Christopher C. Simmons

About Me

San Francisco-based designer, author, educator and principal of MINE™.

Member Since June 1997
Member Type Design Leader
AIGA Chapter San Francisco
Title Principal / Creative Director
Company MINE™
Email moc.fsenim@shcc
Website www.christophersimmons.is
Portfolio Site www.minesf.com
Field Communication design
Brand and identity
Design/Graphic design
Bio

Christopher Simmons is a Canadian-born, San Francisco-based designer, writereducator and design advocate, and principal/creative director of the San Francisco Design office, MINE™. He is a former AIGA chapter president (San Francisco, 2004-2006), and a current national board member.

In his spare time he writes about design from the perspective of hamburgers

  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    826 Facebook Badges Dutchman's Flat Prophet Cannabis Co.
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    Cannabis Logos Petra Mints Pinhead Book Cover Shock & Awesome Poster
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    Selected Logos Chime Chai Maker Kou Kou Greek Pastry Wonder Workshop
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    Money is a Waste of Time Yes on No This Was Now I ‘Voted’
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    Thoughts & Prayers Generation Hex After You’ve Forgotten Custom Typeface
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    Everything is OK Camp Mather PRINT No. 1 Birthday Cooking Party
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    Camp Firebelly Camp Firebelly Realm Charter School STEP Magazine Cover
  • Christopher authored "The UC logo controversy: How 54,000 people, the mainstream press and virtually every designer got it wrong"
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    Coalition of Essential Schools Just Design Yes We're United. Roostertail
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    ShowCAIS ShowCAIS Bun Mee Market Street The Startup Playbook
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    House of Air San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) House of Air San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
  • Christopher updated a project on Behance.
    Microsoft Silicon Valley Branding Microsoft Silicon Valley Branding
  • Christopher Simmons commented on the article "Insight"

    As someone who has been critical of this direction (not the sale per se, but the vagueness of the plan—at least as it has been disseminated) I want to also applaud AIGA for its increasing transparency and communication around this and other issues. I'm looking forward to hearing and learning more about the organization's long-term vision and strategy and the specific ways that the sale will support those ambitions. With this decision now made, let us all commit to finding ways to support it and contribute to the long-term relevance and viability of AIGA.

  • Christopher Simmons commented on the article "Q&A with Randy Hunt"

    Randy is one of may favorite designers working today. If you don't know why, then you haven't read this interview.

  • Christopher Simmons commented on the article "The UC logo controversy: How 54,000 people, the mainstream press and virtually every designer got it wrong"

    You raise a number of important points, Robert, though I must (respectfully) disagree with most of them: 1. Although the 'U' doesn't overtly read as an alphabetic character (we agree on that), it's worth considering if that is important. The old United 'U' and Northwest monograms are frequently cited for their design excellence yet both are fairly obscure as letterforms. The MIT Press logo is abstracted beyond recognition, yet endures.  2. One doesn't have to imagine Harvard similarly abstracting their iconic initial—they recently did for many of the same technical reasons cite b y the UC, though to more acclaim: http://ow.ly/i2OZb  3. Where you say "Gamely parrot" I say "extensively research." In addition to speaking with the UC creative director in preparation for this article, I also read their complete brand standards, visited with their creative team, and reviewed several pieces produced under the new standards, including those which preserved the seal.  My wife and several close family members are Cal grads, and my mother was on the faculty there. I've taken classes at UC Berkeley and lived there for several years during college. I am aware of many (obviously not all) of the political tangles that Cal has wrestled with over the years, but I found nothing to suggest that this redesign was a ploy on the part of the UC System to slowly and slyly replace the official seal. The seal and this identity exist in two completely separate orbits. 4. It is, in fact, not common at all for corporations to quietly roll out a major redesign with claims that it is not intended to replace the old/existing one. It certainly isn't true of the three examples you cite.  5. I do agree with you that change is often undesired and unwelcome. But change, nonetheless, still happens. I doubt you would argue that Universities should conduct themselves the way they did 10 years ago in terms of technology. I doubt you would argue that they should conduct themselves the way they did 50 years ago in terms of civil rights. I doubt you would argue that they should conduct themselves the way they did 100 years ago in terms of access. In the face of progress, why argue that its communications should remain unchanged? The modern university is already dramatically different than the 13th century institution from which it evolved. A decade from now it will likely be radically different than the institution it is today. Why restrict a progressive institution from communicating in a manner commensurate with its own evolution?

