Design Thinking: Ideas for our chapter

On Saturday, July 9th, AIGA Philadelphia board members and chapter leaders from AIGA Central PA gathered at our new home at WeWork in Northern Liberties to use design thinking exercises to strategize and develop ideas to transform and innovate our chapter; enhance our programming and initiatives; strengthen the value of membership; seek new audiences; engage with the larger Philadelphia design community; and improve our chapter management, communication and collaboration.

WeWork in Northern Liberties, new home of AIGA Philadelphia

WeWork in Northern Liberties, new home of AIGA Philadelphia

We started the day by reflecting on some of the current challenges we face as an organization and chapter, including conveying the overall value of AIGA; membership growth, retention and engagement; diversity and inclusion in the design field; and leadership development. Our major considerations for the day’s exercises included how we can:
  1. Define and communicate the value of AIGA we all feel as chapter leaders
  2. Better engage members and foster lasting relationships in our community
  3. Expand our reach and serve a broader and more diverse audience
  4. Make members feel welcomed and valued
  5. Advocate for the strategic role design can play in business and society
  6. Provide opportunities for designers to learn, be inspired, evolve and innovate
  7. Support each other throughout our careers


IBM Field Guide and Facilitator Handbook

IBM Field Guide and Facilitator Handbook

How we used design thinking

Annually AIGA chapter leaders gather for a leadership retreat to share experiences, gain inspiration and discover ways to remain innovative. At this year’s retreat in early June, AIGA partnered with IBM to train chapter leaders from all over the country in how to facilitate IBM design thinking activities in our own communities. (Stay tuned for upcoming chapter programming on this for all members!) We utilized this approach, which focuses on understanding of and empathy for our members. Coming together and using this framework allowed us to communicate with each other in new ways, seek shared understanding and alignment with each other, craft solutions together, build commitment, and plan for our future.

Hopes and Fears Exercise

Our first exercise was called, “Hopes and Fears.” In this activity the group shared their thoughts on what about this year are they are really excited about; what has potential; what are they concerned about; and what do they think won’t work.

Hopes included:

  1. Membership growth
  2. Broadening our reach
  3. Steady stream of programming/events
  4. More volunteers
  5. Building and training leaders
  6. Improving process
  7. Social change through design
  8. Improved partnership engagement
  9. Increased digital presence
  10. National and local recognition

Fears included:

  1. Keeping momentum high in a volunteer-led organization
  2. Board succession
  3. Stagnant community involvement
  4. Finances and lack of partnership support
  5. Time and commitment levels
Members of AIGA Philadelphia and Central PA's Board discuss their hopes and fears

Members of AIGA Philadelphia and Central PA’s Board discuss their hopes and fears

Empathy Map Exercise
Empathy Map

Empathy Map

In our second exercise, we centered on the needs of individual members by putting ourselves in their shoes to consider what they say, feel, think and do. Breaking up into three groups we reflected on what the concerns, needs and motivations are for a design student, a freelance designer and a non-designer. We contemplated and discussed:

  1. How we can communicate with and connect to each group
  2. What they might think about AIGA
  3. What demands they may have on their time
  4. What they are looking for from AIGA, both professionally and socially
  5. What would motivate them to become a member and get involved
  6. What events/programming would appeal to them

Big Ideas and Prioritization

Our last two exercises focused on idea development and prioritization of those ideas based on feasibility and importance. Informed by our earlier exercises and making sure we kept our members in the forefront of our minds, we generated ideas about how we can improve outreach and communication; what events, programs and exhibitions we should host; how we can find opportunities to connect and invite members to get more involved; and what grand pie-in-the sky ideas we should try. A small sampling of ideas included:

  1. Regular monthly programming that members can expect
  2. Board office hours to meet and talk to members
  3. Youth programming
  4. Design thinking workshops
  5. Chapter Slack Team
  6. Social events like game nights, drink and draws, critiques over coffee, and design salons
  7. Field trips
  8. Greater content on website that members can contribute to
  9. Outreach to college students
  10. Cross-chapter conferences and events
Groups share their big ideas with the rest of the team, cluster similar ideas and converge on which ideas to move forward on.

Groups share their big ideas with the rest of the team, cluster similar ideas and converge on which ideas to move forward on.

Stay tuned for the implementation of these ideas in the coming year. We are excited for a year of phenomenal programming and the opportunity to connect and grow our community. Want to get involved? Contact us.

Take our annual survey to provide us with additional feedback on the future of AIGA Philadelphia. Open through August 10, 2016.


By aigaphiladelphia
Published July 16, 2016