Engage: 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat

10 Aug

I spent the better part of this year working on the branding for the 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat. We began in January and worked every day until the actual retreat ended on June 5th. It was an awesome experience, complete with exhilarating triumphs, crushing defeats, valleys of calm, and moments of complete panic.

This was a project that my classmates and I worked on collaboratively. We began as one entity, developing the brand from the ground up. We needed something that would bespeak Chattanooga’s fun nature while allowing itself to be taken seriously as a brand. Our theme was “Engage,” so we needed to create something that would represent interconnectedness without feeling like a corporate-synergy-team-building-exercise kind of thing. Through weeks of trial and error, we eventually landed on a brand based off the awesome work of our own Lillie Somerfield.

Inspired by color blindness tests, a logo comprised of thousands of dots of various sizes all coming together to create something while still retaining their individuality perfectly captured what we were going for. We created a color palette that we felt represented Chattanooga well, complimenting the city’s harmony with its natural beauty.

Once we established the brand as a class, we split into three teams and began cranking out some collateral. Our three task forces were Printed Materials, Web/Social Media and Environmental Graphics. I was the leader of the Print Team, and as such assumed a great deal of responsibility that kept my hands tied most of the time.

My team was in charge of designing table top signs, a guide to city of Chattanooga, the name badge kit and tshirts. I also created and revised again and again the brand guide to the brand we created, as well as daily sessions signs to go outside each room used throughout the conference.

The name badge kit involved eight different pieces:

  • The name badge itself
  • A schedule of the retreat’s events
  • A map of the retreat site
  • An area map and food guide
  • A card about transportation around the city
  • A card for questions to be left at the front desk
  • A thank you card for the sponsor
  • And a card corresponding to the attendee’s assigned table in the main ballroom.

It was a lot of collateral, and the team definitely pulled their weight! Everything came out looking great. More on the breathtaking Guide to Chattanooga in a little bit…

It was a completely new experience for me to be a leader for this project. It was awkward at times as the dynamics of interaction between myself and my team (who were at once my peers, classmates and equals as well as members of the team answering to me) became difficult to balance. It’s odd and unsettling to have to reprimand and respectfully demand things of people who are on the same level as you in a lot of ways, and in some cases are your friends in your personal life.

That was really where the awkward place was, in that overlap between personal and professional relationships. I very quickly learned how to manage this ground, which has proved invaluable in other aspects of my life as well. It was a great lesson to learn: how to stay friends with those you work with/for/above.

I also came a long, long way in my client relation skills. Before this project, I was used to designing in a bubble, so to speak. I was designing things that would only be shown to other designers that I already knew. There was no expectation other than the high standards of design quality that my professors expected of me.

It was daunting at first, the idea of designing for AIGA. However, the wonderful people at the national office (namely Katie Baker, with whom I had the most interaction), quickly proved themselves to be approachable and reasonable. While at first I was intimidated by the scope and nature of the AIGA audience, I became quite comfortable with the national representatives by the time the retreat came around.

Visiting the national office in New York helped tremendously. That “field trip” was simply incredible. The vaults of AIGA member work made me fall in love with design all over again, and the building itself was gorgeous and inspiring.

From right: Jessica McGhee, Lillie Somerfield, Katie Baker, myself

As the Print Team leader, I also learned how to preflight files for our WONDERFUL printer, Cy DeVilbiss with lightning speed. Cy and all the guys at Blair did such amazing work for us, and graciously donated all of it. Our best designs would have been useless if our printer hadn’t been as amazing as he was.


Among the amazing printed materials he provided for us was the outstanding Guide to Chattanooga. You can read all about that process here.

As the semester came to an end (but our Engage work just began to kick into high gear), I made Engage themed cupcakes for everyone to enjoy! I carved the “e” out of a sheet cake, and used three different sized cupcake/muffin tins to create the dots. I handmade and colored the icing to match the brand we had built. The cake was confetti cake, too; even MORE dots!


Cute, you guys.

When it came time for the actual retreat, we were stoked to have the chance to volunteer. Not only would we get to see all of our hard work come to fruition, but we would get to rub elbows with AIGA board members from all over the country and make some great networking connections. During the opening address, we were brought on stage with the one and only Debbie Millman, President of AIGA. She personally thanked us for our work and presented us to the attendees of the conference. That was incredible. The whole experience was so, so much fun. I made some great new friends and it was wonderful to be appreciated for all the work we did. It was so rewarding to watch people use our materials. Driving home one night, I passed a number of groups on the street, holding up our area maps and using them with confidence. That was really heartwarming, to say the least. I had to miss the last day of the conference for my cousin’s wedding, but the time I was able to spend there was unforgettable. Here are some pictures of our final conference pieces:

cleaning the windows in preparation for the vinyl dot decals


Austin Reed, leader of the Environmental graphics team, in front of the dot window graphics his team created


retreat attendees Engaging with the Engage brand


a daily sessions sign about to be installed


a daily sessions sign in its environment


some of the directional signage the Environmental team came up with


installing room numbers and daily sessions signs


helping attendees register


the assembled badge kits waiting to be picked up at registration


waiting to be installed


column banners going up, more environmental team magic


we're volunteers! engaging with the attendees!


Jessica's name tag


around 300 chapter board members came to Chattanooga!


hanging out with Katie Baker

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3 Responses to “Engage: 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat”

  1. lilliesomerfield August 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    best engage post ever.. imma just copy and paste this all in my blog ok great thanks for doing all the work 😉

    • Beth Joseph August 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

      Ha! Thanks, Lillie. You did awesome work on this! Took me long enough to post it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How Thick Cards made our city stand out « beth makes things - August 11, 2010

    […] Aug Part of the collateral we had to provide for the 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat was a guide to the city so that visitors wouldn’t be at a complete loss for something to do […]

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