Moving Forward | AIGA Leadership Retreat 2013

Every year, hundreds of AIGA Chapter leaders convene for the AIGA Leadership Retreat. This years retreat, Forward, was held in Philadelphia, PA from May 30 – June 1. The retreat is an opportunity for chapter leaders to hear from our National AIGA leaders about the state of the association and plans for the future of the organization, as well as see what other chapters are doing. It’s a time to share ideas and information, build skills and community, and foster motivation and inspiration.

I was proud and honored to represent AIGA Raleigh—along with Co-Presidents, Jonathan Opp and Joe Schram; Vice President, Laura Hamlyn; Director of Uniting, People Jason Horner; and Design for Good Co-Chair, Hannah Hoffman. It was an amazing experience and AIGA Philadelphia were excellent hosts.

The retreat schedule is packed with various sessions, lunches, and activities. Each day there were general sessions where all attendees heard from our AIGA National leaders, speakers, and inspiration stories from other chapters. In between these sessions are smaller breakout sessions presented by other chapter leaders. These sessions are great for sharing ideas and learning from the successes of other chapters. Lunch sessions are topical and limited to about 8 people per group. Groups walk to nearby restaurants and discuss the chosen topic. Its another opportunity for idea sharing and brainstorming ideas for solving issues chapters face. It’s also a great way to meet members from other chapters, though that opportunity is abundant throughout the retreat.

The “forward” theme of the retreat represents AIGA’s move forward to match our ever-changing profession and the activities chapters are engaging in. AIGA is approaching its centennial celebration in 2014. During the general sessions AIGA CEO, Ric Grefé, discussed how we are in the process of creating the design association of the 21st century. He explained that these advancements are aimed at strengthening chapters and empowering ourselves and our members. It is in response to these changes, that the mission statement of AIGA has been revised to reflect the new course AIGA is adopting as we head into our centennial year.

AIGA Mission:

“AIGA advances design as a professional craft, strategic advantage and vital cultural force. As the largest community of design advocates, we bring together practitioners, enthusiasts and patrons to amplify the voice of design and create the vision for a collective future.” Read more.

This new course aims to create a “more inclusive, member-empowered community, using local chapters, social media and the internet to engage designers of all disciplines in active conversations about the opportunities and challenges of design.”

You have already seen some of the changes that are happening in AIGA. The new membership structure that was rolled out last August allows those with an interest in design to join at a level that reflects their interest in and commitment to AIGA. With memberships starting at $50 a year, anyone with an interest in design can afford the benefits of membership in an association that advocates for and advances the profession.

Another change is a shift in focus. Previously the level of focus was top down—AIGA > Chapters > Members. The new view flips, now the “AIGA experience [is] not being defined by what one member gets from AIGA, what one chapter is able to accomplish in its community, or any single action by a national office. The AIGA experience is the sum of all member, chapter and national efforts. There is One AIGA, building a more robust design community for the future.

There is also a movement to recognize that “what makes designers most valuable are the interrelated dimensions of their contribution: head (strategy), heart (empathy) and hand (craft).

“One AIGA” and “Heart, Heart, Hand” are themes that you will be seeing a lot of as we head into our centennial year. You’ll also see activities commemorating this major milestone as well as celebrating and documenting the history of the association and the design profession. This is a chance to look back at our shared roots as designers, celebrate the past, and look forward to the future. Exciting times ahead!

By Amy Lyons
Published June 12, 2013