Summary by Bruce Wright, photos by Jay Larson

The couture may not have been as extreme as Hollywood’s (after all, this is Minnesota, don’t ya know?), but the understated glamour was palpable nonetheless as the local design community gathered on the eve of June 2 at the American Swedish Institute (ASI) in Minneapolis to pay tribute to AIGA Minnesota’s newest honorees Andrew Blauvelt, Timothy Eaton, and Kolean Pitner.

Nearly all the past AIGA Minnesota Fellows made their appearance — from the first, Peter Seitz (awarded in 2000), to subsequent honorees, Tim Larsen (2007); Sue Crolick, Joe Duffy, and Eric Madsen (2010), John DuFresne, Monica Little, and Heather Olson (2012); Jo Davison, and absent were Dale Johnston, and Doug Powell (2014) — and they were glorious in their sartorial splendor for the rooftop group photo at the ASI.

Sue Crolick, Heather Olson, Jo Davison, Eric Madsen, Andrew Blauvelt, John DuFresne, Kolean Pitner, Tim Larsen, Timothy Eaton, Joe Duffy, Monica Little, Peter Seitz (Not pictured: Dale Johnston and Doug Powell)

The AIGA Fellow program recognizes designers who have made a significant contribution to raising the standards of excellence in practice and conduct within their local or regional design community as well as their local AIGA chapter. Conferred every other year, the Fellow Award is the highest honor AIGA Minnesota may bestow upon its members. This year’s event recognized the 2016 Fellow Award honorees’ significant contributions to the community and celebrated their accomplishments.

Excitement and anticipation of the event was building, and once new AIGA Fellow Andrew Blauvelt arrived (he relocated to Bloomfield Hills, MI where he assumed the directorship of the Cranbrook Museum of Art last fall), group photos were taken and everyone filed into the ASI Larson Auditorium for the evening’s celebration and eagerly took their seats.

Jenny Price and Julie Anixter

A welcome and introductions were given by AIGA Minnesota President Jenny Price, who introduced national AIGA Executive Director Julie Anixter, making her first official visit to Minnesota. Anixter enthusiastically lauded the importance of graphic designers in society and the AIGA for its support of its members, and praised AIGA Minnesota’s role in the region and its longtime contributions to the national organization.

Each new Fellow was introduced by a close friend who sketched in a professional and personal background context to their honoree.

Emmet Byrne and Andrew Blauvelt

Andrew Blauvelt was introduced by good friend and protégée Emmet Byrne, current Director of Design at the Walker Art Center: “I have come to understand Andrew’s belief in design as a wholistic one, one that he inevitably applied to every aspect of the Walker Art Center’s institutional culture. I’ve seen him employ the same level of passion and critical thought toward analyzing the smallest typographic detail as he does to debating the circulation paths of the new 19-acre sculpture garden, or analyzing our integrated communications plan, or working with the architects to pick out the perfect furniture (or trash cans). It’s all design to him. He epitomizes the creative problem solver, and I’ve never met someone so comfortable being so pragmatic about the most irrational subject matter, or so creative with the most mundane assignments.”

Tim Eaton and John DuFresne

AIGA Fellow John DuFresne, professor of design at Concordia University, Saint Paul, introduced Tim Eaton with these words: “I relish calling this design great a friend. Here’s a guy who, working with his college mentor Frank Ariss, unforgettably influenced the look of newspapers world-wide with their seminal 1971 Minneapolis Tribune redesign. Here’s the designer that created the most iconic, unrivaled AIGA chapter poster, ever. Here’s the designer that parlayed his love for the outdoors into associations with The Nature Conservancy, the Quetico Superior Foundation, Urban Boatbuilders, and Canoeing.com.”

Heather Olson and Kolean Pitner

AIGA Fellow Heather Olson had this to say about Kolean Pitner: “In a snapshot of Kolean, you’ll see one of the most cheerful and enthusiastic design advocates you could meet, even when she’s fighting for what’s right. Kolean encourages colleagues through unconditional support. She educates us with her singular knowledge of design history. And she contributes generously — as a board member, program builder, mentor, and feet-on-the-ground volunteer. Picture Kolean a Fellow!”

The AIGA Fellow Award honors practitioners and/or educators with more than 15 years of experience in the profession that have:

  • Advanced excellence in graphic design as a discipline, profession, and cultural force;
  • Made a positive impact within the local or regional design community; or
  • Made a significant contribution to AIGA Minnesota. (The areas of education, writing, leadership, advocacy, and reputation, as well as the practice of design, have equal consideration in measuring significant contribution.)

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Jhoselin Dominguez
Jhoselin Dominguez
Associate Director, Communications
I am a graphic designer from Kansas currently living in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. I graduated May of 2019 from Fort Hays State University with a B.F.A in Graphic Design. My hobbies include writing short stories, riding my longboard, and playing the piano.