March 1, 2007

AIGA Redesign


My, oh my, has it been busy around here lately. Now, I’m pleased to announce the redesign of the AIGA website! AIGA approached Happy Cog to redesign their main organization website early last year and we leaped at the opportunity to work on this site, knowing many of the ways we could help bring AIGA’s strong brand and presence into a more relevant role online. For the uninitiated, AIGA is “The Professional Association for Design” (though up until a year ago, “AIGA” stood for “American Institute of Graphic Arts”), and functions as a non-profit organization for the promotion and teaching of design throughout the world. AIGA has long been the design organization, enjoying over 16,000 members throughout 55 local chapters and 150 student groups. For many, AIGA as an organization is synonymous with the Who, What, Where, and How of the design world.

From the start, we knew we needed to rethink the entire navigation structure to reflect the new direction in which AIGA is headed. Additionally, we wanted to help them find their place in a more editorial rich space like the web, drawing from AIGA’s plethora of wonderful articles by such luminaries as Ellen Lupton, Steven Heller, and many more.

We helped them revise the site structure entirely, and head down a path that sought to inspire, educate, and empower other designers. The new design reflects this, surfacing more articles and centering on an editorially driven layout, employing some comfy reading room to enjoy articles in their natural habitat. The new layout really shines on the article pages, with lovingly set typography (like the drop caps) and the flexibility to art direct and make full use of the grid for articles and their related imagery. Also on the inspiration tip, we helped bring an element of random design into the layout by pulling in images from the AIGA Design Archives (a beautiful resource in itself) to create a new masthead each time you visit.

It was a great honor to work on this site, and with so many smart and talented people. From the Happy Cog side: Erin Kissane on editorial direction, Tanya Rabourn on information architecture, myself on graphic design, Dan Cederholm on XHTML/CSS templates (some of the cleanest and most bulletproof I’ve ever seen), and Jeffrey Zeldman on creative direction; from the AIGA side: Ric Grefé, Denise Wood, Liz Danzico, and Kelly McLaughlin were wonderful to collaborate with. AIGA’s technical partner, Thirdwave, provided a new custom CMS (which our templates have been ported into), integration, and content migration from an old CMS. As with any migration of this size, it’s a huge and ongoing task, and there are bound to be a few rough spots. Yes, AIGA and Thirdwave know there are unencoded characters and errors on some areas, but they are working towards compliant and validating pages, so cut them some slack while they work through things and migrate the rest of their content.

Lastly, thanks to everyone for all their hard work on this project! You can read a bit more about it on Happy Cog, Jeffrey’s post, Dan’s post, or just have a look at the new AIGA website for yourself.

Commentary (67):

1. Greg says… mar 1, 2007 | 3:12 pm

Lovely work, of course!

I’d love to hear more about this: “From the start, we knew we needed to rethink the entire navigation structure to reflect the new direction in which AIGA is headed.”

2. Alex Giron says… mar 1, 2007 | 3:21 pm

You guys did a great job, I’m am loving the navigation.

3. Jody says… mar 1, 2007 | 3:24 pm


4. Dan Mall says… mar 1, 2007 | 3:28 pm

Awesome job, Stan. You continue to make the web more beautiful.

5. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 1, 2007 | 3:29 pm


I’d love to hear more about this: “From the start, we knew we needed to rethink the entire navigation structure to reflect the new direction in which AIGA is headed.”

I was mostly referring to the name nomenclature change (“The Professional Association for Design”) and AIGA’s move to a more agnostic position in terms of design, rather than just an association for specifically graphic design.

6. Scott Fegette says… mar 1, 2007 | 3:37 pm

Well done- the navigation is indeed quite an improvement, and the design is top-notch as always. Quite a change indeed, fantastic job!

7. Andrew says… mar 1, 2007 | 3:39 pm

Great layout for that content!

8. bearskinrug says… mar 1, 2007 | 3:47 pm

Wow - fantastic job, guys!

And definitely an improvement on the last incarnation of AIGA!

