AIGA archives and special collections
The archives of AIGA serve to identify, preserve, and make available records of enduring value. AIGA’s aim is to make conditions suitable for access and to support research that will add to the literature of design and to safeguard its legacy. Help preserve the great work by your design heroes and gifted colleagues; contribute to the AIGA Legacy Fund.
To pre-schedule an appointment to access the institutional archives at the AIGA HQ in New York City or for more information about the collections at partner repositories, email AIGA’s archivist Heather Strelecki or call 212 710 3145. Please schedule appointments at least one week in advance.
By appointment only, 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Closed on weekends, national holidays, and during the AIGA Leadership Retreat (one week each spring) and the national AIGA Design Conference (one week each October), and the week between Christmas and New Years.
Access and tours
Use of the Archives Room is a benefit of AIGA membership. Nonmembers whose focused research into the history of AIGA, the profession, or design are encouraged to join AIGA so they may also be assisted by this resource.
There is a $25 per person nonmember fee to tour the archives. As a benefit of membership, fees are waived for individuals with active memberships in good standing.
Interested in learning more about AIGA’s history? Begin with these pages:
- AIGA History Timeline
- How Our Quarter Century Began
- The 50th Anniversary
- Seventy-Five Years of AIGA
- AIGA Centennial
- 100 Years of Design
- Webcast: A Visual History of AIGA
- AIGA Presidents
The Archives Room (formerly the AdamsMorioka Archives Vault at the AIGA National Design Center on Fifth Avenue), is an invaluable resource to AIGA staff, members, and design scholars. Artifacts from the institutional archives Include works from 1914 to the present, the materials serve as the memory of the organization’s extensive history and association with the century’s most influential designers.
More than 1,500 unique items are housed in this archive. The bulk of the collection consists of printed records created by and for AIGA, including: exhibition catalogues and design annuals documenting the selections from AIGA competitions since 1915; newsletters and journals published since 1922; AIGA conference materials produced since 1985; and a flat file for the works of AIGA medalists. The Archive Room complements the online AIGA Design Archives, as well as the physical archives of AIGA design competition entries dating back to 1980, which are housed at the Denver Art Museum.
For AIGA Medalists, research guides are being compiled to surface related content from articles, books, exhibitions and events, websites and online collections, audio and video. Located beneath each Medalist essay as additional resources, research guides and are available for Milton Glaser, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar, Herb Lubalin, Henry Wolf, Saul Bass, and Massimo and Lella Vignelli.
To assist you in your design history research, AIGA has compiled a list of additional design resources and archives.
Google Art Projects
Online exhibitions are sourced from AIGA’s extensive archive of design excellence as well as content created for AIGA.org. Currently focused on AIGA’s strategic initiatives, Diversity & Inclusion and Design for Democracy, there are two curated exhibitions: African American Culture and History: An AIGA Design Journey and AIGA Get Out the Vote 2016.
AIGA Design Archives is one of the richest online resources available to those who practice, study and appreciate great design. It represents the quality of work being created, as well as shifting aesthetics and sensibilities of the designers of the day. Included in this resource are more than 20,000 selections from AIGA’s national juried design competitions, held annually and dating from 1924 through the present. In addition, it features special collections of major American design firms and practitioners whose design accomplishments might otherwise not be preserved online or made available to the public. These now include the work of Chermayeff & Geismar (1960–2006), Vignelli Associates (1962–2008), Push Pin Graphic (1960–2005), and Richard Danne (1958–2010).
The online experience, initially developed and redesigned by Second Story Interactive Studios, features easier and deeper searches, faster results, live filtering, improved navigation, new presentation modes and the ability to share inspiration on social networking sites. View all available work, including selections that are housed at the Denver Art Museum, at designarchives.aiga.org.
Gifted to the Denver Art Museum (DAM) in 2006, the AIGA Archives at the Denver Art Museum represents the largest and most comprehensive holding of contemporary American communication design in the world. Consisting of approximately 12,000 physical artifacts created from about 1980 to 2012, the collection recognizes award-winning entries made to the organization’s annual competitions. It complements AIGA’s annual publication documenting AIGA’s activities and competitions during this period.
The collection is a celebration across all disciplines of communication design—packaging, corporate communications, brand and identity systems, typography, editorial design and illustration, and experience design, among others. The materials reflect major design trends as well as many of the leading design firms and individual designers within the United States during this 32–year period, such as Gail Anderson, Michael Bierut, Sylvia Harris, Jennifer Morla, Stefan Sagmeister, and Paula Scher, to name only a few.
It also includes a broad range of materials including: bound and unbound paper-based objects, metal, textiles, glass, plastic, multimedia, electronic media, and food- and toiletry-based packaging.
By making a major commitment to building one of the preeminent modern and contemporary design collections in the United States, the DAM has become a pioneer among museums, and was selected to receive the AIGA Design Archives based on its longstanding dedication to design as well as its location, which is accessible to designers, students, and researchers outside the immediate vicinity of the more traditional New York or West Coast locus of graphic design.
When combined with the DAM’s growing collection of contemporary design, the AIGA Design Archives provides visitors with an even more enlightening and dynamic narrative of design from the era. The physical objects are utilized by the Denver Art Museum as an exhibiting collection and serve to educate future generations on the antecedents and evolution of this confluence of art and commerce.
During AIGA’s first century, juried selections from its longest-running annual book design competition, "Fifty Books of the Year" (now known as “50 Books | 50 Covers”), were collected in order to demonstrate the principles of good design and craftsmanship in the manufacture of contemporary American books.
These selections are held at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML) at Columbia University’s Butler Library in New York City, where Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt (formerly of the Gutenberg Museum in Germany) was named curator of the rare book department in 1930. As a member of the Typophiles, another New York not-for-profit organization, he initiated a relationship between the organizations that included an annual book deposit from AIGA of the year’s best designed books and book covers to the RBML, including titles dating back to 1923.
The history of printing and the book arts are strengths of RBML. The collection includes more than 5,000 books recognized for design excellence from nearly nine decades of AIGA competitions and is available for on-site use by researchers.