Let’s be honest, it’s no easy feat to hold someone’s attention long enough to explain what AIGA is (what the acronym stands for, why it no longer stands for American Institute of Graphic Arts and why it’s now known as AIGA, the professional association for design), let alone make your case for WHY one should join. I’m still very new to the organization, but I’ve finally mastered my own version of the “what is AIGA” and the “why should I join” elevator pitch. But then I have some more explaining to do once I’m met with the puzzled look the moment I say the word “design,” because well, I am not a designer (read: I don’t understand typeface jokes, critique restaurant menus, consume a steady flow of coffee and beer, or sketch as I’m talking to try to explain a thought). Okay, so maybe I Googled “designer stereotypes,” but based on my daily encounters with designers, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate list. So, why in the world would I want to be part of this cult professional organization? What benefits do I reap as a non-designer or “design advocate?” Let me back up and give you a little background on what I do do.

I’m a public relations professional. In other words, my parents still don’t know how to explain to their friends what I do. PR, like design, is hard to explain to people who aren’t in the field. What it boils down to is this: I help clients get their target audiences to do something. Great PR reaches people who care about the product/cause/idea and gets them talking about the brand, recommending it to friends and/or taking a desired action. I’d argue that good design does the same thing. From my point of view, PR and design professionals might be masters of different crafts, but we’re both hired to help our clients stand out in the crowded marketplace and create value for their customers.

Of all the professional organizations out there to join, why did I choose AIGA? I believe we’re all working toward similar objectives and we therefore have a lot to learn from one another. I might not geek out about typefaces, but I’ll talk about communication and business strategy all night long. I love discussing my clients’ challenges and problems with a designer to get a fresh perspective. If I were in a room full of PR people, I might not even get a word in (yes, stereotypes about PR people are pretty true too). Another tangible benefit that people consider before joining a professional organization is the opportunity to network and get new business leads. AIGA is a great community for me to network in because I’m no one’s competition. The organization draws a variety of people from many different disciplines and everyone is willing to reach out and share opportunities for collaboration or new business. Lastly, the people I’ve met through AIGA are inspiring, passionate and committed to achieving awesomeness. And best of all, they are fun to drink with; they even accept me as a wine drinker!

If you read the AIGA mission carefully, it states “we bring together practitioners, enthusiasts and patrons to amplify the voice of design and create the vision for a collective future.” So there you have it. The way I read this? “AIGA: Not just for designers who wear expensive skinny jeans and trendy glasses.” Cheers to the design “advocates,” “enthusiasts” and our collective future!

By Jane McGillem
Published October 1, 2013
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