9. jharr says… mar 1, 2007 | 3:58 pm

At the risk of really being beaten up here, I have to be honest and say I don’t see this as a huge improvement. Yes there were certainly nav issues with the previous design but there was something edgy and inviting about that design. This new design looks as if it were overtly un-designed to the point that it no longer portrays the personality of the organization. While the list of actors is quite distinguished and I truly love the work of the people involved, I just can’t seem to get my head around this actually being the AIGA’s site.

On a more practical front the readability of the grouped list pages (like the conference page) is really tough, something about the symmetry of each conference title being top-aligned. Also the pages feel like templates, like they are being spit from a CMS, particularly when that right-nav extends well beyond the lower edge of the content area, which is just not that pleasant. Maybe it’s the abrupt delineation of the content white box against the sea of grey, not sure.

In the end, as a member, I just feel like this site lacks the overwhelming ‘design prowess’ I have seen from Happy Cog and all the contributors listed above. The AIGA should be a showcase for design elegance and empowerment, instead I’m left feeling like we’ve ended up with a watered-down site beholden to standardistas and not refusing to make a real design stand of any kind.

10. Kirk says… mar 1, 2007 | 4:07 pm

Man you guys are on fire! Great job.

11. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 1, 2007 | 4:20 pm

jharr: I understand and appreciate your apprehension entirely. Thank you for the thoughtful opinions and criticisms. I do want to point out a couple of things to help clarify (though I’m in no way trying to persuade you to like anything).

The site was indeed spawned from a select number of templates. Because this was a small project for a big organization, we set out to help point them in the right direction. We created the overall design and a handful of templates for their crew to implement as what we were calling “Module 0”; basically a stepping stone in the process. So, many of the pages you see on the site weren’t specifically created by us, but were derived from other templates. Because this is a client site, there is an inherent collaboration involved; meaning, we obviously didn’t impose this site on AIGA, but worked with them to get to where they wanted to be. This new design, though you may not feel the same way about it as you did the last one, reflect the direction AIGA is headed. So, the responsibility for this site lies with Happy Cog, AIGA, and our associated working partners.

As for the design itself, I personally do think this is a giant leap forward from the old design; more readable and more modular to accommodate different forms of content and imagery. The grid I designed this around is both flexible and supportive to the content it will hold. As for AIGA, they just took the wrapping off of it and are still testing the waters; I think as the site develops it will grow into a less “CMS spat” content collection.

12. jharr says… mar 1, 2007 | 4:28 pm

Jason, I appreciate your response. I certainly understand all projects have constraints and limits, etc. and from the outside wouldn’t dare to berate the work because of that. I guess, based on your response, I should be more concerned about the direction of the ‘new’ AIGA than with the details of this design. I’m just left feeling that there’s very little spark, little energy and that may very well be the result of this new approach and less with where the pixels fell.

13. Keith says… mar 1, 2007 | 4:35 pm

I’ve yet to look deeply at it, but a quick glance tells me it’s a significant improvement. If nothing else it’s easier to get around and seems to, for lack of a better way to describe it, “make more sense.”

As someone who’s been farily interested in AIGA but reluctant to join because of various reasons I’m happy to see this.

More relevant seems to be a good way to describe it. Very nice work.

14. greg says… mar 1, 2007 | 4:42 pm

I like the design of the site, the content is laid out beautifully and it’s certainly more readable.

I do have one question though. Why is the background colour of the sidebar the same as the background colour of the main site? For me the sidebar content should be visually attached somehow to the main content area, but on this redesign it feels as if it’s floating out to a sea of grey, irrelevant to the main body copy. I’m interested in how this design decision was reached.


15. Blake says… mar 1, 2007 | 4:48 pm

Glancing through, looking good as always. Great improvement on all fronts. Navigation makes more sense. No more head-scratching trying to get around. I think my only gripe is I wish there was slightly more color involved, but I’m not familiar enough with the AIGA brand to make a negative assumption.

I really like the fact that AIGA understands and is actively seeking a new direction geared towards editorial on their site. In general, it always seemed like a difficult task to find essays, when their writers are so prolific.

Good all around. Drink for all.

16. Greg says… mar 1, 2007 | 4:51 pm

> I guess, based on your response, I should be more concerned about the direction of the ‘new’ AIGA than with the details of this design.

Clement Mok has left the building, unfortunately.

