AIGA and the boon of graphic design

With the New Orleans branch entering its eleventh year on Southeastern’s campus, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) embedded itself within the art world, becoming the leading authority on graphic design.
“It is the international organization for graphic designers,” said visual arts professor Gary Keown.
The New Orleans branch, which consists of individuals and several universities in the Louisiana-Mississippi area, plays host to several initiatives, including supporting displaced designers after severe hurricanes to preserving the history of design in Louisiana.
For student members, perhaps one of the more interesting perks is a conference held each spring.
“What we do in the spring is called ‘Advance’ which is where we all get together and have basically a conference, where students are actually interviewed by professionals in the industry,” said Keown.  “Our group actually did the branding [for the event] this past year.”
For Keown, he believes joining AIGA is more than just a chance to move on in the field.
“I think it’s good to network, particularly early on with students in the same area as they are,” said Keown. “There is a mentorship that’s created there between freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors. That’s extremely important.”
Keown also noted the extreme increase of interest in graphic design, compared to the first few years he worked at the university, including setting up a graphic design lab by Clark Hall.
“I came here in 1996, and there were just a handful of students at that point,” said Keown. “I was brought in to build the program. We began in a small area in Meade Hall when I first got here. About two or three years later, through the then-department head, Roy Blackwood, myself, some architects and the University Planning Committee met to design this facility.”
“We only had a handful of students then, with four courses,” Keown said. “Now we have 10 courses, an internship program and now we’re close to 230 students. They’re now about half, or maybe a little more, of the whole department.”
Meanwhile, the students involved in the program are more focused on getting things rolling on campus.
“We have a couple poster designs set up, and I think some possible work from the theater department for posters and programs,” said Jenna Fucci, president of the Southeastern chapter.
Eleven years in the making, and with a declining job market, AIGA will continue helping aspiring graphic designers get their feet off the ground.