  • Christopher Simmons commented on the article "The UC logo controversy: How 54,000 people, the mainstream press and virtually every designer got it wrong"

    Can you elaborate more on the malpractice claim as well as what you see as the mistakes that were made by the creative team? It sounds like you have information that I (we) do not.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "http://staging.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3079&id=2758"

    Certainly the instances of designers having a "seat at the table" are growing. So too is the business world's embrace of design and/or "design thinking" as integral to their culture, strategy and communications. While the undergrad design programs that matriculate thousands of new designers into the field each year tend to focus more on craft, graduate programs &#8212; including MFA design programs and cutting-edge <a href="http://www.cca.edu/academics/graduate/design-mba/curriculum" target="_blank">Design MBA</a> programs &#8212; make systems thinking, strategy, sustainability, finance, economics, and leadership central to their curriculum. These programs are indeed arming tomorrow'sdesigners with the knowledge, tools and vocabulary necessary to collaborate with business and organization leaders at the highest level. What we have then, are two definitions of "design." The first is a definition centered primarily around craft. We call this "<a href="http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/guide-whatisgraphicdesign" target="_blank">graphic design</a>" with a lower case d. The second definition is centered around strategy. We call this simply "<a href="http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/why-design" target="_blank">Design</a>" with a capital D. Professional associations, conferences, the design press and the though leaders of our profession are increasingly using the latter definition to describe what we do. The fact remains, however, that the vast majority of practitioners aren't included in this definition, and many don't aspire to be. It may also be worth considering that as "design thinking" becomes more universally embraced by business it will cease to be the exclusive purview of the designer. As a profession how will we differentiate ourselves then? How will we argue our value once we realize our dream of everyone thinking like a designer? Surprise, the answer might just be craft...

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3082&id=1550"

    Wow- a 50% increase in followers since hitting that 100k follower milestone. Correspondingly, I am now 50% more interested to know your thoughts on exactly why these numbers are important (per my questions above). 'm not suggesting they aren't, I'm just genuinely interested in your critical thoughts on this.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3082&id=1550"

    Congrats Debbie. I'm interested to hear more of your thoughts on why that 100K Twitter milestone is significant. Certainly it is one measure of AIGA's reach and or clout (or Klout). It is also interesting that 100,000 is roughly 5 times AIGA's membership. Presumably this means that many non-member designers find value in AIGA; hopefully it also means that many non designers also find value in AIGA's resources and point of view. AIGA's ability to broadcast its message to a widening audience, and receive feedback from that audience (140 characters at a time) is also significant. I suspect that it won't be long before that number doubles to 200K. But what is the whole value&#8212;and cost&#8212;of being a part of this twitter community? Are we comfortable with the organization's virtual membership outpacing its actual membership? Has this increase in "followers" corresponded in an increase in "joiners" (and does this even matter?). How is the decentralized nature of Twitter affect AIGA's definition of community, and its role as a hub of thought leadership around design? To take one very simple example, I recently wrote a post on this same website. As of this writing, it is AIGA's most tweeted article by a significant margin, but only has 6 comments on this site. Some of the tweets include additional commentary, but most simply RT the fact of its existence, accompanied by some sort of endorsement. Should we look at this as a success (critical thinking on design, offered via AIGA, is reaching a wider and wider audience) or as a failure (it failed to generate significant dialogue among readers)? It may be of course that the article is promoting dialog in offices and classrooms around the world, we just have no hard way of measuring that. On Under Consideration's Brand New blog, daily posts routinely receive 50+ comments, and often closer to 100. Design Observer also generates lengthy and thoughtful dialogue via its comment forum. Significantly, neither have a facility to make it easy to tweet their articles. Notably, Design Observer has 136K+ Twitter followers. I'm not anti-Twitter. I use it to both receive and share information. But I'm curious to know more about how you see it playing into AIGA's strategy. Which communication models will it replace? Which will it augment, and how? Who are these Twitter followers and, beyond numbers, how to they enrich the organization? Who is not on Twitter that we want to reach? I was surprised to learn that not one of my students (college juniors, studying graphic design) are on Twitter. About 20% are members of AIGA. What are the longer-term implications of placing so much value in a branded technology which sees a 60% monthly attrition rate among its members and has not yet demonstrated its fiscal sustainability? Etc.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "Is Archer&#39;s Use on Target?"

