Archived on February 8, 2013. Visit for more information.



AIGA Design Conference   October 13-16, Phoenix, Arizona


The conference kicks off at 4:00 p.m. on October 13, giving you plenty of time to attend a professional development workshop or design educator workshops on Thursday to get your “Pivot’ experience started off right. And be sure to sign up early for our popular breakfast workshop presented by Adobe, which takes place on Friday morning. Workshops are available to attendees at no charge.

The following workshops require pre-registration, as do roundtables and studio tours. You do not need to pre-register for any other sessions.

Professional development pre-conference workshops

Thursday, October 13
Phoenix Convention Center
1:30–3:30 p.m. (choose one to attend)

Choose to participate in one of four concurrent workshops to enhance your practice and learn new management skills for the real world.

Whether you’re an in-house designer, just out of school or have years of experience under your belt, you’ll be able to apply the strategies you learn to benefit both you and your company.

Pre-conference workshops are reserved exclusively for registered "Pivot" attendees and are offered at no additional charge. Advance registration is required; a waiting list is available for sold-out sessions.

Best Practices Any Design Firm Should Know

Emily Ruth Cohen, consultant to creative professionals

After working with hundreds of leading creative/design teams for 20 years, Cohen has collected a list of smart business strategies that define successful firms. This session will highlight the top best business practices that are the foundation of truly successful design organizations, ranging from organizational structures, staffing strategies, pricing, client management and marketing. You’ll come away with practical, actionable strategies that can easily be implemented in design firms of all sizes and disciplines. 

Getting the Roles Right at a Design Firm

David C. Baker, president, ReCourses, Inc.

Clarifying roles in a design firm is key to the firm's current success and future growth. Come learn the results of a study that involved more than 650 design firms and more than 13,000 employees, in which each employee was surveyed, given a personality profile and then interviewed. Begun in 1998, the study is now complete and guides you through how to arrange the various roles as your firm grows, how much of each role your firm needs, what each role is supposed to do and what type of personality you should look for. With this information you'll learn what roles the principal should never give up, the ones they should nearly always give up and the combination of roles that usually end in some sort of difficulty. You'll have a roadmap for your your firm's current size and how to grow from there.

Positioning Your Team as a Strategic Partner 

Jen Miller, partner, Cohen Miller Consulting

Focused on effective business-driven strategies that elevate in-house teams from perceived order-takers to value-added strategic partners, this workshop will explore four key areas: First, you will be shown how to build value through your business model using a proprietary maturity model. You will determine the level at which your teams are currently operating and the level at which each team should optimally operate to meet the needs of your organization. Second, you will be shown how to reinforce value through key organizational roles. You will explore key advisory-level organizational roles that will help transition teams from order-takers to strategic advisors. Third, you will learn how to structure value through work segmentation using a system designed to align and prioritize cross-functional projects based on both the strategic value of the initiative and complexity of execution. Finally, this session will show you how to demonstrate value through financial models, including financial management strategies that demonstrate value and support the growing need for accountability and transparency. 

Designing Brand You (SOLD OUT)

Alina Wheeler, brand consultant, author and designer

Designing the future is your livelihood. In the blur between business and life, work and play, your own core purpose and uniqueness frequently becomes forgotten priorities. In this fun, fast-paced interactive session, Wheeler jumpstarts you into rethinking and revitalizing brand you. Apply your creativity and intelligence to achieve more clarity. Jumpstart a personal brand brief. It’s time to do for yourself what you have always done for others. Bring something to write in to explore the big questions: Who are you? Who needs to know? Why should they care? How will they find out?

How to sign up

When you register online for the conference, simply select the workshop you’d like to attend.


Pre-conference workshops for educators, presented by Adobe

Thursday, October 13
Phoenix Convention Center

9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. (choose one to attend):
Designing a Flexible Curriculum
Tools For Understanding Context and Taming Complexity: A Whole Systems Approach to Design (SOLD OUT)

1:00–3:30 p.m. (choose one to attend):
Designing Assessments for Teaching and Learning  (SOLD OUT)
Teaching Typography and Context (SOLD OUT)

Changing contexts and new practices in design require original pedagogical approaches and new understandings for educators. Four workshops, offered in two concurrent sessions, led by design education leaders will provide fresh ideas and practical experience with these important shifts. Whether you’re a new or an experienced educator these workshops should challenge and enhance your curricular and class effectiveness and relevance.

Educator pre-conference workshops are offered at no additional charge; advance registration is required. Educator pre-conference workshops are limited to 30 participants; a waiting list is available for sold-out sessions.