17. Mark Boulton says… mar 1, 2007 | 4:55 pm

You just keep putting that bar up don’t you Stan?

Stunning design. Congratulations to all involved.

18. amanda says… mar 1, 2007 | 4:57 pm

My first impression of the site was a combination of horror and excitement. What has happened to AIGA?! At first glance it appeared to be less crisp and delineated. But it’s far more exciting to me, because it allows the dynamism of the featured design work to come to the foreground. The new design works with the grain of the medium rather than imitating a magazine on the internet.

19. Leif says… mar 1, 2007 | 5:34 pm

I love the site, however, I know nothing about this company and when I goto their site, I haven’t a clue what I’m looking at. Everything seems “equal”.

Maybe I’m just not the target. Just my ramblings and ideas. I’m done now.

20. Nick Whitmoyer says… mar 1, 2007 | 5:35 pm

While the previous version was questionably a favorable design, without doubt it lacked current standards of content delivery and usability.

Ironically, I emailed AIGA’s tech support 2 weeks ago about broken RSS feeds – Happy Cog has saved the day!

Awesome Work!

21. Jason Berry says… mar 1, 2007 | 6:25 pm

As much as I like nice mastheads, the current one just isn’t (nice). Unfortunately it was the biggest thing I noticed about the site (‘cause it was so ugly) and possibly the only thing I can really see wrong with the design.

I know they rotate through so it’ll change soon… but it’s just… eww. It makes the whole site look less contrasty and edgy.


*Personal preferences I guess*

22. Christine says… mar 1, 2007 | 7:03 pm

I can actually find the content now. Fantastic. Oh, it’s also a stunning design :)

23. Rachel says… mar 1, 2007 | 9:49 pm

Wow, despite what others are saying about their disappointment with the design, I think it is a huge improvement. The site *is* about content, and the design you have created delivers that.
I’m happy to say, “I can actually find stuff on the site now!”.
And being a ColdFusion developer, I’m happy to see that the CMS is CF-based.
One question I have - what is the font used for the titles and navigation (the graphics - main nav) - I like it!

24. Steve says… mar 1, 2007 | 10:44 pm

Very nice work… maybe now you get thirdwave to let you redesign their site too!

25. Charles says… mar 1, 2007 | 11:21 pm

I don’t doubt this is an improvement in terms of architecture and usability.

However, I for one would expect a more compelling visual statement from AIGA. This design for the most part irritates me.. The cliche, tame typography (A List Apart, The Morning News, etc.), the CMS’ed content, the article links with title, author, date, comments, rss. Where’s the soul and spirit? Then the tiny images on the home page—what a pity. Far too much craft and not enough art.

26. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 1, 2007 | 11:33 pm

Rachel: The typeface used for the nav images and headings is the Font Bureau’s Interstate, and is also one of AIGA’s brand typefaces.

Charles: I’m sorry to irritate you :D

But honestly, the worst thing we could have done for AIGA is to give them an overly conceptual site. The typography is thoroughly considered and embraces the medium’s abilities with an eye on accessibility and standards. Their new site is just one face of AIGA, and a more editorial face at that.

27. Charles says… mar 2, 2007 | 12:04 am

I would not question that Happy Cog and the team met their goals. Nor would I claim that the typography wasn’t professional, crisp and well-done (and adherent to standards I assume and accessible). There are many upsides to this sort of quality work. I do not believe these are constraints.

I understand your assumption of my desire for something conceptual, but I think rather there’s a balance which can be reached between a design owned by the textual content and navigation elements and something which visually embraces the content.

28. Matthew Pennell says… mar 2, 2007 | 4:23 am

Not everyone is a fan, apparently.

Is there a grab of the old site somewhere? I don’t think I’ve ever been to the AIGA site before, so I have no ‘before’ to compare with, but I tend to agree with Leif (and, to a lesser extent, Charles).

29. loops says… mar 2, 2007 | 5:36 am

The “typography mishmash” screenshot at designview looks messy, but when I visited the full site the different typography doesn’t bother me at all. To me the site looks lovely, well done!

30. Dennis Eusebio says… mar 2, 2007 | 7:54 am

I’ll have to admit that I was in the same boat as jharr. At first I was like this is clean but I feel like I’m missing a kind of emotional connection with it.