    Echoing Jonathan's suspicions about Lippincott's choice of Archer for Wells Fargo: it is indeed completely in sync with their (ongoing) rebrand. It's not just that they want to be perceived as more contemporary though &#8212; there's a whole philosophy around the bank's customer focus. As one of the first firms to work with the bank's new identity palette I was extremely impressed by how well all the internal teams understood the meaning of the type choice, and how graciously they respected it. Around the same time the SF Chronicle redesigned with Archer and it is an unholy and mess and quite aggravating to read. In unskilled hands even a Stradivarious will only make noise.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3082&id=2761"

    I have had a kind of love/hate relationship with AIGA over the years and have posted here with both my praise and (more frequently) criticism of the organization. As a Chapter President (San Francisco, 2004&#8211;2006) and as a member (since 1996) I have experienced the many benefits and frustrations of being involved with AIGA on several levels. I'd like to briefly cite four things that have renewed my faith in the organization, all of which are recent. 1. The judging of AIGA 365. The most recent panel of judges was a diverse and balanced mix of professional members both young and "seasoned," male and female, East Coast, West Coast and points above below and in between. It was a noteworthy commitment by AIGA to diversify representation in its competitions. I noted as much in my May 2008 column for STEP magazine. I'm pleased to say that AIGA's efforts in this area have already seen results. The work in this year's 365 annual is among the most interesting, engaging, accessible and universally worthy work I have seen from 365 in years. An absolute treat. 2. An email from Ric Grefe. On December 3, 2008 AIGA Executive Director Ric Grefe sent an email to members outlining how the organization was working to adapt its relevance and enhance its value in a down economy. Yes, this was also an effort at member retention, but it came with real immediate benefits and the promise of more in the year ahead. It was proactive, thoughtful and it demonstrated that the organization is actively thinking about how to best serve its members. It showed that AIGA can be thoughtful, tactful and agile in its response to a changing environment, and that's what we want most from a professional organization. 3. The AIGA 365 Annual. As I mentioned at the outset, a more diverse judging group led to a more diverse record of the year's most relevant design. The chronicle of that work was also, finally, worthy of its contents. For the last several years the physical 365 annual has decreased in size and production value to the point of marginalization. I have intelligent friends who didn't even realize they had received it. While the Big Book is of debatable relevance in an increasingly digitally-accessed world, its return is nevertheless welcome. The annual is the one thing that every member receives from AIGA. It is the one thing that every member (or non-member, for that matter) has a shot to be in. It is a celebration and a record of the best design work produced in the United States over the course of the year. The work deserves to be shown at a scale at which it can be appreciated and referenced, and the book should occupy a place of pride on a designer's bookshelf. Paula Scher's exemplary design of this year's annual returns 365 to its former tradition. In doing so, it also demonstrates that the organization, once entrenched in its rationalization of the diminutive annual, is willing to revisit its positions when called upon to do so by its members. 4. This post (Ric's not mine) Clear and candid communication is essential to the vitality of an organization &#8212;&#160;especially a member organization. This follow up presents AIGA's strides and its more tentative steps with a degree of transparency that we all should appreciate, regardless of whether our individual priorities have yet been adequately met. That there is openness, followup, and the ability to freely comment is laudable and admirable. When AIGA send me a survey, I fill it out. In the past (even as a leader in the organization) it hasn't always been easy to trace just how that feedback is collected and ultimately addressed. There is real stewardship going on here. So, that's an uncharacteristically effusive post from me, but I feel that AIGA has turned (or is turning) a corner. I think the ingredients have long been there, with vocal members, dedicated chapter leaders, a highly qualified and diligent national staff, and of course the leadership of Ric and the national board. Somehow though, it seems like its all coming together in the right measure. Thank you.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "What does AIGA do with what it hears?"

