In 1914, a small group of designers inaugurated what became the American Institute of Graphic Arts. One hundred years later, Second Story has collaborated with AIGA to create a centennial microsite that celebrates the profound impact design has had on our society over the last century and invites everyone into a conversation about the impact of design on our daily lives.
Our first task was to collaborate with AIGA on curating a set of works to illustrate the breadth, diversity, and evolution of American design over the last century. We also wanted to present these works in a different way than a typical retrospective might. We wanted to focus on the “why” instead of the “how,” exploring the intentions behind these works rather than simply categorizing them by medium, style, geography, or plotting them on a timeline.
These design intentions became the core of the site: five media-rich narratives focused on how design connects, informs, assists, delights, and influences us.
We also see this microsite as a time capsule that successive generations of designers might open in 2114, as AIGA celebrates 200 years. Knowing the tools and methods these folks will employ will evolve far beyond what any of us can imagine today, what kernels of truth or wisdom from AIGA’s first century of existence could this site preserve and pass on?
To find answers, our film crew captured the oral histories of 18 living legends of American design. We asked these designers to comment and reflect on their own seminal works, the arc of their careers, and the lessons they’d like to pass on to future generations. Their answers were humble, straightforward, hilarious, heartfelt, and enlightening. Being present with the likes of Paula Scher, Milton Glaser, Richard Saul Wurman, Jessica Helfand, Michael Bierut, Seymour Chwast, and many others was an incredible honor. Their stories and insights bring this content and conversation to life in a way nothing else could.
Most importantly, we wanted to invite everyone to the party. So we created a way for people to share how design connects, informs, assists, delights, and influences them today. Contributions are already pouring in, and we are thrilled to see such a diverse range of responses.
Centennials offer us a chance to look back at where we’ve been, to recognize a shared history and inheritance, and to appreciate the evolutionary continuum that connects those designers in 1914 to us here and now. They also give us the chance to look forward – to take what we’ve learned in new directions and ask what’s next. As part of the team who has spent over eight months bringing this microsite to life, I can say that looking back has taught us a tremendous amount about design’s role in shaping how we see our world, ourselves, and each other. Looking forward, this project has made us look deeply at what motivates us to do the work we do, and rededicated us to bringing those intentions to life in everything we create.
— David Waingarten, Creative Director, Storytelling