But knowing their direction and seeing the benefits of being more content driven is something that trumps the need for being instantly wow’d.

Great job.

31. Steven Woods says… mar 2, 2007 | 8:29 am

Alright but nothing special; certainly not worthy of the fanfare.

Also, the design is slightly sloppy in part (i.e. the line-height of the sidebar headings doesn’t match the line-height of the ones on the left. Articles (on the left) is lower than (Search AIGA) on the right.

The content should be brought up to meet the navigation too, theres a ~15px gap between the top of the content and the bottom of the nav (look at the grey bar on the left).


32. Brendan says… mar 2, 2007 | 8:41 am

For those who never saw the previous incarnations of the AIGA website you can see them here”>*/>

The new site is great. Well done!

33. Mike Hickman says… mar 2, 2007 | 9:24 am

I’m sad to say that I have to echo some of the previous comments. The improvement in architecture and layout was needed and the implementation is almost flawless.

But there is a definite lack of emotion in the site, especially for an organization that bills itself as the association for design.

Design is meant to evoke some sort of emotion after all, isn’t it?

34. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 2, 2007 | 10:30 am

Well, I’ve gotta say, I’m glad that the reactions are so diverse. It really is split down the middle (at least judging by people who are talking, both here and on the web). With something this far-reaching that spans so many disciplines, it’s bound to happen, and I’m happy it’s getting people talking about design in general. I never imagined we could please everyone (which would be silly), but I am glad people are speaking up with their opinions!

35. Dan Boland says… mar 2, 2007 | 10:51 am

Sorry to be a naysayer, but the AIGA redesign just feels a little sloppy to me. It’s okay, not great. But hey, they can’t all be 10s.

36. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 2, 2007 | 10:55 am

Dan Boland: Come on, you got to give me more than that :D I’m fine if you don’t like it, but I definitely don’t think it’s “sloppy”. What about it is “sloppy”?

37. Dan Boland says… mar 2, 2007 | 11:06 am

I think it might just be all the gray. It makes everything kinda blend into itself, making it look like more of a mishmash than it really is.

38. Tom Dolan says… mar 2, 2007 | 11:24 am

Having worked with the AIGA and designed/built the LA chapter site (with a great core team), I can testify to the fact that designing for a design organization is very, very tough — so props to all involved.

I think as a web build, it’s great. Very clean, nice CSS, nice detailing, well done. Cheers.

My only overall complaint would be that it does share much of the brand personality of the previous site, which I’d frankly call — a bit dull. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of the excitement and graphic glory of design happening here, especially if you don’t get the right random header graphic.

My AIGA experience is that most traditional print designers see designing for the web pretty boring and restrictive, compared to the boldness that you can easily bring to a print design project.

Yes, yes, this is information design — and a lot of it — but I would love to have seen some more graphic design liberally and boldy. The site is a great place to read about design, and it quickly gets you to resources like The Design Archives, which are more visually exciting design experiences, but I would have loved to see just a little more personality in the parent site itself.

39. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 2, 2007 | 11:30 am

Tom Dolan: I appreciate the criticisms. Let me point out again that this is but the first step for AIGA heading down this path. The site has a lot of growing to do and this is meant to set the tone and path for that growth. Additionally, AIGA is not just about Graphic Design anymore, and they didn’t want to just come off as that. Lastly, like I’ve said, this is just one face of what AIGA is now, and a decidedly more editorial face. All of the different facets of AIGA have different goals, and much of the focus for this one is on publishing. I know you know some of this already, but I am just trying to help clarify. Thanks, Tom!

40. Tom Dolan says… mar 2, 2007 | 12:16 pm

Yah, the whole “the AIGA isn’t just about Graphic Design anymore” chestnut sparks an interesting set of questions — from ‘should I just ignore that “G” in our name?’ to ‘you expect environmental, industrial, and interactive designers to find the AIGA relevant?’ No one has ever answered the question begged:

“If the AIGA isn’t just about Graphic Design, what — precisely — other design disciplines is AIGA now also about?”

Surely it borders on absurd to say that AIGA is now about all design. Other design disciplines already have their own professional organizations, conferences, etc. So if it’s not just Graphics, it’s Graphics and .…?

