Two years ago, Kevin Budelmann posted a question on LinkedIn
to determine if there was any interest in forming a local chapter of AIGA
, a professional organization that supports the interests of design professionals, students and educators throughout the world.
For many years, west Michigan professionals in the design industry participated in AIGA
activities sponsored by either the Detroit or Chicago chapter. Although there had been informal discussions on establishing a local chapter, no one actually took the time to begin the process but Budelmann sensed the increasing alignment of many businesses and local initiatives tied to the design industry.
"I was astounded by the response," Budelmann recalls about his LinkedIn request. "Within 30 days I had 70-80 people signed up in the group."
And that was only the beginning. Within 18 months, AIGA West Michigan had up to 270 paying members and has been recognized by the national organization as one of the fastest growing chapters in the nation.
"We have a very high percentage of design talent for a community this size," Budelmann says.
Stressing the benefits of having a local chapter, he cites not only the importance of bringing the values of the national organization to West Michigan, but also the training, networking, and recognition opportunities for local design professionals. He also feels very strongly that having a local organization helps in the retention of design talent and plays a significant role in branding west Michigan as a design hub throughout the country.
AIGA not only provides services to professionals, but can be a major influence for students interested in a design career. Besides providing inexpensive networking and big industry events "people don't always appreciate the breadth of the design industry," he says. Far too often, design is equated with decoration. While design has an artful quality, it is really problem solving."
The national organization has a membership of over 22,000 and works on activities and local programs with 64 chapters and 240 student groups. For information on the west Michigan chapter of AIGA you can visit their website
Source: Kevin Budelmann
Writer: John Rumery