I’m leaving AIGA behind. You should, too.

An exploration of AIGA’s lack of commitment to Black designers.

This past May, the AIGA New York board met via Zoom to discuss potential board members recommended through our Call for Nominations.

History

In 1914, forty members of the National Arts Club interested in graphic arts gathered in New York City to create the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). This new organization would be a “source of pleasure and intellectual profit,” with a goal of advancing the profession of graphic arts.

Chapters

The Local Chapters were created in 1981 as a way to decentralize leadership from the National organization. Each chapter operates uniquely with its own set of bylaws and board members, known as Chapter Leaders, are volunteers.

Tweetgate

On a National level, Black designers have shared grievances around AIGA in public resignations, including Timothy Bardlavens and, more recently, Antionette Carroll. Antionette’s resignation video, posted in December 2019, speaks of AIGA as “a by-product of white supremacy.” Her words haunted me and I kept them in mind as I continued trying to do work from within AIGA.

Ashleigh’s Video

In the meantime, Chapter Leaders waited for a satisfying internal response from National leadership. The current National president, Dana Arnett, was oddly silent. Instead, we received a video response from the incoming National president, Ashleigh Axios. In the video, Ashleigh responded to Antionette’s claims of attribution calling the incident “bullshit” and “slanderous.” Distrust among Chapter Leaders was high and Ashleigh’s video was leaked, uploaded to YouTube, and shared via a Twitter account named “@designtruth.”

Town Hall

Ashleigh’s video was not enough to quell internal irritation and on June 11, 2020, a Town Hall was called so that National and Chapter Leaders could discuss what happened and how to move forward. Lasting for almost two hours, the meeting was a tug of war, full of competing interests. Chapter Leaders demanded an apology with attribution to Antionette. Speaking to Chapter Leaders as if they were petulant children, National argued that they couldn’t give credit. If they did, wouldn’t they have to credit everyone? I suggested putting a page on the website giving credit to everyone involved. It fell on deaf ears.

Chapter Leaders Call

The monthly Chapter Leaders call a week later was another opportunity to talk with National leadership. The call was evasive and danced around the issues of attributing Antionette and addressing Ashleigh’s video. During Q&A, I brought both up, noting that if we, as an organization, would not provide attribution to Antionette, then the very least our incoming president could do is apologize to Antionette for her video response. Ashleigh stated there was no need to apologize because the video was not intended for the public. I told her that regardless of intent, the video was leaked publicly for all to see. Designers worth their salt know that intent is not the same as impact.

Creative running by amélie. studio, a BK-based creative studio specializing in digital product design + strategy. 🇯🇲 🏳️‍🌈✊🏿💖

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