How to Run a Successful Student Group
How to Run a Successful Student Group
How to Run a Successful Student Group

Responsibilities of a student group officer

As a student group officer, you have been appointed by the faculty advisor along with the guidance of the department faculty to be a leader of this group. Because of your passion, enthusiasm, skill leadership potential and other factors, you have been given the honor of representing AIGA at your school. As representative and a student officer, you are expected to fulfill certain responsibilities:

You will familiarize yourself with the mission of AIGA and you are dedicated towards furthering that mission.

You will educate other students on the purpose and mission of AIGA.

You will familiarize yourself with the standards and ethics upheld by the organization As a student and a designer, you will conduct yourself in a manner in keeping with these standards and ethics.

You will carry your local chapter's message to the student community.

AIGA is a professional organization. The conduct and etiquette of a student group officer should follow that of a professional. It is an honor to be selected as a leader of any organization, and a student group officer should present him/herself in the manner of the local board of directors.

Student group officer duties and activities

Student officers must also agree to take responsibility for fulfill certain functions including:

  • Serving as a liaison to the chapter board.
  • Attending all student group meetings.
  • Keeping faculty advisor and national office informed of current contact information.
  • Serving as a leader to the student group.
  • Actively promote AIGA and student group.
  • Creating and organizing effective events and activities.
  • Attending local chapter events.
  • Performing duties and activities outlined by specific office held.

Student group officer duties and activities description

Serving as a liaison to the chapter board
Each AIGA chapter has a responsibility of service to its community. The student group of a chapter has a responsibility to carry its parent chapter’s message to the student community, and vise versa.

Depending on the size of your local AIGA chapter, the student liaison may or may not be in direct contact with the local board of directors. Ideally, the student officer would communicate through the education chair or student group's faculty advisor. Student group decisions generally should be made within the student board of directors with the assistance of the faculty advisor. Only when local or national resources or decisions are needed, would the student group approach the local board of directors. At all times, however, the student group should keep the local board of directors informed on events, decisions and progress through the suggested channels.

Attending all student group meetings
Each student officer is expected to attend all student group meetings. Every effort should be made by the faculty advisor to consult with student officers to select a regular meeting schedule.

Keeping faculty advisor and national office informed of current contact information
Having current information both at the local and national level is key to providing you with information and resources, thus maximizing your benefit of being a member. The organization can not do this without your involvement. At the beginning of each month, the faculty advisor will contact you to verify your contact information. Information includes: student’s name, daytime and home phone numbers, e-mail address, mailing address, expected graduation date and major. Each student group member is expected to reply to the faculty advisor indicating whether information is correct. Students should also login to the AIGA website ( and update their profile, including making sure they are linked to the student group. They will need their login id and password in order to log in and create or update their profile (there is always a “Send me my login information” link on a login page).

Serving as a leader to the student group
You are a member of the largest professional organization serving the communication design profession. Be proud! As an officer in a student group of that organization, you are expected to carry the purpose of AIGA and the vision of your local chapter to the members of your group. Student members will look to you for guidance, information and leadership. The faculty advisor is there to guide, consult and provide leadership as well. Ultimately, the group will be what you make it to be. You have the power to motivate other students, show by example, share your knowledge and ideas. This is your group-run with it!

Actively promote AIGA and student group
This can be done in a variety of ways. In order to be effective, you first have to familiarize yourself with the mission of AIGA. The website, journals, publications and other mailings are excellent resources. Students can organize an “open house” meeting, inviting all design students, a bulletin board can be put up in a common area and used to display materials. Often the most effective means is to simply talk to other students on a one-on-one basis. In New Orleans, officers in one of the student groups visit design classes to introduce themselves and talk about their group and the purpose of AIGA. Often this results in students showing up for the next meeting and wanting to join and be involved.

Creating and organizing effective events and activities
When creating events for your student group, always begin by polling your target audience for what their interests are. In most cases, your target audience is you. Generally, the events you create will have been events students in the past have requested, and will be the same events the following students will want. Plan and organize your events as though they will be the standard for years to come. (More on effective events and activities in Programming)

Attending local chapter events
One of the benefits of being a student member is being able to attend local chapter events, often for free or significant discounts. As an officer, you are expected to attend as many chapter functions as possible. This provides a great networking opportunity and learning experience. Stay informed of what your local chapter is doing, and inform your group as well.

