Amy Graver, New VP of AIGA | CT

After a stint as a photojournalist and many years as an art director, Amy Graver founded Elements in early 1999. Since then, the New Haven-based business has grown from a one-person, dining-room-table operation to a respected and award-winning firm. Elements serves an impressive and diverse roster of regional, national and international clients, including PEZ Candy and Save the Children.

As a business owner, citizen and mom, Amy’s commitment to “giving back” is manifested in many ways — from her dedication to “green design,” her pro-bono and reduced-rate services for non-profits and social and community organizations, and her long history of serving the Connecticut design community through many years at the Connecticut Art Directors Club.

Most recently, she has taken up the cause of bringing the AIGA to Connecticut, taking an integral role in its inception and application for Chapter status, and now serving as Vice President for AIGA | CT.

We chatted briefly with Amy about the AIGA | CT and her role in it.

Why was it important that Connecticut get its own branch of AIGA? Why now? And why never before?

Because important, relevant graphic design work continues to be done in this state. We are on level with our neighbors and we deserve to have our own Chapter. We have designers who can support it and we have a desire for it, as exemplified at our first call-for-action at the RAW event in Hartford.

Why not Connecticut? We have been overlooked as a state leading in design – yet we have world class design happening here. I’m not certain why its taken so long. It was a gross oversight. Lisa Burns, myself and a handful of others who joined our initial effort set out to right that wrong. And happily, we have.

Another secondary, more selfish motive: I have been an AIGA member for many years. However, a husband, a home, a thriving studio and two young children later, I have very limited time. Unlike my single, more wild AIGA days, I can no longer hop on a train after work and attend a New York or Boston event. Since I couldn’t take advantage of all those wonderful programs and networking opportunities, I really wasn’t getting any bang for my membership buck. Now I will. Best of all, it’s already happening. We’ve already had one incredible event — “Lessons In Fear” with Sean Adams, Partner at AdamsMorioka and National AIGA President — and on November 19th, we’re presenting “My So-Called Public Life,” a lecture by William Drenttel in New Haven.

Why did you choose to run for Vice President, and what do you plan to bring to your role?

It began with Lisa Burns, who was our interim President, appointing me as her interim Vice President. I feel the role makes sense for me. The job description calls for me to support the President. Perfect. I enjoy doing it.

Another reason was to lend my expertise to get this Chapter off the ground. In addition to running a successful design business of my own and the experience that provides, I was also on the CADC Board (and still am) for many years. I started as an Alternate, worked my way up to full-fledged Member, then Secretary, Vice President, President for two terms and now I’m an Alternate again and Past President.

This is a brand new Chapter that is going to need an experienced team in its critical inaugural year. I feel comfortable in this role and understand exactly the commitment involved. I care about design. I care about our design community in Connecticut. I’m ready — and excited — to do my part.

What resources are available from the national level to pull from to help you do your job on the Board?

There are many. This is an established, national, well-run organization which is 22,000 members strong. They have many layers of resources and support available to our Chapter and our Board. Starting with the national AIGA staff, headquartered in New York, which is headed by the AIGA Executive Director Ric Grefe. Ric continues to be readily accessible to our group, even joining us at our first “event” at RAW in Hartford.

There is also the irreplaceable Josh Silverman, who started a Chapter himself in RI, and now is an AIGA liaison for all the New England Chapters. Josh has also agreed to be part of our Advisory Board.

Also Pam Williams of Williams & House in Avon, who serves on the National Board and is our advisor in Connecticut, and who continues to offer us counsel and guidance throughout this initial process.

The Board also gives us special access to the AIGA’s powerful internet WiKi workroom and internet toolkit, and there is also a monthly President’s call, where each President (or VP) conferences into a national call to discuss all ongoing issues and efforts across each Chapter.

The other Chapters are each available to help us, collaborate with us, encourage us, and we can learn from one another.

The last layer — rather our closest layer — would be our newly formed Advisory Board, who I mentioned Josh is a part of, along with Nathan Garland, Alexander Isley, Peter Good, Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel. They will meet once a month to discuss and advise our Board on topics of our choosing offering their collective experience and guidance.

What can members look forward to this inaugural year in terms of events and initiatives, particularly as it relates to your specific role?

AIGA is the national organization for our design profession. Its benefits are many and deep. Your membership is your entrance into that professional, well-connected network. It has been very easy — very easy — to approach fellow AIGA members and have them agree to help our Chapter.

Let’s take advantage of their help, their knowledge, their humor, their insights, their passion. Let’s expand our worlds. Not only with speakers, but with networking, job banks, business resources, recognition beyond our state borders.

I have already worked hard on helping with the Sean Adams event and putting together the William Drenttel event — but we have also been working on a national initiative with the “Get the Vote Out” poster campaign, to get these AIGA-designed posters blanketed across the state.

As the Vice President, I help all the chairs. We’ve been working initially on getting the AIGA | CT website designed and updated regularly, putting together the rest of the year’s event schedule, education initiatives, membership drives and some across-the-state networking events.

What would you say to encourage AIGA members within the state to switch their chapter to Connecticut? How will it benefit them, and how will it strengthen the Connecticut chapter in general?

The real difference — the one that matters most — is your decision of which Chapter you wish your membership dollars to support. Regardless of your Chapter affiliation, you can request to receive mailings and information from any AIGA Chapter and enjoy AIGA admission to any event anywhere in the country. Once members discovered that they can support our Connecticut Chapter but still receive and stay involved in the NY or Boston Chapters, the decision to join our Chapter was an obvious one.

One other important benefit — voting privileges. You must be a CT Chapter member to vote in our AIGA | CT Chapter elections.

What do you hope to get out of your role on the Board, both personally and professionally?

I’m already getting it. I get satisfaction that I helped bring AIGA | CT to our state and all that the AIGA brings with it. The power behind the AIGA organization is so great and the gratification that we are all going to have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits it brings — from now on — without barely leaving our seats.

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