    Well and succinctly stated, and much appreciated. Thank you. Perhaps AIGA can use this space or some form of an email update to keep members up-to-date on the organization's specific progress in these 28 areas as the year progresses? Perhaps a simple update on a quarterly basis that lets us all know what's being done and how we can help? Such a commitment would go a long way to addressing points 1, 12 and possibly 27...

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "Why double the number of AIGA members?"

    I've been an AIGA member for 10 years. Recently my membership lapsed and I decided to take a year off as a means of re-evaluating the value of my membership from a fresh perspective. I did a lot of thinking in those 12 months &#8212;&#160;about what it means to belong, the obligations we have to ourselves, our peers, predecessors and successors. I probably came up with more questions than answers, but here are some of my thoughts so far. They're in no particular order, but I'll address the dollars first, since the bulk of the this thread has centered on affordability: 1. Sometimes it is about the money. I gave a young designer a ride home a few months ago. She'd just shelled out $2,500 and taken a month off work to volunteer to participate in an outreach project. On the way home she pointed out the best dumpster for finding food. I get that she doesn't have $75 for an AIGA membership. I respect it. If you're someone that can't afford the cost of membership I think that's alright. Join when you can afford it and when it makes sense for you. 2. Membership is not a transaction. You can pay your dues every year and then sit back and wait for something to happen, but it just doesn't work like that. AIGA is not a transactional experience. What you get out of your membership has very little to do with what you pay. If you put a lot in you can get a lot out. To some that will seem like perfect logic. To others it may seem less generous than it could be. 3. AIGA is a conduit to a creative community. It's not the only conduit, and it's not the only community, but it is the largest and most organized and that matters. 4. There are many ways to support your profession. Paying dues to AIGA is one of them. Being active in AIGA is definitely another. Doing good work, teaching, mentoring, charging a fair price, turning down spec, hiring interns, sharing your knowledge, taking on nonprofit clients, giving to scholarships, using your skills to help the rural poor, opening your studio to high school kids and teaching design summer camp to 5th graders are some others. Do as much as you're able. 5. 90% of a person's AIGA experience is local. That is, we think of AIGA in terms of the experiences, opportunities and resources our local chapter provides. It sometimes bothers me that only 25% of my dues are invested locally, but: 6. It's a little like giving money to GreenPeace. I don't have the time or the inclination to ram oil tankers in a Zodiac, but I want to support the people who do. An awful lot goes on on the national level on members' behalf, most of which would be impossible for an individual to achieve on their own and much of which is difficult to bullet point in a list of member benefits. For example, what does it mean that AIGA is applying for NGO status with the UN? How does reforming ballot design benefit my practice? What's so important about preserving the legacy of designers in a museum collection? It's hard to define these initiatives as "member benefits." They are collective benefits, and one has to be to be the kind of person that's okay with that. 7. People do get upset when you don't belong. There were people that were offended that I didn't renew my membership. That surprised me, but I also "get it." Groucho Marx quipped that he'd never want to belong to any club that would have someone like him for a member. I think the converse of that is true as well. Still, a mature organization has to allow for the possibility that not everyone wants to belong. An organization that accepts all comers also has to embrace (not just accept) dissent. On balance I believe AIGA does a pretty good job of this, but we tend to remember the exceptions. 8. AIGA = PBS When I was an AIGA chapter president (San Francisco, 2004-2006) our chapter grew significantly (from 4th to 2nd-largest). It continues to grow. I think its important to note that we always held the philosophy that just because you're a designer doesn't obligate you to join AIGA, and we never placed the burden of that expectation on our prospective members. Instead, we operated more like public broadcasting. Only about 1 in 9 people who watch PBS are actually members. The rest reap the benefits for free. The ratios are comparable for AIGA. Whether you join or not, the organization is still going to advocate for your profession. It's still going to produce content and frame many of the discussions that help define our daily practice. If you value that advocacy, if you consume that content, if you want to add your voice to those discussions (and if you can afford it) those are reasons to join. No one really joins for the free tote bag. So, for me, for who I am, for what I want from my career and my practice, AIGA represents a good value. I renewed my membership (one year, to the day, after it expired). I'm investing in AIGA in the belief that it will invest in me.

