GO West: AIGA Leadership Retreat Recap: Part 3

Day three began with another general session featuring two more inspiration stories. First was the St. Louis chapter talking about their Design Week. The idea behind their Design Week was: Everywhere there is one thing: Design — for a cause, sustainability, business, growth. The outcomes of the 2011 Design Week were:

  • Broadened the audience
  • Provided a platform to talk about design
  • Involved multiple disciplines
  • Raised $45,000
  • Had 50+volunteers

They planned the 2012 Design Week for a year, had 7 day chairs, 25 committee members, and Sponsors were contacting them. As a result of their efforts, the NEA invited them to apply for a grant. They didn’t receive it, but it has a huge honor to be asked.

The next inspiration story came from Seattle Chapter who presented on their Hive Design Conference. The inspiration for the conference was the questions: “Where does design fit into engineering-based Tech companies?” The event was a one day, one track conference to educate and to recognize that “we must live differently in the 21st century”
Where design & tech meet.

Following the general session, we broke up once more to attend breakout sessions. The sessions on this day were panel discussions on various topics. We were able to choose between emerging designers, the future of competitions, enhancing the member experience, board management, or community-building/social programming. I, along with Laura Hamlyn and Joe Schram, opted to sit in on the enhancing the member experience session. The moderator for this session was Drew Davies and the panelists were: Renata Graw, AIGA Chicago; David McIntosh, AIGA Richmond; Frances Yllana, AIGA Dallas; Craig Hughes, AIGA Nebraska; Bobby Buchanan, AIGA San Diego. Below are some take-aways from this insightful discussion.

  • Avoid cliques
  • Don’t cluster at events.
  • Welcome all and mingle
  • Be approachable
  • Issue a buddy pass to new members to bring a friend to a membership party.
  • Focus on personal communication, interactions
  • How can we help with your goals
  • Connect with members, let them know you know who they are.
  • Expand the price difference between member & non-member rates for events
  • Hold member only events
  • Create non-event based value for member: ex., send valentine’s cards, Member Spotlights
  • Create exceptional experiences at every touchpoint with members. Think it through, loyal members are the best PR and recruiters.
  • Pitch the value of joining to professionals – Professional growth & development, shared interests, collaboration, build relationships.
  • Need to constantly remind and reinforce the value of membership.

After the panel discussions we once again broke up to attend lunch sessions, this time I attended the Mentoring lunch session, where I got a lot more information on mentoring programs. After a delicious and informative lunch, it was time to head back to The Grand America another team working session, in which groups finalized their plans and prepared to present their idea if the chose to during the last general session. After a brief refreshment break, we all reconvened in the Grand Salon for the last general session, which began with group presentations. Teams only had a few minutes each to present, and many teams opted to present their ideas. There were some really great and inspired ideas shared—too many for me to take notes on.

After the presentations we heard the last two inspiration Stories, the Jacksonville chapter spoke about their “Always Summer” poster Show. The event was created as a membership drive to grow and celebrate membership. They wanted to make an event that people want to bring their friends to. What they came up with was the Poster Show & Mix Tape in which members were asked to design a poster about their favorite summer song. At the poster show, a DJ plays a mix of the songs featured in the posters and they had a set-up for silk-screening T-shirts the of poster designs during the event.

The first year was just poster show, and the next year they added the Mix tape, inviting people to “join the mix” For the third year, they plan on having a speaker event the night before.

The final inspiration story was from San Francisco Chapter presenting their Cause/affect design competition, a graphic design competition for do-gooders. They created Co-chairs for Social Impact to oversee projects that would do good for non-profits. As designers we have the power to affect outcomes. (Not a typo. Affect can mean: a result, a movement, or to act on.) There was an initiative-based classification of the work, the design had to be for a cause. These were self-initiated projects, and the people’s choice winner received a donation for their cause.

To wrap up the final general session their was another Q&A with AIGA Executive Director, Ric Grefe in which he discussed a K-12 initiative to influence Kids Clubs involvement in mentoring creative students. The goal is to get design into the curriculum to gain design thinking and problem-solving skills, and strategy. He also mentioned there would be a focus on membership programs targeted to our subsets—emerging designers, associates, veteran designers. After an entertaining (there were prizes and a final dance number) presentation from AIGA Phildelphia about their city, the location of the 2013 retreat—which I am really hoping I will be able to attend—and closing remarks from out MCs Kevin Perry and Dawn Zidonis, the retreat came to a close. I was a little sad it was over. I would miss all the collaboration, idea-sharing and just being surrounded by so many creative people. I came to think of it as living in a creative bubble, and it was about to burst and send me back to the normal world. But not until after the closing reception hosted by AIGA Philadelphia.

The closing reception was held on the rooftop of the Salt Lake City Public Library, which is an amazing building. I generally don’t have much reason to go to the library, but I would seriously hang out in this one, just to admire the space. Anyway, Philly brought tasty treats and favorite dishes from their home town—Tasty Kakes, cannolies, soft pretzels, and of course Philly Cheese Steaks. And like any good gathering of AIGA members, the bar has in high demand, the line extending so long and for so long, one of the servers started going down the line with a few bottles of beer and cups, passing out drinks. A fine example of creative thinking, making thirsty designers happy and reducing the line in no time! The party was a lot of fun and again a great location with a fabulous view. I was again sad to see it end and have to say goodbye to all my new friends. Fortunately we have the wonderful world of social media so we can keep in touch and continuing sharing great ideas—until next year’s retreat!

After the party is was back to The Grand America to pick up our luggage and a ride to the airport to catch our 12:55am flight. There was only one concierge on duty at that late hour, and cabs were scarce, especially vans, which we would need to get all six of us to the airport. While the harried concierge tried to get us two cabs, a newly married couple arrived in the lobby. We were quick to offer them congratulations and best wishes. Next hing we know the concierge informs us he has a car that can hold us all. Yup, it was the couple’s limo. So the AIGA Raleigh crew got to ride in style to catch their red-eye!

By Amy Lyons
Published June 13, 2012