[sidebar rant warning]

I would encourange a tether to reality in the AIGA home base. It will, very likely, always be an organization that caters to and centers on Graphic Design, and closely related practices (like Branding, Advertising, Environmental Graphics).

The organization has either stumbled or stood still in it’s efforts to be relevant to interactive, web, UX.

I’d counsel them to embrace what they are. If they want to expand, do it deliberately and clearly. Trying to hide the fact that they are a Graphic Design-centered organiation, in the hopes of not alienating non-graphic designers isn’t much of a strategy. It’s timid — and unfortunately that’s part of what I perceive in the site personality.

41. Bobby Dragulescu says… mar 2, 2007 | 2:50 pm

I think Tom makes some very insightful points here, and I agree wholeheartedly.

Graphic design and marketing have always needed each other to survive, so I’m surprised that AIGA would make the classic marketing blunder of trying to be everything to everybody.

The current design is very nice indeed, and very professional. I would argue, however, that if AIGA is heading in the direction of embracing all design disciplines, this design will only strike an emotional chord with a very narrow margin of people (those, like me, who can appreciate a nice grid, web standards, and little gray boxes). There’s nothing wrong with the design, but what’s in it for textile designers, interior designers, entertainment designers, illustrators, etc?

This could very well be a lovely design for any online newspaper, USA. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this is supposed to be design for designers. Most designers I know are drawn to things that make a visual statement. If the business objective is to get the attention of more creative people in order to get them to join, I’m not sure this design (on its own merits, content aside) is engaging enough to do that.

42. Tom F. says… mar 2, 2007 | 3:41 pm

Jason, you know you have a completed a successful redesign when you elicit such a visceral response from the masses.

I guess what’s amazing to me is that there is ultimately an overwhelming overall response tilting towards the negative here…

“Congratulations, Jason, but…”

Not to say that everything Happy Cog does is right, but you are looking at web design luminaries and basically calling their work on the carpet for being subpar in your opinion — it smacks of something classless and yet at the same time strangely elitist. It reminds me of the student reviews of Jason work (Stan — I promise not to get so fired up this time).

The bottom line is the client wants what the client wants, and maybe all of Happy Cog’s and Jason’s design and architecture decisions weren’t necessarily their own doing. There is a conceptual and technical middle ground that has to be reached and I doubt AIGA would’ve pushed the site live if it wasn’t beyond satisfied with the result.

I think the site serves the “new direction” of the AIGA pretty in being largely neutral (NOT emotional at all), and serving as more of an online publication rather than a portal. The previous version had a web-centric, late-1990s feel, and the new design, offers a broader more contemporary appeal. I will admit, I experienced some disorientation upon my first visit, but that’s a redesign for you. It’s like getting a new car, or when your wife gets a radically new haircut. You get used it, folks.

43. Charles Stuart says… mar 2, 2007 | 4:01 pm


“Congratulations, Jason, but…”

I think you can read between the lines. It’s not black or white.

Critiquing work is not classless or elitist if done in a proper manner. It’s part of the profession.

I’m sure HC had plenty of input into the design and architecture.. It’s their job.

44. Scott says… mar 2, 2007 | 4:03 pm

Amen Bobby Dragulescu! I agree completely!

45. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 2, 2007 | 4:08 pm

Tom F.: Thanks man, I was starting to think no one was reading anything I wrote up there :D

46. Bobby Dragulescu says… mar 2, 2007 | 4:14 pm

Keep in mind though, for possibly the first time in the history of designers ripping apart a web site… we are the intended audience.

AIGA may be the client, but we’re the end users that it’s designed for. I don’t think the response has been so much visceral as just plain uninterested, which is actually a lot, lot worse. Should we really be making the same kind of excuses that we give our b-list clients (“You’ll get used to it..” or “there were a lot of people involved, so…”) about our own home? If you have to use those lines of defense out of the gate, chances are you’re not totally behind it yourself. I’m not saying compromises should never be made, but it’s a slippery slope when you think about modularity and neutrality and the effects it has on the overall blandness of the end product.

On a side note, if everything was as simple as “everybody hates it, so it must be good” I’d be a rich man by now.

