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Graphic Artists Guild

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Design Weeks: Local Outreach, Local Support

Every year, the Guild participates in a few large tradeshows and conferences, such as HOW Design, ICON, and Adobe Max. We focus on member recruitment, education about our current advocacy activities, and best practices for illustrators and designers. This year, we’ve tried a new avenue for outreach: design weeks. The result is mixed, but it’s given us a valuable peek at the vibrancy of local design communities.

Design weeks are usually celebrations of all the design disciplines. Events range from panel discussions, workshops, and keynote addresses; to walks showcasing local architecture or urban design; to fashion shows, gallery exhibits, and studio tours. Design weeks celebrate design and designers, and demonstrate the importance and reach of design to non-designers – particularly the business community and policy makers.

Design weeks can be huge, attracting tens of thousands of visitors (such as Design Indaba), or tiny, drawing maybe 100 or so local designers. There are several design weeks throughout the United States, in cities such as Los Angeles, Portland, Boston, and New York. However, for our first forays into design weeks, we focused on smaller ones.

Huntsville Design Week and MADWEEK

In September, we supported two design weeks, Design Week Huntsville (in Alabama) and MADWEEK  — Modesto Architecture and Design Week (California). Our Southern Region Associate Representative Crisy Meschieri hosted a session at a university, and a partner from her weekly design group presented a second session later in the week. Crisy hande out flyers and sign-up sheets and member applications, gave a copy of our Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines to one lucky University of Huntsville student.

Our immediate past president Haydn Adams attended MADWEEK and gave a presentation on our Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. (A diehard oenophile, Haydn was gratified to discover that his talk took place at the E. & J. Gallo Winery.) MADWEEK is an outgrowth of the Modesto Architecture Festival which, in 2017 (and after 10 years) combined forces with the Modesto Design Collective (MO.DE) to cover a broader range of design disciplines. The schedule of events reflected MADWEEK’s history and maturity, and was somewhat weighted towards architectural tours and exhibits of Bauhaus design. But still a healthy range of disciplines was covered, from design for communities (social design), to Code Night (UX/UI design), urban design, and graphic media. MADWEEK even appealed across the ages, offering a Cardboard Challenge for kids.

Charlottesville Design Week

Our deepest engagement was with Charlottesville Design Week (Virginia), where we manned a table and conducted a “Pricing Game” workshop. Since we were present for two days, we were able to get a sense of the organization and event. The design week is in its third year, and as a fairly new event in a small town, attendance was relatively low (about 200 total for the entire week). The presentations and event were among the finest we’ve attended (including many international design conferences and weeks). This is probably a reflection of Charlottesville’s location; UVA is located in town, and Virginia Tech is only two hours away. This has resulted in highly engaged creative community in the town.

The Charlottesville events took place over five days, and included studio tours, a portfolio review, a design marathon (where participants were teamed up at random and challenged to be an “agency-for-a-day” for a local community organization), a public screening of Gary Hustwit’s documentary on industrial designer Dieter Rams, a day-long conference, a fashion show, and workshops. The day-long conference is where Charlottesville Design Week particularly shone. During the course of the day, two speakers would each present on a topic based on a general theme (such as Changing Behavior). Afterwards, each speaker participated in a panel discussion to dive deeper into their topic.

One of the most moving presentations was by Bill LeSueur, Creative Director of C-VILLE Weekly. In his presentation, “The People Who Make the News,” he touched on the extremist rally in Charlottesville and the resulting violence, reflecting on the relevance of a local newspaper in a community that found itself thrust tragically into the national spotlight.

Our presentation on “The Pricing Game” the next day was sparsely attended (although the advantage of having only six attendees meant that we were able to have a thourough discussion about pricing strategies). We didn’t gain any new members during the time we had our table set up, but we convinced a number of people to call their members of Congress about the CASE Act. We did gain valuable insight into a local design community. That alone may be worth the price of admission.