Designing Flexible Curriculum (SOLD OUT)

Meredith Davis, director, graduate programs in graphic design, North Carolina State University

This workshop addresses the pragmatic matters of crafting curricular responses to the rapidly changing conditions that are likely to define the context for design education in the next decade. Much of higher education currently operates on “curriculum by accrual.” New content and skills are simply added to an existing structure, leaving many faculty frustrated with too much to teach in too little time. Designing Flexible Curriculum deals with specific strategies for building curricular structures that are both agile and responsive.

Tools For Understanding Context and Taming Complexity: A Whole Systems Approach to Design (SOLD OUT)

Hugh Dubberly, founder and principal, Dubberly Design Office

The artifacts created by designers are embedded in complex systems (environmental, social, technical). Making our artifacts effective, efficient and delightful increasingly means negotiating their relationships with these systems. It means taming complexity, and helping others to tame it as well. We also need a holistic approach if we are to resolve the many political, ecological and health issues that face us. This workshop outlines changes in the context and practice of design that require a systems approach. It will begin with a brief review of traditional notions of systems in design and then builds bridges to systems thinking in biology, economics and engineering, such as stocks and flows, reinforcing loops, balancing loops, self-regulating feedback systems, multi-layer self-regulating systems, learning systems and conversations systems. Individually, these models are easy to grasp and teach. Collectively, they form the basis of a language for talking about systems and offer a language for understanding context and taming complexity. This workshop will show how these models have been used in design courses at Stanford and SVA, as well as in practice, and will also touch on the ethical stances that arise in the writing of several major systems thinkers.

Designing Assessments for Teaching and Learning (SOLD OUT)

Stacie Rohrbach, associate professor, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University

This workshop focuses on the practical considerations of developing assessment tools and methods that are efficient and effective for educators, students and administrators. Given the assessment mandates issued by institutions and the valid inquires of students regarding their grades, it is critical that educators establish approaches to assessment that meet the needs and desires of everyone involved in the evaluation process instead of simply adopting scientific methods that may poorly align to the ways educators teach and students learn. This workshop will address the assessment challenge through the application of design skills and knowledge. This process is intended to lead to the development of strategies for creating assessment tools and methods that are based on an understanding of their audience, goals and context of use.

Teaching Typography and Context (SOLD OUT)

Denise Gonzales Crisp, professor of graphic design, North Carolina State University

Typography pedagogy is due for an overhaul. Teaching a handful of dubious print-based “rules” and rewarding “good” typography under the aegis of aesthetic taste are not relevant to students who were introduced to type via Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. Neither are these values, taught to the exclusion of other influences, useful to the evolution of typographic practice. Typography might be better taught as that which works within any given context, rather than that which would embody the phantom goal of good-ness. Crisp's textbook Typography & Context: Systems, Form, Message (to be published later this year) presents “good typography” and “successful” communication as the consequence of interconnected cultural, linguistic, technological, reading and formal systems. The book is premised on the notion that typographic practice enlists systems and form to anticipate interpretation within specific contexts in order to impart messages. This workshop introduces participants to the concepts discussed in the book through an unconventional typography curriculum and projects written, delivered and refined within the graphic design program at North Carolina State University. The pedagogy and content has proven to prepare students to recognize and negotiate the many systems within which typography and typographic practice function, including that of good taste. The workshop will include small-group brain storming sessions to initiate steps toward developing typography curricula and projects that teach the concept of “relational typography.”

How to sign up

When you register online for the conference, simply select the workshop you’d like to attend.


Building a Brand in the Digital Age: Web Font Services, presented by Monotype Imaging (SOLD OUT)

Saturday, October 15
7:15–9:00 a.m.
Phoenix Convention Center

Workshop led by Eli Wilkie and Carl Crossgrove of Monotype Imaging

Technology brings collective challenges of building, maintaining, growing and delivering a unified customer experience. A task made increasingly more complex and demanding by real-time advances and multi-channel interactions. Building and maintaining brand awareness has never been more difficult and complex. Dynamically downloaded web fonts are clearly a vital step toward dealing with this issue. Web fonts can deliver consistent and powerful typographic branding across a multitude of devices and environments. This workshop will show you how to deliver richer communications with web typography using web fonts, including how to select fonts and manage layout across different platforms and browsers.


Designing Digital Experience Workshop, presented by Adobe (SOLD OUT)

Friday, October 14
7:15–9:00 a.m.
Phoenix Convention Center

Workshop led by Terry White of Adobe

Feeling pressure to deliver designs for print, the web and now tablets? This workshop will introduce you to two new technologies that make designing digital experiences as accessible as designing for print.

  • Design and publish HTML websites quickly without writing code; Adobe Muse will let you design unique HTML websites as easily as laying out a page in InDesign.
  • Use your existing InDesign skills—and some new features—to design highly interactive publications (like the Wired magazine app) and publish your design as an app in iTunes using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.

Sheraton deadline extended

The hotel deadline has been extended at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel—rooms at the conference rate are still available so make your reservations now!