Happy 25th Anniversary, AIGA Baltimore!

We’ve had a lot to say about our 2nd Annual Baltimore Design Week over the last few weeks. There’s been so much going on we wanted to tell you about, including our plans for local studio tours, the Charm City Type Race, and special guests Khoi Vinh and Matteo Bologna.

Today, coinciding with Design Week, the Baltimore chapter of AIGA is celebrating our 25th year and we wanted to look at our history. We talked with former board presidents about their unique perspectives as they worked to make the Baltimore design community a source for events, ideas, and inspiration.

In 1988, Domenica Genovese was the senior art director at North Charles Street Design and she says she was enticed by the concept of starting a design-focused organization in Baltimore.

“Back then designers were second class citizens under account managers and sales and marketing,” she says, “So it was exciting to create a chapter that helps educate people about design.”

According to Genovese, there were no other goals aside from regularly getting together with about ten fellow designers, including two future AIGA Baltimore board presidents, Bob Shelley and Ed Gold. The group really just wanted to elevate the profession’s career status. One of their first events was an annual design competition called 20/20 where twenty designers were each given one minute to show off their talent and the success of the event pushed them towards becoming an official AIGA chapter.

Shelley says it took a lot to convince himself that he was ready to make the move from an unofficial gathering to an organization.

“I kept thinking about where to begin,” he says, recalling the memorable moments of early planning, “How do I create an AIGA chapter in Baltimore? It was mind-boggling. So many of my friends were there with me and I didn’t want to let them down. Plus, my company, RS Jensen, was splitting up and I was going through a divorce. But the Baltimore chapter was so important to me.”

“Then I thought, maybe a diversion would help me channel my energy into something I love: design.”

Pulling together a board, Shelley had a support system who convinced him that they were doing a good thing both for the present and the future. He visited other chapters throughout the country, getting their support to convince the AIGA National board that Baltimore needed its own chapter.

“Baltimore is not Washington,” he says, “We’re only 45 minutes apart but from completely different worlds.”

Ed Gold was, at the time, also the creative director of Barton-Gillet, a major advertising agency formerly located downtown. He remembers when desktop publishing changed everything.

“You either were print or video,” says Gold, referring to the available career choices at the time, “and you had a specific thing you did. When designers were able to set their own type using design software, it instantly put the linotype people out of business.”

Modern design tools are more available now than they were 25 years ago, when the equipment size and the specialized knowledge to operate it made them much less accessible. Gold believes because of this designers are now hired for their ideas instead of their ability to use those tools.

“With so much control in the hands of designers now, they’re in a great position to be entrepreneurs,” he says. “History is full of artists of all kinds who simply did something first because they could.”

We’d like to thank Domenica Genovese, Bob Shelley, and Ed Gold for talking to us. We’d also like to thank everyone who’s volunteered on the board over the last 25 years and, while we can’t list you all here, we can recognize our past board presidents and everything they’ve done for Baltimore’s design community and our AIGA chapter.

1988-1989 –  Robert Bob Shelley

1989–1991 – Anthony Tony Rutka

1991–1993 – Ed Gold

1993–1994 – Craig Zeigler

1994–1997 – Brenda Foster

1997–1999 – Kristin Seeberger

1999–2001 – Carl Cox

2001-2002 – Brigitt Thompson

2002–2004 – Joe Wagner

2004–2008 – Chuck Lowensen

2008–2011 – Christopher Jones

2011-2013 – Alissa Jones

Here’s to another 25 years!

By AIGA Baltimore
Published October 24, 2013