to making progress on their behalf. As we look back on the events of the past year and look ahead to the new one, this is an opportunity for us to share what we have been able to accomplish, where we have met the needs identified by members in that survey, and lay out our ambitious plans for the future of AIGA with your input.

How AIGA has responded to member requests in 2008

Customer service

  • We have worked with our national staff to understand why every communication is critical and to improve responsiveness to phone calls and email messages, defining member satisfaction is the ultimate measure of our effectiveness. We have encouraged chapters to meet the same standard, although the volunteer nature of chapter leadership, with no regular staff or office, means that it is more challenging.
  • We are beginning to implement improvements on our website that will offer more flexibility in renewing memberships, including an option for multi-year renewals. The new membership service software improvements will be implemented by mid-spring 2009.
  • As part of the same wave of improvements, members will be able to opt out of different types of emails and postal mailings by early spring 2009.

Member benefits

  • Discounts on design magazine subscriptions are available to AIGA members. Watch for more titles in early 2009.
  • At the AIGA Leadership Retreat held in June 2008, we strongly encouraged chapters to offer events at no cost to members and will continue to advocate this course at the leadership retreat this year, including finding ways to address the financial consequences to chapters.
  • Also at the retreat, we urged chapters to realize the importance of mailing announcements earlier. This is a perennial issue due to the challenging schedules of volunteer support, but many have noticed that email and web announcements have improved.

Professional development resources

  • The AIGA Center for Practice Management website launched to help designers to become better-informed business people with more legal and practical advice, links to other resources, and more business and marketing tools for solo designers and small firms. We published an updated, second edition of AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design (Allworth Press). And we will offer a series of member-only webinars on creative management issues beginning in early 2009.
  • Professional development is a critical priority for 2009. Discounted access to lynda.com training is now offered for continuing education, and new discounted programs will be offered in the first half of 2009 in collaboration with Design Management Institute (DMI).
  • Collaborative processes is also a priority, as we have addressed in our national conferences and many of our initiatives; this is also a critical competency in our definition of the skills required for the Designer of 2015.
  • The strength of AIGA comes from the consistent involvement of dedicated members. AIGA project manager Amy Chapman works with those members who volunteer their time to assisting in AIGA's national initiatives. If you would like to get involved, too, please contact Amy and state your area(s) of interest.

Focus on particular groups

    • At the national level we recognize the increasing importance of user experience and interaction design, and chapters have been encouraged to do the same. The strategic review of AIGA's positioning in 2009 will explore how to use the legacy strengths of AIGA to build a foundation to advance these disciplines.
    • In 2008, AIGA worked with “invangelist” Andy Epstein to form a community of in-house designers and will continue in the years ahead to focus on content and programs supporting designers working within a corporate context.

Tangible value for members and the broader community

  • AIGA has continued to improve the online experience at www.aiga.org to ensure the site is accessible, navigable and rich in content and resources. In 2008, we made videos from our conferences and galas accessible through closed-captioning and by providing downloadable transcripts, so that the value of design could be shared with the most people possible.

Improvements to specific programs

    • In our conference promotions, we have improved the timeliness and descriptiveness of our websites and communications, and given better information about speakers in early promotional pieces and featured more young professionals in our programming, both at the biennial AIGA Design Conference and “Gain: Business and Design Conference.”

Attention to possible biases

  • AIGA has sought to make its activities and governance as geographically diverse as its members, from board members to awards. While AIGA will always have a strong New York component due to the size of the local design community (nearly 3,000 members), AIGA strives to no longer be “New-York–centric” in the content of our events, nor do we want to be U.S.-centric.
  • Even in a political year, AIGA has sought to remain nonpartisan and balanced at the national level. From the “Get Out the Vote” poster campaign to the Polling Place Photo Project and the ongoing efforts to improve election design through Design for Democracy, AIGA is ardently committed to demonstrating the difference design can make in the civic experience.

Other member requests

Although each member's concerns are important, we were not able to make improvements in every area requested in just the past year.

  • No specific national programs have been developed on paper education (e.g., a guide to paper companies), printing education and tools, although we have encouraged our paper and printing sponsors to propose such programs.
  • There is more we can do to drive professionals to add their portfolios to the AIGA website. We are still exploring a new social networking approach that will enhance our capacity for adding these portfolios. In the meantime, AIGA Design Archives has expanded to include collections of medalists and some major firms.
  • Through our regular communications we have promoted the AIGA Designer Directory as a place for potential clients to find designers, although no targeted messaging to increase use of the directory has been initiated.
  • We have published a series of mentoring essays and encouraged chapters to provide more assistance to students making the transition from school to work, but we are currently developing additional materials for them. AIGA recognizes this is an opportunity for continuous improvement.
  • We have not established affinity groups of publication designers, interaction designers and motion graphics designers. We know that we need to serve these groups even better, yet we are not sure that affinity groups are the answer.
  • While we are open to opportunities for dialogue with illustrators and photographers, we have not pursued any systematic way to increase this collaboration except in advocacy efforts on copyright issues. This depends upon a mutual sense of need, and we welcome illustrators and photographers to membership and events.
  • We have not developed a current “business-speak” book about the value of effective business design. We provide the “What every business needs” brochure online as a PDF download, although it is not new or comprehensive. However, AIGA has recently co-published, in partnership with New Riders, Marty Neumeier's The Designful Company, which goes much further on the fundamental role of design in business (AIGA members receive a discount on AIGA Design Press titles).
  • Although AIGA has not developed a paper on ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines and other issues of importance to environmental design practice, this is because AIGA, as a practice, does not commit resources to duplicate what others have done effectively. SEGD's white paper on this subject is very comprehensive.
  • We have not yet diversified the types of positions offered in Design Jobs to include more office roles (e.g., trafficking, account executives, writers, production managers). We will address it in the coming year.
  • Many members felt that the design annual was not significant enough and that AIGA should produce more significant printed pieces. As a result, we enlisted Paula Scher and her team at Pentagram New York to design 365: AIGA Year in Design 29, co-published by Chronicle Books. Although we have created a more substantial print piece, it is not likely that AIGA will increase the number of print pieces from either the national office or chapters, due to principles of energy conservation, sustainability and cost. We have also found that the share of members who feel it is responsible or effective to increase the number of print pieces is shrinking.

What do you want for the future of AIGA?

AIGA embraces a culture of member-responsiveness. If there are issues you would like to see addressed or opportunities you feel AIGA should pursue, please tell us. While we ask you to be aware of resource constraints, it is always helpful for us to hear constructive recommendations to problems you see. We also try to keep in mind the principles of being fair, equitable and consistent, and therefore may not be able to implement changes unless they benefit more than one group.

Later this month, AIGA will send out its next biennial member survey. This survey is particularly important as its focus is to gain an understanding of what members expect AIGA to be five years from now, and to address the challenges to the design profession in the context of social and economic changes. The AIGA board, along with chapter and community leadership, will develop a plan for achieving our collective aspirations by July 2009. Please share your views to ensure that may AIGA continue to evolve and serve as the best representative for you and the profession as a whole.