Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Day Drenched In Design

(click image to link to exhibit site)

Street Smarts + Book Smarts

by Pat Mendoza

That’s how AIGA describes the 2011 offering of their 365 | Design Effectiveness. “It takes more than good looks to make a design effective.”, they say. So then what makes a design effective? Is it the historically significant packaging of Espolón brand tequila? How about the functionality of the ID badge that folds out into a map for the DIY conference? Or maybe it’s the promotional booklet reporting the remarkable awareness being created from MTV’s popular shows profiling teen pregnancies? The answer is yes. All of these projects provide a perfect balance between the customer’s needs and the designer’s creative visions. They remain value driven but still exceed their client’s expectations. They consider a target audience whilst translating across multiple platforms. But how you ask? Take a look and see for yourself.

This year’s AIGA 365 contains project briefs that range from the standard logo and type design to the skillfully zany idea of creating a fully functioning bike rack made of old parking meters. Through AIGA’s design archives I was able to digitally retrace my rain-soaked footsteps and look over the work again without fear of damaging the design with my dripping wet fingers. Fortunately for me, the return to the featured projects introduced me to a small firm from Washington D.C by the name of Design Army (click here to download the July/August 2009 spread on Design Army in Communication Arts). Design Army has been selected to have ten projects featured in this year’s exhibit including the aforementioned bike rack and a brilliant concept of a tag-less To/From wrapping paper. A paper for the “wrapping challenged” if you will. The piece that stood out to me, however, is the same project that gripped me in the gallery; a poster promoting a musical titled Chess. I remember looking over this piece at length while in the gallery, and looking at it again, this time on my dazzling MacBook Pro screen, I can remember why. The use of the shape of a queen chess piece to form the negative space of a woman’s heel? Brilliant. The use of purple to allude to the queen’s prominence in the story coupled with its attention-grabbing compliment of orange to shape the figure of a woman’s leg and high heel shoe? Imperial. Perfectly laid and margined type? Scrupulous. I don’t just want to find out more about the musical. I want this poster to hang on my wall. Unfortunately, revisiting this particular piece brings back a sense of bitter-sweetness. While I appreciate the memorable characteristics of this poster, I only wish I took notice to the creative minds behind it while still in the gallery, so that I would have been able to look over some more of their selections. If only there was a way for the college to facilitate a field trip to this firm, similar to ones in the past, so that students were able to dive further into their creative processes… Oh well, I’m just a kid with a dream.

Anyway, my latest journey to the Big Apple led me on a saturating tour of the SoHo neighborhood, a mind-freeing lunch with friends, and a viewing of some of the most outstanding work the design field has to offer. All culminating with another awe-inspiring moment back where it all begins; Times Square. But through all my sights and travels I believe the true inspiration lies in the city itself. In the town full of opportunity. Diversity. Evolution. It’s only fair that effective design be so important in a city moving at such a fast pace. It’s a jungle out there. One that requires a harmonization of book smarts and street smarts. Move forward and stand out, or get passed by in a New York minute.

(For more on our NYC trip, go here. – Ed.)

(click image to link to exhibit site)


  1. Love this, Pat. The city, and the design world, will eat you alive if you don't back up the book smarts with the street! Loved the hands-on AIGA show for both its effectiveness and its aesthetic. Stay classy, AIGA!

  2. AIGA was one of my favorite parts of the field trip!! I loved the hands-on approach to the museum as well.

  3. Yeah I like that picture you put up of the top view where you can see the AIGA created out of the tables they used to showcase the artworks.