The AIGA has quietly changed their name. What used to be an acronym is apparently now just a “nym”. The letters AIGA no longer stand for anything, but the organization now stands for a lot more: a “greater recognition for design’s role in culture, civic society and business.”
I frankly think it’s a mistake for them to have made this change. By dropping “graphic”, and repositioning themselves as a professional association for “design”, they’ve both (a) diluted their own ability to focus on their core membership’s needs and (b) weakened the development of the specific and noble profession of graphic design. These days “design”, as we in this industry particularly know, means pretty much whatever anyone wants it to mean: The famous Emigre slogan that “design is a good idea” sounds great on a t-shirt, but the term “designer” without a qualifier is not a real job or professional field of study unless you’re Steve Jobs or some similar professionally transcendant being.
Presumably the AIGA intended to open their doors a little bit to include interaction designers, information designers, exhibition designers, and other fields that graphic designers have a close affinity with. But do they also mean to include fashion designers, landscape architects, interior decorators, industrial designers? Software designers? Network designers? Business process designers?
I know they mean well, but I just don’t have a good feeling about it. Perhaps it’s because, as I’ve noted, I feel like we have just emerged from a decade during which the term “graphic designer” was unjustly viewed as a perjorative term. Graphic designers are looking back at their history again, without shame. Must the AIGA buy into the unfair vilification of the term, especially now that the cloud is passing?
I also see it as ultimately a superficial change, more trendy than substantive. (Note also that they’ve removed the terms “American” and “Arts” from their name, two other qualities that I imagine are still pretty integral to their mission.)
Who knows, maybe in a few years they’ll issue Retro-AIGA jerseys, or “AIGA Classic” membership plans.