Recap of AIGA Leadership Retreat in Portland

The theme for this year’s Leadership Retreat (a national conference for AIGA Board Members) was “sea change,” which I felt was very fitting for everything we see going on around us right now.

Photo from

Photo from

So many of the conversations over those few days highlighted just how much our profession has changed. As proof of this, I noticed that the titles and role descriptions for many of people I met were different – the room was no longer full of just “traditional designers.” There were roles in interactive and application design, branding and strategic design thinking… and more. We’ve seen this trend coming, and it was clear that this has finally turned mainstream. No longer can we just describe these roles as emerging as they are now established as part of our makeup. I wonder if the “outside world” (our clients) have all noticed this yet?

Change is something to embrace. Our profession as a whole is evolving at an ever progressing rate. AIGA needs to stay on the forefront of this change. And we will, as long as we keep in mind that it’s through our members that change will happen.

I left the conference with new knowledge and new perspectives. And while there are always plenty of good tips and success stories to bring back, I was struck more by some of the thoughts that filtered through the rooms.

That you should celebrate where we’ve been as a profession (and HONOR that history), but the FOCUS should be on what’s ahead. There has to be recognition of our accomplishments, but this is only to acknowledge the great people that propel us forward.

That true change will come from the activities of our members (at all levels) and not from just a select few at the top of the organization.

That each member has a voice and should be able to participate and contribute to the overall conversations. There are tools we should be utilizing to make this easier.

Incoming AIGA President Debbie Millman mentioned her goal of “connectivity” at the Retreat. I see this goal/theme relating to what AIGA should be doing on several levels: connecting to our members, connecting with the bigger issues and connecting to other associations. I’m sure there’s even more – to stay relevant we can’t be isolated. As an AIGA Chapter Leader, I take all of this to heart and look towards applying this new theme and some new initiatives towards Houston itself.

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By Robin Tooms
Published June 15, 2009
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