Open: AIGA Leadership Retreat 2016

Greetings from Raleigh!

One of the wonderful perks of being a board member of AIGA Houston has been representing our chapter at the leadership retreat the past two years. This year, four of us boarded a plane to Raleigh (our host city this year) and drank the design Kool-Aid with about 300 of our closest AIGA friends from all over the world.

AIGA design conferences are fun, engaging, and open-minded. Everyone in the room has a passion for design and actually WANTS to be there. This year’s aptly named theme was Open. Below are the cards I collected in our cities design-centric “Cards Against Humanities” exchange.


A few interesting things came out of this conference in relation to that theme:

• The concept of open-source as it relates to design and design thinking.

• Open-minded. Expression of equity and inclusion for all.

• Open communication and advocacy of rights. Specifically, giving those without a voice, a voice, and using design as a tool to activate political and social movements.

First, expounding on the points made above, I was delighted to hear the phrase open-source dropped a couple of times in relation to design. Of course, open-souce is something I am well versed in within my development side, but I have been thinking a lot recently about the notion of what that means to design work. AIGA is finally leveraging its reach to put together a comprehensive design census with the help of some friends at Google. Stay tuned for that in the next few months.

One of the most productive workshops was centered around design thinking and led by IBM. I think it was easy for us as designers to latch on to this thought pattern, but I’m happy to see Design (with a capital ‘D’) take a seat at many board room tables where it might not have before. Design disruption has really been brought to light by the value illustrated in the research by DMI. See the The Design Value Index graph specifically, where “over the last 10 years design-led companies have maintained significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 219%.”


Speaking of shaking things up, we heard from many AIGA chapters who are using design to advocate for change with programs and initiatives under Design For Good, partnering with the League of Women Voters to Get Out the Vote (along with a beautiful poster campaign), and my personal favorite, these brilliant ads raising voter turnout in Hispanic communities (poster version below).


I feel very fortunate to be a part of the design community where we do alright to champion and celebrate our differences. I don’t know if any profession has achieved unilateral equality, but it is always a part of our conversations.

If you want to help move the needle, my friend and AIGA Atlanta board member, is selling these incredibly shiny and awesome hats benefitting a wonderful cause! #MakeAmericaGayAgain


By Kaylan Smith
Published June 29, 2016
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