Design discussion gets new impetus

September 12, 2009
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It wasn’t too long ago that a local chapter of AIGA, the professional association of design, was out of the question: Chapters were reserved for the type of city that has two baseball teams.

Fortunately, things have changed, and West Michigan now touts its own chapter of the nationally recognized organization.

The local AIGA chapter is “technically” about three or four months old, said chapter president Kevin Budelmann, who also is president of People Design, a Grand Rapids-based design firm.

“Last fall I threw out a page on LinkedIn and a few other places saying, ‘Hey, anybody want to do this?’” said Budelmann. Both Chicago and Detroit had reputable chapters of their own and were pulling people from West Michigan. “It was pretty obvious after a quick survey that half the people in West Michigan belonged to Detroit and half the people belonged to Chicago.”

On Sept. 15, the local chapter will hold three events that touch on the organization’s three programming tracks: business outreach, design education, and inspiration and networking. What spurred this bustle of activity was a Design West Michigan event for designers scheduled for Sept. 15, with keynote speaker Ric Grefé, CEO of AIGA.

“The main event that is coming up was really started by Design West Michigan, and they invited Ric Grefé to come to West Michigan and speak about the National Design Policy, which is one of the initiatives that AIGA is taking,” said Budelmann.

“Once we got our AIGA local chapter established, we thought we’d piggyback off of Ric’s coming to town. Obviously it’s a natural thing, so we’re co-sponsors of the event.”

The Design West Michigan event will constitute the “inspiration and networking” event for West Michigan AIGA, which will hold breakfast and lunch events to cover the other two tracks.

“At noon, we are sponsoring a Design Educators Summit and have invited representatives from Ferris, Kendall, Western, Grand Valley, and we’re still trying to work on the list,” said Budelmann. “Ric is going to be at that lunch, as well, and he’s going to talk about several initiatives AIGA does in the design education space. He’s going to start off this lunch, and then there’ll be some discussion about design education in West Michigan.”

The design party begins that morning over breakfast.

“In the morning, there is a business breakfast. The business breakfast is intended to bring business and design leaders together from the region to talk about how design and business can work together in the region and what role AIGA can play. My hope is that we can have a good discussion about the role design can play in West Michigan.”

Budelmann sees part of AIGA’s role in West Michigan as serving the business community.

“I believe that our AIGA chapter is largely about connecting the national AIGA agenda to the local scene and also extending back in the other direction. What role can AIGA play for business?” said Budelmann.

“I think a lot of it is about exposure and saying that these ways of doing business can actually help a business quite a lot. I think that there’ a common misconception that design only works for those (Apple, Target) companies because design is part of their marketing campaign. The truth is that it can help any business. It’s really more about using human-centered principles to help service customers better, make processes more efficient, using technology in new ways. A lot of it is really just creative processes in a business context.”

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