Behind the Scenes: February’s Open Board Meeting

What is AIGA, and what do we do?

Last month, the AIGA Baltimore board welcomed designers and design advocates to check out our monthly meeting at Heavy Seas Alehouse. AIGA members were invited to grab a beer and be a part of the conversation as we talked about the past month and what we’ve got in store for the future. Spoiler: a lot.

We met up at the Alehouse where our Membership Director, Marisa Martin, introduced AIGA Baltimore and its board members. Shortly after, the meeting was called to order and everyone in attendance was given the opportunity to make suggestions, all of which were discussed with the group and noted by board members for possible action.

Since we had some people who couldn’t make it to the meeting we’re posting a recap of our February meeting here. Take a look and share your feedback on what you might want to see from us.

Marisa started off the evening with a short history of AIGA’s past, present, and future.

If you’d also like to know a little history, our national website is a great place to learn about AIGA and what we do.

How old is AIGA?

  • 100!
  • This year, we’re reflecting on our history and planning our legacy

We’re developing a strategic plan:

  • A national committee is is currently reviewing all current practices and policies, ensuring that we’ll be a strong, respected institution for another 100 years
  • Based on their findings, they’ll develop a five-year strategic plan for implementing the envisioned change

Major recurring themes and recommendations:

  • Members and chapters are the nexus of the AIGA experience
  • Membership engagement is key to viability and loyalty
  • Members expect greater means of connecting with each other
  • We are our members, not an omniscient institution

AIGA Baltimore is celebrating a milestone…!

  • We just turned 25!
  • We had a big celebration during Design Week but, as with AIGA national, this calls for our own period of reflection
  • AIGA Baltimore is taking national’s membership focus and translating it to our chapter and our community

We’re focusing on creating and increasing:

  • Personal connections and engagement
  • Value for our events
  • Inclusiveness and transparency

Next, we shared some insight into AIGA Baltimore’s operations.


  • The entire board gathers every first Monday of the month for about 2 hours
  • We meet in smaller groups as needed
  • Basecamp is the chapter’s current project management tool of choice. Our legacy information is saved in PBWorks and is shared with all chapters
  • Once every 6 months, we have a board retreat, an extended day-long meeting

Leadership Retreat:

  • National conference just for board members
  • Number of attendees depends on the size of your chapter (we send 4 board members)
  • Connect with National and board members from the other 66 chapters

Who are all these people?!

We introduced ourselves, guests and all, which helped provide more context to our conversation. You can find a list of our current board members here. For a personal look at each one of us, keep your eye on our blog for Board Member Spotlights.

Then the board meeting began.

We ran through some important action items for upcoming events and communications. The usual meeting agenda was condensed for our guests’ sake, as the amount of information covered can get overwhelming sometimes, even for us. Board membership is hard work, but we volunteer because we love what we do!

Our State of the Chapter address followed.

Jennifer Marin, Co-President

  • Co-Presidents are in close communications with AIGA National and other presidents across the country (lots of phone calls!)
  • Last year’s chapter goals:
    • Strengthen the chapter by growing size of membership and the board
    • Increase visibility by creating meaningful relationships with area organizations
    • Provide consistent and valuable programming
  • 2014 chapter goals:
    • Ensure the stability of the board through succession planning
    • Diversify outreach by programming relevant events to a wider variety of disciplines

Courtney Glancy, Programming Director

  • 2011: joined during big transition on the board/membership, audit and re-evaluated programming
  • 2012: ran 10 special events (non-recurring events)
  • 2013: ran 15 special events with many attendees
  • We’ve come a long way. In 2013 the membership structure changed; we adapted and figured out how to make events worth it in a way that’s profitable and cost effective
  • All our profits go back into programming and operating expenses
    • Operating expenses: storage unit, web hosting, insurance, board retreats, etc.
  • Premium Blend: look out for these special Blend events
    • Blend used to be a happy hour for designers, but we evolved them into a mini-lecture series: they’re informational, relevant, and, at the same time, very social
  • Ink & Pixels: a student conference that debuted in 2012. We had a loss that year, but made up for it in 2013.
  • Design Week: Also debuted in 2012. In 2013, we increased engagement and attendance. Watch out for DW2014! It’ll be awesome.
  • 2014 goals:
    • continue to evaluating programming for relevance, profit, and value
    • increasing the number of valuable special events
    • listen to members more to hear about what our audience wants to see, so we know what ‘value’ means in programming

Kara Turner, Communications Director

  • What aren’t you seeing that you’d like to see? Let us know:
  • Social Media: Won CBS Local Affiliate award for Best Local Art Enthusiasts to Follow on Twitter

Greg Jericho, Digital Publications Chair

Michelle Fazenbaker, Special Events Director

  • Part of the focus for 2014 is to celebrate AIGA’s centennial
    • The goal of this year is to create awareness on a national level and on a chapter level
  • Design a Chair project is one example
    • National got a company to donate chairs and Baltimore had the opportunity to design a chair with children’s artwork from Art with a Heart.
    • Our chair is in NYC right now at the AIGA gallery.
    • We’ll get it back and donate it back to Art with a Heart after the design chair show

Marisa Martin, Membership Director

  • Considering the new(-ish) membership structure and the refined focus on membership, it’s an important, yet challenging, time to be a Membership Director
  • We increased membership by 32% in 2013!
  • We will hold two membership drives in 2014, so be on the lookout!
  • Opening the doors of communication with members and the community
    • Not just growing but maintaining a strong, thriving membership base and design community in Baltimore
  • Defining the value of membership and ways to increase engagement, retention and grow membership
  • Nationwide, we have 1000+ events per year, 100+ per month; global events, too
    • Important that you find them valuable, and we need your input!
  • Members drive the AIGA content, and give us the capital to continue providing what you need
    • 90% of the sustaining memberships (mid-level at $250) goes directly back to the chapter

Sara Blumberg, Volunteer Chair

Finally, we opened the floor for input, questions, and comments from our attendees.

Feedback highlights:

AIGA as a whole is still being considered an organization primarily focused on print-based graphic design, something one of our attendees voiced this evening. As AIGA continues to evolve, our goal is to be more inclusive of all industries related to design; however, we cannot do this alone. By partnering with other organizations like Refresh, R2integrated, ADG Creative, Gilah Press + Design, and Storyfarm (just to name a few!), we can work together to connect our communities. As one of our favorite member attendees stated:

Design is at a certain crossroads; not just print, not just digital. There needs to be a re-education of what design actually is. It’s more than just style and aesthetics. People outside of design don’t really understand that.

Our job at AIGA is to facilitate that conversation, but it’s up to you to spread the word!

And we posed a question for Attendees: If you could come to any AIGA event, what would it be about? Here are some of their suggestions.

  • Code vs design interaction: how do you make the it beautiful and not have a multi-car pile-up in the intersection of design and code?
  • Speed developing: bring in a design and translate it into code
  • Design/development training for clients
  • Portfolio development: possibly submitting a design online, feedback is presented, have an event to show the re-draft
  • Infographics: a workshop series about getting data and creating infographics from it
  • When do you know when to hire your first employee as a design entrepreneur? What kind of employee should you hire? And other challenges from a business perspective

Now what are your ideas? Leave us a comment below or email us at!

By AIGA Baltimore
Published March 9, 2014