Performing duties and activities outlined by specific office held
The faculty advisor invites students to hold specific offices-forming a student board of directors. The number of positions may vary depending on the size of the particular group. Every student group should fill the following positions:

President: Leads the meetings. Meets with faculty advisor on agenda of meetings, delegates to other officers and facilitates group functions, serves as representative of group to local chapter, the school and students, provides programming ideas. Should keep aware of what is going on in community that would be relevant for student designers, and provide them with information.

Vice president: Assists the president, if president is absent performs president duties.

Secretary: Keeps agenda records, documentation of meetings on file, records documentation/summaries of events and activities. These records should be shared with the faculty advisor and the education chair of the local chapter.

Treasurer: Takes money at events, provides treasurer's report at meeting and assists faculty advisor in keeping track of funds. Not required to hold funds.

Director of communications: Keeps the student members reminded of ongoing progress and upcoming events. Keeps school, department faculty and students informed of group events and activities. Responsible for communicating with other communication directors of student groups. Communication is cornerstone of a successful student group. Use email or Slack.

Programming officer: When events and activities are decided upon, this officer outlines the necessary steps, appoints a chairperson, keeps in close contact with progress and reports to the board. Stays current and reports on what local chapter is doing. Generates ideas, looks for programming within school, in cooperation with other schools, and involving community.

Membership officer: Assists faculty advisor in distributing and collecting applications, keeps record of membership and contact information for each member.

Other officer positions can be appointed as needed.

Tips for effective student groups

Presidential Kick-off.
As an AIGA president or colleague of one, it’s hard to imagine what one looks like in a student's mind. They’re “Somebody!” They're “Big Time.” They’re a quick fast way to gain some excitement by having them visit your school to kick off a student group. Generally, there is no more passionate AIGA member than the chapter president. This is the passion you need to rub off on a student to get excited about forming a student group.

Keep it simple. Keep it cheap. Keep it fun.Students like cheap and fun, but have a hard time grasping simple. They have big ideas and are going to change the world with what they think they can do. Effective planning and programming is at its best when it is simple, cheap and fun.

Be creative. It's what we do.


Sponsorship possibilities for student programming
One of the challenges of running any nonprofit organization is finding the funds to produce effective programming. Area businesses may be willing to assist you in your mission. Businesses to approach can be anyone trying to reach the student group demographic. Art supply centers, craft stores, computer sellers, paper merchants, quick copy shops, restaurants, banks, record stores, etc. It's important to think about the topic of your event, your needs and then approach your potential sponsor.

Match your sponsor to your event. Let's say, for example, you have a workshop on resume writing. Approach a quick copy center who specializes in selling paper and reproducing resumes. Maybe they would pick up the tab for the refreshments you would like to offer, for the chance to gain awareness for their resume production services. Don't be afraid to ask for a donation to your group, either.

Base your programming around something different. Approach a local music album reseller as a sponsor and potential speaker (or even an event location). Invite a professional designer to come and critique cool album covers being sold by the record store. The music store may offer to feed everyone, give discounts on music or even donate some money to your group for the awareness.

It's important to think creatively in your situation. Your goal is to not lose money at an event. Try to break even or not pay anything for an event.

Creating effective events and activities
When creating events for your student group, always begin by polling your target audience for what their interests are. In most cases, your target audience is you. Generally, the events you create will have been events students in the past have requested, and will be the same events the following students will want. Plan and organize your events as though they will be the standard for years to come.

