2009 Leadership Retreat: Day 1 Recap

Well we all made it safely and successfully (for the most part) into Portland yesterday, and were up and ready for the first day of the 2009 Leadership Retreat today. After registering this morning Paul and I hauled our potato sacks in and set up our table full of spuds and mustaches, eventually resulting in this lovely display:

You could only imagine how proud we were. Once we got started out noon there were introductions, explanations of what will be happening this weekend, and sessions detailing the state of AIGA as an organization. National Secretary/Treasure Shel Perkins shared the current financial standing that AIGA as an organization is healthy, solid and financially sound, and our assets outweigh our liabilities. In troubling economic times this was a relief to hear. National board member Stanley Hainsworth (and his incredible hair) shared some ideas and concepts about future programs and initiatives to come from AIGA, including things like My.AIGA.org and a concept for a National Design Week which sounded unbelievable! And finally Executive Director Ric Grefe reiterated many of the great initiatives and programs being rolled out as well as sharing some new programs and opportunities, including involvement with the Obama White House in which design thinkers will engage with senior staff about the importance of design and creativity. Exciting stuff for sure.

The rest of the day was filled with great discussions about the findings of roundtable discussions and member surveys, and wrapped up with inspirational stories from a few chapters about programs that have been successful and rewarding for them. Afterwards all 250+ of us attempted to fill 4 elevators for a trip to the 23rd floor for a reception and some pin trading. Each chapter designed pins to take and trade with other chapters, ours being these beauties below:



Our buttons were a huge hit, and we had no trouble getting rid of them! We got to meet lots of wonderful, incredibly talented people, and look forward to collaborating them in the next few days and beyond.

Adjusting Course

As I mentioned before, the purpose of this year’s retreat was to decide as an organization what we need to do to stay relevant and valuable on into the next hundred years, as well as how to go about doing it. Ric Grefe’s speech touched on many of the aspects that are of critical importance for the organization, and it was equal parts moving and inspiring. Here are some of the highlights from his speech:

• We need to continue to break down barriers between professions, mediums, styles and disciplines – AIGA is no longer a club, it is a hub for creativity, a network for professionals, and most of all an idea, a movement and a voice for design.
• The idea that AIGA is “a professional association for design” has been outgrown and dated. Again, we are no longer a club, we are now a global design movement
• The coming “Sea Change” is about engagement – engaging our members and communities better and better facilitating a conversation instead of being an authority.
• We need to continue to demonstrate the value of design, especially in every day life.
• Most important of all, we as designers work to improve the human experience.

Ric also touched on our mission, which is just as important now as it has ever been – to advance design as a professional craft, strategic tool, and vital cultural force. In doing so our goals in that mission are to 1) stimulate thinking about design, 2) demonstrating the value of design, and 3) empowering the success of designers.

Mandate for 2014

At the core of our discussions this weekend are the proposed mandates for 2014, which will be our 100th year in operation. The main concerns for our organization and the initiatives that are critical to its success are 1) the continued relevancy of AIGA now, in 2014 and in the future; 2) growing every designers leadership abilities, and positioning them as leaders in thought and ideas, leaders in creativity, and leaders in our communities and society.

In doing roundtable discussions and member surveys over the past six months, AIGA has discovered the following findings that will affect our future direction:

• AIGA should place a higher priority on contributing to long-term benefits for the profession, such as building stronger demand for design in the future, with less emphasis on individual member benefits.

• In advocating design’s value to business, AIGA should focus more on design thinking (developing case studies of business effectiveness and defining the value of design on business objectives), although the role of creativity and inspiration in great design will always be respected.

• In tone, the AIGA experience should focus on younger designers’ interests and needs, in order to attract the next generation of designers to membership. In content, programs should reflect business practices, leadership, values, ethics and standards, in order to respect the interests of mid-career and seasoned designers.

• AIGA should focus more on facilitating opportunities for member engagement, member originated content, member involvement and the expression of personal opinion than on reinforcing its authority on design, professionalism and values.

• Reflecting the interests and needs of a younger cohort, AIGA should develop programs and activities that highlight opportunities for social responsibility, social engagement, sustainability, multiculturalism and diversity. These are critical to the long-term strength and relevance of the profession and AIGA.

In response to these findings, AIGA has proposed the following changes to be made by 2014 to meet the needs of its members:

• Members have ample opportunities to engage in social networking activities, to provide content and make connections. Opportunities are online and in person; the AIGA experience is defined from the bottom up rather than top down.

• The model for conferences involves more regional and local gatherings, with resources invested primarily in the development and distribution of digital audio and video programming. More content is available on the website, with particular attention paid to where the line is drawn for access by nonmembers.

•Non-dues revenue has increased considerably because the line between member and nonmember access to web content has been clearly defined; “tasteful” advertising is accepted on the website; and an online store offers member products for sale to other designers and the public.

• Members have access to a strong core of programs for professional development, particularly for mid career designers and in developing leadership skills.

• Although members receive a limited number of signature print pieces each year, AIGA distributes content primarily in digital form, for reasons of sustainability, economics and reach.

• AIGA offers daily online examples of design excellence, with opportunities for member input as well as expert jury opinion. Design excellence will be embodied in criteria of aesthetics, creation of value for clients and social responsibility.

• Designers become involved with AIGA as a way of assuming a role in the broader business, social and cultural environments, both in the United States and abroad. AIGA continues to develop collaborative relationships with organizations outside the design field, to expand appreciation of the value of design and to seek a leadership position for its members in international design forums and among social entrepreneurs.

Even though it’s a lot to read, it’s tremendously important to the future of our organization. On Saturday each chapter will be voting to support or amend these motions.

Participating in Change

As we sat in the conference room this afternoon filled with 250+ leaders of our organization and profession, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and moved by what was happening and what will happen in the days to come. As an individual it is such an honor and humbling experience to be here, and as a chapter it is empowering to help shape the future of our organization and contribute to something we are all so passionate about. I strongly encourage you all to be a part of it – follow us on Twitter, individually and our chapter account, to stay up to speed on what’s happening and the exciting things to come, and follow the entire conference by searching for the hashtag #AIGA_09LR. Send us questions or comments, and we’ll share them with the group.

There is a lot happening this weekend, a lot of information to share and even more to think about. If you miss something, don’t sweat, in the next few weeks we’ll be putting together a resource mini-site that will provide the full background information about the event, what was discussed and decided for the organization as a whole, and what our action plans are as a chapter and how it affects you as members of AIGA Idaho. These are exciting times as we move AIGA into the future, and we are honored to be a part of it. Good night.

By aigaidaho
Published June 5, 2009
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