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Voice, Vol. 7

Written by
June 24, 2015

At the end of May the AIGA Chattanooga board sent two of its board members, Cat Collier Martinez and Chris Lykins to Grand Rapids, for the Together: AIGA Leadership Retreat.

This year, the retreat focused on the future of AIGA and how members and chapters can engage in AIGA’s Strategic Framework 2015-2020 together. As a result of organizational changes and the transformative efforts of chapter leaders in recent years, AIGA now has the opportunity to empower members and chapters in new and exciting ways.  Programs like AIGA Innovate and the 2020 Fund give our members and chapter the chance to collaborate with each other, designers of other disciplines, local organizations, and others to develop truly innovative programs that will transform our community. Ongoing initiatives like the new membership program, Design for Good, Women’s Leadership Initiative, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, Living Principles, and more allow our members and chapter to connect with each other and make an impact locally, regionally, and beyond. Now more than ever, our members and chapter are the driving force of the organization-the top-down organizational structure has been flipped on its head.  At the retreat, we were empowered to work with each other and our members to drive the organization forward.

Fortunately, Chris agreed to sit down and answer a few questions for us and share a bit about his first-time retreat experience.


This was your first time attending the AIGA Leadership Retreat, right?  In general what were your expectations going in?  What, if anything did you think you’d get out of going?

This was my first retreat. In general, I expected to learn how to better serve the design community in Chattanooga. I hoped to be able to come back with some tangible ways to move AIGA Chattanooga forward and provide value for our members.


How did going to the Leadership Retreat change how you think about your own role on the Chattanooga chapter board?  How will having attended the retreat grow your role?

When I agreed to attend the retreat, I hoped to find ways that I, as the Visibility + Outreach Director, could better define my role and lay out tangible goals for the position as a way to engage parts of our design community that we were not yet reaching.

The retreat was all of that and so much more. It was really about belonging to a community. It was that camaraderie with people I had only just met that made me see the value of a strong community and left me with the desire to create the same thing for Chattanooga.

In addition to the importance of community, the retreat brought into the spotlight all of the resources that are available to the individual chapters on the national level and how those resources can provide value and opportunity to our membership.

Returning from the retreat, I knew my understanding of my role inside AIGA had changed. I felt that we could accomplish everything we as the board have set out to do regardless of obstacles. As volunteers, it is easy to be overcome by other things in our lives: jobs, family, personal recreation, etc. I now felt energized that I could make time for those things and for taking on a larger role on the board of AIGA.

When I called Cat to tell her I was ready to be more involved in whatever way the board saw fit, she stated that Ben had requested approval from the board to resign. I volunteered to take on the role of Events and Programming for AIGA Chattanooga.


What was eye-opening about your retreat experience?  What are a couple of the biggest takeaways you feel that you’re bringing back to the board and/or chapter? Favorite break-out session?

Again, the eye-opening experience for me was that AIGA Chattanooga is not alone, we are a part of a national organization. That is huge when you consider the community and the resources available to us. Not everyone has the opportunity to attend the retreat, but it was in that moment that I felt we could recreate the same energy present at the retreat for our membership and community.

One of the biggest takeaways for me: we can do this! If I don’t know how or where to start, some one has done it or something like it already. We are not alone in this effort.

There was so much good information being spread around, it’s difficult to pinpoint a particularly favorite breakout session, but I did enjoy learning about how other chapter run some larger events: Design Camp in Minnesota, Portfolio Reviews in San Francisco, Guts in North Carolina.


How will the experiences you had and the things you learned at the retreat help you as a designer, in your profession?

So one of my big takeaways was we can do it. In my personal work I find I often get stuck on “How do I do this? Where do I start?” How about I just start. It’s through the attempt to do that I learn what I don’t actually know and what I didn’t know I knew.


What would you tell folks interested in joining and getting involved in AIGA Chattanooga about the organization, our design community?  What is one or two things you find to be most exciting or inspiring about being involved in AIGA Chattanooga?

Joining AIGA Chattanooga is a way to connect to the design community at large. It provides opportunities to socialize, connect, and learn from designers one may never meet in their day-to-day work or lives.
Recently while chatting with Cat, one of us said, “AIGA Chattanooga is helping to establish Chattanooga as a design community. The Gig City or Tech Town or any of the other things happening around Chattanooga do not happen without design.” This is our time. This is our time to be involved in the here and now as well as the future of Chattanooga. AIGA Chattanooga helps open the door to being a voice in the conversation. Pull up a chair; join us.


First, we’d like to take a moment to wholeheartedly thank Ben Dicks, Director of Events and Programming, for his participation and contribution to the board and its members. Over the the past couple of years, Ben’s level of volunteerism to our organization has led us to building an even stronger process for the planning and organizing of our events and programming. We couldn’t have done it without him. As of June 15, Ben stepped down from his role on the board. He plans to stay in Chattanooga and will continue to lend a hand at our events. That being said, we are incredibly excited to announce that Chris Lykins has accepted the nomination and election of the board to roll seamlessly into the position. Moving forward together we believe that we have the strongest team yet. Together we are looking forward to our third local board retreat in July. We have a full calendar of events and programs that we’ll be announcing next month and we will be seeking your help to make it all happen.

Finally, we are thrilled to announce that we will be hosting an AIGA Chattanooga ALL Member Meeting and Party on Thursday, August 20, 2015. We’re pumped and and can’t wait to grow our design community with you!

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