AIGA's One Day for Design "Conversation"

16 Apr 2011 - 6:00pm
5 years ago
1 reply
2864 reads
MJ Broadbent

This past Wednesday, April 13, 2011, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) -- a professional membership organization founded in 1914 -- held an ambitious online event entitled One Day for Design. It was ositioned as "an open, global dialogue on the meaning and future of design, and on the meaning and future of professional associations in our field." While it took place primarily on Twitter, participation was also available on the project website.

Earlier in April, AIGA President Ric Grefé contacted IxDA -- presumably as well as any number of design-related organizations -- and kindly requested our participation. Some of us watched, listened, and spoke up.

One Day for Design content (curated) on the AIGA site:

On Twitter:!/search/1d4d

From my personal perspective, the event was kind of a mess to follow and participate in but was a laudably grand experiment by an historically very non-digital bastion of design. Disclosure: I am a longtime AIGA member and this post is NOT meant to stir the pot about what AIGA as a professional group is or isn't doing for its members or with its programming. I'd like instead to ask you to consider more broadly what we all have in common as professionals who practice different forms of design and how we might be less tribal in our associations.

What moved me to post here? I came across a thoughtful review by Frank Chimero ( in which he distills One Day for Design community content into a list he calls Designer's Poison. I recognized most of these "poisons" as themes or issues we have in common. A number of them -- particularly the role of criticism, philosophy and ethics, our own cognitive bias -- emerged in the program at Interaction11. In my opinion, these are not things to be solved or nailed down. We won't reach a consensus. I do think they are worth being aware of, thinking about, and discussing individually (and publicly) with deliberation -- in the real sense of the word -- as opposed to debate. I'm interested in reaching across the aisle.


18 Apr 2011 - 9:07am
Matt Nish-Lapidus

Thanks for sharing this, MJ.

As you said, a number of these themes emerged from Interaciton'11 (I commented on those on my blog:, so Chimero's post is very timely for our community. 

I think all of us, as individuals and as a group, are guilty of most of these things at one time or another. That's probably true of any professional community... There are a couple of his points that really struck home for me:

The self-serving nature of design.

This is so true... so much of what we do is really only for ourselves... a certain amount of this is good. It's good when we build our own tools, develop methods, and share within our community. But the end goal of our work needs to benefit more than other designers. Some "big" apps are really guilty of this. I'll call out Flipboard especially, given that it's only real purpose is to add a nice looking grid to your feed. It's easy to forget that there are many different types of people when we live in a world of self-selected social networks that easily become feedback loops.

Villainizing criticism.

At the same time as I saw real IxD criticism emerge at Interaction'11, I also saw some prime examples of the fear of criticism. We're all too willing to pat each other on the back. All opinios are considered equally valid... I think this is a big problem for our community. We need to be critical of ourselves, each other, and all ideas. If all opinions are equally valid, then everybody should have to validate their opinions. Maybe we need a return to Greek Dialog style debating to explore concepts and ideas... we need more rigour and less opinion based solely on personal experience alone.

Undervaluing philosophy.

We saw this one loud and clear when Dick Buchannan gave his keynote... as a communict we are woefully undereducated about our theory and philosophy. This is the foundation of our work, whether you're designing websites or medical devices or interactive spaces. If you don't think theory applies to your work then you're reading the wrong theory or not thinking enough about your work. This is another area where there is opportunity to branch out beyond design specific reading. Lots of general philosophy, art theory, and other subjects will make you a better designer. 

Our cognitive bias towards the uniqueness of our challenges.

Most problems have been encoutered already, in some form... And many disciplines are capable of coming up with great solutions to those problems. Only when we stop trying to "own" things and collaborate fully will the solutions benifit equally from all the possible different approaches to a solution. It is as much our resposibility to learn from other practices as it is to share our practice with others.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. I'd love to hear what others thought of this article and how it relates to discussions we've been having in and around the IxDA.


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