AIGA Conference Recap

Darian O'Reilly / Monday, November 7, 2016

I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 AIGA Conference in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. The theme of the conference this year was “The Shape of Design” and attendees were given the opportunity to hear industry leaders such as Paula Scher, John Maeda, and Diogenes Brito talk about their personal experiences in today’s fluid, professional landscape.

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The conference was kicked off by a design fair featuring vendors like Pantone and Adobe during which I signed up to participate in the jointly created Google/AIGA 2016 Design Census later this year. This survey will reach far beyond the usual salary poll that has been performed in years past and promises to include questions about anything from length of commute, to office environment and educational background. The goal of the census is to empower the broader design community to take charge of its professional development and happiness.


Immediately following, the first general session began where moderator Roman Mars, the creator of 99% Invisible led the crowd through a series of inspiring and provocative talks. One of the most memorable was “Change It, Don’t Change It” given by Keira Alexandra who spoke about her experience redesigning the Kodak logo. She led the audience through her design process for this practically pro-bono project that resulted in a logo that was new and relevant while continuing to pay homage to the longstanding traditions of a slightly tattered but well-loved brand.


More than any individual talk though, I would have to say that my favorite part of the conference was Command X, where seven emerging designers (under 30) competed in a live design challenge. Through a series of three elimination rounds; redesigning the Gambler’s Anonymous logo, creating innovative shipping packaging for Zappos, and crafting a campaign to get young people to vote, the contestants presented their work to the crowd and received live critiques from judges Dana Arnett, Stanley Hainsworth, and Bonnie Siegler. It was impressive to see the work of these talented young designers as well as fascinating and informative to hear the feedback given by the expert judges, not to mention how much fun it was to think about how I would have responded to each challenge myself.


After 3 days and more than 50 presentations, the conference came to a close – until next year when it will be held in Minneapolis. I left feeling inspired and more than a little bit in awe of the speakers I had seen, ready to rush home and create something spectacular!

If you are a designer who is not already a member of AIGA, I strongly urge you to look into membership. They have more than 70 chapters nationwide with over 25,000 members. They offer newsletters, blogs, networking events, continuing education, and enable members to form powerful social and professional bonds through conferences, competitions, lectures, and community events.