2009 Leadership Retreat: Day 2 Recap

We made it through Day 2 of the AIGA Leadership Retreat, our first full day in sessions. And a LONG day it was! Where as yesterday it was emotionally overwhelming to be a part of something like this and be here with so many talented people, today was filled with so much engaging discussion that it was intellectually overwhelming!

In the morning we started with a general assembly in the ballroom, where Executive Director Ric Grefe talked about the strategic and tactical challenges we as AIGA face. He made a great point in that this retreat is really an opportunity for the national board and staff to listen to local chapters and be transparent in the changes and mandates being put forth this weekend. The course adjustments being proposed are based on feedback that each chapter has received as well as feedback to the national board, and this year’s retreat is about discussing those findings, determining the best course of action, and taking the necessary steps to move forward. He also emphasized the point that we must move forward together in order to be successful and fruitful in the long term.


Ric then walked us through some important branding guidelines, things I’m sure we’ve heard before but still good things to hear again and have reinforced. For instance, we are not “The AIGA”, we are “AIGA”, and there is no “AIGA National” just “AIGA”. He also made a great point about our terminology, and the idea of us vs. them, AIGA Idaho vs. AIGA National. We are all AIGA, there are no boundaries or segments of the organization, we are all part of it and are all equally concerned about the future of AIGA.

Needs And Priorities

We also went on to discuss the critical needs of the organization. Ric outlined the areas of greatest need for help, which are listed below:

• We need to achieve the strength of diversity. We need to do more to not only embrace minorities and support them in their careers, we need to embrace a diversity of disciplines and practices as well as diversify our offerings and become a valuable resource available to designers whoever they are and wherever they are.
• We need to address the principal member service issues, and enact programs to establish things like free events for our members, embracing the need for more small group discussion events and facilitating those conversations, and making sure our members (especially new members) are welcomed, engaged, and included in events and discussions.
• We need to offer more programming that members have identified as valuable. Throughout the surveys and roundtables there has been consistent desires for more learning and training type programs, small group discussions and open forums, blogs and opportunities for member contributed content, embracing other disciplines and mediums, and doing more to educate our local industries about the value of design in business.
• And finally we must deal with the perception that AIGA and local chapters are cliques or elitist, and find ways to break down those preconceived notions. This is something that Idaho as a chapter has faced and that I feel is incredibly important to address.

We then outlined the priorities in implementing these new programs by 2014:

1. We must continue to work on developing AIGA and chapter sites as a central place of information and a portal.
2. We must have clearly outlined benefits of membership, including the tangible and intangible. In the current state of the economy the concern about “what’s in it for me?” is becoming more and more present, and we need to work harder at making sure those benefits are known, what our membership dues go towards, as well as what sort of programs and initiatives AIGA is involved in that benefit society.
3. We need to increase resources to the website(s) that provide for co-creation of content and broad distribution. There were many comments made that AIGA is behind when it comes to social media and social networking integration, which I also agree with but understand that there are higher priorities in the grand scheme of things. The new mandate has much emphasis on user generated content and member contribution, something that we at AIGA Idaho have been planning and preparing for as well.
4. AIGA must project a tone that is engaging to young designers. We need to reach out to younger designers who increasingly have the desire to contribute, be heard, and have the opportunity to voice their opinions and wishes. They are our future and we need to meet them and engage them where they are on the web and out in the world.

There Is No “Spec Jail”

The fun part began when national board member Brad Weed went through a presentation of AIGA’s revised position on spec work. It was a great presentation that may have added to the confusion for some, but also opened up a heated debate that continued throughout the day. Some of the main points of Brad’s presentation were that spec happens, it’s inevitable, and with the freedom granted by the internet is nearly impossible to escape. Regardless, AIGA’s official stance on spec work (as later clarified by president Sean Adams) is that we do not support the practice of spec work, but we also don’t condemn members who have made that choice. And AIGA members have participated in spec work. What we can do, however, is educate both designers and clients as to the pitfalls inherent in spec work and equip them to make the most responsible decision.

For more info please read AIGA’s official position on spec work and Executive Director Ric Grefe’s follow up article on spec work and ethical standards. Please contribute to the discussion by leaving comments on one or both. AIGA Idaho will be putting together programming to help educate Idaho designers on the issue of spec work and clarify our position and the risks involved, as well as providing an opportunity for active discussion , so watch for that in the coming months.

Breakout Sessions

The rest of the day was filled with lively discussions about a number of topics via breakout sessions. There were two sessions, with multiple options of topics during each session. I attended the first on successfully using the Internet Kit CMS that drives our chapter site, which was informative and inspired some great ideas for our site. The second I attended was about developing website content, which I thought was absolutely wonderful, and moderated by members of AIGA Charlotte and AIGA Iowa. There was much discussion on user generated content and member contributions, something as important to AIGA Idaho as it is to the entire organization. The wheels are already in motion for such things in our chapter, but we’d love your feedback and especially your ideas as to what you would like to see or contribute.

As for the rest of the group, I’ll let them elaborate on their breakout topics when they get a chance.

The Nexus of The (Creative) Universe

After a second Caucus discussion meeting and a final Q and A session, we debriefed and parted ways to prepare for this evening’s party, a reception at the legendary Wieden + Kennedy, sponsored by Adobe (who is in the process of officially renewing their sponsorship of AIGA for another two years!). What an absolutely amazing place, and unfortunately it can’t be adequately described unless you see it for yourself. The entire space, all (geez there must have been 6) floors of it custom built with huge slabs of concrete and wood paneling, with huge wooden steps leading up from the main floor of our reception space to the upper levels. Above walkways for the top levels criss-crossed the space. Paul, Jennie and Jodie took lots of pictures, so be sure to check out their Twitter streams for many a TwitPic, including some of the men’s bathroom… It’s probably best not to ask. Definitely an amazing place to be able to go to work every day, and apparently many don’t choose to leave in the evening – there were many folks still working and milling about!

Preparing For The Future

It was another great day, filled with enlightened discussion and a free exchange of ideas that was truly inspiring. As leaders and members of AIGA, we collaborated with national staff, suggested improvements and ideas to better serve our members, and helped to set the stage for our Constitutional Convention tomorrow which will decide the future of AIGA. Tomorrow will be an historic day for our organization, with nearly 100 years of operation culminating in a final call for support or amendment for the proposed initiatives to be enacted by 2014 that will transition AIGA into the next hundred years and hopefully continued relevance and importance within the design community. If you haven’t been following along up to now, please make sure you are following tomorrow morning (noon Idaho time) as we make plans to change course for the future. If you have any questions or concerns please communicate those to us and we’ll voice them to the group. Visit yesterday’s recap to see the proposed mandate. We’ll keep you updated via Twitter as the event happens.

After the Convention tomorrow we will be developing action plans to put everything we’ve learned and the ideas we’ve had into motion, and we’ll be posting that soon to the blog and the Retreat resource mini-site that will come. Exciting things are happening, so be prepared for some big changes around the AIGA Idaho house! As for me, once again I’ve slipped into a sleepy stupor and must head off. Until tomorrow, good night.

By aigaidaho
Published June 6, 2009
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