A Four Part Series on AIGA Jacksonville

by joey marchy
You’ve likely heard of AIGA Jacksonville or attended one of their events in the past few months. As Northeast Florida’s local chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, AIGA Jacksonville has a major stake in the city of Jacksonville. As such, its 250 members are investing heavily in the Jacksonville community, its residents and its future. Over the next four months I’ll take a look at AIGA Jacksonville and its impact on education, the business community and the public sector.
AIGA Jacksonville is one of 64 AIGA chapters scattered across the United States. AIGA, the professional association for design, represents and supports over 20,000 designers, educators and students through various national and local programs. AIGA’s mission is to advance design as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force. In their own words:
“AIGA is the premier place for design – to discover it, discuss it, understand it, appreciate it, be inspired by it. It is the place designers turn to first to exchange ideas and information, participate in critical analysis, and research and advance education and ethical practices. AIGA sets the national agenda for the role of design in its economic, social, political, cultural and creative contexts.”
You don’t need to be a graphic designer to understand or appreciate design. The layout of this article, the design of a website, the typography or symbols on city street signs – that’s all design and it’s easy to find necessary value in it. Design is not just the “look” of something, however. It’s far more complicated in terms of communication and problem solving. Design combines art and technology to communicate ideas through image, typography and color.
As I was writing this article, AIGA Jacksonville’s President, Varick Rosete, reminded me that the root of all design lies in thought, research, process and storytelling.
Non-designers such as myself probably would agree that design is important but wouldn’t necessarily be able to explain why it is important. I thought and searched for ways to illustrate the importance of design and finally found it in a quote by Niti Bhan: “When we can design a product or solution that meets an unmet need or challenge successfully that becomes good design.”
My interpretation: “Graphic design transforms information and ideas into meaning.” Some people think of graphic designers as people who make things look better. To me, they’re communications professionals who use design as a strategic tool to solve cultural and business issues. Designers take complicated issues and complex information and translate it into something we can understand.
In addition to creating, AIGA Jacksonville members are also molding future designers. Members lend guidance to hundreds of graphic design students across Northeast Florida. Through speaker events, portfolio reviews and mentoring programs, AIGA Jacksonville works extensively to prepare tomorrow’s designers for the workforce.
In AIGA Jacksonville’s Portfolio Review, designers graduating from college receive invaluable feedback and critique on their work from seasoned professionals. The Discover Design mentoring program is structured for the high school level, pairing a high school student with a professional designer for six weeks. The students complete all aspects of a true design project – concept, sketches, rough draft – to arrive at a finished work. This year’s campaign, “Create! Don’t Hate.”, is a Design Ignites Change Youth Mentoring Initiative built around the theme of tolerance. AIGA Jacksonville is looking to secure sponsorship of a billboard to showcase the winning design.
AIGA Jacksonville’s community involvement extends outside of professional development and into the non-profit sector as well. The program “AIGA JAX Gives Back” provides members and non-members the opportunity to use their time, talents, and resources to give back to the Jacksonville community. Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens, the Jacksonville Zoo, the Big Fun Box and the Jacksonville Public library all have benefited from this program. This year, from February to June, AIGA Jacksonville is partnering with the Salvation Army to serve meals to Jacksonville’s less fortunate.
Education and community service are key to the growth of the organization. Without guiding the next generation of designers, AIGA Jacksonville risks weakening the design community and future membership. Community service provides a means to reach out to those outside of the creative community.
The real challenge for AIGA is to educate the public on the value of design and the full potential of the designer’s contribution. In business, design is too often viewed as a one-size-fits-all commodity rather than a strategic tool or competitive advantage. Design transforms a corporation’s message, produces value, and creates a viable connection with a customer. Ultimately, designers connect companies to consumers and organizations to communities.