Thursday, December 29, 2005

AIGA Changes Its Name

The trade association formerly known as American Institute of Graphic Arts has changed its name to AIGA, the professional association for design, according to their web page, dated December 22nd. The name change results from changes in job descriptions, technology and professional practices in the industry over the years. The career was once known as "commercial art," signifying art, typically illustration, done for advertising or marketing purposes. The industry later became known as "graphic arts," emphasizing its printing and production tracks. Now, industry practitioners wish to be known as "graphic designers," emphasizing loftier concepts of design.

The powers that be at AIGA want the public to think of their association as the de facto trade association for graphic designers. They want its members to help reinforce the AIGA brand identity by using the initials after their names: "We encourage active members to join many of your colleagues in using the initials 'AIGA' after your name in email signatures, business cards, etc., to show your support of the profession and your commitment to the standards for professional practice."

The issue that many designers face is that membership in the AIGA, the Graphic Artists' Guild (GAG), the Printing Association of Florida (PAF) and other trade associations are accomplished by simply paying a membership fee. Membership in these trade associations does not imply any type of license or certification. Sure, there are benefits to membership, but I feel the name change is intended to reposition the AIGA to connote a higher level of prestige.

The graphics industry has always had open doors for anyone wishing to work as a graphic designer. There has never been any kind of licensing or certification required. Anyone with a computer, scanner, printer and software can open up shop--even from a home studio or office. Entry into the field is easy, but it is flooded with people lacking formal training. The AIGA provides another means by which a graphic designer's skills can continue to grow, but don't expect it to give your resume a higher level of prestige. If you're interested in joining the AIGA, do it because you wish to associate with other graphic designers, share and gain knowledge and skills and grow as an industry professional.

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