  • Christopher Simmons commented on the article "Insight"

    As someone who has been critical of this direction (not the sale per se, but the vagueness of the plan—at least as it has been disseminated) I want to also applaud AIGA for its increasing transparency and communication around this and other issues. I'm looking forward to hearing and learning more about the organization's long-term vision and strategy and the specific ways that the sale will support those ambitions. With this decision now made, let us all commit to finding ways to support it and contribute to the long-term relevance and viability of AIGA.

  • Christopher Simmons commented on the article "Q&amp;A with Randy Hunt"

    Randy is one of may favorite designers working today. If you don't know why, then you haven't read this interview.

  • Christopher Simmons commented on the article "The UC logo controversy: How 54,000 people, the mainstream press and virtually every designer got it wrong"

    You raise a number of important points, Robert, though I must (respectfully) disagree with most of them: 1. Although the 'U' doesn't overtly read as an alphabetic character (we agree on that), it's worth considering if that is important. The old United 'U' and Northwest monograms are frequently cited for their design excellence yet both are fairly obscure as letterforms. The MIT Press logo is abstracted beyond recognition, yet endures.  2. One doesn't have to imagine Harvard similarly abstracting their iconic initial—they recently did for many of the same technical reasons cite b y the UC, though to more acclaim: http://ow.ly/i2OZb  3. Where you say "Gamely parrot" I say "extensively research." In addition to speaking with the UC creative director in preparation for this article, I also read their complete brand standards, visited with their creative team, and reviewed several pieces produced under the new standards, including those which preserved the seal.  My wife and several close family members are Cal grads, and my mother was on the faculty there. I've taken classes at UC Berkeley and lived there for several years during college. I am aware of many (obviously not all) of the political tangles that Cal has wrestled with over the years, but I found nothing to suggest that this redesign was a ploy on the part of the UC System to slowly and slyly replace the official seal. The seal and this identity exist in two completely separate orbits. 4. It is, in fact, not common at all for corporations to quietly roll out a major redesign with claims that it is not intended to replace the old/existing one. It certainly isn't true of the three examples you cite.  5. I do agree with you that change is often undesired and unwelcome. But change, nonetheless, still happens. I doubt you would argue that Universities should conduct themselves the way they did 10 years ago in terms of technology. I doubt you would argue that they should conduct themselves the way they did 50 years ago in terms of civil rights. I doubt you would argue that they should conduct themselves the way they did 100 years ago in terms of access. In the face of progress, why argue that its communications should remain unchanged? The modern university is already dramatically different than the 13th century institution from which it evolved. A decade from now it will likely be radically different than the institution it is today. Why restrict a progressive institution from communicating in a manner commensurate with its own evolution?

