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This past week, I’ve felt like a time warp has engulfed the
graphic design profession and sent it looping back to the 1990s.
In the early ’90s, graphic designers eschewed digital tools
(Oh the humanity! What about
typography?! Accurate color?! Won’t somebody please think of the letterpress?!)
and media as unholy incarnations of design.
It set AIGA back years, if not decades, while print designers bemoaned new
directions for their own skills and experience.
Many graphic designers had to be dragged kicking and
screaming toward the rapidly and obviously evolving present that, yes, saw opportunities
for everyone to be a “designer” (often with disastrous results—remember all
those PageMaker-generated, use-every-typeface-available brochures?) but also
saw the design profession widen in a wonderful way, bringing in fresh people,
ideas, techniques and design opportunities.
It happened again in the late ’90s, with the rise of
interaction design and new media (web, mobile, etc.) that offered even more
opportunities for designers to apply their skills, stretch their boundaries and
work on increasingly complex and interesting applications. More kicking. More
screaming. More moaning. And, it set AIGA back almost another decade.
Instead of AIGA also being the professional organization of interaction
design and design in interactive media, that role is now filled by IxDA. Anyone that has eyes open to
opportunities for professionals and graduates in design knows that there is a
nearly unlimited demand for interaction design (and related) jobs and something
close to a glut of graphic designers available and looking for work—especially
those who avoid digital media. The dilemma is exacerbated by websites and
services that offer logos for $50 and less (none of which are world-class, some
of which are good, most of which seem “good enough” to clients who do not know
what to expect). It’s no wonder that what members
of AIGA are asking for moves far beyond AIGA’s roots. That’s where they see
opportunities and ask for assistance, support and inspiration.
If you listen to the majority of AIGA members, they
appreciate the past and, at times, they like to learn from and celebrate it,
but what they want is information on how to be successful and relevant in their
work today. They’re also much less interested in the work of design heroes,
today’s or yesterday’s, for better or worse, and want to envision how they can thrive
in a very different market than this profession’s past. Today, there are an
astonishing number of places to see great work and many more competitions to
enter. However, there are still very few places to learn professional tools for
advancing our skills as designers who create not only beauty but also value in
the areas of sustainability, social justice, business and more.
AIGA was there first, of course, with the Advance for Design,
which turned into the AIGA
Experience Design group. But this initiative slowly died as those members
who wanted to move forward toward new directions lost patience with the endless
discussions about what it meant for current competitions, conferences,
sponsorship from paper companies and the rest of AIGA’s print design roots. The
same could be said for the AIGA Center for Brand Experience, an initiative that
was on the forefront but was superseded (and is now mostly owned) by the Design Management Institute
(and, good for them).
In 2003, Terry Irwin programmed AIGA’s annual conference around
the theme “The Power of Design.” It
was discounted by many of the old guard for being too “down” and devoid of
people showing “cool” work. Despite the fact that few people like to sit
through presentations where designers show their work while describing how
great it is to be them, this has been the mainstay of design conferences. The
sessions that make change, in our profession and ourselves, are sometimes not recognized
until years later. This was confirmed last year in Phoenix at “Pivot,” eight
years after “The Power of Design” conference in Vancouver.
Every theme that Terry foresaw was described again, but this
time there was interest and even appreciation and little, if any, blowback. OK,
there was some moaning about not seeing enough “work,” meaning “pretty design.”
Today, however, everyone is able to see that kind of portfolio work online and in
real time. With access to this work 24/7, what we want to hear about from
designers on stage is their process and approach. We don’t want them to merely
show examples of their work.
AIGA missed the boat to lead the digital,
experience and brand bandwagons, not because it didn’t see the potential but
because it was mired in endless hand-wringing by those members who felt the
most threatened by the new opportunities and interests.
What’s sad about this is that the old guard of AIGA has had a very limited
definition of design. They use the
term as if they own the whole thing—“we’re the
design organization”—but they only mean graphic
design. Design is much bigger than just graphic design. There are
information designers, industrial designers, interaction designers,
environmental designers, brand designers, and, further afield, fashion
designers, interior designers, architects, etc.—all vying for the customer
experience. By making our perspective small, we’ve made our influence small and
ceded influence over the customer experience to others—mostly, to marketing(which has its own huge issues
holding it back from creating better products and services). Yet, the companies we view with the highest regard (well, OK, the
ones everyone else views as design leaders)—Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Target,
Virgin, Herman Miller, FedEx, Whirlpool, Steelcase, Coca-Cola, Roche,
Interface, LVMH, Decathlon, P&G (Oh, God, not P&G!)—view design
holistically and make fewer distinctions between different traditional aspects
This isn’t, of course, to say that graphic design fundamentals are no longer
important. Quite the contrary: They’re more important than ever, and there’s a
wider audience, market and need for designers of all ilk to understand
typography, color, layout, iconography, cartography and information design along with interaction design, design
research, business and sustainability.