47. Tom F. says… mar 2, 2007 | 4:58 pm

“Critiquing work is not classless or elitist if done in a proper manner. It’s part of the profession.”

It is when some of them, while well articulated, border on snide. From where I’m sitting, it’s really starting to come across that way and I stand by my original comments. I have no affiliation to Jason other reading his blog and having corresponded with him via email a few times.

Forgive me if I am out of place, Stan… What’s going on is tantamount to you (collectively) being invited to his house and criticizing the color of the carpet and his wall treatments while he patiently listens and tries to keep it civil. Some might consider it bad manners on the part of the guests, but maybe my [minority] opinion is just a sign of the times.

48. Keith says… mar 2, 2007 | 5:37 pm

Wow. Reading through the reactions both here and elsewhere is pretty eye-opening. There is some valid critisim out there, but it seems like most of that is taken from a very narrow point of view.

I’m of the opinion that the design, when looked at from a broad point of view, is a resounding success.

You may lament the typographic choices (although, again, I think when looked at broadly they’re not that bad) or the seeming lack of emotion, etc. but the fact remains - the new site better communicates what AIGA is all about.

To me anyway, that’s clear. One thing that always bugged me about AIGA is that it seemed to want to “dazzle” with visual creativity and never did a very good job of communicating.

If design is about conveying meaning and not simply about making the right typeface and color choices, I think the redesign is a great success.

49. Bobby Dragulescu says… mar 2, 2007 | 6:14 pm

I guess what the naysayers need is someone on the inside to really explain what AIGA’s broad view of design is really all about.

Not to beat a dead horse, but the design direction is so broad that it could be used for just about anything with articles and categories. It’s a superb little piece of information architecture, but so what? This website is ultimately a marketing tool, and you all know it.

design is about conveying meaning and not simply about making the right typeface and color choices

I would agree with that definition. Design is about communication. I think that this site facilitates communication very well, but I’m not receiving any particular message from it.

50. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 2, 2007 | 7:09 pm

Bobby Dragulescu:

It’s a superb little piece of information architecture, but so what? This website is ultimately a marketing tool, and you all know it.

The fact that it is a superb piece of information architecture is a huge step for AIGA. The IA alone is a big part of the design of this site. As I’ve said before a few times, this is but the first step in AIGA turning things around for themselves online. I’m fine with you judging the work as is, but I’m trying to offer some perspective as well. It’s not a marketing piece, first and foremost, it is an editorial publication, plain and simple. This is just one face of AIGA. If you aren’t receiving a message from it, I have to ask if you are really looking for one. The articles and breadth of topics on design on the site are humbling to say the least. There is so much voice and passion in those words that they would move the most uninspired person to action.

Happy Cog presented multiple direction of design, some more visual, more “designed”, than the final one; but this is the direction AIGA chose to pursue. The site doesn’t ooze visual creativity because it doesn’t need to; what it needs is to convey and communicate its information in an effective way. With that in mind, I think the design is quite successful for what we set out to do.

51. Tom Dolan says… mar 2, 2007 | 8:17 pm

For clarification: I do think it’s a great piece of information architecture, a fine display of top-quality markup, and I’m sure Jason knows I’m a sincere fan of his work. I do, however, think a large part of a successful work of design is [it’s ability to inspire] joy and passion and personality. Great design innovates and provokes. I’m a big fan of subtle and elegant but I don’t think it’s a radical position to say ‘neutral’ is not where potent design wants to be. If the AIGA aspires to neutral that says a lot about the clarity of vision (or lack thereof).

Personality need not get in the way of usability — demonstrates that well enough. One would have hoped the AIGA would have aimed higher than “not broken,” but I guess there’s always that first step, and I’m sure there were a lot of personalities to make happy.

52. Charles says… mar 2, 2007 | 11:14 pm
If you aren’t receiving a message from it, I have to ask if you are really looking for one.

Yes, certainly, which is why the design is receiving this feedback.

53. Bobby Dragulescu says… mar 3, 2007 | 2:00 am

It’s all well and good that the back end has been overhauled, and I’m sure that it was a much needed improvement. But if there is one site on the entire Internet that the word “designy” was made for, it’s this one. You know what I mean? It’s no insult to you, you obviously have great talent judging by your portfolio. Again, Tom articulates it better than I possibly can.