  • Christopher Simmons commented on the article "The UC logo controversy: How 54,000 people, the mainstream press and virtually every designer got it wrong"

    Can you elaborate more on the malpractice claim as well as what you see as the mistakes that were made by the creative team? It sounds like you have information that I (we) do not.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "http://staging.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3079&id=2758"

    Certainly the instances of designers having a "seat at the table" are growing. So too is the business world's embrace of design and/or "design thinking" as integral to their culture, strategy and communications. While the undergrad design programs that matriculate thousands of new designers into the field each year tend to focus more on craft, graduate programs &#8212; including MFA design programs and cutting-edge <a href="http://www.cca.edu/academics/graduate/design-mba/curriculum" target="_blank">Design MBA</a> programs &#8212; make systems thinking, strategy, sustainability, finance, economics, and leadership central to their curriculum. These programs are indeed arming tomorrow'sdesigners with the knowledge, tools and vocabulary necessary to collaborate with business and organization leaders at the highest level. What we have then, are two definitions of "design." The first is a definition centered primarily around craft. We call this "<a href="http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/guide-whatisgraphicdesign" target="_blank">graphic design</a>" with a lower case d. The second definition is centered around strategy. We call this simply "<a href="http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/why-design" target="_blank">Design</a>" with a capital D. Professional associations, conferences, the design press and the though leaders of our profession are increasingly using the latter definition to describe what we do. The fact remains, however, that the vast majority of practitioners aren't included in this definition, and many don't aspire to be. It may also be worth considering that as "design thinking" becomes more universally embraced by business it will cease to be the exclusive purview of the designer. As a profession how will we differentiate ourselves then? How will we argue our value once we realize our dream of everyone thinking like a designer? Surprise, the answer might just be craft...

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3082&id=1550"

    Wow- a 50% increase in followers since hitting that 100k follower milestone. Correspondingly, I am now 50% more interested to know your thoughts on exactly why these numbers are important (per my questions above). 'm not suggesting they aren't, I'm just genuinely interested in your critical thoughts on this.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3082&id=1550"

    Congrats Debbie. I'm interested to hear more of your thoughts on why that 100K Twitter milestone is significant. Certainly it is one measure of AIGA's reach and or clout (or Klout). It is also interesting that 100,000 is roughly 5 times AIGA's membership. Presumably this means that many non-member designers find value in AIGA; hopefully it also means that many non designers also find value in AIGA's resources and point of view. AIGA's ability to broadcast its message to a widening audience, and receive feedback from that audience (140 characters at a time) is also significant. I suspect that it won't be long before that number doubles to 200K. But what is the whole value&#8212;and cost&#8212;of being a part of this twitter community? Are we comfortable with the organization's virtual membership outpacing its actual membership? Has this increase in "followers" corresponded in an increase in "joiners" (and does this even matter?). How is the decentralized nature of Twitter affect AIGA's definition of community, and its role as a hub of thought leadership around design? To take one very simple example, I recently wrote a post on this same website. As of this writing, it is AIGA's most tweeted article by a significant margin, but only has 6 comments on this site. Some of the tweets include additional commentary, but most simply RT the fact of its existence, accompanied by some sort of endorsement. Should we look at this as a success (critical thinking on design, offered via AIGA, is reaching a wider and wider audience) or as a failure (it failed to generate significant dialogue among readers)? It may be of course that the article is promoting dialog in offices and classrooms around the world, we just have no hard way of measuring that. On Under Consideration's Brand New blog, daily posts routinely receive 50+ comments, and often closer to 100. Design Observer also generates lengthy and thoughtful dialogue via its comment forum. Significantly, neither have a facility to make it easy to tweet their articles. Notably, Design Observer has 136K+ Twitter followers. I'm not anti-Twitter. I use it to both receive and share information. But I'm curious to know more about how you see it playing into AIGA's strategy. Which communication models will it replace? Which will it augment, and how? Who are these Twitter followers and, beyond numbers, how to they enrich the organization? Who is not on Twitter that we want to reach? I was surprised to learn that not one of my students (college juniors, studying graphic design) are on Twitter. About 20% are members of AIGA. What are the longer-term implications of placing so much value in a branded technology which sees a 60% monthly attrition rate among its members and has not yet demonstrated its fiscal sustainability? Etc.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "Is Archer&#39;s Use on Target?"

