AIGA Town Hall
By AIGA July 26, 2016
AIGA Town Hall
By AIGA July 26, 2016
AIGA Town Hall
By AIGA July 26, 2016

This livestream took place on July 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET. View the archived video.

AIGA is starting a cross-chapter dialogue on race, justice, and design.

Recently, AIGA’s executive director, Julie Anixter, and Su Mathews, president of the AIGA national board of directors, posted a joint article, “AIGA believes design can enable social justice.” In this statement, they expressed AIGA’s hurt and distress over the fissures in society that have erupted into further acts of violence, charged with racial tensions and historical burdens—as seen and felt vividly by many in the recent series of shootings. They also laid out a perspective that’s emerging across the design field: Designers have the capacity to enhance understanding and empathy, help communicate and troubleshoot problems in a human-centered way, and can be adaptive in prototyping solutions to today's challenges. These are powerful ideas that we’d love to unpack more as a community.

To do so, our first-ever virtual AIGA Town Hall on racial justice by design took place on Tuesday, July 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET. AIGA chapters, members, and designers at large and tuned in from anywhere for the approximately two-hour conversation live, featuring an expert panel discussion, Q&A, and national dialogue on the potential for AIGA and designers to make an impact on these defining issues.

We recognize that many of you may have frustrations and stories to share with the community in advance of a town hall forum. We’re creating a space for you to share your narratives and feelings around race, justice, and design. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get real-time updates and participate in the online conversation.

We’ll be honest. For us, this is just the start of a national dialogue, so our organizers will, more than likely, listen more than talk. We’re interested in getting a sense of your perspective and hearing what resources, events, and opportunities you desire so that we can work together to achieve them.

Moderator bios

sonya-gavanakar-aiga-town-hall-200.jpgSonya Gavankar
Broadcast journalist & multimedia content creator

Sonya is a communicator who uses dynamic storytelling techniques as a spokesperson, television and podcast host, filmmaker, and social multimedia content creator. Her work with the Newseum brings a cohesive voice to the Newseum’s 250,000 square feet of exhibit and interactive programming. She can be seen hosting programs and giving commentary on everything from hard news to cooking shows on ABC and CBS affiliates, PBS, QVC, and even the Puppy Bowl. With the launch of she brings a new perspective to insightful conversations and professional development tools with a cross platform approach of the written word, podcasts, and live workshops.

Panel 1

nick-turner-aiga-town-hall-200.jpgNicholas Turner
President & director of Vera Institute of Justice

Nicholas is president of the Vera Institute of Justice, whose core priorities are ending misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve American minority communities. He came to Vera in 2013 from the Rockefeller Foundation, where he was a managing director. Turner was previously a chief program officer at Vera and an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He has written several op-eds, including “The Steep Cost of America’s High Incarceration Rate” in The Wall Street Journal. He serves on the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and New York City’s Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board.

Twitter: @VeraInstitute | @NickTurner718

hassan-aden-aiga-town-hall-200.jpgHassan Aden
Founder of The Aden Group

Hassan has over 28 years of law enforcement service and executive leadership experience in law enforcement. Before starting The Aden Group, he served as the director of research and programs at the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the chief of police at the Greenville (NC) Police Department. He has extensive experience in the administrative, investigative, and operational aspects of policing, and has demonstrable success in working with crime control policies, strategic planning, and community engagement. While chief of police at the Greenville Police Department, he and all of the Greenville police staff were deeply committed to community partnerships aimed at reducing crime and improving the quality of life in the city. He is a graduate of American University's Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation from which he earned a Master of Public Administration Certificate in 2007. In December 2009, he graduated from American University's School of Public Affairs earning a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. He is an active member of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). Due to his commitment to the continued professionalization of policing, he serves as Commissioner for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Twitter: @chiefaden | @theadengroup

penelope-spain-aiga-town-hall-200.jpgPenelope Spain
Co-founder and chief executive officer of Open City Advocates

Penelope has an extensive history of promoting juvenile justice reform efforts across the U.S. and training law students to serve as mentors and advocates for incarcerated youth. As CEO of Open City Advocates, Penelope advocates to improve reentry services for youth transitioning out of incarceration and returning to the community. She also serves as a public defender, directly representing youth charged with acts of delinquency in DC Superior Court. Penelope holds a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Chicago, earned her Juris Doctor from American University’s Washington College of Law (WCL) in 2005, and is an attorney licensed to practice in the District of Columbia and Maryland. She is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, serves as chair of the post-disposition working group of the Court’s Juvenile Subcommittee, and in 2014 was appointed to DC’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group.

