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The AIGA: Moving into China, Social Networking, Business Strategy

Posted by: Reena Jana on July 9, 2007

I recently went to a lunch hosted by Richard Grefé, the executive director of the AIGA (the acronym stands for the American Institute of Graphic Arts; today, the 93-year-old organization refers to itself as “the professional association for design,” broadening its reach beyond graphics). We discussed how the 19,000-member AIGA is redefining itself to evolve with designers of all stripes who are increasingly embracing roles as business strategists (think IDEO or Smart Design). And the AIGA now publishes how-to brochures targeted for C-suite executives who are curious about the use of design as an innovation tool. I went home with a cute little booklet titled “What every business needs. And how,” featuring a 12-step framework for folding design thinking into a business strategy.

Some interesting AIGA developments I learned about over sandwiches and lemonade: the group’s working on building a social networking site for its AIGA China initiative (a partnership with the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing), to give design students in Asia a way to showcase their work to businesses around the globe. The AIGA also plans to partner with design schools in India, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, on various projects. Grefé said the AIGA is working to establish a 3-year cycle to bring socially responsible products discussed between designers and potential funders at the annual Aspen Design Summit into production, rather than remain on the good-intentioned drawing board. (This year’s Summit, hosted by AIGA and the International Design Conference at Aspen, takes place from October 11-14.) AIGA designers are also creating (non-mandatory) ballot guidelines for easier-to-read voting materials in the United States. The group’s already re-designed ballots for use in Chicago and Oregon. And an intriguing topic that also came up was how the role of the designer-as-authority might soon change again, as more companies rely on user-generated content and crowd-sourcing. It’s a subject that the AIGA’s members — and many designers in general — are just beginning to tackle, and will likely serve as a lively issue in discussions to come.

Reader Comments


July 9, 2007 2:02 PM

I'm fairly certain that the AIGA acronym doesn't stand for anything anymore. It's just AIGA. I may be wrong, but when they came up with their new slogan, I do believe they had dropped the idea that the letters were an acronym. Now it's just 4 letters. This makes even more sense if its planning to be a global organization.

Reena Jana

July 9, 2007 3:21 PM

Thanks for your email. As for the AIGA's name, the four letters still stand for the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Please see the AIGA Web site:

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