AIGA is always reviewing its programs to ensure that what we
offer is in line with what members want and need. Although we are a century-old
institution, we have remained vital over the years by adapting and not simply sticking
with legacy activities. Through member surveys, conversations with stakeholders
and, most recently, sessions at “Pivot: AIGA Design Conference” last fall, we
have been examining our annual design competitions and their role.
The context has changed significantly since AIGA began its
competitions nearly 100 years ago: Inspiration is now accessible 24/7 online,
and designers can gain exposure for their work by publishing it online themselves,
rather than waiting to be selected and published by an annual competition. The
idea of a single jury meeting once a year to review past design for publication
in the future seems anachronistic to how design is shared, discussed and
critiqued in our daily lives. The issue is not with the value of a juried competition; it is with how slow and retrospective the process appears when so many receive daily alerts to blogs celebrating great design every day.
What’s more, the playing field has changed: With dozens of
publishers and organizations offering competitions, the best examples of contemporary design do not necessarily get entered in any single competition. Hence, no single competition can
truly be a comprehensive review of the year’s design achievements if it must depend upon what is entered. “The
bellwether of design excellence for 2011” would be a presumptuous statement for
any competition in this era of such fragmented participation. That reality—that no one place is THE place for great design to be showcased—also makes competitions less crucial to individual designers and as a resource for design audiences.
AIGA is not shying away from honoring stellar design. It is
simply trying to find new ways to do so, with:
One of AIGA’s competitions remains important in the field of book and cover design, and there is little in the way of competing juried selections: “50 Books/50 Covers.” AIGA is partnering with Design Observer and Designers & Books to continue the legacy of this competition—the competition chairs will be William Drenttel, publisher and editorial director of Design Observer Group, and Steve Kroeter, editor in chief of Designers & Books. A call for entries will be issued in the spring, a jury will convene in the summer and the announcement of selections will occur in the fall. Selections will be widely published and entered in the AIGA Design Archives.
The question becomes: With all of these activities, are
design competitions still the best way for AIGA to demonstrate the power of
design to business leaders, media and the broader public?
These developments, when coupled with AIGA members’
consistent urging to create more stories and case studies not only showing
design but also describing how design has created value for clients and made an
impact, suggest it is time to approach AIGA competitions from a new
Our competition for 2012, “Justified: AIGA Design Competition,”
invites designers to submit examples of projects from all media and communication design
disciplines, in the form of images and a description of the work’s impact. “Justified”
represents the next generation of AIGA’s competitions and seeks stories that
reveal the value design creates for clients.
AIGA believes its role is to reinforce all the dimensions of
The focus of AIGA’s criteria may vary in emphasis among these
characteristics, but they will never ignore the critical contribution of each
in any successful design.
Case studies created for “Justified” will communicate the power of design that’s
brilliantly executed—that reveals the role of a designer in a project, the
range of contributions a designer can make, and the effectiveness of design—to
audiences beyond our own profession. “Justified” invites work from all forms of visual communication, including books, branding, entertainment,
experience design, information design, organizational design, packaging, promotion
and service design.
We encourage you to participate; entries are due by March 31. This
next stage in AIGA’s competition history will showcase great design while saying
so much more.
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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