    Echoing Jonathan's suspicions about Lippincott's choice of Archer for Wells Fargo: it is indeed completely in sync with their (ongoing) rebrand. It's not just that they want to be perceived as more contemporary though &#8212; there's a whole philosophy around the bank's customer focus. As one of the first firms to work with the bank's new identity palette I was extremely impressed by how well all the internal teams understood the meaning of the type choice, and how graciously they respected it. Around the same time the SF Chronicle redesigned with Archer and it is an unholy and mess and quite aggravating to read. In unskilled hands even a Stradivarious will only make noise.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3082&id=2761"

    I have had a kind of love/hate relationship with AIGA over the years and have posted here with both my praise and (more frequently) criticism of the organization. As a Chapter President (San Francisco, 2004&#8211;2006) and as a member (since 1996) I have experienced the many benefits and frustrations of being involved with AIGA on several levels. I'd like to briefly cite four things that have renewed my faith in the organization, all of which are recent. 1. The judging of AIGA 365. The most recent panel of judges was a diverse and balanced mix of professional members both young and "seasoned," male and female, East Coast, West Coast and points above below and in between. It was a noteworthy commitment by AIGA to diversify representation in its competitions. I noted as much in my May 2008 column for STEP magazine. I'm pleased to say that AIGA's efforts in this area have already seen results. The work in this year's 365 annual is among the most interesting, engaging, accessible and universally worthy work I have seen from 365 in years. An absolute treat. 2. An email from Ric Grefe. On December 3, 2008 AIGA Executive Director Ric Grefe sent an email to members outlining how the organization was working to adapt its relevance and enhance its value in a down economy. Yes, this was also an effort at member retention, but it came with real immediate benefits and the promise of more in the year ahead. It was proactive, thoughtful and it demonstrated that the organization is actively thinking about how to best serve its members. It showed that AIGA can be thoughtful, tactful and agile in its response to a changing environment, and that's what we want most from a professional organization. 3. The AIGA 365 Annual. As I mentioned at the outset, a more diverse judging group led to a more diverse record of the year's most relevant design. The chronicle of that work was also, finally, worthy of its contents. For the last several years the physical 365 annual has decreased in size and production value to the point of marginalization. I have intelligent friends who didn't even realize they had received it. While the Big Book is of debatable relevance in an increasingly digitally-accessed world, its return is nevertheless welcome. The annual is the one thing that every member receives from AIGA. It is the one thing that every member (or non-member, for that matter) has a shot to be in. It is a celebration and a record of the best design work produced in the United States over the course of the year. The work deserves to be shown at a scale at which it can be appreciated and referenced, and the book should occupy a place of pride on a designer's bookshelf. Paula Scher's exemplary design of this year's annual returns 365 to its former tradition. In doing so, it also demonstrates that the organization, once entrenched in its rationalization of the diminutive annual, is willing to revisit its positions when called upon to do so by its members. 4. This post (Ric's not mine) Clear and candid communication is essential to the vitality of an organization &#8212;&#160;especially a member organization. This follow up presents AIGA's strides and its more tentative steps with a degree of transparency that we all should appreciate, regardless of whether our individual priorities have yet been adequately met. That there is openness, followup, and the ability to freely comment is laudable and admirable. When AIGA send me a survey, I fill it out. In the past (even as a leader in the organization) it hasn't always been easy to trace just how that feedback is collected and ultimately addressed. There is real stewardship going on here. So, that's an uncharacteristically effusive post from me, but I feel that AIGA has turned (or is turning) a corner. I think the ingredients have long been there, with vocal members, dedicated chapter leaders, a highly qualified and diligent national staff, and of course the leadership of Ric and the national board. Somehow though, it seems like its all coming together in the right measure. Thank you.

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "What does AIGA do with what it hears?"

    Well and succinctly stated, and much appreciated. Thank you. Perhaps AIGA can use this space or some form of an email update to keep members up-to-date on the organization's specific progress in these 28 areas as the year progresses? Perhaps a simple update on a quarterly basis that lets us all know what's being done and how we can help? Such a commitment would go a long way to addressing points 1, 12 and possibly 27...

