In January of 2015, I had the honor of embarking on this journey as president of the AIGA Orange County chapter. I had moved here from the northeast a few years prior and was excited not only by the vibe of design in southern California, but also to share the intensity, energy, and vibrancy of other AIGA chapters I had been a member of, such as Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Subsequently, a few stars collided—some serendipitously, some forcefully—and I’m thrilled to share our progress with you today.
Our chapter was approaching our 20-year anniversary, and we were stuck on a slow decline of activity. It was time to do some soul-searching. What does it mean to be a professional organization amidst a world of online communities, Meetups, and like-minded professional organizations?
For us, the answer was in our mission—we advance education and inspiration while connecting design-related professionals throughout Orange County—and so our team set forth to bring this to action.
An Evolving Board
Progress starts from the inside out. We had a small group of sincerely dedicated volunteers, but recognized that we needed to create more valuable events to serve our mission. In order to do more, our team needed to grow. We’ve had the honor of welcoming a vice president, new directors, chairs, and committees to the team allowing us to expand both our programming and communications.
As we progress into 2016, we’re continuing to build our team, and your participation can help guarantee a sustainable future.
Focusing on Content
In 2015, we took an experimental approach to our programs hoping to gain an understanding of what our community responds to. We rotated the monthly MIX, our signature networking event, to new locations around the Orange County area. We also introduced a Field Trip program to teach more in-depth processes through monthly visits to studios, agencies, and printers throughout the area, and look forward to a lively year of visits ahead. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who welcomed our members over the past year (BurdgeCooper, Letterpress Trade/Presentation Folder, We Do Graphics, Label Impressions, Mon Voir Calligraphy, INNOCEAN, Jovenville/WRKD, Smart Levels Media, and Idea Hall).
Thanks to incredible partnerships with Wayfare, TypeEd, and Column Five, we initiated a program of continuing education through a workshop series. We’re kicking off 2016 with a Scriptology Workshop by TypeEd, and are working to develop an array of new programs like social media, design thinking, and UX.
In lectures, Jason Adam educated us on what he didn’t learn in school, and Jessica De Jesus taught us about the ups and downs of life as a freelancer in Designing IRL. This year, we hope to offer a few lectures with some design legends, as well as some legends in the making.
The OC Design Awards was a stellar event to sum up our twentieth year. The room was filled with Orange County’s best and brightest. We even had the honor of meeting our chapter’s founding president, Dean Gerrie, and honoring Joseph Bañuelos, our chapter’s fellow honored by the national organization. We’re especially grateful to our primary event partner, Vitamin T, for making such a momentous occasion possible.
Boosting Our Community
While it’s been important to focus on us, we’re here for our members and our community, and there’s a huge place in our hearts for giving back through design.
Our 2015 Annual Portfolio Review was a hugely successful event with the most participating students and reviewers to date. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, April 23 (Mark your calendars and prepare your portfolios!) and we are currently seeking professionals to share their expertise with our future designers.
We launched PowerUp! a new mentorship program in October 2015, which will serve 20 designers before concluding this February. We’re also happy to announce that moving forward, the program will run bi-annually in the spring and fall, offering more opportunities for mentors and mentees to connect.
This past December, we launched our Design for Good program to benefit KidWorks, a nonprofit that restores at-risk neighborhoods through empowering children in Santa Ana. Twenty-five designers collaborated in a 4-hour sprint to build three cohesive campaigns. In 2016, Design for Good will collaborate with another nonprofit in addition to organizing GUTS!, a pumpkin carving marathon to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation in October.
What to Look Forward To
In 2015, our chapter membership peaked at 240—our highest number on record. This reflects a 30% increase over the course of the year, and the number continues to rise. While we always encourage non-members to attend our events, this increase in membership demonstrates that we’re on the right path.
During the upcoming year, we look forward to bringing you more, improved programming and initiatives so that we can continue to grow together as a community. We’re going to dive into topics that create designers of the future—integrating a larger narrative about digital design, design thinking, and the value of design in business.
We’re also going to kick off our first ever In-House Initiative that will take us behind the scenes at some of the biggest corporations in Orange County, exploring the various trajectories a designer can take.
We’re Here to Serve You
We welcome each of you to be a part of our future by getting involved, sitting in on our monthly board meetings, submitting your feedback on the chapter, emailing me, or by simply introducing yourself to a board member at your next event.
A huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who has attended an event over the past year, contributed feedback, to our incredible board for volunteering their time, intellect, and passion, and to our partners in 2015 (Vitamin T, Direct Edge Media, The Creative Group, Chapman University, Creative Circle, Mohawk Paper, TypeEd, and Wayfare HQ, and our generous in-kind partners Adobe Education, Chick-fil-A, ChoosePrint.org, Kneadle, Pantone, Pencilbox Photography, Petre Spassov Design, Pitfire Pizza, Quarto Publishing, Salty Design Foundry, Seaworth Coffee, and Skillshare).
We couldn’t have had such a phenomenal year without each of you—and we are grateful.
Onwards and upwards,
P.S. Stay tuned next month for an overview of what’s happening design-wise around Orange County. In April, we’ll be reviewing the local design economy.