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Ohio Northern Students Explore Connections Between “Make|Think”

AIGA/ONU student chapter“Make/Think,” the 2009 AIGA Design Conference, explored the dual roles of designers as makers of beautiful things and strategic problem solvers. This year, 10 design students from Ohio Northern University joined Professor Brit Rowe, graduate Arnaldo Jimenez (BFA/graphic design ’08) and over 1,300 professional designers in Memphis to celebrate design excellence and stimulate thinking about the critical issues that surround design practice.

Held October 8–10, the AIGA Design Conference gathered the brightest minds to examine the role of design. “The conference explored the ways that designers focus both on making meaningful experiences and thinking about problems strategically,” said Prof. Rowe, who serves as the AIGA/ONU student chapter advisor. “Many sessions focused on the unique and powerful combination of both roles.”

Students from Ohio Northern’s art & design department who attended this year’s conference included:
• Victoria Brake, Forest, Ohio
• Katelyn Amendolara, Canfield, Ohio
• Bethany Schreck, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania
• Tiffany Seiller, Paris, France
• Lauren Bailey, Galena, Ohio
• Mike Madsen, Coshocton, Ohio
• Andrew Adams, Hudson, Ohio
• Micaela Nauman, Fredericktown, Ohio
• Katie Merchak, Loveland, Ohio
• Matt Glove, Canfield, Ohio

Yet even within specialties such as interaction design or motion design, the arc of a designer’s career or even the trajectory of a particular client relationship may transition from a maker of artifacts into a role focused on integrative design thinking.

“The greatest value a designer can contribute to a client is in the process of thinking through solutions,” AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefe explained at the conference.

“This strategic perspective is often more valuable to the client and is also less likely to be treated as a commodity, which is always a threat to the role of designer as the maker of things.”

Design students found “their mojo” in Memphis with a stellar group of main stage speakers, dozens of specialized affinity sessions, roundtables with design luminaries, the excitement of “Command X: Season 2,” hands-on activities, workshops, studio tours, portfolio reviews, fabulous parties and plenty of networking.

“We had a fabulous time,” said Bethany Schreck, a sophomore graphic design and professional communications major. “It was amazing to meet Michael Bierut, Stefan Butler, Chip Kidd, Debbie Millman, Stefan Sagmeister and so many other designers.”

A philosophy of the ONU design program is to be active in the design community. “It’s very important that our students are active in AIGA,” said Rowe. “Our AIGA student chapter provides a little exposure to the design world, but this conference truly is the best hands-on educational experience our students can receive.”

“We challenged everyone’s perception of their own roles as designers at ‘Make/Think,’ said Grefe. “Whether you believe you are a strategist who can visualize the difficult with impact, relevance and beauty or a crafts person with strategic vision or someone else entirely, we provoked you and others to think about your profession in a new light. That’s precisely what makes AIGA such a rich experience.”

AIGA, the professional association for design, is the premier place for design. AIGA’s mission is to advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force. AIGA stimulates thinking about design through journals, conferences, competitions and exhibitions; demonstrates the value of design to business, the public and government officials; and empowers the success of designers at each stage of their careers by providing invaluable educational and social resources.

Founded in 1914, AIGA remains the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design. AIGA now represents more than 22,000 design professionals, educators and students through national activities and local programs developed by 64 chapters and 240 student groups. AIGA is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) educational institution.

Ohio Northern offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the second edition of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design, contact the department at 419.772.2160.