AIGA Leadership Retreat: “We Are Strong Together”

AIGA welcome city guide and program

As an AIGA board member, I had the great honor of attending last month’s Leadership Retreat in Grand Rapids, MI. This annual event brings together board members from AIGA’s 70+ chapters to meet, share updates and network with peers in the design field.

This year’s retreat rallied over 200 members, including a large number of first-timers like myself. After catching up with familiar faces and meeting some new ones, I made my way into the main ballroom to hear AIGA Executive Director and industry veteran Ric Grefé deliver his welcome speech. Ric drove home AIGA’s mission of giving a voice to the design community and reinforced the fact that we’re stronger together. 

Ric and Ryyan

After his speech wrapped up, I continued to explore the ballroom event space. There were tables for each chapter, displaying materials they had produced. These included posters, t-shirts, mugs and other collateral used to promote local AIGA events. I snagged several of my favorites to show my coworkers here at CHIEF.

Vegas Chapter Table
Kansas City Chapter Table

The swag was just a bonus. The real highlight of my experience came from the various sessions and group lunches I attended over the course of the three-day retreat. A few of my favorite sessions were:

  • Managing Online Content and Communications: Amy Lyons from AIGA’s Raleigh chapter gave a presentation on communications best practices and what’s in her toolbox (e.g., Slack, Basecamp, Google Groups, Hootsuite and Evernote). She mentioned several successful blog series and stressed the importance of establishing “concrete takeaways” when promoting an event.
  • How To Be An Effective Design Facilitator: Seth Johnson from IBM Design in Austin, TX shared best practices for facilitation. These were revealed while doing a sample Empathy Map broken into 4 sections: Says, Thinks, Does and Feels. We learned about dealing with strong egos and lack of participation, gaining credibility and implementing after-action techniques.
  • iKit & Web Programming Lunches: During these lunches I met with the developers of our AIGA WordPress theme, as well as my counterparts from other chapters. We discussed the web-programming events that our chapters have run as well as other strategies for enhancing collaboration. Since our meeting we’ve all signed up for Slack, a new tool for messaging and collaboration. It has helped keep the discussion going from coast to coast!
  • AIGA Chapter Programming Videos: Select chapters shared local programming videos. I encourage all of you to check them out to learn how AIGA chapters are building community, sharing knowledge and promoting collaboration around the country:
DC Board Members

To say the retreat was an amazing experience would be an understatement. I left feeling truly inspired and motivated to advance my involvement with AIGA and keep the design dialogue going. I hope to see more participants at our events in the upcoming program year (many of which will be hosted at our new CHIEF headquarters!). If you’re not already a member check out our membership structure and if you’re a designer in the DC area leave us a comment below to find out how you can get involved with one of the largest AIGA chapters in the nation!

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