How Medalists are chosen

Filed Under: Inspiration , AIGA Medal

The AIGA Medal—the most distinguished in the field—is awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements, services, or other contributions to the advancement of design in practice, teaching, writing, or leadership of the profession. This award celebrates designers who represent the highest aspirations of our members.

Medals have been awarded since 1920 to individuals who have set standards of excellence over a lifetime of work or have made individual contributions to innovation within the practice of design.

As a whole, the group of Medalists should represent the design community’s diversity of gender, practice, and ethnicity. Individuals may work in any country, but the contribution they’re honored for should have had a significant impact on the practice of design in the United States. Designers may be honored posthumously.


To nominate a colleague, mentor, or inspirational individual simply complete the nomination form including the name, a short paragraph about why the individual should be considered, and a link to their website or portfolio. Nominations are accepted on a rolling basis and are considered year after year for the next awards cycle. Each Fall (October/November), nominations for the AIGA Medal are reviewed by an awards subcommittee of the national board of directors to verify eligibility. Yearly recommendations for Medal awards are then presented to the entire board for majority approval. The national board approves a slate of Medalists, and does not propose or reject individual names recommended by the committee.

The 2019 Awards Committee:

  • Ashleigh Axios, design exponent, Automattic (AIGA Washington, DC)
  • Jennifer Morla, president and creative director, Morla Design (AIGA San Francisco)
  • Christine Taylor (chair), creative account manager, licensing, Hallmark Cards, Inc. (AIGA Kansas City)
  • Richard Ting, EVP, global chief experience officer and partner, R/GA Ventures (AIGA New York)
  • Forest Young, global principal, Wolff Olins (AIGA San Francisco)

The board asked AIGA president, Dana Arnett, vice chairman and founding partner, VSA Partners (AIGA Chicago), to participate in the committee deliberations as a non-voting member and observer to provide guidance on the criteria for multiple awards.

The 2019 Medalists will be announced in February and will be recognized at the AIGA Design Conference in Pasadena, California Saturday, April 6, 2019. Follow @AIGAdesign for updates.

Selection criteria

The AIGA board of directors has issued the following standing instructions:

  • One to three medals may be given each year, particularly for honorees who are judged by the differing criteria of lifetime achievement versus innovation.
  • It is expected that the AIGA Medal will be given to an individual who has made his or her contribution to communication design or visual communication as the profession is practiced by AIGA members (e.g., although product designers, photographers, architects, and illustrators may make a contribution to design through work in their own fields, each of these professions have other prestigious awards available to them for their professional achievements).
  • Every effort should be made by the committee to identify designers who have achieved the highest standard of excellence and have emerged from diverse backgrounds in terms of discipline, gender, race, ethnicity, age, and geography.
  • In addition to exemplary practice in their respective field, the ideal AIGA Medalist is one who has made significant contributions to the profession in multiple areas. These may include, but aren’t limited to: public advocacy for the profession, teaching, a demonstrated commitment to social change, writing, speaking, and other forms of thought leadership. Outstanding service to AIGA, the broader design community, and/or historically underrepresented communities within the profession (examples include communities of color, LGBT, etc.) are also valued considerations.
  • The selection of medalists, in context, will serve to increase public awareness and understanding of remarkable and influential design, the role of the designer, the process of design, and the value of design.
  • The AIGA Medal should bring attention to those designers who represent the highest aspirations of our members and who can continue to act as role models and influence other practicing designers at AIGA programs and events.

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We are accepting nominations for three awards: AIGA Medal, Corporate Leadership Award, and the Steven Heller Prize for Cultural Commentary.