Twitter: @opencityadv

dominique-holder-aiga-town-hall-200Poetry in Motion: Dominique Holder

The poetry that flows from 17-year-old Dominique was passed down to her from her grandmother Brenda, also a poet. Dominique was the leader of the poetry club at Oxon Hill High School, from which she recently graduated. She self-published her first collection of poetry, ”Everything Under Our Tongue,” while still in school. In December 2015, Dominique became the first Prince George’s County Youth Poet Laureate. As part of the poetry slam team at Words Beats & Life, she has performed in various venues throughout DC (including the Kennedy Center), Maryland, and Virginia. She enjoys reading, writing, and watching documentaries. Dominique is working with NY publishers Penmanship Press on her first book of poetry, and plans to further her studies in literature and creative writing in college.

Panel 2

richard-hollant-aiga-town-hall-200.jpgRichard Hollant
CO:LAB principal, AIGA national board member

Rich is the principal, strategist, and design director at CO:LAB in Connecticut, a firm he started In 1988. After nearly two decades developing brand and product launches for Fortune 500 corporations, he now works exclusively on initiatives with social value that are in the public interest. An interdisciplinary major from Boston University and a media major from the Museum School of Fine Arts, Rich’s approach blends comprehensive strategic thinking with tightly orchestrated execution. Rich has been featured in Business Weekly and Communications Arts, and was named one of GDUSA’s 20 People to Watch and Fast Company’s top 11 designers creating social value. He’s a past president of AIGA Connecticut and current member of AIGA’s national board of directors.

Twitter: @colab_inc

de-nichols-aiga-town-hall-200.jpgDe Nichols
Social practice designer

De is a St. Louis-based social practice designer, lecturer, museum educator, and start-up leader who helps changemakers nationwide to actualize creative approaches to social and racial justice issues that matter most to them and their communities. De serves as a community engagement specialist with the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and is the founder and creative director of civic creatives, a social design organization that equips organizations and leaders to resolve critical social challenges using design thinking. De holds a Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University and received her Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA) degree from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art. De is the 2016 recipient of the St. Louis Visionary Award for community impact.

Twitter: @de_nichols

kate-deciccio-aiga-town-hall-200.jpgKate Deciccio
Street painter, mural artist, art educator

Kate is driven by her interests in equity, mental health, humor, community building, and, of course, a passion for the activity of art-making. Murals have become a cornerstone of her work because they can transform spaces to better reflect the strength and identity of community as a modality for counter-narrative, resistance, and celebration. Making art with people in locked spaces like mental institutions, prisons, and juvenile detention is important to Kate. She believes that delivering meaningful arts education to young people is a tool for coping, improving self-esteem, developing confidence, and connection. Deciccio currently lives in Washington, DC and spends a lot of time in New York City and Oakland, California.

Instagram: @k8deciccio

Community rules of respect



How does AIGA decide which issues to take on?
The mission of AIGA is to advance design as a professional craft, strategic advantage, and vital cultural force. Supporting equity, social impact, education, and leadership are foundational commitments that we make to our membership. We are committed to empowering our chapters to effectively pursue activities that are important to them.

Issues that inhibit AIGA from completing its mission are ones that AIGA will take on head-on. What’s not said specifically in the mission—but is also true—is that AIGA advocates for designers of all backgrounds, abilities or disabilities, educational attainment, race, religion (or lack thereof), gender (or trans status), sexual orientation, economic status, nationality, geographic location, field of practice. and more. With this embrace of diversity and inclusion in design comes the responsibility to stand firm with our complex and dynamic community on the issues affecting it. From North Carolina’s HB2 law to gay marriage to the race relations crippling our nation, AIGA has been standing by our members and will continue to do so.

