AIGA archives and special collections

Filed Under: About AIGA

The AIGA archives are digital and offline resources that identify records of enduring value, preserve their legacy, and support research. Want to help us continue to protect and share great design works? Make a contribution.

Hours

  • Monday, Thursday, Friday, 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
  • Summer hours (July 4–Labor Day): Monday, Thursday, 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Friday, 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. on Fridays.
  • Closed for weekends, holidays, and national AIGA events 

Appointments and tours

  • Nonmember: $25 per person
  • AIGA member: Free for active memberships
  • Appointments must be made at least a week in advance. No walk-ins accepted.

To access the institutional archives at the AIGA national office, or for more information about our special collections, email our archivist Heather Strelecki or call 212 710 3145.

Exhibitions and loans

At this time, materials from AIGA's archives and special collections are not available for traveling exhibition. AIGA is currently seeking funds to build capacity for its exhibition program. Donate now.

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The collections

AIGA Institutional Archives

The Archives Room (formerly the AdamsMorioka Archives Vault at the AIGA National Design Center on Fifth Avenue), is an invaluable resource to AIGA staff, members, and design scholars. Artifacts from the institutional archives Include works from 1914 to the present, the materials serve as the memory of the organization’s extensive history and association with the century’s most influential designers.

More than 1,500 unique items are housed in this archive. The bulk of the collection consists of printed records created by and for AIGA, including: exhibition catalogues and design annuals documenting the selections from AIGA competitions since 1915; newsletters and journals published since 1922; AIGA conference materials produced since 1985; and a flat file for the works of AIGA medalists. The Archive Room complements the online AIGA Design Archives, as well as the physical archives of AIGA design competition entries dating back to 1980, which are housed at the Denver Art Museum.

Research Guides
For AIGA Medalists, research guides are being compiled to surface related content from articles, books, exhibitions and events, websites and online collections, audio and video. Located beneath each Medalist essay as additional resources, research guides and are available for Saul Bass, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom GeismarMilton Glaser, Leo Lionni, Herb LubalinHerbert Matter, Massimo and Lella Vignelli, and Henry Wolf.

To assist you in your design history research, AIGA has compiled a list of additional design resources and archives.

Google Art Projects
Online exhibitions are sourced from AIGA’s extensive archive of design excellence as well as content created for AIGA.org. Currently focused on AIGA’s strategic initiatives, Diversity & Inclusion and Design for Democracy, there are three curated exhibitions: African American Culture and History: An AIGA Design Journey, AIGA Get Out the Vote 2016, Across Borders: A Look at the Work of Latinx Designers. Learn more at Google Cultural Institute.

Social Media Campaigns
October 2016, AIGA participated for the first time in American Archives Month, a national awareness campaign organized by the Society of American Archivists. Each day, items were featured from AIGA's archives and special collections and tagged #AIGAarchives. Since then, we've launched a campaign around the historic 50 Books | 50 Covers competition and tagged selections #AIGA5050. Follow @AIGAdesign on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

AIGA Get Inspired!
From 2008, created by then AIGA board member Kenna Kay and her team at TV Land, this seven-minute video introduces you to some of the people who make AIGA the premier association for design. Many of the artifacts came from AIGA’s archives and special collections.

A Tradition Over Time
Designed and developed by For Office Use Only, “A Tradition Over Time: AIGA Design Conference, 1985-2003” was created for the 2005 conference which was held in Boston. This Flash timeline celebrates the rich history of the AIGA Design Conference through oral tradition and features artifacts from AIGA’s archives and special collections.

Online AIGA Design Archives

AIGA Design Archives is one of the richest online resources available to those who practice, study and appreciate great design. It represents the quality of work being created, as well as shifting aesthetics and sensibilities of the designers of the day. Included in this resource are more than 20,000 selections from AIGA’s national juried design competitions, held annually and dating from 1924 through the present. In addition, it features special collections of major American design firms and practitioners whose design accomplishments might otherwise not be preserved online or made available to the public. These now include the work of Chermayeff & Geismar (1960–2006), Vignelli Associates (1962–2008), Push Pin Graphic (1960–2005), and Richard Danne (1958–2010).

The online experience, initially developed and redesigned by Second Story Interactive Studios, features easier and deeper searches, faster results, live filtering, improved navigation, new presentation modes and the ability to share inspiration on social networking sites. View all available work, including selections that are housed at the Denver Art Museum, at designarchives.aiga.org.

AIGA Archives at the Denver Art Museum

Gifted to the Denver Art Museum (DAM) in 2006, the AIGA Archives at the Denver Art Museum represents the largest and most comprehensive holding of contemporary American communication design in the world. Consisting of approximately 12,000 physical artifacts created from about 1980 to 2012, the collection recognizes award-winning entries made to the organization’s annual competitions. It complements AIGA’s annual publication documenting AIGA’s activities and competitions during this period.

The collection is a celebration across all disciplines of communication design—packaging, corporate communications, brand and identity systems, typography, editorial design and illustration, and experience design, among others. The materials reflect major design trends as well as many of the leading design firms and individual designers within the United States during this 32–year period, such as Gail Anderson, Michael Bierut, Sylvia Harris, Jennifer Morla, Stefan Sagmeister, and Paula Scher, to name only a few.

It also includes a broad range of materials including: bound and unbound paper-based objects, metal, textiles, glass, plastic, multimedia, electronic media, and food- and toiletry-based packaging.

By making a major commitment to building one of the preeminent modern and contemporary design collections in the United States, the DAM has become a pioneer among museums, and was selected to receive the AIGA Design Archives based on its longstanding dedication to design as well as its location, which is accessible to designers, students, and researchers outside the immediate vicinity of the more traditional New York or West Coast locus of graphic design.

When combined with the DAM’s growing collection of contemporary design, the AIGA Design Archives provides visitors with an even more enlightening and dynamic narrative of design from the era. The physical objects are utilized by the Denver Art Museum as an exhibiting collection and serve to educate future generations on the antecedents and evolution of this confluence of art and commerce.

Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University’s Butler Library

During AIGA’s first century, juried selections from its longest-running annual book design competition, "Fifty Books of the Year" (now known as “50 Books | 50 Covers”), were collected in order to demonstrate the principles of good design and craftsmanship in the manufacture of contemporary American books.

These selections are held at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML) at Columbia University’s Butler Library in New York City, where Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt (formerly of the Gutenberg Museum in Germany) was named curator of the rare book department in 1930. As a member of the Typophiles, another New York not-for-profit organization, he initiated a relationship between the organizations that included an annual book deposit from AIGA of the year’s best designed books and book covers to the RBML, including titles dating back to 1923.

The history of printing and the book arts are strengths of RBML. The collection includes more than 5,000 books recognized for design excellence from nearly nine decades of AIGA competitions and is available for on-site use by researchers.

The AIGA archives and special collections are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.