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The creative impulse is by its nature diverse—differentiation
and originality are prized over imitation. Yet possibly more
important than creative diversity is the need to understand
cultural diversity, since communication is at the core of
what we do, and the ways that audiences receive messages are
influenced by social and cultural norms.
Design must make use of broad visual and conceptual vocabularies
in order to be accepted and understood by a range of audiences—not
only those that make up the unique social and ethnic quilt of the
United States, but also the many cultures of the global economy. In
today's connected world, communication design must be able to move
seamlessly across national boundaries and the differences among
Data visualization of global population density, G-Econ project (Flickr
image under Creative Commons
The economic turmoil of the past two years has forced both
thoughtful observers and business strategists to recognize that the
future will be different. Our new normal will be a global economy
in which there is no single dominant market or production source;
other cultures will resist universal design features that
compromise local values; responsible design will be expected; and
American designers will be competing with designers from many
cultures, some of whom will have a more highly developed sense of
empathy for those audiences that U.S. designers would like to
In this new era, AIGA is deeply concerned with strengthening the
perceived and actual relevance of design. Designers play a critical
role in developing competitive advantages and creating value in the
emerging economy. Yet to do so, design—and particularly
communication design—must be seen as relevant to the needs of this
more diverse marketplace.
At its best, communication design involves form and content,
crafted in a meaningful context that leaves an impact over time.
However, the highest aspirations of design as a profession will
only be achieved when diversity and excellence are joined. The
profession as a whole must demonstrate the understanding and
perspectives that can only come from the interplay among many
different backgrounds, cultures and experiences. This is where
inclusivity will change every designer, both in the process of
collaboration and in forming adaptive, responsive approaches to
On May 20, AIGA will open a participatory exhibition called
You Are Here." The exhibition shines a light on the careers of
25 designers from a
variety of backgrounds, whose own lives and experiences demonstrate
this ideal joining of diversity and excellence. Each is a role
model for a young person who might ask, "Why would I pursue a
profession where so few people look like me?"
At the same time, the exhibition reinforces that
inclusiveness—the bringing together of people of many talents and
experiences—is a reflection of what each of us brings to the
Only when the profession and its work are inclusive of the
differences among cultures, as well as what we share across them,
can design assure its future relevance, leadership and impact.
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.
NEW YORK—June 6, 2013. To help
designers and firms leverage new possibilities and address future
challenges, AIGA has teamed up
with Adobe to ask design leaders to envision how their studios will evolve over the next few years.
NEW YORK—May 14, 2013. AIGA’s Design
Leaders Confidence Index was unchanged for the first quarter of 2013,
at 101.62 compared to the previous quarter’s 101.72. While the aggregate number
is not statistically different, there is optimism in the details.
Each year, AIGA provides a report of
activities and accomplishments to members and stakeholders; the current
report is shown here in full.
Jonathan R. McKay
AIGA New Orleans
Member since 2012
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