AIGA: 100 Years New

Filed Under: About AIGA , AIGA news , Article


Over the past hundred years, AIGA has evolved from a small, New York club of book designers and printers to a global network of multidisciplinary design professionals.

The next century promises more growth and change as we continue to transform in order to better serve design, designers, members and chapters. In keeping with this unwavering focus, AIGA is taking active steps to execute the strategic framework approved by the board of directors earlier this year.


An exciting part of this transition includes the move from AIGA’s 5th Avenue location, the headquarters since 1994, to the historic Woolworth building. When it was completed in 1913, just a year before AIGA itself was founded, the building was the tallest in the world and still has, to this day, one of the most spectacular lobbies, with vaulted ceilings covered in marble, mosaics and stained glass. AIGA’s decidedly less ornate offices on the 17th floor will be designed by Perkins Eastman, who New Yorkers will know for the TKTS booth and staircase in Times Square and the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side. Furnishings will be designed in partnership with Herman Miller’s Living Office, with environmental graphics by Stephen Doyle.

Image of the Woolworth Building


The proceeds of the sale of the former headquarters on 5th Avenue will support four funds to ensure the organization’s future viability. The endowments will be managed by TIAA-CREF, the largest and most respected investment advisor of educational, cultural and non-profit organizations.

Graph of AIGA funds


In October, task forces from around the country will provide recommendations for how AIGA can evolve most effectively.

Chapter Innovation Fund imageExpanding Design's Influence imageMember Participation image

Additional support will be targeted toward:


Stay tuned for more information on specific plans for FY 2015, updates on the move to the Woolworth Building and a call for proposals for the AIGA 2020 Fund.

In the meantime, we continue to pursue our vision for 2020 to develop and promote principles and programs that strengthen the relevance, leadership and opportunity for every member and to develop systems that support all chapters.

Fall 2014 schedule for AIGAWinter 2015 schedule for AIGASpring 2015 schedule for AIGA


Why is AIGA moving?
In today's environment of rapid change, the organizations that can succeed most effectively will be those that are agile and flexible. A membership organization should also determine whether it makes more sense to hold members’ equity in real estate rather than reinvesting it in the mission of the organization. With this move, AIGA is reducing fixed assets, strengthening liquidity and investing in the future of the organization by funding significant endowments and initiatives for growth.

Design has moved beyond the artifact alone, to include concept, strategy and experience, which can be better defined in narrative than object. As AIGA's membership has grown nationally, it has become clear that it can provide inspiration to many more of its members online than it can in a physical gallery.

Furthermore, the current building is too large for staff functions and is not as effective a space as needed because staff members who need to collaborate are spread over four floors. The decision to sell the building is consistent with AIGA's strategic direction as it prepare for its second century.

Who bought it and what do they plan to do with it?
Thor Equities, a respected developer with a number of properties on Fifth Avenue, has acquired the building and offered it as a high end retail property.

How much did the building sell for?
$23 million

How much did AIGA pay for the building?
In 1994, AIGA paid $1.2 million for the building and invested about $2.5 million in renovating the property over the next 20 years.

Where are the proceeds of the sale invested?
The funds are invested with TIIA-CREF, which focuses on investing retirement programs and endowments for not-for-profit organizations, particularly educational institutions. TIAA-CREF has more than 90 years' experience, $619 billion under management and 300 investment professionals. Their results have been recognized by the industry:

  • TIAA-CREF Funds ranked in the top 25% of the mutual fund families surveyed in the 2013 Lipper/Barron’s Fund Family Survey.2
  • TIAA-CREF is one of the top ten managers of equity assets based on institutional tax-exempt assets under management.3
  • TIAA-CREF is one of the top ten managers of fixed-income assets based on institutional tax-exempt assets under management.3
  • TIAA-CREF is one of the top five real estate managers of U.S. institutional tax-exempt assets.4

AIGA's funds are invested in four accounts, each with a diversified portfolio with an investment strategy appropriate to the fund's use.

Why couldn't we have rented out the building?
Renting out the building would not have resulted in the creation of endowments to support member activities. Typically nonprofits are not well equipped to being landlords; we would rather focus on serving members than tenants.

Will there be a gallery in the new office space?
No. The board has empowered a broad based task force to review alternate options for expanding the influence of design, which may include a recommendation for a gallery or ways in which AIGA could curate exhibitions that would appear in other galleries around the country. This task force is also expected to propose ways in which AIGA's digital assets can be used to influence a greater understanding of design, its impact and value.

Who selected the new space?
The building committee consists of Anthony Russell, former AIGA president; Sean Adams, AIGA Medalist and current president; Su Mathews, president-elect; Ken Carbone, AIGA Medalist and current board member; and Richard Grefé, executive director. The committee defined the criteria for the space and evaluated alternatives presented by AIGA's real estate advisor, Anthony Stapleton of Cogswell Realty, who worked with AIGA exploring options in all New York City neighborhoods.

What neighborhood will the new offices be in?
The new office will be in the downtown civic and financial district. This neighborhood of Manhattan is the most reasonably priced and is attracting an increasing number of creative firms that are moving out of the more expensive Midtown South neighborhood where AIGA was previously located. The committee also felt it was appropriate for design's advocacy efforts to be located in an historic business area.

Why is AIGA staying in New York at all?
The idea of distributing AIGA's national functions to offices around the country was considered by the building committee. However, it was felt that it may be premature, given all of the other strategic changes AIGA is implementing at this time. In any case, one location where it will always be appropriate to have a presence is New York. The ten-year lease on a new office provides a period of time during which the AIGA board and chapter leadership can discuss the possibilities for distributed functions by 2025.

Who is designing the new space?
The architect for the new space will be Nick Leahy of PerkinsEastman; Herman Miller is working with AIGA on the space planning and furnishings; and Stephen Doyle of Doyle Partners is serving as graphic designer and creative advisor on the experience of the space.