(Design) Thinking Together

This past Saturday, Ryaan and I took a day trip to visit our friends at AIGA Philadelphia. Their board planned to spend the day going through a few design thinking exercises to gear up for their annual retreat next month. Still bouncing around with all the energy and buzz from the National Retreat (where Philly adopted Jared and I as one of their own), Ryaan and I were excited to collaborate with our neighboring chapter and see what we could bring back to Central Penna. for our membership, board retreat and upcoming community meetings.

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We spent the day at AIGA Philly’s new HQ at WeWork in Northern Liberties (can we just talk about how beautiful one of my favorite mantras appears on their welcoming wall?, see above), running through the exercises we had learned at the National Retreat from IBM’s Top Design Thinkers, and ones we hadn’t yet tried. We put ourselves in the shoes of AIGA members, non-members, students, design experts and non-designers to anticipate what they think, feel, and say about AIGA, how we can connect with those we aren’t just yet, and what makes an AIGA membership valuable.


Our first exercise was a look into our hopes and fears for the chapter, the membership, the organization as a whole, and our boards. Although Philadelphia is nearly 4x the size of AIGA Central Pennsylvania, our fears and hopes were similar: how do we provide value to our members? How do we get members to take the next step and become a volunteer, a board member, a leader? How do we position ourselves as the organization for designers, nationwide? We talked about what worked for their chapter, for our chapter, and what other techniques we should be throwing into the mix.


We then worked through an empathy map, putting ourselves into the shoes of a student member, a non-designer, and a freelance designer. How do we connect with them? What do we think they feel about design, about AIGA, about themselves? What is it like putting ourselves in their shoes?


Our final two exercises of the day found us throwing all of our ideas onto the wall, and then realistically prioritizing our ideas on their level of feasibility and important. Which things, while they would be nice, are easy to do and should get done first? What would be nice, but may be harder to see happen? We brainstormed around member appreciation, grand ideas, and chapter communications. Ryaan and I brought home notes to combine with our board when we do some similar exercises at our Board Retreat in August.


I love bringing chapters together to collaborate (note: keep an eye out for future pairings of our boards and chapters), to think about AIGA and to put plans into action. We share our knowledge, that’s what makes AIGA unique. In an age of hiding what we know, and holding so many secrets close in fear of competition, AIGA chapters share their knowledge every single day and even help other chapters carry out their ‘shared’ ideas to see them succeed.

Every single board member serves for a common reason: to see chapters succeed and to create a positive, supportive community for design to thrive.

One of my favorite parts of being a board member and member of AIGA is the relationships and friendships I’ve gained in cities across the country. I know, no matter where I go, I have friends who love design and community, what else could I really need?

Interested in getting involved, learning more about board service or shadowing a board member? Drop a line to Bri.

By Bri Piccari
Published July 10, 2016
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