“Re-envisioning AIGA Moving Forward Together”

Today, AIGA sent an email out to all members announcing the departure of their executive director and the beginning of a new attempt to reimagine AIGA. (If you don’t know, AIGA is the professional organization for design, formerly known as the American Institute of Graphic Arts.)

I’m been an AIGA member for much of my professional career. I was active at a chapter level for over a decade. Over that time, people repeatedly tried to reimagine the central organization, its chapter system and its funding mechanisms. No one was ever satisfied. They wanted to make it better, and then every designer would want to join and help change the world.

And yet, the organization got smaller.

AIGA has meant a lot to me and it definitely helped my career, but structurally, it’s been broken for a long time. It was built in a pre-Internet era. A time when the only way you got to see a legendary designer was to go to a conference or have them come to a local AIGA chapter. When networking was done primarily at the local bar. A time when being aligned with a large national organization gave you needed credibility and clout.

But now, YouTube means you can see all of your favorite designers deliver inspirational talks from the comfort of your own home. You can network with anyone, anywhere, anytime. The world changed, but the structure remained, and that was before the pandemic hit.

AIGA isn’t alone. Lots of member-based organizations are trying to figure out how to move forward. These organizations can bring value to their members, but they will need to embrace a different approach, building valuable online communities that may or may not be connected with local chapters.

In the end, we’ll see how AIGA’s latest re-envisioning works out. I’m optimistic, but time will tell if they are able to make the hard choices.