As a guiding principle, AIGA may also reference its initiatives—defined areas of focus and concentration for the organization—for alignment on issues before speaking out. If an issue touches upon multiple priority areas, AIGA has strong incentive and the means to take a stance. In this instance, racial justice by design is something that works between our Diversity & InclusionDesign for Democracy, and Design for Good initiatives.

We are committed to creating programs that inspire and develop designers’ roles in developing strategies, and programs that demonstrate designers’ role in social change.

This issue has been around for a while. Why now?
AIGA has long recognized the value that designers offer, through their use of design thinking, to address complex social challenges: adding clarity to the complex, and bringing optimism, creativity, and a human-centered approach to strategic problem solving. It has become increasingly important for the organization to make its position known around the social issues of our time that most affect our members and evolving field of practice. There is a hope that this public communication and collaborative effort raises awareness around the role design and designers play in improving our society.

What does “Racial Justice by Design” mean?
Racial justice means ensuring our nation’s systems are fair and just by addressing racial inequalities or disparities head on. In short, racial justice means that the U.S. justice system is meant to be fair to all races. Conversations on racial justice are a means for discussing improvements to our current system.

AIGA believes that designers have a role to play in creating and refining strategies for reducing racial and ethnic biases in our society. All things are designed—even if not designed consciously or by someone with experience. Not all things, however, are designed with fair and ethical practices. The “by design” portion of this title is meant to remind design practitioners that there is room for them to improve our justice system with racial equity in mind. The title is an invitation to you, the creative community, to join in and discuss the paths to a justice system that treats everyone equally and with empathy.

How is this dialogue being run?
This dialogue is a collective effort between multiple AIGA initiatives, staff, and the national board, which is why we are calling it a collaborative. National board member Ashleigh Axios is leading the charge, with the support of AIGA staff—including our executive director, Julie Anixter, and representatives from multiple AIGA initiatives, including Jacinda Walker, chair of Diversity & Inclusion, Antionette Carroll, St Louis chapter president, and Rich Hollant and Justin Ahrens, national board members.

How are AIGA’s initiatives supporting this collaborative?
The AIGA initiatives involved in this effort are Diversity & InclusionDesign for Democracy, and Design for Good. Each initiative is represented by a member on the team who is helping to organize the town hall and engage members of the community on this topic.

Is this collaborative a permanent part of AIGA?
No, this collaborative effort isn’t permanent. It exists in response to a historic racial and equity division in society, leading to recent devastating outrage and violence. It is our hope that the creative community can come together in its commitment to creative problem solving, productive conversation, healing, and social justice advocacy to work through our differences and biases. After the town hall, we will work together as a community to establish next steps. Individuals and chapters are also encouraged to move forward independently as they are compelled.

Are there ways for designers and AIGA chapters to participate?
Yes. There are many ways to get involved:

  • Watch the town hall livestream on this page.
  • Invite your members to share personal insight on what they’d like to see, hear, or share at our upcoming town hall and beyond. Our collaborative is reviewing entries regularly leading up to the event.
  • Invite an AIGA or local social justice leader to conduct a workshop or speak in your area after the upcoming town hall. If you’d like suggestions of any kind, reach out here and we’ll be happy to provide some ideas.
  • Don’t wait for us. That’s right, don’t feel the need to wait for direction from us. As creative and innovative bodies of people, we encourage you to continue to plan events and communications on your own or with local partners apart from our efforts. Far from blocking you, we’d like to be a catalyst or resource to you when possible. As you feel empowered to, continue to create spaces, community, and drive change with your own local flavor.

How do I sign up or get involved?
We’re so glad you’re interested in getting involved.

Does AIGA have a political stance?
No. AIGA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization. To that point, we also see the recent shootings as a non-partisan problem, affecting people from both sides of the aisle. We believe designers are capable of having non-partisan discussions and solutions.