I was happy and proud to hear via twitter that Debbie Millman has become the new President of the AIGA. This is a kind of make it or break it time for the organization and if there’s anyone out there that can turn things around it’s her. I don’t think Richard Grefé has made things easy by turning back the strong stance the AIGA used to have on Spec work, and a post about what his words mean nor the head in the sand attitude to the economy in his post How Is AIGA Helping Designers Survive the Recession? My post about that can be found at What Graphic Designers need to understand. That laissez faire attitude that things will get better so sit tight attitude ultimately was the reason why I quit the AIGA. In any case I’ve seen the influence that Debbie has had on the broad graphic design community which no doubt will benefit from her vision.
As someone that is looking from the outside in now, I started thinking about what the AIGA on a National level today might be missing. Of course this is coming from the pov of someone that isn’t seeing what is going on in the background nor actually doing anything to help that out. But from a strategic overview there’s a lot of philosophical design points that don’t seem to be in parallel with what is going on today. 1. First and foremost there’s a generational shift/gap that no one is talking about. A lot of the older designers didn’t trust the computer when it made sense to use one and fought it hard. The extension of that thinking today is the web. The same denial is back. I find this attitude to be more prevalent on the East Coast than the West Coast. 2. Designers are in denial of how people communicate today. It’s not through the craft of the stationery package. No one denies that every element counts but in today’s instant messaging world the art of craft doesn’t cut it. 3. DIY—this kind of seems obvious but it’s actually a bit more severe. Professional DIY is not about those weekend hobbyist that are full time scrapbookers. I’m talking about the business people, scientists and other professions that have adapted design thinking and left the graphic designer in the dust. What’s up with that? 4. Nostalgia—graphic designers love getting sentimental about the past glories of old designers. It’s great to know about the past so you don’t make the same mistakes blah, blah, blah… The thing is, we really are in an
unprescidented unprecedented time of commerce, technology and communication and by listening to old designers that originally shunned the computer are not going to help right now. It’s ironic that design is supposed to change things for the better and create something out of nothing, yet designer’s aren’t willing to do the same for themselves. 5. Art is not design, and design is not technology. Graphic design is many things yet those terms get intermixed and confused all the time. 6. Selflessness—there’s a great question out there. “Who would you rather see succeed, the client or yourself”. If you would rather win every time over as opposed to the clients goals, why not just be an artist? 7. Definition—while it’s almost pointless to try to define what graphic design is, or even design for that matter, yet the typical graphic designer is very quick to point out what they don’t do. Sadly that only creates walls that the real world tends to ignore and the only people left in the dark are the wall builders.