  • Christopher C. Simmons commented on the article "Why double the number of AIGA members?"

    I've been an AIGA member for 10 years. Recently my membership lapsed and I decided to take a year off as a means of re-evaluating the value of my membership from a fresh perspective. I did a lot of thinking in those 12 months &#8212;&#160;about what it means to belong, the obligations we have to ourselves, our peers, predecessors and successors. I probably came up with more questions than answers, but here are some of my thoughts so far. They're in no particular order, but I'll address the dollars first, since the bulk of the this thread has centered on affordability: 1. Sometimes it is about the money. I gave a young designer a ride home a few months ago. She'd just shelled out $2,500 and taken a month off work to volunteer to participate in an outreach project. On the way home she pointed out the best dumpster for finding food. I get that she doesn't have $75 for an AIGA membership. I respect it. If you're someone that can't afford the cost of membership I think that's alright. Join when you can afford it and when it makes sense for you. 2. Membership is not a transaction. You can pay your dues every year and then sit back and wait for something to happen, but it just doesn't work like that. AIGA is not a transactional experience. What you get out of your membership has very little to do with what you pay. If you put a lot in you can get a lot out. To some that will seem like perfect logic. To others it may seem less generous than it could be. 3. AIGA is a conduit to a creative community. It's not the only conduit, and it's not the only community, but it is the largest and most organized and that matters. 4. There are many ways to support your profession. Paying dues to AIGA is one of them. Being active in AIGA is definitely another. Doing good work, teaching, mentoring, charging a fair price, turning down spec, hiring interns, sharing your knowledge, taking on nonprofit clients, giving to scholarships, using your skills to help the rural poor, opening your studio to high school kids and teaching design summer camp to 5th graders are some others. Do as much as you're able. 5. 90% of a person's AIGA experience is local. That is, we think of AIGA in terms of the experiences, opportunities and resources our local chapter provides. It sometimes bothers me that only 25% of my dues are invested locally, but: 6. It's a little like giving money to GreenPeace. I don't have the time or the inclination to ram oil tankers in a Zodiac, but I want to support the people who do. An awful lot goes on on the national level on members' behalf, most of which would be impossible for an individual to achieve on their own and much of which is difficult to bullet point in a list of member benefits. For example, what does it mean that AIGA is applying for NGO status with the UN? How does reforming ballot design benefit my practice? What's so important about preserving the legacy of designers in a museum collection? It's hard to define these initiatives as "member benefits." They are collective benefits, and one has to be to be the kind of person that's okay with that. 7. People do get upset when you don't belong. There were people that were offended that I didn't renew my membership. That surprised me, but I also "get it." Groucho Marx quipped that he'd never want to belong to any club that would have someone like him for a member. I think the converse of that is true as well. Still, a mature organization has to allow for the possibility that not everyone wants to belong. An organization that accepts all comers also has to embrace (not just accept) dissent. On balance I believe AIGA does a pretty good job of this, but we tend to remember the exceptions. 8. AIGA = PBS When I was an AIGA chapter president (San Francisco, 2004-2006) our chapter grew significantly (from 4th to 2nd-largest). It continues to grow. I think its important to note that we always held the philosophy that just because you're a designer doesn't obligate you to join AIGA, and we never placed the burden of that expectation on our prospective members. Instead, we operated more like public broadcasting. Only about 1 in 9 people who watch PBS are actually members. The rest reap the benefits for free. The ratios are comparable for AIGA. Whether you join or not, the organization is still going to advocate for your profession. It's still going to produce content and frame many of the discussions that help define our daily practice. If you value that advocacy, if you consume that content, if you want to add your voice to those discussions (and if you can afford it) those are reasons to join. No one really joins for the free tote bag. So, for me, for who I am, for what I want from my career and my practice, AIGA represents a good value. I renewed my membership (one year, to the day, after it expired). I'm investing in AIGA in the belief that it will invest in me.