  • Think simple, think small. If an AIGA chapter is located nearby, take advantage of their list of programming and events. The quickest way to plan an activity is to program around the chapter events. One suggestion is to organize a team of students to offer assistance to the chapter committees to aid in programming. This will instantly fall in to the “we want to rub elbows with the pros” category.
  • Get more educated. Find a design topic your school lacks the resources to teach, and contact a local professional to teach or lead a workshop on that topic. Resume writing, portfolio theory, advanced software techniques, etc., are simple ideas to base a workshop on. Think evening, and be respectful of your visiting professional's time.
  • Field trips. Remember the trip to the zoo in sixth grade? You learned more about the grizzly bear from that one trip than any biology course you have ever taken. Same with a trip to a local printer, film separator, design firm or paper merchant. These trips may not be readily available in your existing curriculum, and it is so easy to pick up the phone and call a printer for a visit. You are future business to these printers and paper merchants, and they want to get to know you now. Take advantage of this educational opportunity.
  • Get to know the professionals. Students can learn about the real world from two outstanding events: the Studio Tour and the Student Portfolio Review. In Philadelphia, top studios agreed to have host an evening where the students can go visit a real design environment. Each studio hosts a small number of students and after the tour, the students enjoy pizza with the pros! Annual student portfolio reviews are the biggest and most popular event for many student groups. Organized by the education chairperson, other local chapter board of directors and an appointed chairperson, AIGA members and other invited design professionals spend a day reviewing the portfolios of student members. The day closes with a panel discussion, where students can ask questions and professionals can share experiences.
  • Program for your faculty. Learn what your faculty needs in order to advance their education or interests. Maybe it’s inviting a local professional to come and discuss what they are looking for in new talent entering the marketplace. This will allow the faculty to adjust their curricula or get ideas of how to educate you. This is also a benefit to the local AIGA chapter as a catalyst for discussion between schools and the design firms or agencies.
  • Program to raise money. In St. Louis, local student groups are asked to run coat checks for donations. Also, some chapters may have money to pay student groups for administrative work for the chapter. Or offer intern-like services to local design firms to raise money for the group. Be creative! Try to avoid bake sales and car washes! Leave that to the greeks on campus, and find ways to educate yourself on design, network with professionals and raise money at the same time.
  • Community service programming. Many cities already have youth groups and schools looking for volunteers to assist in programming and educating. One purpose of AIGA is to educate the public on design and its value. Offer your group time to visit youth-oriented art education programs and take a chance at promoting the profession.
  • Partnering with student groups at other schools. One major benefit to becoming active in AIGA is networking. There is no better time to begin networking with fellow designers than at the student level. The relationships you start now with your classmates and other students can last your entire career. You have a limited number of future colleagues in your immediate classroom environment.
  • If your student group is near others, consider sharing resources and programming. It takes a large amount of effort to plan, organize and throw an event. Share, share, share the work load. If one student group holds an event, open it up to other student groups to participate not only by attending, but in planning as well.
  • Share a programming calendar. Work with other groups to plan a well-rounded calendar of student events at each school. If one school holds a resume workshop, share it with the others. If another school sets up one studio visit, set up two or three for your fellow student groups. It is important to remember, we are all in this profession together.
  • Bring faculty together. Want to make your school a better school? Organize a faculty appreciation luncheon for the schools in your region. If your local chapter organizes a student portfolio review, hold it there. Poll other schools for what works at their schools and share it at these meetings. Do what you can to improve what you pay for.
  • Bring students together. There are several activities and events which bring student members together and build a strong group. They create a strong sense of community among the members, and increase the benefit of being members. They are simple to do and require minimum funding!

A newsletter can be created to share within the student group and with other groups. Content can be any of the following: internship and job opportunities, collected writings from professional designers, tip and trick for software applications, upcoming events and more. This can be a great opportunity for student officers and members to work on a single project together. Think simple and think FREE! A simple e-mail delivering the collected content would suffice.

Design critiques in which students get together from various classes and critique and review their current projects. The faculty advisor should attend and give guidance. Often students only get feedback from their class during a particular semester. A design critique outside of class helps to give the students new perspective on their own projects and allows them to see what other students are working on. This activity serves to further the students' ability to analyze and critique. As an added incentive, groups can enjoy lunch and raffle design books and supplies at the end of critique.

Design contests. With the help of their faculty advisor, student groups can organize their own design contests. Professional members in the area or school faculty can serve as judges and prizes can be donated. In New Orleans, a student group has held poster, T-shirt and even button design contests. The faculty judged the entries and the winners were announced department wide. Prizes were paid for from donations from the school and were given away at an assembly of the whole department for maximum visibility and recognition. These contests bring students together, promote good design, educate the student and promote the student group.

Dues, reimbursements and funding

AIGA chapters are reimbursed $20 for each student affiliated with the chapter, regardless of whether the student is part of a student group. Chapters are encouraged to make a portion of these dues reimbursements available to student groups in their area.

Chapters have developed different mechanisms for facilitating this:

  • Some chapters have a formal student relief fund. Student officers must submit a program summary outlining the content and why they need funding from their local chapter. Students should be encouraged to create relevant programming Faculty advisors are responsible for guiding their student groups through this process.
  • Some chapters allocate money through a scholarship fund. Chapters are encouraged to communicate with one another on experiences and practices regarding scholarships.
  • Some chapters give a set amount to the student group, such as $5 per student.

    It is up to the chapter to determine how much to give each group, but at a minimum, if a group asks for funding, the chapter should find a way to accommodate the request as long as the programming is relevant to the mission and purpose of AIGA.

Guidelines for using AIGA identity

Standards for using the AIGA logo identity do exist and should be used. You may request a copy of the guidelines from the national office.

The student group may use the AIGA name and logo in conjunction with the name of the student group, i.e., AIGA Arizona State University Student Group. The proper terminology is “student group,” not “student chapter.”