But, continuing to define design as only graphic design
or, worse, only “cool,” beautiful graphic design—mostly in print, but sometimes on screen—is serving no one but those
whose careers it commemorates. It doesn’t serve the future: the many, many
designers who work every day without recognition by competitions or
Aren’t designers (of all sorts) more than just style and
surface? Are we not doing something of more value than styling (as important as
that is, of course)? Why can’t this organization be about substance in addition
to style—and why would that be a threat? Why can’t it celebrate design in all
its forms, and not only the traditional, print-based projects? That is what
AIGA’s membership is asking for, in fact, and not to respond to them would be to put a slow bullet in the head of
an organization that could be more like the venerable UK Design Council and less like a
club of amazing but insular experts who wax nostalgic for a world already
changed and rapidly transforming away from history.
I left AIGA 10 years ago because it was moving too slowly
and couldn’t commit to the design interests I saw as leading the future of the
industry. I’m back today because now it is making that commitment, and I’m
excited to be part of that change.
Nathan Shedroff is the chair of the ground-breaking
MBA in Design Strategy at
California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, CA. This program prepares the next-generation of innovation leaders for a world that is profitable, sustainable, ethical, and truly meaningful. The program unites the perspectives of systems thinking,
design and integrative thinking, sustainability, and generative leadership into a holistic strategic framework. Students learn to create innovative products, services, and policy, as well as new business models.
He is a pioneer in Experience Design, Interaction Design and Information Design, speaks and teaches internationally, and is a serial entrepreneur. His many books include:
Experience Design 1.1,
Making Meaning, Design is the Problem,
Design Strategy in Action, and the upcoming
Make It So.
He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from
Presidio Graduate School and a BS in Industrial Design from
Art Center College of Design. He worked with Richard Saul Wurman at TheUnderstandingBusiness and, later, co-founded
vivid studios, a decade-old pioneering company in int
AIGA executive director Ric Grefé comments on recent conversations about AIGA’s role and the criteria for its 2012 “Justified” competition, inviting members to join the discussion, share ideas and make recommendations.
Section: About AIGA -
Competition, AIGA Insight, governance
It’s tempting to cling to craft
and tools as the core of design curricula. But with some research and
experimentation in the classroom, author David Sherwin found a new model for
helping students to become more creative, collaborative and resilient (and more
employable in the process).
Section: Tools and Resources -
job search, professional development, motivation, teaching
Taking the torch passed on by Debbie Millman and all AIGA presidents before him, Doug Powell shares his vision for leading our organization up to its centennial in 2014.
Section: About AIGA -
AIGA Insight, Design for Good, pro bono, social responsibility, governance
Read more at fastcodesign.com
Lead Google Maps designer Jonah Jones describes the process of starting from scratch with the indispensable online wayfinding service that has plotted billions of trips since launching in 2005. With a minimalist interface, contextualized locations, "friendlier" Pegman and vector approach, the new Maps—currently rolling out internationally—represents "the first baby steps towards a new future, half of which we've already imagined, and the other half of which we haven't even conceived of yet."
Section: Inspiration -
information design, in-house design, interaction design, interface design, service design, usability, corporate design, mobile, wayfinding
All around us, we see organizations and communities that need to change. The job for design is everywhere. I would like the people who come through our design education program to become embedded in thousands of places, helping our species evolve from selfish users of resources to expanders and creators of resources. And for that, while there is no “studio” involved, we hope you join us.
Section: Inspiration -
personal essay, graduate, teaching, culture, eco issues, social issues, social responsibility, sustainability, innovation
Striking a balance between accessible and sophisticated, this campaign for a Bay Area arts institution sought to attract area audiences that might be curious about art but intimidated by high culture. “Friendly hip, not hipster hip” was a guiding principle.
Section: Why Design -
advertising, communication design, environmental design, experience design, graphic design, marketing, nonprofit, print design, user research, Competition, mass communication, posters, print advertising, signage, culture, diversity
Matthew Carter, a typographer whose work is marked by a combination of expression and restraint, was one of four cofounders of Bitstream, a digital type foundry based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bitstream was among the first of the independent font foundries. More than a decade later, Carter and Cherie Cone (also one of the Bitstream founders) left to start a smaller company called Carter Cone Type. Here Carter produced some of his finest works: the fonts Elephant, Mantinia, Sophia, Big Caslon, Alisal and Walker. In 1995, he was honored with an AIGA Medal.
Section: Inspiration -
type design, typography, AIGA Medal
When I look back on periods in my life where I struggled to prove myself, and reach the next rung on the ladder of my career, it's amazing to me to discover how much of what I went through then, I am still going through today.
Section: Inspiration -
advertising, corporate design, personal essay, mentoring
Second Story Interactive Studios
There’s no #trouble when you #design with a #treble.
#Musical decorations bring #charm and fun into your #home. http://t.co/G7e3OdK61k
7 minutes ago
VSA Partners, Inc.
Storytellers! We need you!
March 07, 2014
Getty Images Makes Its Stock Photography Free To Use
March 06, 2014
Thirty Conversations on Design
Little & Company
Keep Off the Grass
Volume Inc., San Francisco