It’s not a marketing piece, first and foremost, it is an editorial publication, plain and simple. This is just one face of AIGA.

For the majority of the world out there who will never attend an AIGA event, or receive AIGA correspondence in the mail, this is the one and only face they will ever see. In addition to being a repository of great information, is really the prime stage for attracting new membership, is it not? The terrific architecture is there, but… where’s the brand? AIGA has strong opinions on so many many things, but that shout-it-from-the-mountaintops attitude unfortunately just doesn’t come across on a site that could be anything if you just covered up the logo (no offense, I still like your work.)

54. Lisa says… mar 3, 2007 | 4:40 pm

Don’t like it at all sad really to come from a “happy cog” design due to the superb redesign of your own site. Feels sloppy and “opsweneedtofinishthisnow” design.

Love Lisa

55. Viking KARWUR says… mar 3, 2007 | 6:54 pm

Congratulations JSM! Very informative website… Thanks

56. Terry Sutton says… mar 4, 2007 | 9:08 pm

Because you have to know:
The typography on the new site is truly unbelievable. Every last detail is attended to. The very fact that it was one of the last things that I noticed speaks volumes - understated yet beautiful.

57. Kyle Jones says… mar 5, 2007 | 12:22 am

Awesome! I’m actually going to visit the AIGA Headquarters in NYC on friday!

58. jason lynes says… mar 5, 2007 | 12:46 am

jason, above all, i appreciate your willingness to take criticism and explain why you made certain decisions. i also appreciate the emphasis on looking past what’s in front of our eyes and try to appreciate the design that took place on many unseen levels.

many other designers in your position haven’t taken such criticism so well. thanks for that.

59. Bone says… mar 5, 2007 | 2:40 pm


As a past and long time member of a local Chapter and its board I was disappointed with the previous site and now… yeah, while better presented visually than the last one I am not a big fan of the new one.

If for the simple fact that another opportunity for real change on the website has been overlooked.

My biggest beef is unrelated to the design…

Where is the ADVOCACY? AIGA used to be upfront about public advocacy for the profession. Look at (American Institute of Architects) the first thing you see is a feature on “How Design Works for you” and further pieces about how clients and the public work together and benefit from design, architecture and the AIA. How AIGA plans to further the profession of graphic design with out involving the public or our clients is a huge mistake. ARTICLES (people already think that all designers do more than design is talk) as a feature does not cut it. The AIGA site should stop being a blog.

As for the design:

What is going on with the two main navs at the top?

Are not Data, Networking and Careers (in upper nav) all Professional Resources which is in the lower “Main”(?) nav?

Are Society & Environment, Design & Business and Education not part of Initiatives? One would think as much, but click on Initiatives and there are quite a few subjects you would expect to find under Society & Environment as well but alas they are not.

I know they have a lot of content to dole out but this is a ridiculous approach to wayfinding. The attempts to make information ACCESSIBLE has proven to make info difficult to LOCATE.

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Also on the front page, the hierarchy is all wrong. The events section is a footnote all the way at the bottom. The public face of AIGA locally and nationally is through it’s events. It is why most people are members and/or participate in the AIGA.

Prove that statement to be false.

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The ARTICLES section gets prominence? Why? ”…to help them find their place in a more editorial rich space like the web”?

And why five articles and a pull quote from a sixth? Why not the latest one alone? Is this a blog or a professional association’s website?

Plus, why ARTICLES? Everyone of the articles comes from the VOICE online publication. Therefore naming the section on the front page ARTICLES has driven the choice to put the info and link “from VOICE” adding unnecessary visual clutter. Further is VOICE not a name that AIGA wants recognition for? So why not call the articles section VOICE?

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The front page side bar is appropriate but devolves into info overload on any other page with IN THIS SECTION (repeating what is to the left already), RELATED EVENTS (ok that makes sense) then a long list of RELATED CONTENT where “Point: The AIGA Colorado Education Journal” and “K-12 poster series” for instance are repeated for the THIRD TIME.


