Jul 31, 201509:53 AMArt Beat

AIGA Central Pennsylvania

Jul 31, 2015 - 09:53 AM
AIGA Central Pennsylvania

Photos Courtesy of AIGA

Tim McKenna believes in design.


No it’s not Santa Claus, a unicorn or any other mythical creation or beast. Design and graphic arts are real, and they have an undeniable power to transform, overcome and affect positive and lasting change in both private corporations and the community as a whole.


As the current president of the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), McKenna has seen firsthand the efficacy of his trade, and he wants you to better appreciate the oft-overlooked artists and designers who have been quietly powering our communities and businesses for years.


AIGA is a century-old institution comprised of members who practice graphic design, typography, interaction design, branding and identity. Think Mad Men without the glitz and glamor. McKenna has been a member of its Harrisburg-based chapter since 2009, and he has seen its member base grow to a burgeoning 180 members. He presides over the chapter during its celebratory 10th year.

If the idea of “design ruling the world” seems a little difficult to wrap your head around, consider the effect that it’s had on your life already. Any time you visit a web page, interact with a product, experience a company’s brand through visual or any other kind of advertising, you are experiencing the work of an artist who could ostensibly derive support from and enjoy the community of a local chapter of AIGA.


What McKenna and his local chapter do for the often unsung heroes of his industry may seem even less than the designers who comprise its members, but don’t kid yourself, without AIGA, many of these artists wouldn’t have the same kind of access to education, community and dialogue that supports them in their respective practices were it not for McKenna and AIGA’s efforts.


One of the most seemingly important initiatives embarked upon by the organization of late have been those in support of one of the most fractured group of design artists, “in-house creative.” In-house creative experts are those working for one client only, often employed by large corporations to create, enhance and further support brand design and creative interaction with a company’s products and advertising.


When you think of in-house creative, think health care institutions, insurance companies, publishers and the like. The public doesn’t often equate in-house work with sexy, creative or passionate works of art, but that’s simply because, by McKenna’s estimation, there are fewer opportunities for their work to be showcased as effective and inspired design work.


The PA Academy of Family Physicians’ Michael Zigmund has been designing a revered trade publication for physicians for years, Keystone Physician, providing an education and communication tool for primary-care physicians. He has been quietly garnering awards for his design work, but if you aren’t a primary-care physician or in AIGA, you simply wouldn’t have heard of him.

You’ve likely never heard the name Marco Ceo either, but you’ve certainly experienced his work. He serves as creative director for Hershey Entertainment, and he is responsible for having created the “Hershey Bears defend the den” logo. His work was so impactful that national hockey teams have begun to cadge elements from his successful designs.


McKenna’s chapter of AIGA recently hosted a workshop by Aaron Draplin, a gentleman who has designed so much of note that you’ve certainly not escaped his work, but you would never know that he was the gentleman behind it.


Draplin was the artist who created President Obama’s workforce development logo among so much else. And if that doesn’t ring any bells for you, then think about those “field notes” notebooks you couldn’t have missed if you’d stepped foot inside a bookstore in the last three years. That is his design, too. As for his message for the 130 attendees in the packed house at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, it was an inspiring one: There are no limitations, and if you think there are, then they are of your own creation.


And what’s yet to come from AIGA?


In the near term, design artists will have the opportunity to attend a September “Women In Design Technology Roundtable” covering topics often overlooked in this admittedly gender-biased industry, tackling challenging issues like diversity inclusion in the workplace.


AIGA revels in its charge to serve as a voice for artists and designers who might otherwise have none, and many more events and opportunities for engagement in the coming years will welcome those in the industry, and those who simply appreciate their work, to interact and grow together in design.


To give you a taste of some of the roundtables, local speaker series and education support McKenna and his chapter provide to local design experts, just visit the AIGA of Central Pennsylvania website (centralpa.aiga.org).

About This Blog

Art matters from a financial, cultural vibrancy and economic growth perspective, and ultimately it affects the quality of life for those with access to it. It's the visceral impact of the arts that hits hard and lingers long:  the way that an indelible image may worm its imprint into your eye and then mind and then dreams.  The forlorn droop of a melody, and the sign of resignation from a local trumpet player's final note. The unbearably gorgeous and aching silence of the final scene of a film shot in our region.  Every one of these offerings exists here in the midstate, and beats strong with art, and we must support it.


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