A Need for a National Graphic Design Organization?
“Please make a priority out of the question of how we might form a larger alliance of graphic design associations.”
—Robert Vogele, President of the Society of Typographic Arts (STA), 1980
The first Lutsen Design Conference sparked a serious dialogue between the MGDA and STA, Chicago’s oldest design organization, about the creation of a National Graphic Design Organization. MGDA President Tim Larsen summarized these discussions in a cover story for the Fall 1980 issue of the MGDA Newsletter.
Larsen reports, “The STA and MGDA along with other organizations and individuals have begun a dialogue about the creation of a National Design Organization. The national organization would not affect the MGDA structure but would be a national organization of individual members who would have the option to belong to one or both of the organizations… Many of the other design professions already have national organizations. Graphic design only has the rather provincial American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) whose main objective is putting on exhibits.” Larsen goes on to explain that the MGDA Board of Directors believe a national organization is needed so graphic designers around the country can gather to talk about common problems and need, share information, and develop high standards.
Sound familiar? Today we take for granted the mission of AIGA chapters to allow its members to form powerful social and professional bonds through local conferences, competition, lectures, and community events. But this wasn’t the norm in 1980. In fact, AIGA (whose headquarters were located in New York City) was resistant to the idea of chapters until pressure from designers nationwide compelled them to consider the idea.
In 1981, AIGA President David Brown announced that the board of directors had voted that the Institute become national, “in fact, as well as in name.”Chapters began to form, based on a model in Philadelphia, which became the first AIGA chapter. It was followed by Cleveland, New York, and San Francisco. MGDA became an AIGA chapter in 1986.