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NIT-PICK - ON EVERY PAGE- “RSS (What’s this?)” - Does the AIGA really feel that this has not sunk in yet with their target audience? The NY Times (a more widely consumed publication) seems to think that it’s audience understands or has the intelligence and/or initiative to find out if they don’t.

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That is all for now but, given the confusion of section/content expectations and the surfeit repetition of information. This comes off as an exercise in designing what has been given rather than consulting the client on user expectations and dissemination of content.

Couple this with the aforementioned lack of front facing advocacy and this is a great example of design as “window-dressing” as it does not deliver on a clear strategy - one rooted in the mission of the organization - other than making more editorial.

If that is the strategy then count me out.

- Bone

60. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 5, 2007 | 3:00 pm

Bone: Thanks for the comments. Again, all I can say is the decisions we and AIGA arrived at were informed decisions based on our combined research and user-testing. This site is a first step. Judge as ye see fit, but understand that the site will keep evolving. What AIGA came to us for was a foundation to build from.

61. Bobby Dragulescu says… mar 5, 2007 | 5:07 pm

Okay, that was pretty harsh, even for me.

62. Michele Tosi says… mar 6, 2007 | 8:43 am

I totally dislike the re-design. It lacks also the minimum basics of accessibility, etc…

I quote Andy Rutledge opinion. See this.

63. Leonardo Melendez says… mar 6, 2007 | 9:30 pm

This is good stuff. I never knew that AIGA had such useful content. I finally clicked pass the first page.

64. Daniel Scrivner says… mar 8, 2007 | 8:10 pm

It must feel incredible to finally get that out the door after what sounds like over a year of work!

Congrats! The site, the ideas behind it, and of course your contribution to the great typography are all just great.

65. Aaron S. says… mar 13, 2007 | 1:52 pm

I have to agree that the site lacks overall design principles. As a design educator, one of the first things I teach my students is how to create a visual hierarchy. The new site has no hierarchy, there is nothing that tells the viewer where to look first.

I am also a chapter board member and I feel like this is a far cry from an organization that I would be proud to be a part of judged strictly on the overall design of the website.

I understand what you were looking to accomplish with the “new aiga” but if it is now the professional association of design, this is an even broader target. How are designers in general supposed to be drawn to an organization that lacks that innate ability?

66. James says… mar 21, 2007 | 5:50 pm

Jason - Just wanted to say hell of a job. This site was obviously a huge undertaking… I like the organization of the content on the home page. It’s easy to find things, and with a huge site like this, that’s what’s really important to the end user. Chalk one up on the compliment side.

67. Ric Grefé says… mar 22, 2007 | 6:51 am

A note of praise from the client. Jason and the Happy Cog team accomplished much of what AIGA needed to meet its own vision of where AIGA is heading to serve as a resource for the design profession in the future. We believe AIGA should be a means of provoking thoughtful discussion of design issues, inspire designers and others by highlighting great and effective design and design processes, and offer a deep resource for those with practical questions about the practice of design.

Jason and Happy Cog opened up the site so that its content became much more accessible and did it with a visual attitude that felt, to us, clear and inclusive. Some have been critical that the site itself is not a more splendid design artifact. This was not our intention. Our brief was to make it an inviting lens through which visitors discover our members’ and others’ examples of great design, which, in turn, provide the emotional kick that some commenters are seeking. Intentionally, we approached this as an information architecture challenge. The design of the site is not a marketing tool for AIGA, the content is. The staff’s design sensibility does not define AIGA or the profession, our members’ does.

Similarly the design of the site and its templates have been created with an eye toward the scores of authors/designers who will populate it, as we draw from our volunteer members to take on the role of creating content, substantive and visual, for various segments of the site. We are not seeking a tidy, intensely disciplined form; we want AIGA to reflect its essence, which is the reach and diversity of the profession, not a single-minded discipline of what a single source believes is the definitive dimension of design.

For us, the site redesign is a blazing success in achieving the objectives we set for it, even as it will evolve and improve with adaptive use.

Ironically, some of the criticisms that have been voiced are not about the IA or design, but about whether the institution (and its site) reflects what the individual wants from AIGA. We believe the full potential of AIGA cannot be achieved until diversity and excellence have been joined and that the new site helps to take us closer to that goal by not interfering with the content or access to it.

Thanks, Jason. Great work.