2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the nation’s premier professional design organization. In honor of the celebration, AIGA/NY reached out to 30 NYC design stars to each create a poster for the festivities based on the following brief: “AIGA, New York City, and/or the number 30: capturing your personal experience with the AIGA’s NY chapter.”
The roster of participating designers reads like a who’s who of New York design with names like Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Paula Scher, Michael Bierut, Mirko Illic, Maira Kalman, and Debbie Millman, among others. Design-wise, the limited-edition posters are as eclectic as the city, genre, and organization they celebrate.
Michael Bierut saw the assignment as a chance to dig through his basement for the mix tape he made for AIGA/NY’s launch party three decades ago, which he then scanned. Describing his poster, Scott Stowell, proprietor of Open, says, “It’s a receipt for your donation. It’s a message from me to AIGA/NY, from AIGA/NY to you, and from you to your friends (assuming you buy one and hang it up somewhere). The poster both connects us and makes our connections clear.”
“Since it was being printed, we tried to play up the use of color and the celebratory energy that it provides,” says Adam Michaels at Project Projects, who approached the commission as what he calls a kind of “poster as birthday card”. He goes on to explain that “Color gradients both reference the history of poster printing (split fountains and all that) as well as ideas of change and transformation. The poster also represents the studio, so we asked everyone here to give us one or two 30s of their own design to throw in the mix—the result is both multi-vocal and collective.”
Of course, the anniversary—and the poster commissions—provided an opportunity to look back and reminisce on AIGA/NY’s role in the city’s design scene, and the recurring theme that multiple players point to is the sense of community the organization has provided its members. As David Heasty of Triboro points out, “It’s the way you first get to meet your design heroes. The best AIGA events are like Hollywood premiers—a room full of creative legends chatting and drinking wine. What could be cooler?”
Stowell concurs, “AIGA/NY is the gateway drug for design in New York City,” he says. “How else can we connect with so many resources and people and ideas? With more and more events and programs every year, I don’t know what it would be like to be a designer here without it.”
“AIGA/NY was entirely about community for me,” recalls designer Sam Potts, noting the importance of face-to-face opportunities in an increasingly digital era. “Before I joined, I was just a naive kid working in the living room with a 90-pound laser printer and a Metrocard to get in to Manhattan for client meetings. Participating in the NY chapter, seeing amazing people speak live for real and in person while holding a cold beverage in my hand, meeting people whose work I’d long admired, feeling the warmth of sunlight on my face—these are not pleasures and benefits well-afforded by our creeping online social networks—at least not until WordPress comes out with a sunlight plug-in. So yeah, it was a big deal to me and opened a lot of doors to do things like teach, collaborate and pitch for the Red Sox (which has yet to happen, technically).”
The limited-edition series includes just 100 posters of each design, and 10 copies of every design are signed. The commemorative posters are available for purchase through Etsy, and all proceeds will benefit AIGA/NY.
For more information on the anniversary celebrations, including the upcoming June benefit, visit AIGA/NY.