A vision for AIGA in 2020

As AIGA approaches its centennial year in 2014, we are spending a lot of time thinking about what’s next. How do we best serve the scores of current, past and future design practitioners and advocates who belong to AIGA?

Having just returned from AIGA’s annual leadership retreat where 250 volunteer chapter board members gathered to consider the next year and beyond and to exchange ideas and best practices, I’m awed once again by the energy, foresight and enthusiasm of this group—and by extension, the entire membership.

We will work to achieve the following vision of what AIGA will look like in 2020, developed from the recommendations and aspirations that members have expressed over the past four years in conversations, interviews, surveys and focus groups. And of course, we’ll continue to refine the vision based on future interactions, so I encourage you to share your thoughts!

There will be a global brand based on AIGA’s legacy, scale, and leadership in developing and promoting the design profession. The immediate AIGA experience will be at the individual member level, among self-organizing communities of members and at the chapter level. The national presence will develop and promote common principles and programs that strengthen the relevance, leadership and opportunity for every member and to develop systems that support all chapters.

Membership will reach 60,000, and will be served be 75 chapters in North America and 10 global affiliates.  

AIGA will be the standard-bearer for professionalism in design practice and will be one of several respected voices in celebrating the value of design worldwide. 

AIGA will focus more on facilitating opportunities for member engagement, member-originated content, member involvement and the expression of personal opinion than on reinforcing a central authority on design, professionalism and values. 

AIGA will offer daily online examples of design excellence, with opportunities for member input as well as expert jury opinion. Design excellence will be defined by criteria of aesthetics, creation of value for clients and social responsibility. National efforts to bring attention to extraordinary effective design will be based on new models for competitions and/or curatorial selections, always respecting opportunities for stimulating discussion among all members. 

AIGA will develop programs and activities that highlight opportunities for social responsibility, social engagement, sustainability, multiculturalism and diversity. These are critical to the long-term strength and relevance of the profession and AIGA. 

In content, AIGA programs will reflect design’s creativity, originality and inspiration and also business practices, leadership, values, ethics and standards. In tone, AIGA activities will reflect the ages, experience levels and interests of members, in all their diversity and differences. 

In advocating design’s value to business, AIGA will focus on the results of design strategy as a competitive advantage at the national level, developing case studies of business effectiveness and defining the value of design on business objectives. At the same time, AIGA will encourage activities that celebrate design’s virtuosity and inspiring creativity with activities at the chapter and member level. 

AIGA will place a higher priority on contributing to long-term benefits for the profession, such as building stronger demand for design in the future, and less emphasis on tangible individual member benefits. 

Members will have ample opportunities to engage in networking activities, to create content and make connections. Opportunities will be online and in person; the AIGA experience will be defined from the bottom up rather than top down. 

The model for conferences will involve more regional and local gatherings, with resources invested primarily in the development and distribution of digital video programming. More content will be available on the website, with particular attention paid to where the line is drawn for access by nonmembers. 

AIGA will focus its conferences, webcasts and workshops on helping the design profession think through the future and the complexity of context in a constantly changing world. Like the Aspen Institute, it will focus on the big issues. It will become an issues manager, and an editor and aggregator of content. 

Non-dues revenue will increase because of the line drawn between member and nonmember access to web content and event discounts. A broader membership will help AIGA attract greater sponsorship and advertising opportunities. 

Members will have access to a strong core of national programs for professional development, particularly for midcareer designers to develop leadership skills. For students, AIGA will help to guide them from school to studio with programs and information to prepare them for a productive professional experience. 

With its educator members, AIGA will lead the national discussion of design education and curriculum development, representing a progressive voice in national educational forums for design education, and incorporating design curriculum into general education.

Although members will receive a limited number of signature print pieces each year, AIGA will distribute content primarily in digital form, for reasons of sustainability, economics and reach.

Designers will become involved with AIGA as a way of assuming a role in the broader business, social and cultural environments, both in the United States and abroad.

AIGA will develop collaborative relationships with organizations outside the design field, to expand appreciation of the value of design and to seek a leadership position for its members in international design forums and among social entrepreneurs.

The mantra about the nature of a designer’s contribution will be “Head, Heart and Hand,” reflecting interrelated elements of strategy, social impact and the craft of design.

We’ll be posting articles here regularly to report on progress, as well as communicating to members through monthly newsletters and updates. As always, your thoughtful commentary is welcome.

About the Author: Richard Grefé is the director emeritus of AIGA, the professional association for design, the oldest and largest professional association of designers in the United States representing the interests of 27,000 designers working in a variety of communication media and dimensions, ranging from type and book designers to new media and experience designers. AIGA, o ver twenty years under Ric’s aegis, has become a leading advocate for the value of designing, as a way of thinking and as a means of creating strategic value for business, the civic realm and social change. Currently he is teaching “Human-centered designn for social change” at Wesleyan University. Ric earned a BA from Dartmouth College in economics, worked in intelligence in Asia, reported from the Bronx County Courthouse for AP, wrote for Time magazine on business and the economy and then earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Following an early career in urban design and public policy consulting, Ric managed the association responsible for strategic planning and legislative advocacy for public television and led a think tank on the future of public television and radio in Washington.