How will AIGA change in 2010 and beyond?

Now that the new year and new decade are underway, I want to update you on our progress on the “Mandate for 2014,” developed at the 2009 Leadership Retreat as a result of members' feedback on the direction AIGA should take as we approach the centennial, to ensure that the organization will be increasingly relevant, exciting and responsive to the challenges we are all facing.

Referring back to our explanation of the mandate published last year, here's an update of activities in progress.

AIGA will provide ample opportunities for members to engage in social networking activities, to provide content and make connections… both online and in person.

  • My AIGA, the customizable portal site for your transactions with AIGA, allows you to quickly find out the status of your membership and personalize the information you'd like to see. As more widgets are completed, members will be able to collect design news and AIGA information in one convenient place. Over time the site will provide the tools for members to build more detailed profiles in order to connect with other members, find government contract work or connect with nonprofits for social outreach, for example.

  • The AIGA Member Gallery, powered by the Behance Network, launched recently, allowing members to more broadly expose their work, be discovered more easily by potential employers and clients, and showcase their work in a professional atmosphere. As members continue to add their portfolios, interaction among designers will increase through shared projects, collaboration and feedback.

  • will undergo a series of transformations this year in order to better serve and represent the interests and opportunities available to members. We are working with Method on a redesign of the site—aimed at improving navigation, content and media experiences, and social engagement—to be launched this year.

Conferences will shift to more regional and local gatherings; more resources will be invested in the development and distribution of digital audio and video programming.

  • More than 1,500 design professionals, educators and students gathered in Memphis for “Make/Think: AIGA Design Conference” last fall, but many more have been able to get inspired in the proceeding weeks through audio presentations, closed-captioned videos and transcripts posted on the AIGA website. We remain committed to sharing this content with the public in order to stimulate thinking about design and bring awareness to the wealth of knowledge our community offers.

  • Stanley Hainsworth and Kenna Kay, AIGA board members, are working with an advisory committee to program an even richer Gain: AIGA Design and Business Conference in October 2010, the culmination of an annual week of design-centered activities. This year's “Gain” will rethink some of the ways of presenting ideas in a conference setting, with expanded content to be shared during and after the event.

  • The 2011 Design Conference will be held in Phoenix, and is certain to present a different experience than the one in Memphis. We'll be working over the next year to develop its theme, and we welcome ideas from members.

AIGA will focus on identifying new sources of non-dues revenue, drawing a much clearer line between member and nonmember access to web content.

  • Members can expect to find greater access to exclusive content and resources on the redesigned AIGA website. In the coming months we expect to make decisions on which content is for members only; a board task force is currently researching comparable organizations to inform those decisions.

  • The website will begin featuring sponsored content from design-focused partners, whether in the form of tasteful online advertising or media such as white papers and tutorials.

  • AIGA and Mohawk are currently working on enabling chapters to establish their own stores on the Felt and Wire Shop. This will increase the ability for chapters to generate modest non-dues revenue, promote members' work and reach broader audiences.

AIGA will shift to distributing content primarily in digital form, for reasons of sustainability, economics and reach.

  • AIGA has invested in the development of Design Archives 2.0, which will launch later this week. The online archives, which contain more than 20,000 examples of design excellence dating back to 1924, will now provide faster and more robust search capabilities, more visual presentation options, share functions and improved navigation.

  • To capitalize on the improved Design Archives while still showcasing the selections of the 2009 competitions, 365: AIGA Year in Design 30 will be a companion digital publication for members. Designed by Omnivore, the 2010 annual is a PDF including juror comments, full credits and direct links to each entry in Design Archives, where readers can find more work by each designer, watch motion-based work and explore the breadth of this wonderful resource.

AIGA will offer daily online examples of design excellence, with opportunities for member input as well as expert jury opinion. Design excellence will be embodied in criteria of aesthetics, creation of value for clients and social responsibility.

  • We will publish a new online collection of handpicked daily design inspiration called Design Envy. While the juried competitions rely on work that's been submitted, this web feature allows our “judges” to look anywhere in the world for examples of powerful and effective design. We look forward to seeing what the first curators present and the lively discussions that are sure to follow.

In addition to all the changes outlined, AIGA will work toward building a strong core of programs for professional development, particularly for mid-career designers and in the fostering of leadership skills, as well as finding better and easier ways for designers to assume a role in the broader business, social and cultural environments, both in the United States and abroad.

Because this is happening at a time when the Great Recession has affected both the design economy and the resources available to AIGA, we must emphasize what we can do as opposed to what we might like to do. The new activities being introduced will help transform the institution to be more vital than ever going into its second century; as a result we will curtail activities that conflict with the mandate and suspend others due to budget constraints. Each of AIGA's constituencies—members, students, educators and supporters—may experience some loss, but we hope that by placing these activities in context, you will understand better where we are headed.

The road to fulfilling the mandate extends beyond what we can accomplish in these 12 months. Still, we plan to make great strides in 2010, and we look forward to serving the profession this year and for the next hundred.

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.